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The Time George Harrison and Eric Clapton Had A Drunken Guitar Duel

The Time George Harrison and Eric Clapton Had A Drunken Guitar Duel

Male or female muses can bring out the best in creative types. They can be the key to some inner genius that, without their presence, might never be tapped. But there’s a dark side to the muse, too. Take Almost Famous’s Penny Lane (Kate Hudson), for instance. She brought Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup) and Stillwater to the verge of stardom, but she also incited several bouts of jealous rage amongst Hammond, other musicians, and our Cameron Crowe-inspired Rolling Stone journalist, William Miller (Patrick Fugit).

Lane’s character was based on a number of muses and groupies Crowe met in the ‘70s, but mostly on a Portland woman named Pennie Trumble. For whatever reason, some muses just resonate more than others. Such is the case for Pattie Boyd, who inspired George Harrison’s “Something” and a pair of Eric Clapton tracks, the ballad, “Wonderful Tonight,” and the incendiary rock ode, “Layla.” Boyd just penned an autobiography called Wonderful Today, as Rolling Stone reports, and it divulges some Almost Famous-esque tidbits about the two musical icons.

Boyd and Harrison were married in 1970, but Clapton captured her attention when he played “Layla” for her in her honor. “We met secretly at a flat in South Kensington. Eric had asked me to come because he wanted me to listen to a new number he had written,” Boyd remembers. “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.'”

Harrison, later that same night, found them together in the garden of manager Robert Stigwood’s house. “[Harrison] 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 recalled. “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 Harrison.)

The ordeal came to a testosterone fueled head when Clapton drunkenly showed up at Harrison’s house and challenged him to a guitar duel. “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.”

It’s worth noting that, in Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists, Clapton ranks fourth and Harrison sits back at number 21. Whatever their ranking, they’re both pretty great, and it seems we can thank Pattie Boyd for at least some of that greatness.

Who would you rather have drunkenly show up at your house to challenge you to a guitar duel, Clapton or Harrison? Let us know in the comments.

Image: White House Press

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