Will we still need them, will we still heed them, when they’re 44?
Need you ask?
The legacy of the Liverpool laddies has never waned since the moptops made it to America in February 1964, the memories now ablaze in bright Vegas lights in Cirque du Soleil’s interpretive salute, “Love” at The Mirage, which also is hosting the second Las Vegas Fest for Beatles Fans, beginning Sunday. (For more on the three-day event, see Friday’s Neon.)
Among fest guests will be the woman who inspired these words: “Something in the way she moves attracts me like no other lover.” And these words: “You’ve got me on my knees, Layla, I’m begging, darling, please.”
Pattie Boyd, ex-wife of the late George Harrison, as well as Eric Clapton, was the muse who lit their creative fuse for the former’s “Something” and “What Is Life,” and the latter’s “Layla” and “Wonderful Tonight.”
Joining Boyd in Las Vegas will be “Mellow Yellow” hitmaker Donovan, the Beatles’ confidant and traveling companion on their mystical journey to India.
Following are excerpts of separate interviews in which the two share recollections of the Fab Four:
Q: How did your friendship with the Beatles begin and why do you think a bond developed between you?
A: I was introduced by Bob Dylan to the Beatles in May 1965. We found a common bond in our songwriting abilities and our interest in finding a spiritual path to discover the reason for suffering in the world. We also shared a common background of a thriving seaport upbringing, Liverpool for them, Glasgow for me.
Q: What kind of influence did you have on them musically, and they on you?
A: When I first heard their first single I knew something had happened between acoustic music and pop music. This encouraged me to go on to fuse my Celtic influences and create Celtic rock, “Hurdy Gurdy Man,” my first record. My influence on the Beatles may have begun from my breakthrough album, “Sunshine Superman,” where I created a grand fusion of styles a year before “Sgt. Pepper” was created, opening doors for not only the Beatles but for many others to experiment likewise. George once said, “Donovan is all over ‘The White Album,’ ” by which he meant my influence on this album and on their songwriting in India.
Q: What are your most vivid memories of your India trip?
A: The most memorable was continuing to learn to meditate with the Maharishi. The second is being cut off from our fame, sitting in the jungle with our acoustic guitars like students again.
Q: Who among John, Paul, George and Ringo were most affected by the trip and transcendental meditation?
A: John’s disillusionment was nothing to do with the Maharishi and everything to do with the private life of John at the time. George took to it like a fish to water. So did Paul and Ringo. For my own part, I announced I was giving drugs a rest and told my millions of fans to try TM.
Q: Speaking personally rather than musically, what comes to mind when you think of the four as friends?
A: George was closest with me, John the radical, Ringo the heart and Paul the two-headed monster.
Q: Were John and Paul eager to learn your finger-picking guitar techniques?
A: John immediately wanted to learn. Paul looked over John’s shoulder pretending not to learn and their songwriting developed a whole new way.
Q: Is there anything about them we’d be surprised to know after all this time?
A: Although Paul wears suits he always wore two odd socks. Ringo came up with the word “Help” for their famous song when they were being chased by 200 girls with scissors. When people recognized George on the street, he’d say, “I’m not, you know.” About John, when I bought three islands in Scotland, John had to have at least one of his own, so he bought Fingal’s Cave, for which Mendelssohn wrote a symphony. But at least I could visit my islands. John would have to be a seagull to have visited his.”
Q: Has it been a plus in your life to be known as a muse to two of the greatest guitarists/composers in rock history?
A: It’s very flattering and honoring. But it’s difficult as well because it’s a label that one feels one has to live up to. Yes, I inspired some songs, but it’s only the musician and the creative person that can see that in me. It’s not as if I’ve done something to help other people. But I thank them for being so kind as to say I inspired them to write songs. It actually is uplifting when I hear them now. It puts a little smile on my face.
Q: Did you expect the fame to be so long-lasting?
A: I find it extraordinary that the interest is still there, still as intense. I remember back to the ’60s, the press in England would say to George, “When do you think the bubble is going to burst? This can’t go on forever, can it?” The press was trying to put them down then, to try and kill it.
Q: George was known as “The Quiet Beatle,” at least in his public persona. Was it also true in private?
A: He was The Quiet One and I was Mrs. Quiet One. We were both quite shy people, actually. As time went on he became a little more gregarious and more open with his opinions and his thoughts.
Q: You met George when, as a 19-year-old fashion model, you got a bit part as a schoolgirl in the train sequence of “A Hard Day’s Night.” What started the romance?
A: My agent booked it and it made me nervous because I never had any ambition to be an actress. And they said, “All you have to do is dress up in this school uniform,” and then I really got into the idea of, well, it’ll be nice to meet the Beatles anyway.
The day of the filming came and the train took off from London and stopped in this small area with no one except these four little figures. They ran toward the train and jumped in and came to our carriage and introduced themselves. They were so charming, absolutely adorable. It was great fun to be with them the whole day. At the end, when the train was coming back again to London, George said, “Will you marry me?” I just laughed because I thought he was joking. Then he said, “Well, will you come out for dinner tonight?” And I said, “Thank you, that’s really sweet, but I’m seeing my boyfriend.”
Q: You rejected a Beatle?
A: Yes, and he looked crestfallen. That evening I saw my boyfriend and didn’t say anything to him. So my girlfriend at a modeling job the next day, she said, “Are you completely mad? How can you turn down a date with George? You don’t really like your boyfriend, I don’t know what you’re doing with him.” She was absolutely right, so I had to say, “It’s all over between us.” Amazingly, they called us back for another day’s filming. If they hadn’t, I don’t think George and I would have seen each other again. I told him I no longer had my boyfriend, so we went out that night and that’s really how it started. We dated for about two years, then got married.”
Q: Beyond the fame, what attracted you to George?
A: “I’d never heard anyone from Liverpool before. As an American, you might not be able to hear that they have a completely different accent from people in the south of England. It’s the most adorable accent. Plus George was hugely good looking.”
Q: You’re said to have sparked the Beatles’ spiritual quest and trip to India. How did that begin?
A: While George and the others were away on tour, I saw a little advertisement in the papers to learn how to meditate, transcendental meditation. When he came back, I told him all about it and he seemed quite interested. And then, we heard from Paul that the Maharishi was coming to London to lecture. And I said, “This is what I’ve been talking about.” So we all went. In those days, what one of them wanted to do, we all did. Then the Maharishi wanted us to go to Wales and stay for a couple of days and he would initiate all of them about meditation.
But it was so tragic when the news came through to us that (manager) Brian Epstein had died. It was so ghastly and very difficult to be brave and strong in front of the press. Everybody was watching them for their reactions. And we were with the Maharishi, so it was all rather … oh, I don’t know. I guess it was lucky that we were with them. But it was devastating because he was a father figure to them all.
Q: You were long divorced when George died in 2001. Was it still difficult coping with his death?
A: I was deeply sad when George died. I took a spiritual trip to Peru. It helped.
Q: Your 2007 autobiography, “Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Me,” details the rocky romantic entanglements that led to your divorce from George and marriage to Eric, including George’s infidelities and Eric’s pursuit of you. With the benefit of hindsight, how do you look back on it now?
A: Everything seemed to be against us, and we seemed to be against each other. He was fighting his demons, I was fighting mine, things were tearing us apart. But my memory of our time together is very happy. We had so much fun because we were so young and exploring life. We were in a very privileged position because we could do whatever we wanted to do. George had a fabulous car, an E-Jaguar, and we’d just drive around England. We felt terribly free and it was really joyous.”
Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at email@example.com or 702-383-0256.