Pattie Boyd: My Life in 10 Songs

Pattie Boyd in 1964
(Image credit: Michael Ward/Getty Images)

British-born model and photographer Pattie Boyd was the face of “wide-eyed loveliness” and young fashion during the swinging 60s and 70s, with iconic shoots by David Bailey, Terence Donovan and Brian Duffy featuring in magazines and newspapers such as Vogue, Elle and The Times

In 1964 she was cast as a schoolgirl in The Beatles film A Hard Day’s Night, where she met George Harrison, and they married in 1966. A muse for Harrison compositions I Need You, If I Needed Someone, Something and For You Blue, she was also an inspiration for her next partner, Eric Clapton, and his songs Layla, Bell Bottom Blues and Wonderful Tonight.

Following her 2007 memoir Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton And Me, Boyd’s second book, My Life In Pictures, is a coffee-table-sized deep delve into her modelling archive and the passion for her own photography that began while she was with Harrison. Photos of family and friends – some rather notable – sit alongside diary entries, artwork and many unseen images. 

Fashion is a focus, with Boyd’s impact on that industry highly visible, but music runs through it as a parallel thread in a life story that has had many ups and downs, from childhood to present day. 

“This is the most difficult thing I’ve had to do!” she tells Classic Rock when we ask for her Top 10 songs, “Why couldn’t there be 50?” 

Well, maybe we’ll have to talk again…

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The Glenn Miller Band – In The Mood

“I’m starting this list with music I heard growing up. My stepfather, Bobbie Gaymer-Jones, only had one record and it was this. I love it and found it quite romantic – and I still do. There’s something about the tone of the music that’s kind of velvety. It’s timeless.”


Elvis Presley – Jailhouse Rock

“Two or three years later, Elvis appeared. I was desperate to see the film Jailhouse Rock as it was going around the UK theatres, but my stepfather wouldn’t let me go, he thought it would be too violent. Kids were apparently leaping up from their seats and dancing to it, and he thought this was terrible behaviour. I had the music instead. 

We had a monster of a radiogram at home and I’d wait until he went to work, then my sister [Jenny, later to also become a model and artist, and who would marry Mick Fleetwood] and I would dance around, and that was most exciting. It was an unbelievable change from Glenn Miller!”


Buddy Holly – Raining In My Heart

“Being a young teenager you can feel like you’re looking for love and you’ll never find it. Buddy’s lyrics were so beautiful and as a young girl you can go straight in on those emotions of longing, loneliness and sadness. I was at a boarding school run by nuns [St Agnes and St Michael Convent in East Grinstead], which was fun, but sometimes I felt alone. That’s why I joined the Brownies and the Girl Guides, for something to do! 

"I get quite a few letters from young girls - the youngest one came in last week, she’s 11 and loves the 60s look – and some of them are very lost, and they’ve written to me after reading my first book. If that book has given them some hope that things will get better then I’m happy, that’s why I wrote it.”


Bessie Smith – Downhearted Blues

“I left home at 17 and went to share a flat with three other girls in South Kensington. They all seemed to have boyfriends and I didn’t. I used to listen to the old blues-jazz singer Bessie Smith, and her songs were so miserable and I felt miserable as well [laughs]! I thought, ‘I’ll never find ‘him’, Mr Gorgeous,’ and Bessie Smith sang it for me – that was my blues.”


The Beatles – A Day In The Life

George Martin and the Beatles had started really enjoying the idea of experimenting musically. They really went for it, as you can hear on the record. This was the most explosive music I’d heard and so different to anything, ever. Occasionally, I would be able to visit the band at Abbey Road, and I heard A Day In The Life there, in bits and pieces. 

"The Beatles were hilarious to be around and quite often I didn’t know what they were talking about. They had Scouse language, using words we’d never heard before. They liked to reflect what was going on around them, which is why John wrote about the news story he’d read in the paper. George would come home with some of it recorded on a cassette then more would be added. When I heard the final thing I thought, ‘My god, this is completely mad!’ as it got louder and louder."


Otis Redding – Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay

“In the 60s I loved hearing all this music that was coming from America. It wasn’t rock and roll this time, though. It was Otis, and soul, and it was so cool. Gentle and beautiful, his voice was fabulous.”


