In the fall of 1970, Eric Clapton summoned a young woman named Pattie Boyd, one of the most important British models of her generation, to the department of South Kensington used by her band.
There he produced a cassette tape of a recently completed song and played it three times, studying his face carefully to detect a reaction.
With blond hair, blue eyes and incredibly beautiful, Pattie had already spoken for him, he was married to his best friend and musician George Harrison.
Eric Clapton, on the left, photographed with Patti Boyd, on the right. The musician thought that she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen and assumed that he was immensely above and beyond him.
However, Eric was irremediably in love and this music, with his loving, lamenting guitar and supplicating lyrics had been composed in adoration, a blatant attempt to woo her.
The song was Layla, and its effect was overwhelming. Listening to it caused astonishment that "the most powerful and moving song I had heard" should have been written about it, Pattie now remembers, although she worried that it would be decoded instantly, not only by her husband, family and friends but by the dozens of thousands of strangers who would buy the album on which it appeared.
But, she says: & # 39; The song worked out better. I could not resist anymore.
And so, step by step, Patty surrendered, caught between the rival attentions of Eric and George in the best-known love triangle of music.
She also became the most famous muse in the rock world, not only the inspiration for Layla but also for the other great success of Clapton, Wonderful Tonight, and Harrison's Something.
Clapton was told that Pattie, above, was in Los Angeles, with her other sister Jenny, who had married Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac. Eric called her and invited her to meet him in Boston on July 12, that she should show up, and this time, she said yes.
However, the reality of life with Eric was something else. After kicking the habit of heroin, he became a desperate alcoholic and, from 20 to 40 years, a womanizer on the scale of Mick Jagger, a sex addict before the term was invented, with an amazing imprudence.
"He never had to do anything," observes a source who met him in the 1980s. "Women simply stuck to him like iron filings to a magnet."
For these women, the price of their infatuations could include addictions as bad as theirs or, what is worse, and has permanent scars. Clapton, meanwhile, went on without looking back.
Two years earlier, Eric met Pattie, 24, after a performance by his band Cream at the Saville Theater in London. The musician thought that she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen and assumed that he was immensely above and beyond him.
& # 39; She belonged to a powerful man [Harrison] "He seemed to have everything he wanted," he recalled. & # 39; Incredible cars, an incredible career and a beautiful wife … they were like Camelot. I was Lancelot.
I could only see how Harrison's marriage stagnated, reflecting how different it would be in George's place, but reduced to admiring Pattie's clothes or praising him when he cooked at home.
George Harrison photographed with his wife Pattie Boyd. With blond hair, blue eyes and incredibly beautiful, Pattie had already spoken for her, she married the musician George Harrison, the best friend of Eric Clapton.
After more than two years together, Pattie had come to an agreement with George's coldness, the obsession with meditation that often made her feel invisible, the infidelities she no longer tried to hide.
However, she remained oblivious to Eric's interest in her. She was hardly the only woman Clapton was pursuing, after all. Both George and Eric led amorous lives of disconcerting complexity.
In September 1969, despite his feelings for Pattie, Eric became engaged to Alice Ormsby-Gore, the youngest daughter of the 5th Baron Harlech, a former Conservative government minister and British ambassador to Washington. George, meanwhile, showed more than a brother-in-law's interest in Pattie's younger sister, Paula.
The Beatle decided to seduce Paula, but first she needed to get Pattie out of the way, so at the end of 1969 she suggested that Eric take her to spend the night to keep her occupied.
However, the plan failed, and it was not George, but Eric who ended up with Paula, apparently unable to resist due to her resemblance to Pattie. Such behavior of rock megastars was tolerated, even expected, in a climate barely affected by feminism.
"They had been famous from a young age without first growing up and having some experience of normal life," says Pattie. "They had too many toys too fast … they thought they could do whatever they wanted."
