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Beatles’ George Harrison, Eric Clapton love triangle ‘was like an arranged marriage’: book

It was 1970 when Eric Clapton confessed to his best friend George Harrison, “I have to tell you, man, I’m in love with your wife.”

By then, the marriage between the lead guitarist for the Beatles and model Pattie Boyd was on shaky ground. And the fellow musician had become increasingly obsessed with the rock star muse.

The claims were made in a new book by bestselling biographer Philip Norman, “George Harrison: The Reluctant Beatle,” which places a spotlight on the beloved singer/songwriter’s life and career. Harrison died in 2001 at age 58 from cancer.


A split side-by-side image of Pattie Boyd with George Harrison and Pattie Boyd with Eric Clapton

The notorious love triangle involving model Pattie Boyd, George Harrison and Eric Clapton was analyzed by bestselling biographer Philip Norman in a new book. (Getty Images)

Philip has previously written a book on Clapton, as well as John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

“George was a massive contradiction,” Norman told Fox News Digital. “And this very curious relationship evolved after his best friend Eric Clapton became absolutely infatuated with his first wife… You never truly know what goes on between these guitar superheroes.”

Harrison met Boyd in 1964 on the set of the film “A Hard Day’s Night” in which she had a small role. A smitten Harrison immediately asked Boyd, “Will you marry me?” When she laughed in response, Harrison then asked, “Well, if you won’t marry me, will you have dinner with me?” According to reports, Boyd dumped her boyfriend and took up Harrison’s offer. They married in 1966.

George Harrison smiling next to his bride Pattie Boyd with young people in the background

George Harrison and Pattie Boyd married in 1966. (© Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

It was Boyd who introduced Harrison to meditation, and the Beatles traveled to India in 1968. But following the spiritual trip, Harrison began distancing himself from his confused and hurt spouse.

“Pattie thought she was happily married to George,” said Norman. “And George, in many ways, was a very nice person to be married to. But Pattie said that what really changed him from being very sweet was learning to meditate. Now, usually learning to meditate tends to make people nicer. In George’s case, contradictory George, of course, made him more paranoid. It made him more moody, particularly as he alternated between being mystical and spiritual and also being a rock star and doing coke and philandering.”

“One of George’s assistants told me he would switch from one to the other in lightning speed,” Norman continued. “You never knew which one was going to be there and when it would change back to the other George. He was always full of contradictions and always unpredictable.”


George Harrison, Ringo Starr and Pattie Boyd sitting next to each other covered in flowers

From left: George Harrison, Ringo Starr and Pattie Boyd in India, circa 1968. (Cummings Archives/Redferns)

Meanwhile, Harrison had become close friends with Clapton, who began showing up at their home frequently. Clapton, who was openly flirtatious with Boyd, became increasingly obsessive with her, claimed Norman.

Clapton continued to shower Boyd with the attention she yearned for from Harrison. He wrote a song, “Layla,” a declaration of his feelings for her.

“Eric was owning up to his feelings on stage when he played that song,” said Norman. “She had no idea that he was so infatuated with her for a long, long time. Eventually, he wrote her a rather tortured letter which she thought was just another fan letter from one of George’s fans. She didn’t get it at all.”

A close-up of Pattie Boyd posing as a model in the 60s

Pattie Boyd, a sought-after model, became a rock star muse. (Michael Ward/Getty Images)

According to the book, Clapton was “passionate, desperate and compelling” in his pleas for Boyd to be with him. Still, she “hesitated.” Harrison would later admit that he and Boyd had lived “virtually separate lives for so long” that he didn’t notice anything was brewing.

“Eric Clapton was infatuated with Pattie,” said Norman. “Even though George and Eric were best friends, there was a disparity between them. Even as best friends, Eric always felt he had to tread carefully with George. George always felt rather superior because nobody was bigger than a Beatle.”

“Eric was rather afraid of getting a telling off from George,” Norman added.


A close-up of Pattie Boyd staring at George Harrison

Eric Clapton became infatuated with Pattie Boyd (left) who was married to George Harrison at the time (right). (Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

It was at a party when Harrison saw Boyd and Clapton having an intimate conversation. When he confronted them, Clapton confessed his feelings. In response, Harrison asked his wife which of them she would end the night with.

“I’m coming home with you, George,” Boyd replied.

Boyd stayed in the marriage for three more years. But the final straw was when Harrison began having an affair with Maureen Starkey, Ringo Starr’s wife. The hairdresser, who would disappear with Harrison, began flaunting a necklace that was a gift from him, the book claimed.

A close-up of Ringo Starr and Maureen both smiling

Beatles drummer Ringo Starr married his long-time girlfriend, hairdresser Maureen Cox, in 1965. She took his surname Starkey. (Getty Images)

“Her attitude was very much that she had the right to spend the night with George if she felt like it,” said Boyd, as quoted in the book. “I thought, ‘This is being deliberately rubbed in my face.’ He and Maureen want me to know this is happening.”