The Beach Boys – Good Vibrations

“I remember being with [Rolling Stones manager] Andrew Loog-Oldham one day, and myself and a bunch of friends were all hanging out for lunch. He said, ‘I want you all to come back to my flat,’ so we did and he put this record on. We maybe had a joint, Andrew turned it up really loud, and I just thought, ‘This music is outrageous!’ It was stunning. 

British bands and American bands were really eager to hear what was going to come out next, from either side of the pond. The Byrds and Beach Boys wanted to know what the Beatles were doing, and vice versa. They supported each other and it spurred them on to do new things.” 


The Rolling Stones – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

“This song was so Stones, so them! Nothing would satisfy them when they were young, they were so determined in their attitude: ‘Just keep ploughing on, there’s gotta be something for us somewhere.’ They nailed it in that song, a very sexy song that was good to dance to and sounded great in clubs. I went to lots of clubs like the Scotch [of St James], the Bag o’Nails and Hatchett’s in Piccadilly. George didn’t dance so sometimes I’d just dance on my own, because I love it. Ringo was a great dancer – he and Maureen would be great fun to watch.”


Bob Dylan – Lay Lady Lay

“I love all of Bob’s music, I’m such a fan. His lyrics are thoughtful and insightful to human behaviour – sometimes a little cruel, I think. I adore Lay Lady Lay and it has a louche, slinky sound that is really cool and his voice is beautiful on it. I met Bob a couple of times; George and I stayed with him in his house just outside New York State. 

"There’s something about Bob that would stop you going to give him a hug or a kiss. He’s evasive, he doesn’t do chit-chat – he’s endlessly fascinating. He’s not someone you ‘hang out’ with. George did that a bit, but they were talking about music, and that was his limit.”


Eric Clapton and Wynton Marsalis – Layla

“Wynton Marsalis is this great jazz-blues trumpeter and this version of the song [from a live show in New York in 2011] is so incredible; Eric’s guitar playing combined with Wynton and the horn section is magical. When I first heard Layla it was immensely flattering and slightly embarrassing because it was about me, and he was being so loving and passionate in his lyrics. I couldn’t believe that someone could feel that way about me, or write those kind of lyrics. 

Eric had been on tour with his band and come back to London for a few weeks. He asked me if I’d like to come over to the band flat and hear what they’d been doing in Miami. He played it to me on a cassette and said to me, ‘You know why I wrote that…’ I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, really? This is a little public… and I’m married to George.’ 

"I wanted it to go away although I loved it at the same time. It caused huge storms in my head. I thought Eric was incredibly attractive and sexy and he was great to talk to. I was going through a bad time with George, and Eric was a good listener."

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Classic Rock couldn’t let Boyd go without asking her to fill us in on Something, the song written for her by George in 1968, which eventually made it onto 1969 album Abbey Road.

“Oh, that is the most iconic, beautiful and classic song,” she says. “When George first played it for me he had just come out of the studio and it was a very raw version. The night before, as all the Beatles were sliding out of Abbey Road, George went to [engineer] Glyn Johns, ‘I want to play you a track but I didn’t want to do it in front of the others.’ He played Something and Glyn said, ‘Are you kidding? That’s fabulous. We’ll do it tomorrow.’” 

My Life In Pictures is out now via Reel Art Press, and you can also hear Boyd on her Pattie’s Podcast series on Spotify (opens in new tab), featuring interesting friends from the worlds of fashion and music. 

Jo Kendall

Jo is a journalist, podcaster, event host and music industry lecturer with 23 years in music magazines since joining Kerrang! as office manager in 1999. But before that Jo had 10 years as a London-based gig promoter and DJ, also working in various vintage record shops and for the UK arm of the Sub Pop label as a warehouse and press assistant. Jo's had tea with Robert Fripp, touched Ian Anderson's favourite flute (!), asked Suzi Quatro what one wears under a leather catsuit, and invented several ridiculous editorial ideas such as the regular celebrity cooking column for Prog, Supper's Ready. After being Deputy Editor for Prog for five years and Managing Editor of Classic Rock for three, Jo is now Associate Editor of Prog, where she's been since its inception in 2009, and a regular contributor to Classic Rock. She continues to spread the experimental and psychedelic music-based word amid unsuspecting students at BIMM Institute London, hoping to inspire the next gen of rock, metal, prog and indie creators and appreciators.