The best books of rock and roll romantic memoirs of the 60s and 70s

The Books I Picked & Why

Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me

By Pattie Boyd, Penny Junor

Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me

Why this book?

In 1964 Pattie Boyd, a beautiful young Carnaby Street model working as an extra on the Beatles "A Hard Day's Night," sat next to George Harrison at lunch. He told her, there and then, he wanted to marry her. And in 1966, he did, and they made news around the world. George, always known as the shy Beatle, wrote the evocative song "Something" for his striking Covergirl wife. Meanwhile, Eric Clapton, who had gotten to know the Beatles, had become such a close friend of George's that he invited Eric to play guitar on Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." But Eric saw Pattie and became obsessed with his friend's wife beyond reason and pursued her relentlessly. While she was flattered, his affection went largely unreciprocated, driving him to the depths of despair, self-imposed isolation, and addiction.

Pattie describes how stressful and painful her marriage had become as George became openly promiscuous, especially following the Beatles' journey to India to study Transcendental Meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Indian guru who changed his life—and apparently his morality. When Clapton, now leader of Dereck and the Dominoes, brought the intensely emotional rock classic "Layla," he'd written for her, fresh from the studio to play for her secretly, her resolve weakened. Soon they were meeting furtively, and though George was angry when he found out, he did not try to stop them. It was as though his friendship with Clapton was more important to him than his marriage. The passion unwinding between this strange triangle is spellbinding and my first choice for this category of books.


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Clapton: The Autobiography

By Eric Clapton

Clapton: The Autobiography

Why this book?

Eric Clapton's early childhood was difficult. He'd been born illegitimately, complicating his relationship with his birth mother. His primary consolation came from playing the guitar. His fantastic talent as a young guitarist made him a cult favorite in the British nightclub scene until the entire world discovered him as a superstar in his first band, the short-lived, Cream. But his memberships in Blind Faith, Delaney and Bonnie, and Friends, and Derek and the Dominoes were also fleeting despite producing some of the most timeless songs in rock history.

All of his weaknesses rose to the top when he convinced Pattie Boyd to leave George Harrison and live with him in 1974. Pattie began traveling with Clapton as he began touring the U.S. In 1979, he and Pattie finally married, with Harrison present as an invited guest. While it seemed that Clapton had everything he had ever wanted, he was sinking into the depths of alcoholism and addiction. Though there is much more to this tangled web, Clapton seems to admit that much of Pattie's allure for him was more about her being George's wife than his single-minded obsession. In both Clapton's autobiography and Pattie Boyd's book, this affair is a glimpse into the incredible life these people lived in the fabulous rock years of the sixties and seventies. There must be a lesson for all of us in here somewhere.


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Boys in the Trees: A Memoir

By Carly Simon

Boys in the Trees: A Memoir

Why this book?

Carly Simon was an icon of the 70s pop and folk scene. She grew up in an atmosphere of wealth and privilege as the daughter of the half-owner of Simon & Shuster Publishing. Despite these advantages, she suffered from many of the same insecurities teenagers experience when their parents were not attentive and live weird lives themselves. They did, at least, support her choice of a music career.

Though she started singing as a sister act, she'd begun to establish herself as a songwriter and singer when she came back into contact with James Taylor. She'd met him earlier as a teen and created a fantasy relationship, even then predicting she would marry him someday. Simon confirmed herself as a superstar with "You're So Vain" overshadowing Taylor's current single at the time. After a romantic marriage and two children, things began to unwind. Taylor is a serially promiscuous husband with no shame. Simon takes a trip of her own through depravity in trying to deal with her issues. Though the book ends with her divorce from Taylor, it is wonderfully and honestly written. And like other books by musical stars of this era, it was eerily beautiful and descriptive of the difficulty many of these artistic people had in staying within the lines.


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I'm with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie

By Pamela Des Barres

I'm with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie

Why this book?

New York Times bestseller, I'm With The Band hit bookshelves in 1987. It has been translated and reprinted all over the world. This memoir is a remarkably stylish, exuberant, and sweetly innocent tale of the most famous groupie of the 60s and 70s. You might want to dismiss this book as a salacious, sensationalized tell-all, but that would be because you haven't read it. It's widely understood that Miss Pamela was the inspiration for Penny Lane, the groupie character in Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous movie. It's also been reported that Kate Hudson, who acted the role, kept Des Barres's pictures pinned all over her dressing room during the shoot.

Growing up, Des Barres idolized the Beatles and daydreamed about meeting and dating Paul McCartney, her favorite Beatle. In her own way, the wispy young girl turned Beatles fandom into a new type of devotion: that of a groupie. As soon as Pamela Des Barres graduated from high school in 1966, she left the San Fernando Valley, headed for the Sunset Strip. Over the next ten years, she befriended rock idols and plunged into the drugs, danger, and rapture of the free-spirited 60s. She hit the road with Led Zeppelin; cohabited with Don Johnson; rejected a date with Elvis Presley; and befriended Robert Plant, Gram Parsons, and Ray Davies. Her list of affairs included Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, Keith Moon, Waylon Jennings, Chris Hillman, Noel Redding, Jim Morrison, and more. She was often a trusted advisor and pal, helping design stage-ware, standing by them through drugs and alcohol use and abuse, retaining friendships beyond break-ups and later relationships. She was in the thick of the most revolutionary renaissance in the history of modern popular music.

Warm, witty, and sexy, this kiss-and-tell–all stands out as the perfect love story of a girl's love affair with the music and the men who created it during one of rock 'n' roll's most thrilling eras.


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Storms: My Life with Lindsey Buckingham and Fleetwood Mac

By Carol Ann Harris

Storms: My Life with Lindsey Buckingham and Fleetwood Mac

Why this book?

Four weeks after its release, Fleetwood Mac's Rumours album hit number one on Billboard and remained there for thirty-one weeks. But the band itself was disintegrating. John and Christine McVie's seven-year marriage was on the edge of divorce as recording started. And the ethereal Stevie Nicks and mercurial Lindsey Buckingham's relationship had fractured explosively, only ceasing when the mics were on for recording. Mick Fleetwood had discovered that his wife and mother of his two children was having an affair. And if that wasn't enough, Fleetwood and Nicks would soon begin a fleeting dalliance. If this album didn't hit, Fleetwood Mac would implode, but its extraordinary success, despite the emotional maelstrom surrounding the band, kept them together: everybody desperately needed the money.

The author of this book, an audio engineer in training at Producer's Workshop, a Hollywood studio where my own band recorded a few years earlier, fell in love with Lindsey Graham during their mixing sessions there. She was just about to experience first-hand all of this band's dysfunction, the mayhem drug use and alcohol abuse were creating. Over the next nine years, she would endure the backstabbing chaos that produced all the painfully biographical songs of the Rumours album. Eventually, one of Buckingham's compulsively paranoid rages nearly killed her. Though it took years to walk away from the musical genius, and a man she still loved, she finally escaped. And again, we see inside the lives of superstar musicians and singers who loved, hated, and obsessed over themselves and each other in such appalling ways.


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