According to the book, Boyd even caught Starkey in one of the bedrooms of the couple’s 20-room home. Starkey was lying on a mattress on the floor. Harrison, refusing to admit guilt, said, “She’s a bit tired – she’s having a rest.”

“A French or Italian wife at this point might have resorted to a loaded revolver,” Norman wrote. “Pattie’s milder English response was to attack Maureen with a brace of water pistols and then give two fingers to the Hare Krishna piety that George could put on and off as it suited him.”


Three Beatles wives looking serious sitting together in a car

Wives of the Beatles. From left: Maureen Starkey, Cynthia Lennon and Pattie Boyd. (Daily Express/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

Like Clapton, Harrison told Starr, “I’m in love with your wife.” According to the book, Starr’s response was, “Better you than someone we don’t know.” Despite the revelation, Harrison’s “grand passion for Maureen burned itself out.”

Boyd left Harrison for Clapton in 1974.

“It was really that George was treating Pattie worse and worse really,” Norman claimed. “And George started this relationship with Ringo’s first wife, who turned up at the house while Pattie’s there… Maureen would say things like, ‘I’m here to see George’ while he was in the recording studio and the next morning, she would still be there. Pattie was suffering these terrible affronts from George. She finally gets tired of it… Then she catches Maureen just lying there on a mattress in [their] house… I think [after that] she had enough.”

Eric Clapton and Pattie Boyd smiling next to each other wearing jackets

George Harrison’s affair with Ringo Starr’s wife was the final straw for Pattie Boyd (left), said Philip Norman. She is seen here with Eric Clapton in 1974. Boyd’s divorce from Harrison was finalized in 1977. She married Clapton in 1979. (Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Starr and his wife became estranged. The couple divorced in 1975.

“George was capable of seducing Ringo Starr’s wife Maureen,” Norman explained. “You do not do that to another Beatle’s wife. That would seem to be unforgivable, but George and Ringo stayed friends.”

Norman said that Harrison “didn’t put up much of a struggle to keep Pattie.”


Georgr Harrison wearing a black suit next to Pattie Boyd with her hair down also wearing a black suit

According to Philip Norman, George Harrison “didn’t put up much of a struggle to keep Pattie.” (Cummings Archives/Redferns)

“Eric was invited over,” said Norman. “George set it up to sort of fight with guitars by trading licks. That was supposed to be like a medieval tournament for the hand of a fair lady… George later said, ‘It’s fine because I’d rather she was with Eric than with some idiot.’”

Norman said the love triangle “was like an arranged marriage,” a sentiment he shared in his book. Boyd described how she and Clapton were sitting with Harrison one day when her estranged husband said, as if she weren’t there, “I suppose I’d better divorce her.”

“Well if you do, I suppose that means I’ve got to marry her,” Clapton responded.

Book cover for George Harrison: The Reluctant Beatle

Philip Norman’s new book, “George Harrison: The Reluctant Beatle,” is currently out in bookstores. (Scribner)

Boyd and Harrison’s divorce was finalized in 1977. In 1979, she married Clapton. Harrison, as well as McCartney and Starr, attended the wedding reception. The trio serenaded the newlyweds.

Harrison and Clapton remained friends.

“Eric and George lived quite close to each other,” Norman explained. “Pattie recalled how on Christmas Day, George dropped in while Eric and Pattie were having Christmas lunch. It seemed like on that day, George didn’t have anywhere to go. She felt sorry that he was alone. But that didn’t last very long because no Beatle is going to be alone.”


English guitarist Eric Clapton holding an audio cassette tape on board a private jet

Pattie Boyd and Eric Clapton were married from 1979 to 1989. (Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Boyd and Clapton’s marriage didn’t end happily ever after. After finally winning Boyd over, he “slept with one of his show’s backing singers,” the book noted. He began drinking heavily, starting with Courvoisier “drowned in 7Up” for breakfast. He also became increasingly jealous, insisting Boyd was having “a tryst with someone else.”

Harrison told Boyd she “could always come back if things didn’t work out,” the book claimed.

Pattie Boyd wearing a white shirt and a green multiprinted cardigan sitting in front of books

Pattie Boyd’s book, “Pattie Boyd: My Life in Pictures,” was published in late 2022. (Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images)

Boyd and Clapton divorced in 1989.

“The infidelities became too much,” said Norman. “The rule for rock stars is that extramarital sex doesn’t count on the road… She had to get out of that relationship. And really, George always did remain the love of her life, I’m sure of that.”

Boyd, now 79, has been married to property developer Rod Weston since 2015. According to reports, Boyd made peace with Harrison years before his death and a now-sober Clapton is a good friend.

George Harrison and Eric Clapton playing guitar together on stage and smiling

Musicians George Harrison (left) and Eric Clapton performing on stage together as part of an all-star band for music legend Carl Perkins, October 23rd 1985.  (Dave Hogan/Getty Images)

The book revealed that Clapton and Harrison remained close pals.

“Those two were so tight,” said Boyd, as quoted in the book. “I was just the one in the middle.”

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