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Jenny Boyd explores the secrets of their songwriting

Jenny Boyd at a book signing at Ceres Bookshop in Swaffham. <i>(Image: Ian Burt)</i>
Jenny Boyd at a book signing at Ceres Bookshop in Swaffham. (Image: Ian Burt)

From modelling in Carnaby Street in the swinging 60s to meditating with the Beatles in India and hanging out in the studio with Fleetwood Mac as they recorded Rumours, Jenny Boyd has lived an extraordinary rock and roll life.

She was married to Mick Fleetwood (twice) and drummer Ian Wallace, who played with artists including The Eagles, and was the inspiration for Donovan’s hippy anthem Jennifer Juniper, while her sister, model Pattie, was married to George Harrison and Eric Clapton.

In her 30s, Jenny returned to education, studying for a bachelor’s degree, followed by an MA in counselling psychology and then a PhD, for which she needed a dissertation subject.

Having spent her life around some of the most famous musicians in the world, she was fascinated by their creative process and embarked on a series of interviews to try and get to the heart of their songwriting.

Great British Life: With Paul McCartney and George Harrison in Rishikesh. With Paul McCartney and George Harrison in Rishikesh. (Image: Jenny Boyd)

The result was possibly the starriest ever piece of academic work – featuring George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Joni Mitchell, Eric Clapton, Graham Nash and many more, it reads like a who’s who of 20th century music.

It has been published as a book in the UK and the US under different titles, and now Jenny, who divides her time between rural Norfolk, London and LA, has written a revised version, re-named Icons of Rock, which features several of the interviews transcribed in full for the first time.

There are also new interviews with contemporary artists including Jacob Collier, songwriter Eg White, who has worked with Adele and Dua Lipa, and Oscar-winning composer Atticus Ross.

‘I had a near drowning accident in Hawaii,’ says Jenny, speaking to Norfolk magazine from an Airbnb in Northamptonshire following an appearance at Oundle Festival of Literature.

'That was my wake-up call to actually start doing something in the world and so that’s when I went to college for the first time.

‘I’d always heard that you should write about what you know, and I knew about musicians because I’d lived with them. I also thought, well I’ve never felt creative, although I love to write, so if I do this, that will hopefully help other people who also don’t feel creative.’

She was also inspired by psychologist Abraham Maslow’s book in which he writes about the ‘peak experience’ of creativity.

‘Say when you’re writing a song and the words just come from nowhere, where you’re what they call nowadays “in the zone”,’ says Jenny. ‘I asked questions such as: was their creativity encouraged as children? What gives them the drive to create?, Had they ever experienced this peak experience? What did drugs and alcohol do, did they enhance creativity or block it? Did they believe that we all have the potential to be creative? ’

Jenny’s first interviewees included George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Mick Fleetwood and his fellow members of Fleetwood Mac, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Bonnie Raitt and Don Henley.

Then others started to come to her as if by magic.

‘I would think about somebody else I’d really love to contact, then suddenly someone would say “oh did you know Ravi Shankhar’s in town”. It happened like that one after the other, so in a way I was in my own peak experience writing this, and when I was writing it things just came to me and it was just an extraordinary experience,’ says Jenny.

Great British Life: Jenny with Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac. Jenny with Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac. (Image: Jenny Boyd)

The answers were illuminating, and the result is a truly intimate portrait of some of the most legendary names in rock.

‘What these musicians said is that they’re kind of a servant to the inspiration and the creativity and my feeling was that there wasn’t any sense of ego because they just said it’s like they channel it in a way as if it’s something higher than them,’ says Jenny.

‘Graham Nash said that he knew when he was younger that he would be famous one day. And others said that they had a sort of sense of destiny, which I asked them about.

‘The other thing that all of them felt that they were nurtured - they had either musical parents or grandparents, or the man down the street like George Harrison, they had someone there encouraging them.

‘Some of them actually had had real problems with drugs and alcohol. David Crosby said to begin with it was inspiring and it would loosen you up, but in the end he couldn’t do anything, he couldn’t write music, it had just got too much. Joni Mitchell would talk about the different kinds of ways of getting high, and say that the long distance runner of them all is the straight mind. A lot of them were able to talk objectively what the effects drugs and alcohol have.’

Jenny conducted the interviews between 1988 and 1990 and they were first published in book form in 1992.

She recorded the interviews, but felt burdened by being the caretakers of so many tapes containing such personal revelations, so now only a few of them remain.

‘After about 20 to 25 years of protecting the tapes with my life, I thought “I can’t do this any more”,’ says Jenny.

‘I didn’t want anybody to be able to steal them or copy them, so I destroyed them, except for eight and the eight that I kept were Don Henley, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Ravi Shankhar, a jazz drummer called Tony Williams, Graham Nash and Joni Mitchell,’ she says.

