Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney - Howard Sounes (2010)
PART ONE. WITH THE BEATLES
Chapter 13. WEDDING BELLS
PAUL, LINDA AND HEATHER
The Beatles finished the White Album with a marathon 24-hour recording session in mid-October 1968. Despite all the problems, there had been a degree of cooperation on the album between John and Paul, both of whom had gone against type in some of the music they had made. Both had contributed challenging songs to the LP (Paul’s ‘Helter Skelter’ for example) as well as gentler, introspective work (John’s ‘Julia’), but probably only Paul could have come up with ‘Honey Pie’, a pastiche of the tea dance tunes Jim Mac’s Jazz Band played in the Twenties; and a love song to his dog, ‘Martha My Dear’. Both are clever and funny, as well as being in keeping with the chocolate assortment nature of the White Album. However, ‘I Will’ exemplified Paul’s weakness for the soft-centred love song. The melody was catchy, but the lyric, about loving his beloved forever and ever, etc., was the sickliest cliché, a taste of what was to come.
After the record was finished, John and Yoko were busted for cannabis possession at Montagu Square by the relentless DS Pilcher and his sniffer dog Yogi.33 Charges against Yoko were dropped when John pleaded guilty, receiving a fine. Meanwhile, Paul travelled to New York with Linda to meet her daughter.
One night before the New York trip, when Linda was speaking on the phone to Heather, she passed the receiver to Paul, who suggested to the little girl (now coming up for six) that he might marry Mummy. Asking girls to marry them was something the Beatles had always done as a chat-up line, but this time Paul was sincere. He had enjoyed spending time with Linda in Beverly Hills and London. The couple formed a tight unit that mirrored John and Yoko. Apart from being his lover, Linda also had the makings of a steadfast lieutenant in the Beatles Wars. ‘She watched his back,’ Peter Brown comments. ‘She was very, very vigilant in watching his back, totally and utterly loyal, and looked after his needs domestically and in every other way …’ Another quality Paul appreciated was that, having come from money, Linda didn’t seem interested in his wealth. She preferred a simple life, as he did to a degree. So when Paul and Linda came to New York they didn’t check into a deluxe hotel, but stayed at Linda’s apartment on East 83rd Street, exploring the city by walking around and riding the subways like any other couple.
To help him get about unrecognised, Paul bought an old coat from a thrift shop and let his beard grow, giving him a Fenian look. Thus disguised, he went to Harlem with Linda to see shows at the Apollo Theater and generally mooched about the city, an experience very different from his previous visits to New York. Anything Paul wanted to do seemed possible with Linda, or Lin as he called her affectionately. She had bucket-loads of American confidence, which he liked. Both were relaxed and open about sex. They told each other everything about their past (and there was a lot to tell!). Lin dug rock ’n’ roll in a way Jane never had, and unlike Jane this American girl wasn’t uptight about drugs. Although a modern, liberated woman in some ways, Lin wasn’t a committed careerist. She was already tired of scratching a living as a rock ’n’ roll photographer, more than ready to settle down with a man who could look after her and Heather. She would happily allow Paul to take the traditional masculine role, which seemed like the natural order to a young man who, despite his sophisticated life, was a product of England’s conservative northern working-class. Conversely, there was a hippie chick, go-with-the-flow looseness about Lin that Paul dug, exemplified when they were out walking with Heather and Lin said she had to do an errand on her own, but Heather could lead Paul back to the apartment if he got her to the 86th Street subway. So Paul let the little girl take him home. It was such a relaxed and pleasant journey - so different to his normal life - that he found himself singing a happy tune as he walked with the child to the apartment, a tune that became ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’.
When Linda took Paul to meet her father at his apartment on Park Avenue, Lee Eastman didn’t go out of his way to make friends with the new boyfriend. It was his method to challenge new people, to see what they were made of, and Paul seemed intimidated at first. ‘Paul was scared to death of him,’ states Linda’s stepbrother Philip Sprayregen, whose mother Monique had become Lee’s second wife. ‘When my father got mad, his face would turn red … It was very intimidating to behold.’ When Lee spoke condescendingly to Lin at dinner, however, Paul defended his girlfriend stoutly, took her by the hand and led her out of the apartment. It was a demonstration that he wasn’t to be pushed any further, and he and Lee got along better after this.