The following spring, in March of 1970, a letter marked as & # 39; Express & # 39; and & # 39; Urgent & # 39; He arrived at Friar Park, the fantastic gothic manor house near Henley that Pattie shared with George. He said: "What I want to know is if you still love your husband or if you have another lover? If there is still a feeling in your heart for me … you must let me know! all my love e & # 39;
That night, Eric called, asking: "Did you get my letter?" Pattie replied that its content had been a total shock and the call ended in shame and confusion. From then on, however, Pattie and Eric began a flirtation.
At first, he saw it as a way to pay George, gently and secretly, for his infidelities and his coldness. She was not willing to jeopardize the marriage, and cheating George with her best friend was unthinkable.
Pattie Boyd and George Harrison on their honeymoon in Barbados, 1966. She could only see how Harrison's marriage stagnated, reflecting how different it would be in George's place.
There was another powerful reason to keep his feelings for Eric firmly under control: he was having an affair with his sister Paula, even though he was living with Alice and committed to her.
Friar Park was only a 90-minute drive from Clapton's Italian mansion in Surrey, Hurtwood Edge, and Eric used to pass during George's many absences, though only for a glass of wine or a cup of tea.
Other secret assignments were held in Guildford, the two met under the city clock as characters in a version of Brief Encounter. But Eric's frustration with the situation was intensifying.
Such was the extreme of his obsession, that he even sought help from the supernatural in the form of a white blues singer and pianist named Dr. John, a sinister-looking figure who performed with the Mardi Gras costumes of his native New Orleans and It was said to have voodoo powers.
Eric went to Dr. John in June of 1970, explained Pattie's situation and requested a "love potion number 9", like that of the Coasters song, which would make her abandon George for him.
Eric Clapton and Alice Ormsby-Gore in London after announcing their commitment in 1969.
The supposed witch doctor gave him a small box of woven straw to carry in his pocket and written instructions for a ritual that would cast the necessary spell.
Eric, who totally believed in charm, "did exactly what they told me."
The powers of darkness did not have much time to act. Eric and Pattie attended the first night of the musical Oh! Calcutta! A couple of weeks later.
George chose to stay away, and then, seized by a twinge of possessiveness, he spontaneously drove to the fair party. There he found Pattie in the garden with Eric. "He asked me what was going on," Pattie remembers, "and, to my horror, Eric said:" I have to tell you, man, that I love him with his wife. "
George did not answer, probably because it was not a real surprise, but he simply asked him which of them would end the night. Pattie, resisting any voodoo power that could be emanating from Dr. John's straw box, replied firmly, "I'm coming home with you, George."
Eric would not be dissuaded and that fall, shortly after playing the tape of Layla, appeared unexpectedly in Friar Park while Pattie was alone. Now he told George's wife that he could not live without her and that he had to go with him right now.
When she refused, he took a small package out of his pocket and said it contained heroin, which he would take if she did not do what he asked. Horrified, she tried to grab the package, but he held it in his clenched hand.
He said, "Well, that's it, I'm leaving," and left, probably to plunge into a deadly habit for which Pattie would be to blame.
This was an emotional blackmail of a shameless guy. What Pattie did not know, but would soon be very evident, was that Eric was already stuck in heroin addiction and had been for months. The heroin brought a sense of total calm, self-confidence and comfort within the skin itself that Eric had never really felt in his 25 years.
Bobby Whitlock, a bandmate in Derek and the Dominos, the short-lived group that recorded Layla, remembers Eric taking heroin in the cafeteria of Abbey Road studios during the recording sessions, something the Beatles would never have done. dared.
The sessions of Layla's album in Miami had been saturated with drugs, including heroin, but the collapse of Derek and the Dominos in 1971, allied with the continuous impasse with Pattie, marked Eric's descent from casual heroin users to addicts. , vacuuming the drug using a golden spoon that he wore around his neck.
It was not until 1974, when Eric, on the left, was on his return trip to the United States, when the news came: Pattie, on the right, had finally left George. George even had sex with Maureen, Ringo Starr's wife, in Friar Park while Pattie was in the house.
