WATCHA DOING, JENNIFER, MY LOVE?
by Norman Warwick
Jay Jay French (left) is a music writer who delivers a regular column, always about Beatles related items, for Goldmine magazine.
At the start of 2020 he received a biography (right) called Jennifer Juniper: A Journey Beyond The Muse by Jenny Boyd. Many readers of my generation will perhaps remember her as a former model and a ubiquitous figure on the British rock scene in the so-called ´swinging´ sixties, What particularly thrilled Mr. French about receiving this book was that he also knew Jenny Boyd to be the sister of Patti Boyd who also graced that same vibrant scene. Not only had Patti moved with rock stars like Mick Jagger and members of Fleetwood Mac, but she had also been at one time a wife to Eric Clapton and at another time to George Harrison. Mr. French was therefore delighted to receive a book he thought would likely contain many Beatles stories some of which might not have been heard before. Keys to the Goldmine, in fact.
He therefore quickly contacted the author and arranged to interview her at the March 2020 Beatles fest (The Fest for Beatles Fans) in New Jersey. However, the world came down with a coronavirus and prevented the planned in-person conversation.
He knew the book, which had been sent to him by her publicist was titled after a hit single by Donovan and although I have learned of the book more recently I would have opened it to skim through for references to that song. I would certainly have looked for answers to Donovan´s chorused question of ´watcha doing, Jennifer, my love?´ though I can understand why Jay Jay French first sought out just the Beatles parts which he thought would take up most of the book.
Michael Higgins delivered for Sidetracks & Detours yesterday a delightful character reference, not only for Donovan as a spinner of rhyme and a dancer in dream, but also of the many characters, corporeal, composite and created, who floated through his music.
Jennifer Juniper was one such particular song and single by the Scottish singer-songwriter, released in 1968. It peaked at number 5 in the UK Singles Chart, and at number 26 in the Billboard Hot 100. AllMusic journalist Matthew Greenwald noted that ´capturing all of the innocence of the era perfectly, it’s one of his finest singles´.
The eponymous girl of whom Donovan asked his questions was, it became known after the song had been released, a romanticised figure of Jenny Boyd.
Born Helen Boyd in England in 1947 as a younger sisters of Patti Boyd was given the nick-name Jenny after Patti’s favorite doll.
Jenny became a London model and met the future drummer of Fleetwood Mac in 1965. Mick Fleetwood recalled the beginning of their relationship in his book, My Life and Adventures in Fleetwood Mac: ´I met Jenny when I was still in the Cheynes…I’d see Jenny coming home from school, a stunning fifteen-year-old in white stockings. I lost my heart to her immediately. I had a massive crush on her, but was so shy I couldn’t say anything to her. I knew then, at age sixteen, that this was the girl I was destined to marry.”
Shy, maybe, but by 1966, Jenny had begun experimentation with marijuana and LSD and has since described an incident which she said arose from the experience, ´One momentous day I experienced an astonishing realization, which I can now identify as a spiritual awakening. The traditional Christian beliefs I had been taught as a child crumbled as I suddenly recognized that there was no God above or hell below. God was everywhere, inside each one of us. I saw everything as a circle: life, death, rebirth, or reincarnation.´
Jenny moved back to Los Angeles, moved in with Mick, and they re-married in 1976. The couple divorced again six months after Jenny sobered up with the help of an Oriental acupuncturist.
She moved back to England with her daughters in 1978, where she met Ian Wallace, a drummer who had played with the bands King Crimson and Snape in 1972. They married in 1984. Jenny earned her bachelor’s degree in humanities at Ryokan College, then she earned her master’s degree in counseling psychology, and her Ph.D. in psychology in 1989. In her 1992 book, Musicians in Tune, Jenny Boyd stated that she divided her time between Malibu, California and Surrey, England with her husband, Ian, and was a consultant to Sierra Tucson, a Californian treatment center. Jenny and Mick’s older daughter, Amy, had a son, Wolf Cassius, in 1994, and she resides in England with the baby’s father, Atticus.
