Even by the hedonistic rock and roll standards of the 1970s, it was an outrageous proposition.
As an intimate group attending a party at Eric Clapton’s Surrey mansion prepared to play a game of pool, George Harrison made his wishes clear – the prize should be the 15-year-old daughter of legendary Cream drummer Ginger Baker.
In a revealing new memoir, Nettie Baker says she ‘nearly choked’ at the suggestion, but was further shocked when Harrison then tried to ‘buy’ her for £2,000 later the same evening.
The episode took place in 1976 at Clapton’s Hurtwood Edge home and more than 40 years later, Nettie recalls it vividly.
‘People were laughing and taking it in good part when George said it and I was thrilled to be the centre of attention – but that was because I was young.
‘I am not going to condone the behaviour of men in their 30s to teenage girls – because it’s wrong. George’s remarks definitely crossed the line in a way that people would be more careful about now. Nothing terrible happened, but I realise now that was exactly how guys got away with it: because a lot of girls were too young to deal with it.’
Nettie, now 57, recalls: ‘After asking my age, George Harrison decided I should be the first prize in a game of pool. Later that evening, he offered to pay my dad £2,000 for me – and I nearly choked.’
The deal was never struck, of course. The party, which had a Twelfth Night theme, was attended by Clapton’s then-girlfriend, Pattie Boyd, her ex-husband Beatle Harrison and his new girlfriend, and Nettie’s parents Ginger and his first wife Liz, who brought her along.
Could Harrison have been joking? Nettie will never know. But her life had certainly become far from predictable. She had to grow up quickly around the heroin-addicted Ginger and a volatile mother with an undiagnosed personality disorder, who fought like cat and dog. ‘It was never consistent parenting – you never knew whether they were going to be OK or go mental,’ says Nettie, whose upbringing included fending off the bailiffs and phoning 999 during her parents’ fights.
When Nettie was asked to leave the private school Heathfield at 16 because of newspaper headlines about Ginger’s drug taking, her polo-mad father asked her to groom his horses full-time.
The polo field was where rock’s top echelon mingled with real royalty. As she recalls in her book, Nettie would find herself dancing at the same ball as Prince Charles and his then-girlfriend Lady Sarah Spencer – Diana’s sister – and making friends with Sarah Ferguson, the future Duchess of York, through her father ‘Ronnie’ Ferguson.
‘Sarah and I got on well – she always wanted to know what was happening at my house, while I dreamed of meeting a rich and handsome polo player to look after me. I was always looking for an escape.’ At the height of Baker’s fame, the family lived in a mansion in Harrow-on-the-Hill, London. But after her parents’ divorce, she lived with her mother in a terrace house nearby – seeing nothing of the multi-million-pound fortune that Ginger lost through hard drugs and disastrous business ventures.
Ginger is now an ailing 79-year-old with no assets apart from royalties and his state pension. He rents a flat near Canterbury with his Zimbabwean fourth wife, 42 years his junior.
* Tales Of A Rock Star’s Daughter is available now.