Apparently, Eric and Alice seemed to be an enviable couple, encompassing the class division with charm. But when their supplies of drugs ran out, they went crazy, hit their heads against the walls or burned themselves with cigarettes.
The next three years of what should have been the best time in Clapton's life were not only governed by heroin, but lost. He forced his creativity and eliminated the work ethic that had driven him from the first moment he picked up a guitar.
He did not look for new musical partners, he did not write any new material and he did not release new albums; I just stayed hidden in Hurtwood Edge, semi-comatose.
The cost of heroin was £ 1,000 per week, equivalent to £ 10,000 at present. Alice would never recover from her addiction, dying of an overdose of heroin in 1995.
Arthur Eggby, Eric's gardener and maintenance staff, got used to seeing Eric laying four lines on the kitchen counter and inhaling them with a rolled-up £ 50 bill that he would then throw into the trash.
Since the notes had been officially thrown away, Eggby felt justified in recovering them covertly, squeezing the heroin and hanging it to dry in the kitchen for his next vacation on the Isle of Wight.
Inside his disgusting mansion, stuffed with money.
When Pattie Boyd moved to Clapton's mansion, she found a state of dirty chaos.
The dozens of pairs of boots and designer shoes in their closets were worn and dirty. His shirts and sweaters lay in a tangled heap in the bathroom. While Pattie was exploring, she found boxes and boxes full of mail that Eric had never bothered to open, even when the letters clearly contained the payments.
She realized her ingenuity in money matters when she found a check for £ 5,000, but he refused to allow it to be entered into her bank account, saying: "It is only enough to have the check."
The only money with any reality for him was the £ 200 per week in a brown envelope, given to him by the book manager of his manager, Gladys.
Released from jail with his guitar.
Clapton got drunk and caused problems aboard a flight to Tulsa, Oklahoma. The police were waiting and, when he got off the plane, he was thrown into the cells, unable to convince anyone that it was Eric Clapton, until a guitar was produced to prove it. What he did.
He was then released at a cost of only $ 25, joining his band on stage at 9 pm.
At the invitation of his friend and fellow rocker Pete Townshend, Eric and Alice went to see The Who to act in Paris, took enough heroin to hold the day, but were forced to get home before midnight, like two Cinderellas.
Eric's drugged purgatory continued until August 1973, when Alice's father, Lord Harlech, wrote to Eric with an ultimatum: kick the heroin or he and his daughter, to the police.
Eric agreed to live with Dr. Meg Patterson, a Scottish neurosurgeon who claimed to be able to reduce the withdrawal symptoms of heroin through a treatment of her own invention called neuro-electric therapy, a form of acupuncture. It worked.
The second stage of his recovery was to stay at the Harlech family farm near Oswestry in Shropshire, where the rock star looted animals, dug ditches and packed hay.
It was not until 1974, when Eric was on his return tour in the United States, that the news came: Pattie had finally left George.
Ever since Eric had revealed his obsession, George's changes from Hindu spirituality to promiscuity driven by coke had become more flagrant, even having sex with Maureen, Ringo Starr's wife, in Friar Park, while Pattie was in home. It was too much.
Clapton was told that Pattie was in Los Angeles, that she was staying with her other sister Jenny, who had married Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac.
Eric called her and invited her to meet him in Boston on July 12, the date he was due to appear, and this time, she said yes.
His longstanding resistance to Eric had merged into "a heady and overwhelming passion" completely different from the "deep, soft love" he had felt for George.
Unfortunately, the opposite happened with Eric: the obsession that he had fed from a distance for five years began to diminish the moment he won it.
Pattie joined the tour briefly, but after leaving, Eric continued to sleep with other women as if nothing had changed.
Pattie's future settled when she, Eric, and George sat together in the hallway at Hurtwood Edge, although she might not have been there. "I suppose I'd better divorce her," George said.
"Well, if you divorce her," Eric replied, "I guess that means I have to marry her."
There was no sign of discomfort among the three.
George showed up at Hurtwood on Christmas Day that year, chided Pattie for abandoning vegetarianism and accepted some wine and Christmas pudding.
