Tales of Rock – Pattie Boyd

I loved writing this post!

Precious few of us will know what it’s like to hear a hit song on the radio and be able to say, “That’s about me!” If we do, we can only hope it’s not on a Beyonce track called “Uber Driver Smelled Like Piss.”

Even fewer of us will ever know what it’s like to have a former lover pen a top-40 song about our time together. Yet, there are still hundreds, if not thousands, such people walking the earth right now. These are the anonymous men who wish they had a platform to rebut Taylor Swift or Adele, or the unknown woman who tried to tell The Weeknd that he was probably having a stroke. It has to be flattering regardless of how you’re portrayed — whether your track falls into the “Your Body Is A Wonderland” or “You Oughta Know” category, at least you know you made an impression.

But within that select group is an even more elite subset of people who’ve gotten around enough that they became the subject of multiple hit songs, from different artists. This is the story of one such woman who inspired at least three of the most iconic love songs ever and is the subject of at least five songs overall (that we know of!). These tunes combined to sell tens of millions of copies and spawned dozens of covers — she is literally one of the most sung-about humans in the history of the species, and her name is Pattie Boyd.

Let’s start with “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton, one of the most romantic songs ever.

It appears in shows and movies like Miami Vice, Friends, Captain Phillips, The Story of Us, and countless crappy Idol type shows. Every time it’s in a soundtrack, it’s to signal the deep infatuation between two characters. A more historically accurate use, however, would be signaling the love between a character and someone else’s wife.

See, Clapton wrote the song in the late ’70s for Boyd, his then-girlfriend. Reportedly, he was waiting for her to get dressed one night and instead of complaining that she should have started getting ready 30 minutes ago, he just wrote a classic song.

This was not a new occurrence for her, though, and her romantic history with famous songwriters was a long and tumultuous one. Years earlier, in 1968, George Harrison of the Beatles had written the song “Something” for his then-wife … also Pattie Boyd:

That’s “Something” as in “Something in the way she moves … ” aka, another of the most romantic songs in history. Harrison later changed his story and denied the song was for Boyd, but you would, too, after what happened next.

See, Harrison and Clapton were good friends at the time, which is why it was awkward when Clapton fell madly in love with Harrison’s wife. He even wrote a song for her. No, not “Wonderful Tonight,” this was still years earlier — we’re talking about “Layla,” the epic seven-minute rocker that, thanks to Goodfellas, you can’t hear without picturing dead mobsters in a ditch somewhere.

So, that’s another one of the greatest love songs ever. Upon hearing it, Boyd … didn’t care much for it, apparently, because she didn’t respond to Clapton’s advances, sending him into a four-year heroin binge. Admit it: How many of you out there are now sad that you never got the chance to know this woman?

It was only after that, when her marriage to Harrison had completely fallen apart, that she finally hooked up with Clapton. But wait, there’s more! According to Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones, he and Harrison slept with each other’s wives in the ’70s and Wood wrote the songs “Mystifies Me” …

And “Breathe on me” about Boyd as well.

 

Look, let’s just assume every love song is about Pattie Boyd unless you hear otherwise.

 

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Tales of Rock – Aerosmith Not Done With Mirrors

“Jerry Garcia says that we were the druggiest bunch of guys the Grateful Dead ever saw. They were worried about us, so that gives you some idea of how fucked up and crazy we were.”

It may come as a surprise to those whose awareness of Aerosmith began with its commercial hits of the late ’80s and early ’90s, but the band was once a sleazy rock band known for its hardcore drug use—enough to shock the likes of the Grateful Dead. In a 1990 Rolling Stone article on Aerosmith profiling its clean-and-sober comeback, Steven Tyler relayed this anecdote; “Jerry Garcia says that we were the druggiest bunch of guys the Grateful Dead ever saw. They were worried about us, so that gives you some idea of how fucked up and crazy we were.”

Amusing as this might have been, it came at a cost. Sedated in the ’70s, Aerosmith was still unbeatable over a six album run, but as the ’80s dawned, its abilities sagged considerably. The band lost both its guitarists for a dismal album before reuniting for the half-baked Done With Mirrors. Like a lot of Aerosmith album titles, this had a double meaning; they were supposedly going clean. But they weren’t actually done snorting coke off mirrors or any other surface available, and it took a stint in rehab for the entire band to get Aerosmith’s commercial comeback off the ground with the ironically titled Permanent Vacation.

In the documentary The Making Of Pump, Joe Perry describes the difficulties he faced in returning to making music not high on “China White.” Speaking to Rolling Stone, however, Tyler had a different perspective: “I’m still bummed that I didn’t get all the pussy I could have had in the ’70s. We were more interested in the finer blends of cocaine from a shipment of dates that came in on the back of some camel with the stamp of a half-moon on it and the star of Lebanon, which by the way was laced with opium. We were real connoisseurs. That was much more important to me than some girl with big tits.”

It’s hard for me to imagine a more tragic commentary on potential wasted by drug addiction.

I will write more about this band in the near future. They are my favorite rock band of all time.

 

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Tales of Rock – Marianne Faithfull Ends Up Homeless

You’ve got to feel for Marianne Faithfull. At the age of 17, she was snapped up by the Rolling Stones’ manager Andrew Loog Oldham merely for being “an angel with big tits” and shoved at the Stones. She churned out some blandly alluring pop records but was most famously Mick Jagger’s girlfriend and muse. When the police raided Keith Richards’ Redlands mansion in 1967 as its occupants concluded an epic acid trip, they claimed they found Faithfull wrapped in nothing but a rug with a candy bar inserted in her vagina (Richards debunked this myth in his 2010 book Life).

She co-wrote the tellingly titled “Sister Morphine,” only to see the Stones wrest control of the song and release it, without crediting her, on their 1971 album Sticky Fingers. By the end of the ’70s she was homeless, living in an abandoned building in London. It was a fate once unthinkable for a woman so beautiful and sexual that still images of her alone created a media sensation and who directly influenced one of the most significant bands of her generation and place.

But Faithfull got the last laugh.

Given the opportunity to cut another album, she turned in the raw, confessional Broken English; an unflinching narrative of what it was like for a glamour model and pop star to find herself an addict living on the street, all backed by understated yet fashionable musical accompaniment. The Stones of this era were singing about “Some Girls,” and this was first person reporting from one they’d cast off.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday at 8am EST.

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