More than beautiful though she was, in the sixties (and remains so now, in real time, Donovan wrote of her as ´living upon a hill, sitting very still´, or ´riding a dappled mare, with lilacs in her hair´. Even whilst describing her ´hair of golden flax´, however, Donovan´s eye of a writer detected that even such a lady still ´yearns for what she lacks.´ Maybe that was why so often asked her ¨Watcha doing, Jennifer, my love?´
Writer Jay Jay French has subsequently written that he assumed the book he received in 2020 would have been focussed on the Beatles and has acknowledged that:
´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.´
Mr. French recalls being struck by the fact that the book was, seemingly, essentially three different stories. Story one is about Jenny’s life in Britain´s capital city and her travels and associations with the Beatles. the second story covers her life and marriage(s) with Mick Fleetwood, among others and the apparent insanity of the Fleetwood Mac years.
The Goldmine columnist found story three to be of ´Jenny’s journey to repair what had become 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 forty years.
Jenny, born in 1947, is five years older than I and her book mirrors my own excitement in London, whenever I travelled down in the early seventies from Manchester´s cobbled end of the motorway, usually for a big concert or glamorous sporting event like a football cup final or one-day county cricket final to watch Manchester United or Lancashire or Yorkshire. The company I worked for even had its head office in Berkely Square so I often bumped into trees as I looked for the nightingales that sang there.
Mr. French saw more strange coincidences between his life and Jenny’s adventures 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, Mr. French saw Eric perform with Delaney and Bonnie in a small nightclub in Manhattan called Ungano’s.
Jay Jay French even found that the book Jennifer Juniper; A Journey Beyond The Muse corroborates his own recollection of having seen 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 Jay Jay´s friends have long doubted his memory of this event, telling him 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, as it had with me, Jay Jay singing the song by Donovan. He still has the original 45 in his collection, though, whereas mine floated down river in the floods that devastated Rochdale in the Christmas period of 2015. We had relocated here to Lanzarote only six weeks earlier, and I watched as the internet news footage showed the door of my brother´s lock-up burst open and my books and record collection and all my life´s work swam for the seas.
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, by those who didn´t understand the subtle differences between the two men and their artistic styles) wrote Jennifer Jupiter for Jenny but as much as he wanted, could not develop a romantic relationship with his muse.
The covid-enforced cancellation of their interview meant Jay Jay would not to speak to Jenny Boyd for almost a year after its original schedule, and even then their talk would be by telephone rather than face to face.
Perhaps referencing his own initial expectations of her biography he began by asking her if there had been any pressure from the publisher to ´Beatle-ize´ (his word) her book and from then on he gently facilitated her in talking about the writing of Jennifer Juniper: A Journey Beyond The Muse.
´No. I knew what I was going to write about from the beginning and they accepted that,´ she replied. It is my book, my memoir, including stuff I saved. I had my own story. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote and it all came back over time.´
I first met George Harrison 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.
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.
It wasn’t just Magic Alex, a sound engineer with The Beatles, 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.
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. George, was 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.´
French asked Jenny not only about The Beatles but also wondered how Mick (Fleetwood) as a band leader kept it together while doing so much drugs and heavy drinking?
´Mick wanted Fleetwood Mac to continue,´ she responded. ´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. (Our) Marriage was very important to me.´
The journalist also asked her about her search for reconciliation with her father.
´It was something I felt I had to do´, Jenny told him. ´I had to reconnect with him. I didn’t realize at the time how hurt and angry I was with him.
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.´
I, like Donovan, loved Jennifer Juniper and when, every few days, that Donovan song I have stored on my car i-pod plays on shuffle I not only sing along with Donovan in asking the lady, ´watcha doing, Jennifer, my Love?´ but I also lala la the sound of the oboe that, to me, was always the signature sound of the song. In fact so famous did that riff become that asking what the instrument was that was heard so prominently on the song became a pretty regular crossword clue that last seems to have been employed as recently as March 2020. I honestly can´t remember who played it, (if I ever knew) and have flogged my search engine to death trying to find out. Answers please to firstname.lastname@example.org
I should also add, inclosing, that not only was Jennifer Juniper a great single but some releases carried on the B side the extremely wonderful Poor Cow, a song that has lived with me ever since I first heard it.