The Who’s Pete Townshend allegedly helped Eric Clapton romance George Harrison‘s first wife, Pattie Boyd. George and Boyd married in 1966, but Clapton fell in love with her shortly after. He needed Townshend to distract the former Beatle so he could sweep Boyd off her feet.
The Beatle married Pattie Boyd in 1966
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 declined but agreed to a date. They married in 1966. However, their marriage started to crack in 1970, when George discovered that Clapton loved Boyd.
Clapton met Boyd in London and played her a song he wrote for her. It was called “Layla.”
“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.
After that, Townshend helped Clapton get Boyd alone.
Pete Townshend helped Eric Clapton woo George Harrison’s wife
In his memoir, Who Am I? Townshend recalled Clapton asking him, “Would I go with him and maybe spend some time with George so Eric could be alone with Pattie?”
He continued, “This turned out not to be difficult. George was happy to talk to me about Indian mysticism and music, even his use of cocaine. I found it hard to follow his reasoning that in a world of illusion, nothing mattered, not wealth or fame, drug use or heavy drinking, nothing but love for God.
“[Eric] said later that it was a crucial moment in their relationship. Pattie did eventually leave George for Eric, who celebrated that success by having as much fun as he could without drugs. Pattie seemed happy and free. I hadn’t seen her smile in quite the way she did with Eric since I had first met her.”
Townshend’s spirituality seemed fake to George
Whether Townshend distracted him or not, George didn’t think The Who guitarist was genuine about his spirituality.
In a 1976 interview with India Today, George said, “Townsend! Yeah! Every time I’ve seen that guy he’s been so stoned and talking such a lot of nonsense that I don’t think he means any of the religious stuff he spouts.”
Maybe George knew what Townshend did with Clapton. By 1976, George wouldn’t have cared, though. He’d already met his future wife, Olivia, and they were starting over together.