The Real 'Layla' Talks About George Harrison and Eric Clapton

Pattie Boyd inspired some of rock's most famous love songs.

ByABC News via logo

Aug. 31, 2007 — -- She was George Harrison's "Something" and Eric Clapton's "Layla."

What was it about the British model Pattie Boyd that inspired two of rock music's most talented and famous men to write such emotional songs about her?

"I wish I knew," Boyd said in an interview with ABC News' Elizabeth Vargas. "Like, I wish I could tell you. I don't know."

Boyd, who also inspired Clapton to write "Bell Bottom Blues" and "Wonderful Tonight," hasn't spoken very much about her relationship with either man.

But now, at age 63, she has written a memoir detailing her life with rock royalty, called "Wonderful Tonight."

Harrison met 19-year-old Boyd in 1964 on the set of the film "A Hard Day's Night," where she was acting in a small role.

Harrison was smitten with her and said, "Will you marry me?" She laughed, and he replied, "Well, if you won't marry me, will you have dinner with me tonight?"

She turned him down, saying she was already having dinner with a boyfriend.

Boyd rethought the decision, though, and soon broke up with that boyfriend. She was called back to the set of the movie a few days later, and this time she said yes when Harrison asked her out. The two fell in love and married in 1966.

"I thought he was absolutely adorable," Boyd said of the Beatle. "He was very, terribly good looking, but really funny as well and just enchanting."

Harrison and Boyd shared a passionate and stormy marriage for 11 years, a relationship that inspired what many consider one of the greatest love songs ever, "Something."

"I remember him playing this melody quite a lot, and then some time later, he wrote lyrics for it," Boyd said. "And I didn't realize until after he'd recorded it and he told me that he'd written it for me. … I was thrilled. I couldn't believe it. It was wonderful."

By the time that song was composed in 1968, however, the couple's marriage was falling apart. Amid the turmoil, Boyd received a declaration of love from her husband's good friend Eric Clapton.

Clapton wrote the song "Layla," pouring out his feelings for his unrequited love. She remembered hearing the song for the first time.

"He said, 'I've got something for you to hear,' and he put it on in a cassette machine and played it," Boyd said. "And I said, 'Oh, gosh, this is unbelievable!' And he said, he was just looking at me and saying, 'This is for you, I've written it for you.'"

Even though Boyd stayed with Harrison for five more years, she met often with Clapton. Harrison once caught them at a party, talking alone, and asked what was going on.

Clapton said to him, "I have to tell you, man, that I'm in love with your wife."

That night, she went home with Harrison. But the next time she saw Clapton, he again declared his love, and said that if she didn't go with him, he would take "this" — pulling a packet of heroin from his pocket.

Clapton made good on his promise and spent the next four years holed up at his house, doing heroin.

Meanwhile, a number of factors were contributing to Boyd's unhappiness with Harrison. She writes about the stress of not being able to have children, Harrison's insistence she practically give up modeling after their marriage, his "obsessiveness" over his spiritual practices, drugs and his string of infidelities.

The final straw for Boyd was Harrison's affair with Ringo Starr's wife Maureen. In 1974 she told Harrison she was leaving him.

"Life became very difficult with George and I. But I think that really and truly, our marriage had come to a natural close anyway," Boyd said. "Even though we said goodbye, it's very difficult to completely let go. I was never really sure if I'd made a mistake."

Boyd said that years later, she and Clapton saw Harrison and his new wife, Olivia, at a party.

"I went up to George and I said, 'Just tell me something, George, did I make a mistake leaving? Should we have split up?'" she said. "And he said, 'No, you did absolutely the right thing.' So that was so sweet of him to confirm it actually."

After leaving Harrison, Boyd moved in with Clapton and joined him on tour. She says in the book "What I had felt for George was a great, deep love. What Eric and I had was an intoxicating, overpowering passion. It was so intense, so urgent, so heady, I felt almost out of control."

After eight years together, Clapton's heavy drinking and drug abuse began to tear the couple apart. The final blow came when, after years of struggling with infertility, Boyd learned Clapton was expecting a baby with another woman.

But when asked whether she would go back and do anything differently if she could, Boyd said no.

"Oh, I don't think so," she said. "I don't think I could have changed anything."

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