"I was caught in the middle of these two incredibly manipulative men, feeling that I had become invisible," Pattie said later.
In the late 1970s, Eric had gone from heroin addiction to the alcoholism that would come to govern his life with the same force and for much longer. While heroin had generally kept him docile, alcohol made him sensitive, aggressive and prone to fight in public.
His favorite drink was Courvoisier brandy, diluted with 7Up.
Pattie, on the left, wanted a baby, but could not conceive and resorted to IVF, but one attempt after another failed and, in September 1984, with her fertility treatment still in progress, she left Eric.
I would start shortly after breakfast and work with two bottles a day. After 4 o'clock in the afternoon, his manager, Roger Forrester, would replace the brandy with cold tea without milk for sober to the stage, generally without Eric noticing the difference. At night, he took a pint of brandy and 7 Up to bed with him.
Alcoholism made Eric difficult and unpredictable, refusing to touch the food Pattie had spent hours cooking, bursting with rage and, once, crashing his Ferrari on the 300 yard return trip from the pub. His drunken banter could be dangerous. Eric's devotion to West Bromwich Albion involved a train ride to see them play at Manchester City, where they won 1-0.
Nigel Carroll, Eric's personal assistant, remembers: "On the way to the station, we went through a modeling shop and Eric came in and bought a replica gun.
"We are sitting on the train when a Manchester supporter goes through the first class section and says:" Today has had a lucky victory. "Eric pulls out the replica gun, puts it on the table and says:" This says it was not ". & # 39;
One night in Honolulu, the hotel staff saw him climbing from his room on the 30th floor to an adjoining room, dressed only in pajama pants and a Japanese samurai sword, with a horrible risk to his genitals.
The idea was to give a thrilling surprise to his drummer, Jamie Oldaker, who was in bed with a girl.
She began to scream hysterically and two security guards instantly materialized, aiming their firearms at the marauding Clapton.
Pattie was no longer on tour, but she had no doubt about what Eric had gotten into, since the evidence had a way of presenting itself at Hurtwood.
How Jimi Hendrix silenced Clapton
Jimi Hendrix accompanied Cream on stage.
On October 1, 1966, Cream played a college concert at the Central London Polytechnic when they accepted a promising young New York guitarist to accompany them onstage. His name was Jimi Hendrix.
He joined the band for a version of Howlin & # 39; Wolf & # 39; s Killing Floor, which Eric had recently mastered after some effort.
Now he had to see the beautiful stranger in a scarlet military jacket perform it with indifference.
Hendrix's manager, Chas Chandler, would later recall: & # 39; In the middle of the song, Eric stopped playing.
& # 39; His two hands fell to his sides, then he left the stage. I ran back to the dressing room and he was standing there, trying to light a cigarette with his hand shaking.
& Said: & # 39; You never told me it was so good. & # 39;
One winter day, he opened the door to a young Spanish woman in torn jeans, to whom Eric had given his address.
However, Pattie remembers moments of great affection. & # 39; Could be so funny. When I was cooking, I had all the cooking utensils put in like the blender at different speeds and then write music of the noise they made together.
"When I was too drunk to drive and insisted on doing it, I just moved and sat on my lap."
But his chronic addiction was also affecting Pattie. Now he lived with a drinker who attended AA meetings but at the same time hid alcohol throughout the house or in his cars.
Pattie wanted a baby but could not conceive and resorted to IVF, but one attempt after another failed and, in September 1984, with her fertility treatment still in progress, she left Eric and chose a moment while she was in a coma in livingroom. sofa.
It was the beginning of the end of one of the greatest romances of rock, a disintegration that would make Clapton desperate, as I will reveal in the Mail next week on Sunday.
© Philip Norman, 2018
Abbreviated excerpt from Slowhand: The Life And Music by Eric Clapton, by Philip Norman, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson on November 6, at a price of £ 25. Offer price £ 20 (20% discount, with free p & p) ) until November 4.
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