Aside from her family and her rock ’n’ roll contacts, Linda’s New York circle was mostly comprised of journalists like Danny Fields, now a publicist at Elektra Records. Her other closest pals were Lillian Roxon, New York correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald, and Blair Sabol, who wrote for the Village Voice. Although Linda had told Danny she was going to London to see Paul, now they were back in New York as a couple Paul and Linda didn’t call her friends. It seems they had decided that Lin would have to drop the journalists, for fear they might write about them. It was 18 months before Blair, Danny and Lillian heard from Linda again, at which point Danny and Linda did resume their friendship, but Linda never smoothed over the rift with Blair and Lillian, who were terribly offended at being dropped in this way. Lillian died, still embittered against Linda, in 1973. Fields: ‘Linda said to me the biggest regret of her life was not making up with Lillian.’
Clearly Paul and Linda were a couple heading for marriage. Passing a door in New York’s Chinatown Paul saw a sign advertising that Buddhist weddings were conducted within. ‘C’mon, let’s go and get married,’ he said. Linda declined, explaining that her failed marriage to Mel See was too recent for her to want to marry again in a hurry. This would seem to contradict stories told by the likes of Nat Weiss that Linda was set on marrying Paul from the start, and it has been used by Paul and Linda as such a defence. But perhaps she was just too canny to rush into a ‘Buddhist wedding’ of dubious legality; better to bide her time and do it properly. If Paul had asked her once to marry him, he would ask again. In any event, Paul and Linda were solid enough to take Heather with them when they returned to England at the end of October 1968.
Adjusting to life in the UK did not prove easy for Linda’s daughter. Having suffered the break-up of her parents when she was a toddler, and had the disorientating experience of being taken to live in New York, where Mom had an ever-changing cast of boyfriends, Heather was now relocated to a foreign country where the people, contrary to the reputation the British enjoy for good manners, were beastly towards her. The big girls who stood outside Paul’s house were the worst, giving Heather and her Mommy filthy looks when they passed and writing words on the gate that Heather, thankfully, couldn’t read. Children her own age weren’t much nicer. Placed in Robinsfield Infants, a private school in St John’s Wood, Heather was picked on for being different, that is to say American. Nobody wanted to be her friend. Paul suggested Heather sit quietly reading a book, and kids would come over to her out of curiosity. She told Paul sadly that she’d tried that and it didn’t work. ‘I don’t think she made too many friends there,’ Paul has said. ‘She wasn’t desperate or anything, she was just a little sad because [she’s] very friendly.’
At the same time, Heather’s new ‘Daddy’ received all this attention. ‘It was so extreme. A [six]-year-old can’t comprehend fame and I had no concept of Paul’s world,’ she would say in adult life. After the period when kids shunned Heather came a second phase when schoolmates took an interest in her because of who ‘Daddy’ was. ‘From a child’s point of view it was hard to understand.’ Indeed, being brought up in Paul’s shadow would blight Heather’s life, which proved a troubled one with a leitmotif of pathos. There was a good side to having Paul as Dad; Paul liked children and was a thoughtful, attentive, funny and energetic father-figure. He lived in a cool house, what appeared to an American child as a beautiful English doll’s house, for 7 Cavendish Avenue had that classic, symmetrical look. It was full of interesting things, with a large walled garden, and plenty of pets to play with. Heather was as soppy about animals as Mommy was. In addition, there was the farm in Scotland.
