It was the most famous love triangle in the history of rock ‘n’ roll, spawning one of the most iconic songs of all time and arguably, the best known guitar riff ever.
Mention the name Pattie Boyd, and most people over the age of 40 will know who you mean. Mention the word ‘Layla’ and younger, puzzled eyes light up. Any child learning guitar wants to play those opening notes.
Pattie Boyd’s story is extraordinary. It epitomizes the wild excesses and free love of the sex, drugs & rock ‘n’ roll years, an era which ignited in the early sixties and had burned out by the early 1980s with most of the protagonists either dead or hopelessly addicted to alcohol, drugs, or both. Bands that did remain were ripped apart by in-fighting between surviving members. Hard rockers throwing TVs out of trashed hotel room windows were replaced by fluffy New Romantics who would never tear through a hotel lobby on a motorbike for fear of wrecking their hairdo or smudging their makeup.
Memorabilia from the sixties and seventies changes hands at auction for increasingly ludicrous amounts of money and Pattie Boyd clearly has a trunk load of it. This ‘enhanced’ version of her autobiography, ‘Wonderful Tonight’ (the original paper version was oddly named Wonderful Today in the UK) is packed full with letters, photographs, drawings and images that apparently haven’t seen the light of day for decades.
The opening chapters tell of her childhood years – usually a dull necessity in an autobiography – but before flicking forward to the juicy bits, it’s worth taking a look at her childhood photos. Presented as a movie slideshow, Pattie talks through a series of snaps, just like a friend showing you their photo album. It’s an original approach that is repeated later in this iBook with a collection of photographs of The Beatles in India, with the Maharishi.
A photograph of George & Pattie with Frank Sinatra is accompanied by an audio description of how they joined Sinatra in the studio for his ‘one take’ recording of My Way.
Further into the iBook, she talks about the cover shot of George’s solo album, Living in The Material World, explaining that the chauffer and nanny were simply part of the set.
Beatles’ anoraks, or indeed anyone interested in that era, will be fascinated by memorabilia such as postcards written by George to Pattie whilst on tour with the Fab Four, George and Pattie’s marriage certificate, a childlike Christmas card created for Pattie by George and even George’s concept for his own record label.
A letter written by George to Pattie whilst in New York for the Concert for Bangladesh has also been given the audio commentary treatment. In his letter George writes that the journey on the SS France to NY was not as much fun as the previous one on the QE2. Pattie explains that Tommy Cooper had entertained them on the QE2 voyage. Why does George write that he has seen a washbasin but doesn’t know if they can afford it? Surely he was one of the richest rock stars on the planet! Pattie explains that they never carried money and had no idea if they were rich or poor. Cleverly, the presentation allows the reader to listen to the commentary then read the letter.
Most magical of all perhaps is a letter written by John Lennon that has been buried in a drawer for almost forty years. In the letter he talks of the grass outside their window (Central Park), that thankfully he doesn’t have to mow. He describes an amazing new invention he has discovered – the Polaroid camera – and how the picture leaps out of the camera and develops before your very eyes. He suggests Apple (The Beatles record label which was causing them huge grief at that time) should be given to the lowest bidder or sent to animal slaughter, and talks of spending old age in the Wilfred Pickles Memorial Home. It really is Lennon at his eccentric best.
The story that everyone wants the inside track on is what exactly went on between George Harrison, Pattie Boyd and Eric Clapton, and this iBook version lays it all on the table. She tells of how a letter arrived addressed to ‘Dearest L…’, which she assumed was from a crackpot fan; of how Eric sat her down, played her a tape and it was the most powerful song she had ever heard and she knew it was about her. The song, of course, was Layla. At this point you can touch your iPad screen, connect to the iTunes store, listen to Layla and buy it, if amazingly, you don’t already own it.
The lunacy of the period between 1970 and 1974 when George and she finally divorced is extraordinary and difficult to keep track of. Popular opinion was that Harrison and Clapton fell out and there was much animosity between the two, but in this iBook Pattie produces a note from George to them both which seems to give his blessing to their affair.
Besides the letters the iBook contains another Christmas card, this time drawn by Eric. Were these 70s rockers so desperate to cling to their childhood that they created greetings cards like over exuberant primary school children?
Ronnie Wood, who allegedly had an affair with Pattie during the George / Eric kerfuffle, gives his take on this special enhanced version of the book with a video foreword, and pops up later in the book to talk about a drawing he did of Pattie at Friar Park (the Harrison mansion).
Wonderful Tonight, the enhanced iBook, is an exceptional example of what can be done with Apple’s iPad platform. The subject matter and accompanying content really do lend themselves perfectly to the 3D eBook treatment and the use of clever techniques (such as commentary on photo slideshows) works very well.
If you are at all interested in The Beatles, Eric Clapton, or simply a glimpse into the future of publishing, this iBook is well worth a look
Wonderful Tonight, the enhanced version, is available from Apple’s iBook store for iPad and iPhone