Twisted Systems

Donovan’s Muse: an interview with the Real Jennifer Juniper

Issue 112

For those who don’t know, Jenny Boyd is a former model and was a big part of the 1960s British rock scene. She’s also Pattie Boyd’s sister. (Pattie was at one time George Harrison’s and Eric Clapton’s wife and hung out with Mick Jagger, Fleetwood Mac and other rockers.)

She recently published a book, Jennifer Juniper: a Journey Beyond the Muse, and I was supposed to interview her at the March 2020 Beatles fest (The Fest for Beatles Fans) in New Jersey. However, the sudden upheaval of the coronavirus prevented our planned in-person interview.

I was sent the book, titled after the Donovan song, by her publicist and my first inclination was to skim through just the Beatles parts which I thought would take up most of the book.

I do write a Beatles column for Goldmine magazine after all, and I would have assumed that that would have been the focus.

I was wrong and happily so. I read the entire book and was awed by its scope and specificity. I really loved the fact that George Harrison is just referred to as a great friend and brother-in-law, not some kind of narcissistic superstar. In other words, he is a person (albeit an important one) in Jenny’s life.

George’s searching and spirituality had a great effect on all those around him, including Jenny.

Jenny’s sister Pattie comes across as that important older sister who always had Jenny’s back. Jenny also had a younger sister, Paula, who comes in and out of the narrative at various times.

I was also struck by the fact that the book was, in my mind,  essentially three different stories. Story one is about Jenny’s life in Swinging London in the 1960s and her travels and associations with the Beatles. Story two covers her life and marriage(s) with Mick Fleetwood, among others and the insanity (and I do mean insanity) of the Fleetwood Mac years.

Most importantly, story three is Jenny’s journey to repair what became a broken life and ultimately to find redemption by reconciling with her father, while also confronting and ultimately successfully dealing with all the mental health issues that went along with her troubled relationship with him. Her parents were divorced when Jenny was five, after Jenny lived with her birth father for only six months. Her dad then disappeared for 40 years.

Jenny is five years older than me and there were episodes in the book that mirrored my own times in London (I first went there in 1971). Other parts of the book talked about some incredible shows both of us saw by the same artists, months apart in the 1960s, Jenny in London, me in New York City. Jenny’s first flat in London was on Kensington Church Street – and the very first flat in London I stayed in, in 1971, was also on Kensington Church Street.

Other strange coincidences between my life and Jenny’s happen in the book:

Jenny tells a story about going to a gig in the spring of 1969 with sister Paula at a London nightclub called the Speakeasy to see Eric Clapton perform with Delaney and Bonnie. The Speakeasy was a small club in London where many famous musicians played and hung out between tours.

Two months later in July 1969, I also saw Eric perform with Delaney and Bonnie in a small nightclub in Manhattan called Ungano’s.

Here’s a story for you Peter Green fans: I saw Fleetwood Mac in February 1971 at the Fillmore East. Peter Green had already left the group but at this show, it was announced that Peter was playing guitar as a replacement for the recently departed Jeremy Spencer, who had joined the Children of God cult in San Francisco days earlier.

Many of my friends have doubted my memory of this event, telling me that no way did Peter return. Well, in the book Jenny tells the story of that tour and Spencer's departure and that Peter Green did in fact return to help the band finish the dates!

Seeing the title of the book, Jennifer Juniper, immediately had me singing the song by Donovan. I still have the original 45 in my collection. One of the major commonalities between the Boyd sisters was that they were muses for incredible love songs by great songwriters. George Harrison’s song “Something” was written for Pattie. Eric Clapton, who also not only loved Pattie but eventually married her, wrote “Layla” about her, and Donovan (known at the time as the Bob Dylan of England) wrote “Jennifer Jupiter” for Jenny but as much as he wanted, could not develop a romantic relationship with his muse.

I got to interview Jenny by phone recently.

Jay Jay French: Was there any pressure from the publisher to “Beatle-ize”(my words) your book?

Jenny Boyd: No. I knew what I was going to write about from the beginning and they accepted that

JJF: How did you remember with such specificity situations that occurred so many years ago?

JB: I wrote and I wrote and I wrote and it all came back over time.

JJF: Did you talk to Pattie and Mick Fleetwood about it?

JB: No. No. It is my book, my memoir, including stuff I saved. I had my own story.

JJF: How did you feel about George Harrison when you first met him?

JB: I first met him at Pattie’s apartment and then later at my mother's house when Pattie brought him ‘round. He may have been a very famous person but he seemed to be a very normal guy. Meeting him didn't blow me away because he was a Beatle. He just seemed like a nice guy In general.

JJF: At the time were you aware of the incredible world that surrounded them and you?

JB: The Beatles’ times, for me, had me on the same level with them and all their other friends. We went to the same clubs, we were all together on the train to Wales to be with the Maharishi, and at the ashram In Rishikesh. These were [just] the people that we all hung around with.

JJF: Magic Alex (an engineer who worked with the Beatles) comes up prominently in the book. You knew him well, you rented a room in his apartment. He seemed to have a crush on you (although you felt that he was always insincere). Were you aware of his close relationship with John Lennon and the jealousy he had about the Maharishi and John?

JB: Yes but It wasn’t just Alex who felt the Maharishi was a fraud. After being at the ashram for over two months John also did, and in the end we all felt betrayed by the Maharishi. After we all left I went with George and Pattie to South India where we met up with their very close friend Ravi Shankar.

JJF: As you were with Pattie and George so much, were you aware of the tensions that led to the end of the Beatles?

JB: Yes; while I was visiting with Patti and George at that time I could sense that George was upset but at that time I didn’t know why.

JJF: How would you quickly describe the Beatles separately?

PB: George, lovely and spiritual. John, sensitive, gentle but also quite intimidating. Paul, clever and quick-witted. Ringo wasn't around as much as he and Maureen were in England most of the time.

JJF: How did Mick as a band leader keep it together while doing so much drugs and heavy drinking?

JB: Mick wanted the band to continue. It was very important to him and I really don't know how he kept it together but he did have a lot of help from tour managers and lawyers.

JJF: How and why did you keep coming back, time after time and forgiving all of Mick’s transgressions?

JB: Marriage was very important to me.

JJF: And your constant quest to reunite with your dad...

JB: It was something I felt I had to do. I had to reconnect with him. I didn’t realize at the time how hurt and angry I was with him.

JJF: In the book you fall in love with Mick Fleetwood when you were 14 and that becomes an unrelenting tale of togetherness and separation...over and over. You married and divorced Mick twice and had two daughters with him. You watched him as Fleetwood Mac exploded in the 1970s. The drug and alcohol abuse you describe is massive and unrelenting, as is all the inner workings of the love lives of the band members in Fleetwood Mac. All this time however, the subtext of your deep unhappiness and sense of abandonment by your birth father continues to eat at you.

Were you always aware that this sense of abandonment was the driving force of your unhappiness?

JB: I wasn’t aware of that sense of abandonment until I attended college. It was a long process beginning with writing one in-depth paper after another about my childhood, [thinking about] the way I’d lived my life, [and] going into therapy, plus hours of introspection.

Jenny eventually went back to college and earned a masters in counseling psychology and a PhD in humanities. For 20 years she ran (both in the US and UK) a successful business, offering workshops facilitated by therapists for people in need of help with recovery, relationship issues and support. She also worked for an addictions treatment center in Arizona.

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