Paul took Linda and Heather to Kintyre as soon as possible, and mother and daughter fell in love with the place. Different though it was from Arizona, here was another wild empty landscape in which Linda could ride for miles. Paul and Heather both took up horse-riding and rode with her, developing a good seat. Linda found the light conducive for taking photographs; while, perhaps best of all, she and Paul and Heather could be alone together away from the press, the fans and the other Beatles. Admittedly, the steading was in a poor condition. Paul liked High Park tumbledown. Linda persuaded him to make some elementary home improvements: they bought bits of furniture in Campbeltown; Paul made a sofa from old packing crates, naming it Sharp’s Express after wording stencilled on the side; they laid a new floor; and Linda ran up simple plaid curtains. The cottage was suddenly much more welcoming. After a long walk through the heather, or along nearby Westport Beach, there were long, deliciously quiet family evenings in front of the log fire. When Linda mentioned that she wanted to stop using the Pill, Paul agreed and she fell pregnant. Marriage was inevitable now, and Paul felt ready. One day Lin said, ‘You know, I could make you a great home.’ It was exactly what he wanted to hear.
THE BEATLES’ WINTER OF DISCONTENT
One of the important points to make about the Beatles’ mature period is that their albums were complete works of art, what Richard Wagner called Gesamtkunstwerk, music and lyrics complemented by visual presentation. Since Sgt. Pepper, Paul had come up with the essential concept for the album covers, working with first-class people to realise his ideas. Having employed Peter Blake and his wife Jann on Sgt. Pepper, Paul now turned to another significant British artist, Richard Hamilton, considered the founder of Pop Art, which he defined in 1957 as being popular, transient, expendable, low-cost, mass produced, young, witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous and big business. Which summed up album-cover design perfectly.
Paul’s art dealer Robert Fraser brought Hamilton and the Beatles together, setting up a meeting at Savile Row. Inevitably Paul kept his visitor waiting, and as Hamilton sat watching the beautiful people flounce by he became bored and irritated. By the time he was admitted to Paul’s presence, Hamilton was really disgruntled. ‘So when he said that they wanted me to do the cover of this album they were working on, I said, “Why don’t you do it yourself?”’ Hamilton recalled to the author Michael Bracewell.
‘Come on, haven’t you got any ideas?’ Paul asked.
‘Well, my best idea is to leave a white cover,’ replied Hamilton. He hadn’t intended to do a white cover when he came to the meeting. The notion occurred to him on the spur of the moment, almost as a put-down to Paul in response to being kept waiting and all the nonsense he saw surrounding the Beatles. To Hamilton’s surprise, Paul agreed.
As to an album title, the band had debated several names, including A Doll’s House, after Ibsen. Hamilton said that if they were going for simplicity they should call it The Beatles. Surprisingly, neither EMI nor Capitol had released an LP under that most elementary of titles, so The Beatles it was, and Hamilton set to work on his now-famous, absolutely simple, white gatefold sleeve, stamped with a blind impression of the title and initially a number. Like a limited edition art print, every copy of the album would in theory be numbered, the Beatles themselves getting numbers one to four. To give their fans something to look at, colour headshots of each band member would be slipped inside the sleeve together with a fold-out lyric sheet on the reverse of which was a collage poster. In response to a request from Hamilton, Paul collected snapshots from John, George, Ritchie and Linda - including a picture of Paul in his bath at Cavendish - then watched the artist assemble the items for the poster.
The album was a nightmare as far as sales reps were concerned. Shoppers searching through the shop racks for the new Beatles LP would not see the band’s picture on the cover, nor could they easily make out the band name, while the idea of naming the Beatles’ ninth (regular UK) album The Beatles, as if it were their first, was absurd. The music was also challenging in places. George Martin was of the opinion that the boys should have distilled one album from the 30 songs they recorded, instead of releasing a double album, but for once he was surely wrong. The capaciousness of the White Album is one of its strengths, allowing the Beatles to demonstrate their range. If ‘Revolution 9’ wasn’t to your taste, there were plenty of other accessible and pretty tunes to listen to: the likes of ‘Back in the USSR’, ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Julia’. In any event, despite its arty look, double album price and difficult tracks, the White Album sold sensationally well, going to number one in the UK and US, becoming an album that is rediscovered generation after generation, one of their best-selling albums ever in the USA.34
In some ways the often spiky and confrontational White Album seems more of a John album that a Paul record. Yet without Paul’s major contributions - the top three being ‘Back in the USSR’, ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Helter Skelter’ - it would not have become the classic it is. Paul clearly still possessed a Midas touch, with the Beatles and outside projects, such as when he helped the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.
