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George Harrison and Eric Clapton had an interesting friendship. In the early 1960s, they became close. However, their relationship entered choppy waters when Clapton fell in love with Geoge’s wife, Pattie Boyd. George and Boyd’s marriage began to disintegrate. The two friends then engaged in a guitar battle for Boyd’s love.

George Harrison and Eric Clapton recording a TV special in 1985.
George Harrison and Eric Clapton | Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Pattie Boyd married George Harrison in 1966, and Eric Clapton fell in love with her in 1970

In 1964, George met actor and model Pattie Boyd on the set of The Beatles’ first feature film, A Hard Day’s Night. That first day they met, George asked Boyd to marry him. She was with someone, but their relationship had fizzled out. So, Boyd broke up with her boyfriend and started seeing George.

They married in 1966. George wrote one of his best love songs, “Something,” about her. However, their marriage started to crack in 1970, when George found out that Clapton loved Boyd.

Clapton met Boyd in London and played her “Layla,” a song he wrote for her.

“We met secretly at a flat in South Kensington,” Boyd said (per New York Post). “Eric had asked me to come because he wanted me to listen to a new number he had written. He switched on the tape machine, turned up the volume and played me the most powerful, moving song I had ever heard. It was ‘Layla.'”

“My first thought was, ‘Oh, God, everyone’s going to know this is about me,'” Boyd continued. That night, Boyd and Clapton met at a party at manager Robert Stigwood’s house. When George arrived, he “kept asking, ‘Where’s Pattie? But no one seemed to know. He was about to leave when he spotted me in the garden with Eric,” Boyd said.

“George came over and demanded, ‘What’s going on?’ To my horror, Eric said, ‘I have to tell you, man, that I’m in love with your wife.’ I wanted to die. George was furious. He turned to me and said: ‘Well, are you going with him or coming with me?'” She went home with George, but things weren’t great between them after that.

Shortly after, in 1973, George began an affair with his Beatle bandmate, Ringo Starr’s wife, Maureen. The affair only pushed Boyd to Clapton more.

George and Clapton decided to have a guitar duel for Boyd’s love

Shortly after Clapton told George he was in love with Boyd, he showed up at their home one night drunk. Clapton demanded he and George have a guitar battle for Boyd’s love.

“George handed him a guitar and an amp – as an 18th-century gentleman might have handed his rival a sword – and for two hours, without a word, they dueled,” Boyd said.

“At the end, nothing was said but the general feeling was that Eric had won. He hadn’t allowed himself to get riled or go in for instrumental gymnastics as George had. Even when he was drunk, his guitar-playing was unbeatable.”


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The Beatle wrote a song about his breakup with Boyd

George and Boyd split in 1974. At the time, he was recording Dark Horse. The album’s third track is “So Sad,” which is about his breakup with Boyd.

It’s the only song that the ex-Beatle dedicated to the breakdown of his first marriage. It perfectly explains his feelings at the time with lyrics like, “And he feels so alone/ With no love of his own/ So sad, so bad, so sad, so bad…/ Take the dawn of the day/ And give it away/ To someone who can fill the part/ Of the dream we once held/ Now it’s got to be shelved/ It’s too late to make a new start.”

“So Sad” is probably one of George’s saddest songs. In his memoir, I Me Mine, George said he wrote the song in a hotel room in New York City in 1972, when he and Boyd’s marriage started having serious issues.

Thankfully, George and Boyd found love after they finalized their divorce in 1977. George married Olivia Arias in 1978, and Boyd married Clapton in 1979. At least, George and Clapton’s friendship survived, even if Clapton won the guitar battle and Boyd.