Eric Clapton Was ‘Wary’ of Letting His Guard Down Around George Harrison After a Painful Scolding

Eric Clapton and George Harrison were friends, but their relationship was not without its snarls. Clapton pursued Harrison’s wife, Pattie Boyd, while they were still together and would later become her second husband. He also became the subject of Harrison’s wrath while doing something he mistakenly believed was helpful. He explained that after that moment, he was wary of letting his guard down around Harrison.

A black and white picture of George Harrison and Eric Clapton playing guitar together.
George Harrison and Eric Clapton | Dave Hogan/Getty Images

George Harrison and Eric Clapton had a complicated relationship

Harrison and Clapton were friends for years, collaborating on music together and supporting one another’s work. Clapton complicated things when he fell in love with Boyd.

“He and George had become close friends; they played, wrote music, and recorded together,” Boyd wrote in the book Wonderful Tonight. “At that time his girlfriend was a model called Charlotte, but I was aware that he found me attractive — and I enjoyed the attention he paid me.”

Her marriage to Harrison was rocky at best, and she appreciated the attention from Clapton.

“It was hard not to be flattered when I caught him staring at me or when he chose to sit beside me or complimented me on what I was wearing or the food I had made, or when he said things he knew would make me laugh or engaged me in conversation,” she wrote. “Those were all things that George no longer did.”

Eventually, Harrison and Boyd separated, and she went on to marry Clapton. Surprisingly, though, this didn’t permanently damage their friendship. Harrison once even stopped by Boyd and Clapton’s home on Christmas

Eric Clapton didn’t want to let his guard down around George Harrison

In 1968, Harrison invited Clapton to play on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Afterward, Harrison dropped off a copy of the White Album, on which the song would appear. Clapton took it with him on a tour of America, and began showing friends. It didn’t take long for him to receive an angry phone call from Harrison.

“Word had got back to him that I was playing the album around town, and he was furious and gave me a huge bollocking,” Clapton wrote in the book Clapton: The Autobiography. “I remember being incredibly hurt because I thought I’d been doing a grand job of promoting their music to really discriminating people. It brought me down to earth with a bang, and it was a good lesson to learn about boundaries, and not making assumptions, but it stung like hell.” 

Harrison forgave Clapton, but the latter said that he never completely lowered his guard around the Beatle. 

“For a little while I steered clear of him, but in time we became friends again, although after that, I was always a little wary of letting my guard down around him.”

The former Beatle said anger wasn’t a productive emotion

Harrison made his anger and frustration clear to Clapton, but he personally believed that the emotions weren’t useful.

“He’d be the first to say there’s nothing to be gained by bitterness or anger, hatred,” his friend Tom Petty told Rolling Stone in 2001. “I don’t know how many times he would remind me that bitterness or pessimism is only going to slow you down finding the solution. And he lived that way.”

RELATED: Pattie Boyd Said George Harrison Brought Home ‘Bad Vibes’ Because of The Beatles