‘Viv [Stanshall] was down the Speakeasy with Paul. I think they used to drop into the personas of country gents, sort of thing, “Another one, dear boy? ” “I don’t mind if I do”,’ recalls Bonzo member Neil Innes, explaining how Paul came to help the band record their one top ten hit. ‘Viv was saying, “We’ve got to do this bloody single, but the producer won’t give us time to do anything.” So Paul said, “Well, I’ll come and produce it.”’ The Bonzos were working at Chappell Studio in Bond Street on a song titled ‘I’m the Urban Spaceman’, which Paul effortlessly transformed into Top of the Pops material in one session. ‘I’d like to go on record as saying the record would have been nothing like [as successful] without Paul’s touch,’ says Innes.
Larry was sort of doing on the drums a-boom-chick, boom-chick, boom-chick , and Paul said, ‘Yeah, that’s all right, we’ll do it like that, but give it a boom-dat-boom boom bap with the boom-chick, boom-chick,’ which gave it a feel. Then he snatches up Viv’s ukulele and starts leaning into the microphone, Nashville-style, to fade it, live fade and fade out, rinky-dinky-dinky-dinky-dinky-dink, and the whole thing is taking off. And it’s totally down to Paul.
As they were working, the wife of the band’s manager sidled up to Paul and asked, ‘What’s that you’ve got there - a poor man’s violin?’
‘No, it’s a rich man’s ukulele,’ McCartney rejoined, showing his quick wit.
‘I’m the Urban Spaceman’, produced by Apollo C. Vermouth (contrarily, the Bonzos didn’t want to advertise the fact Paul had produced it), went to number five in the UK in November 1968. Paul’s brother Mike, and his mates in the Scaffold, were at number one at the time with another nonsense song, ‘Lily the Pink’. It was the Christmas number one.
Before celebrating the holidays, Paul flew to Portugal with Linda and Heather to visit Hunter Davies, whose authorised Beatles biography had recently been published. Davies owned a holiday villa on the Algarve, where Paul and Linda and Heather stayed for ten days, during which time, despite some ‘frosty moments’ between them, as Davies observed, the couple decided to marry. Lin was after all carrying Paul’s child, which meant wedding bells where he came from, and once Paul had made up his mind he enjoyed the ritual of phoning Lee Eastman in New York to formally ask his permission, which the patriarch granted, having adjusted his view of Paul for the better in the short time he’d known him. His daughter’s marriage to the Beatle would become a business union between McCartney and Eastman & Eastman, which would advise and guide Paul to their lasting mutual benefit. As a result, Lee’s relationship with Linda was transformed. ‘She became the star of the family,’ says Philip Sprayregen.
Despite Paul and Linda’s happy news, Christmas 1968 wore a grim aspect. On 15 December, the Beatles’ lawyer David Jacobs, who’d suffered a nervous breakdown in recent weeks, apparently caused by financial worries, hanged himself at his Sussex home. The death and inquest generated lurid publicity. Then the Hell’s Angels roared into town. George Harrison was to blame. Having met members of the San Francisco chapter of the biker gang in California, he had foolishly invited them to look in at Apple if they were passing through London, never thinking they would. Now came news that they were on their way. George sent a memo to staff. ‘They may look as though they are going to do you in,’ he wrote worryingly, ‘but are very straight and do good things, so don’t fear and up-tight them.’ Shortly thereafter two terrifying characters, Billy Tumbleweed and Frisco Pete, rumbled down Savile Row on their Harleys, having had the hogs flown to London at great expense (to the Beatles), and proceeded to occupy the band’s elegant townhouse for the holidays.