And in the new version of the book, those eight interviews have been transcribed in full for the first time.

‘I was transcribing these interviews and what they were saying was so inspiring, like Joni Mitchell. As I was typing I was still just amazed and felt so fortunate and grateful that I was in a position where I could actually interview them and listening to what they were saying, all these years later is still so current.’

‘I also wanted to know what the is difference between the music world now compared to 35 years ago, so I interviewed current musicians like Jacob Collier, Eg White, who’s a songwriter who writes for people like Adele, and Atticus Ross who’s a musician and a songwriter, but also writes film scores with Trent Reznor.’

And circling back to Jenny’s feeling that she was not a creative person, she also interviews Sarah Warwick, who was instrumental in helping her to find her own (singing) voice.

In the 1990s, Sarah was a pop star who performed under the name Sarah Washington and now runs singing groups, of which Jenny has been a member.

‘She believes that anyone can write a song. She is also a survivor of cancer and the healing power of music is what I wanted to allude to.’

Jenny’s creativity has flourished in recent years. In 2020, just before the pandemic hit, her autobiography Jennifer Juniper: A Journey Beyond the Muse, was published. It is a jaw-dropping account of her life at the centre of two incredible moments in popular culture – swinging 60s London and California in the 1970s.

Speaking back in 2020, she described herself as being like ‘a little leaf’, who blew where the breeze took her, not ever realising that she was part of something so seismic.

Jenny grew up in Kenya and London. She became a house model for Foale and Tuffin in Carnaby Street when she was a teenager and became part of the extraordinary music scene when her sister, Pattie, began dating George Harrison and she started seeing Mick Fleetwood.

‘You’re young and you don’t think “oh one day in 50 years this will be extraordinary” or “this will be amazing”, because when you’re that age you’re just so excited to be 16 or 17 and everything that is opening up to you. So the fact that I was with Mick and Mick was just in this local Notting Hill Gate band and Pattie was just with George and we’d see the Beatles, it didn’t feel like an enormous deal, it just felt like “this is life now, this is great, we go to clubs and we love dancing”. And it’s so funny in a way now to look back on it because it was very different to today in many ways, there was such an innocence.”

Curious about the world and spirituality, Jenny was drawn to San Francisco during the Summer of Love.

Great British Life: Jenny with Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac. Jenny with Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac. (Image: Jenny Boyd.)

She later travelled with Pattie and The Beatles on their famous trip to Rishikesh, India, to meditate with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

'We would see the Beatles’ songs evolve from nothing.,’ Jenny told the EDP in 2020. ‘It could be anything, it could be John Lennon saying "I didn’t sleep very well last night" and then suddenly they would start coming up with lyrics,' she says.

Back in London, Jenny ran the Beatles’s first retail store, Apple, and then her own boutique, Juniper, named after Donovan’s song about her.

The 70s wasn’t such an innocent decade. Jenny married Mick Fleetwood and they had two daughters, Amelia and Lucy. Jenny accompanied the band from their early gigs together in rural England to Los Angeles, where they met Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.

As they rose to international fame the constant touring, coupled with drug and alcohol abuse, led to heartbreak and divorce.

‘Coming to LA was quite exciting to begin with, they met Stevie and Lindsey and watching that progress was exciting, but then pretty quickly, because they had to get the first record out in record time, that’s where the cocaine came in and the late nights in the studios.'

By the time they were recording the landmark album Rumours, the drama was all-encompassing.

‘It was lovely going to the studio and listening to the music, but on the other hand I was the only one that had children and I would long for their father to be around, so there were lots of positives and negatives in the whole scenario,’ says Jenny.

‘Sometimes it was just heartbreaking, you’d hear these songs from Stevie about Lindsey or Chris about John and Mick and I were really struggling, but my love of music was so encompassing and it was a really beautiful album.’

That heady period is the inspiration for the book, and now TV series, Daisy Jones and the Six, which stars Norfolk actor Sam Claflin and is on Jenny’s watchlist.

‘People keep telling me about it. I've got to see it,’ she says.

After completing her PhD, Jenny worked with the Sierra Tucson alcohol and drug treatment centre, based in Arizona. In 1997, she married the architect David Levitt and today, in addition to her writing she is a public speaker. This month she is due to appear at the 50th anniversary Fest for Beatles Fans in New York.

We speak not long after the release of the final Beatles track Now and Then. The song was completed in 2022 and, thanks to advances in technology, it features all four Beatles performing together for the last time.

As someone who was so close to The Beatles, what does she think of it?

'It's pretty amazing,' she says. 'How it came about is extraordinary and I think very moving.'

Icons of Rock: In Their Own Words, by Jenny Boyd, is out now published by John Blake.



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