Power & Market

Boyd's Bounty Brings Boom-Time Bucks

Boyd's Bounty Brings Boom-Time Bucks

Pattie Boyd, British fashion model and muse to two rock superstars, George Harrison and Eric Clapton, engaged Christie’s to auction love letters from Harrison and Clapton in addition to other memorabilia. 

As with all other assets these days, Boyd’s bounty went for boom-time prices. Chron.com reports, “Christie's, the world-renowned auction house, said its online sale of The Pattie Boyd Collection sold for around 2.82 million pounds ($3.6 million), or more than seven times the pre-sale high estimate of around 380,000 pounds.” 

The auction included two love letters from Clapton, written while Boyd was married to the unattentive Harrison. Making up the bulk of the auction proceeds was the original cover artwork for Derek and The Dominos’ 1970 album “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.” The painting of a blonde model who reminded Clapton of Boyd sold for $2.5 million, 33 times the pre-sale estimate.

For Boyd, Harrison wrote “Something,” the Fab Four’s second most-covered hit and called “the greatest love song of the twentieth century” by Beatlephobe Frank Sinatra. Clapton’s passion for his friend’s wife inspired the scorching “Layla.” “I just knew — knew, knew! — it was about me,” Boyd recalled of the moment she first heard “Layla.” Later, when Boyd had left Harrison and married Clapton, he serenaded her with “Wonderful Tonight.”

“I am completely blown away by the enthusiasm of international bidders for these special treasures that I have always loved,” Boyd said. “I am so happy that new hearts will now enjoy them, as they enter into their next ‘chapters.’ I am lucky that my life today continues to bring me joy and different adventures — I would encourage people to follow their passions and live their lives with gusto!”

Harrison was only 14 when he auditioned for McCartney and Lennon, playing the Bill Justis instrumental “Raunchy.” Lennon, at the wisen age of 17 was skeptical of having a “kid” join the band (at the time called “The Quarrymen”) but as Philip Norman writes in his biography George Harrison:The Reluctant Beatle, “John regarded [George’s] Höfner President as the real acquisition.” 

Playing in Hamburg, the band was put up in a “dingy concrete room...exactly the kind of hell-hole regularly uncovered nowadays, packed with desperate illegal immigrants,” Norman writes, with the only toilet next door at the cinema. This didn’t bother George. The home he grew up in did not have an indoor commode.

Returning from Germany and becoming the Beatles, the band played the ripe-smelling Cavern in Liverpool during lunchtime for £5. Paul turned down a £7 a week job at coil-winding firm Massey and Coggins to play the gig. Between 1961 and 1963 they played the cavern 292 times.

Norman chronicles Pattie Boyd’s mistreatment by the two rock-god best friends. Both were serial and public philanderers. George was cold and insensitive. Clapton was a helpless addict who had a brief affair with Pattie’s teenage sister Paula as a substitute for her. Paula was left heroin-addicted and heart-broken.

Norman tells plenty of Harrison’s infidelities including a wife swap with then-Faces guitarist Ronnie Wood and his wife Jo. Later in the book he related a story from a call girl who claimed George played the Ukulele while she performed a certain sexual act.

While George was “self-sufficient” and “resourceful,” Clapton, writes Norman, “was unequal to the smallest chore: all over the house, Pattie found drawers full of checks for performance fees totaling hundreds of thousands of pounds that he hadn’t bothered to cash.”

However, George never learned to read music and didn’t have the patience to read any legal paperwork either. Even the Beatles’ dissolution documents. He “would sign agreements without understanding a word of them.”

Harrison famously wrote “Taxman,” the inspiration being greedy government’s everywhere. He finally fired Allan Klein when the manager failed “to insulate the Bangladesh project from the Taxman he’d hated with particular virulence since the Revolver album.” Harrison would have to sign “a check from Apple to British Inland Revenue for £1 million” despite the project being a fundraiser. In America, the IRS refused to treat the project as tax-exempt and the taxman believed the $8 to $10 million in proceeds from the film and album should be held in escrow until the matter was resolved, which was a decade later. 

“Where there’s a hit, there’s writ,” as the saying goes according to Norman. When Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord '' hit the charts Bright Tunes Music, owner of the Chiffon’s 1963 lit “He’s So Fine '' sued claiming a three-note phrase was plagiarized. The inspiration for “My Sweet Lord” was actually inspired by “Oh Happy Day” a hit by the Edwin Hawkins Singers and Delaney Bramlett’s slide-guitar style. 

Billy Preston had come out with a version of “My Sweet Lord” two months before with no problem. It was actually a new version of “He’s So Fine“ by country artist Jody Miller that ginned up the legal trouble. “He was mortified to be sued,” Pattie recollects; “I was with him when he wrote it and it took him a long time to finish. He stopped me listening to the radio in case he heard something, put it into a song without realizing and got sued by someone else.” As Norman writes, “royalties from one of the greatest pop hits of all time [were] held in escrow” while the case meandered in the courts for four years.

In her 2007 memoir Pattie called George her soulmate. She quickly accepted George’s divorce settlement of £120,000 in 1977. The amount sounds paltry for so much inspiration. In today’s pounds, according to the Bank of England, the settlement would be £675,025.10.

Add rock ‘n roll artifacts to the inflation protection asset list. 

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