The Angels were in time for the Apple Christmas party, a lavish affair arranged primarily for the benefit of Beatles’ children. The highlight was a luncheon featuring what was claimed to be the Largest Turkey in England. This monster took a very long time to cook, testing Frisco Pete’s patience. When the bird was finally borne into the dining room the famished Angel fell on it, tearing the carcass apart with his bare hands, appalling the Beatles people gathered. In years gone by, the Beatles had sent out fun Christmas records wishing their fans a Merry Crimbo (sic) and a Happy New Year. This year Mr and Mrs Christmas - as John and Yoko were at the Xmas party - had attempted to put out an avant-garde recording that incorporated the dying heartbeat of their baby, which John had recorded in the womb using a stethoscope just before Yoko miscarried in October.35 While all this madness was going on, a thief managed to slip into the building and strip the lead off the roof.
The Beatles’ winter of discontent, as George Harrison described it, began in earnest two days into the new year when the band, plus Yoko and a recording team, assembled on a sound stage at Twickenham to realise Paul’s new grand projet. The Beatles were to ‘get back’ to their roots by rehearsing, then performing a new set of songs live on stage, possibly a Roman amphitheatre in Africa, which they hoped would be warm this time of the year, the process of rehearsing for and then giving the show filmed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg as a movie/TV special to promote the album. It was a typically high-concept McCartney idea, a good one, too, with great commercial potential, except the others weren’t keen.
Assembling his production team, Paul called Glyn Johns, a freelance record producer who’d been working regularly with the Rolling Stones.
It was quite amusing, actually. I remember very distinctly taking the call and him saying, ‘This is Paul McCartney,’ and I thought it was Mick Jagger taking the piss, talking to me in a Liverpudlian accent … I said something like, ‘Stop fucking about, what do you want?’ Because I worked with [Mick] all the time at the time. But it was Paul. So that was a bit embarrassing.
Despite this awkward start, Johns was hired as recording engineer on the project, becoming the Beatles’ de facto producer, which leads to the pertinent question: Where was George Martin?
Having fallen out to some extent with their producer during the making of the White Album the Beatles had decided they didn’t want George Martin working with them closely this time, Lennon telling Martin rudely that they didn’t want any of his ‘production shit’ on this new album. ‘We want this to be an honest album,’ he said, a slap in the face Martin took as gracefully as was possible. He dropped into the sessions, but did not produce as he had done previously, which surprised Glyn Johns. ‘I was shocked to find that George wasn’t there, and I was equally shocked to find they were asking me about ideas for arrangements, or whatever else, which I didn’t think I was there for at all,’ says Johns, who hadn’t been properly briefed by Paul - one of McCartney’s failings. He liked to wing it, and expected others to do the same.
No one ever said, ‘Oh, George isn’t doing this, you are.’ The word ‘producer’ was never used. I found it a little bit awkward when George did come. George actually did take me to one side and very kindly said, you know, you’re not to worry; don’t be concerned or feel awkward about this. It’s perfectly all right. So he made me feel OK about it, which was very, very nice of him, because I did feel a bit sort of awkward.
Apart from when they were in their own homes, or in hotel rooms, the most privacy the Beatles ever enjoyed was when they were working with George Martin at Abbey Road. Now they were expected to make music with a virtual stranger while being filmed by a large crew of other strangers on a charmless sound stage outside London, and it was all Paul’s idea. ‘You had the slight sense that Paul was the driver of the bus, but that some of the others might want to get off at the next stop,’ observes Michael Lindsay-Hogg diplomatically.
Paul tends to be what we call these days ‘proactive’. He goes out and if something’s not working he tried to make it work, he’s a very forceful character, forceful and, in his own way, quite a dominating character to do with what he wants, [and] one of his great qualities is a kind of enthusiasm. He said, ‘Yeah, let’s do this. Let’s not do nothing. Let’s do something. Let’s do this.’
It wasn’t long before the driven McCartney clashed with his less committed band mates. This happened most seriously with George Harrison when, on 10 January 1969, Paul tried to tell his friend how to play guitar on ‘Two of Us’, a song often interpreted as being about Paul and John, but which McCartney says referred to him and Linda. After repeated attempts to get it right, Paul told George wearily: ‘We’ve just gone around like for an hour with nothin’ … the riffs …’
‘There’s no riffs,’ replied Harrison.
