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Music

How Pete Townshend helped Eric Clapton romance George Harrison’s wife Pattie Boyd

Shortly after The Beatles’ seismic rise to global stardom in the early 1960s, George Harrison met his first love, the model Pattie Boyd, on the set of the band’s film A Hard Day’s Night in 1964. 

It was love at first sight, and Harrison, knowing what he wanted from the off, even asked Boyd if she would marry him, having known each other for just a few short hours. The couple finally married in 1966 and were together for 11 years until their divorce in 1977. 

The marriage had been turbulent for several years after a number of infidelities on both sides, most famously with Boyd falling for Harrison’s close friend Eric Clapton. In the spirit of hippie free love, it wasn’t unusual for rockstars to commit infidelities. Harrison was the so-called ‘Quiet Beatle’, but he certainly had no lack of confidence when it came to the ladies. 

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Boyd split from Harrison in 1974 after a string of infidelities, including an alleged fling with Ringo Starr’s wife. Meanwhile, Boyd was famously seeing Clapton. The relationship was supposedly kept a secret from Harrison for a few years for three years until Boyd and Harrison finally divorced in 1977. 

As it turns out, Boyd and Clapton’s secret had a number of guardians, including The Who’s iconic guitarist Pete Townshend. In Townshend’s memoir, Who Am I? he recalled Clapton asking him: “Would I go with him and maybe spend some time with George so Eric could be alone with Pattie?”

He continued: “This turned out not to be difficult. George was happy to talk to me about Indian mysticism and music, even his use of cocaine. I found it hard to follow his reasoning that in a world of illusion, nothing mattered, not wealth or fame, drug use or heavy drinking, nothing but love for God”.

Detailing further, he added: “[Eric] said later that it was a crucial moment in their relationship. Pattie did eventually leave George for Eric, who celebrated that success by having as much fun as he could without drugs. Pattie seemed happy and free. I hadn’t seen her smile in quite the way she did with Eric since I had first met her.”

In the early 1980s, Boyd and Clapton got married, and surprisingly, Harrison remained close with Clapton, fully understanding the will of the heart. Clapton and Boyd were married for several years, but sadly, it wasn’t to last, and they got a divorce in 1989. 

While the rollercoaster of marriage, infidelity and divorce caused a lot of hurt, we music lovers got to hear some great music written for Boyd, including Harrison’s ‘Something’ and Clapton’s ‘Layla’.