‘But it’s not together, so it’s not sounding together.’
‘So we go on playing until we …’
‘Or we can stop and say, “It’s not together …”’ Sounding like a school teacher addressing a recalcitrant child, the teacher Paul may have become if he’d followed the career his mother envisaged, McCartney told Harrison: ‘See, if we can get it simpler and then complicate it where it needs complication. But it’s complicated in the bit …’ George bristled, saying he was just playing the chords, and muttered about Paul being unreasonable. ‘You know I’m not saying that,’ Paul defended himself. ‘I’m trying to help, you know, but I always hear myself annoying you, and I’m trying to …’
‘You’re not annoying me …’
‘But you know what I mean …’
‘You take it the wrong way …’
‘I’m not trying to say that. I’m not trying to say that. You’re doing it again as though I’m trying to say that. [Like] we said the other day, you know, I’m not trying to get ya,’ said Paul, referring to the ‘Hey Jude’ sessions during which he’d asked George not to play so much guitar, which still rankled with Harrison. ‘I really am trying to just say, Look lads, the band, you know, shall we try it like this?’
‘Well, I don’t mind. I’ll play whatever you want me to play, or I won’t play at all if you don’t want to me to play,’ George replied with the patience of a yogi. ‘Whatever it is that’ll please you, I’ll do it …’
All this was captured on film. ‘That particular day’s rehearsal was slightly fractious anyway, and when you see [the film] you’ll notice that the shot of Paul is down on him from above, and the shot of George is over Paul’s shoulder,’ explains Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who continued shooting knowing the Beatles had final say on what was used, but being careful to keep his distance. ‘It’s a fairly fuzzy camera look, and that’s because I felt [a] row was going to break out amongst some of them, and I wanted to pull the cameras away from them so they wouldn’t be inhibited.’
Michael and his crew were eventually asked to leave, so the Beatles could continue their argument in private. The upshot was that George walked out of the sessions, going home to write his song ‘Wah Wah’. He had been unhappy at work for some time, ‘bringing home bad vibes’, as Pattie Harrison says. Now he’d followed Ritchie’s lead. The roots of this particular problem were deep in George’s relationship with Paul and John, dating back to when Georgie carried the older boys’ guitar cases, always condescended to because he was that bit younger. Stupid. Despite all the time that had passed, and all they had done together, things hadn’t changed. ‘He didn’t like the feeling that John and Paul were more dominating. They were older. They’d been older all the time,’ observes Lindsay-Hogg. ‘I think he felt under the thumb of the other two and I think the other two saw him the way they’d seen him when he was 15 years old. He was talented but he had to be - I always felt - kept down a bit.’ John, Paul and Ritchie held a crisis meeting, whereby John suggested they might hire Eric Clapton to replace George. Paul assumed John was joking. Then they all went over to Esher to tell George they loved him and needed him, and he agreed to come back on the understanding they leave Twickenham, which he hated, give up the idea of a live performance, and continue their work at Savile Row.
For the past few months Magic Alex had been working on a new recording studio for the basement of the Apple building, an advanced multi-track facility that would make EMI’s Abbey Road look antique. When the Beatles came back from Twickenham, this bespoke studio facility proved useless. Alex’s idea of a 16-track system was, ridiculously, to equip the studio with 16 individual speakers, whereas any junior engineer could have told him only two were needed for stereo; he’d also built the studio in a room where the boiler was located, meaning the Beatles had to turn the heating off to avoid it being heard on their recordings; and they couldn’t use the control room anyway because Alex had neglected to cut holes through the wall for the cables; while the recording console looked to Glyn Johns’s eyes like something from Buck Rogers. ‘It was just hysterical,’ says Johns.
Unfortunately, George Harrison, who I think was probably the main team leader as far as the studio was concerned, George was rather upset that I refused to have anything to do with this load of shit. It was just like the king without his clothes, they’d just been taken - completely and utterly. It was just a joke! An absolute joke. And George wouldn’t let go of the fact that he thought Alex was a good guy. Anyway, George wasn’t best pleased when I threw it all out. So we borrowed a bunch of gear from Abbey Road and carried on.
Once these technical difficulties were resolved, everybody relaxed. The new basement studio was at least cosy, with a fireplace and thick apple-green carpets extending throughout the building. There was a staffed kitchen next door to serve them with snacks, and four floors of mates upstairs to hang out with. George suggested that keyboard player Billy Preston sit in with them, Billy being an old pal from Hamburg, when he’d played in Little Richard’s band, and the presence of a guest had a civilising influence on the band, as did a visit from Linda and Heather See, a blonde moppet of a child wearing a fringy Western jacket. ‘Hello Heather!’ John called out with avuncular gruffness when she entered the room. Uncle Ringo let Heather have a bash on his drums, clutching his ears in alarm as she did so, which made her laugh. As Daddy led the boys through covers of old favourites, including ‘Besame Mucho’ and ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’, Heather danced around and around until she fell over giddy, the Beatles smiling at each other over their instruments, everybody now in a much better mood.
In playing these old songs, and in their conversation between numbers, the Beatles showed themselves already nostalgic for their past. One of the songs they were working on, ‘One After 909’, had been dredged up from the cache of 100 or so tunes John and Paul wrote as kids, but had thought too simple to bother with.
More significantly as far as Paul was concerned were two substantial new ballads he had composed, ‘Let it Be’ and ‘The Long and Winding Road’, both similar in structure to ‘Hey Jude’ in that they were piano-based numbers, starting with Paul at the keyboard, the band coming in behind him, building to a climax. ‘Let it Be’ was inspired by memories of Mary McCartney, specifically by a dream Paul had of his mother, while the hymn-like lyrics had the ability to evoke personal nostalgic feelings in others. ‘The Long and Winding Road’, with its theme of returning home, also had this nostalgic quality, while reflecting the journey the boys had been on since they were teenagers. It was also a song about Scotland, and the search for true love. Like many successful songs it can be read in multiple ways. Paul had started work on ‘The Long and Winding Road’ in the autumn of 1968, and in that context it could also be seen as addressing the chaos of his personal life at that time, having just split with Jane, not sure who he wanted to spend his life with. This is a reading given corroboration by Paul in Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now, where he says the song was written when, ‘I was a bit flipped out and tripped out…’
Many times I’ve been alone,
And many times I’ve cried,
Anyway, you’ll never know
The many ways I’ve tried.
And still they lead me back
To the long, winding road.
It was Paul who also contributed the theme song to this new movie project, the country blues ‘Get Back’, evolved from a satire he had written entitled ‘Commonwealth Song’, lampooning Britons who were saying that immigrants from the nation’s former colonies should ‘get back’ to where they came from. This was a common sentiment in the UK at the time, given dramatic expression by Enoch Powell in his 1967 ‘rivers of blood’ speech, predicting that mass immigration would result in civil war. Paul had subsequently changed the words to make the song about a character named Jojo in Tucson, Arizona.
Jojo was a man who thought he was a loner,
But he knew it couldn’t last.
Jojo left his home in Tucson, Arizona,
For some California grass.
Get back, get back,
Get back to where you once belonged.
Although Paul has stated firmly that Jojo is a fictional character, neither man nor woman in his mind, fans have long wondered whether the words were a veiled reference to Linda’s ex-husband, Mel See, whose given first name was Joseph, and who lived in Tucson. In an interview for this book, Mel’s partner during the last years of his life reveals that Mel himself felt that ‘Get Back’ referred to him. Specifically, the song seemed to Mel to be about Linda and Paul pushing him away when he tried to have contact with Heather during the early part of her time with Paul. ‘I guess at one time they really wanted to avoid him,’ says Mel’s former partner Beverly Wilk, adding that Mel didn’t blame Linda for not coming to Africa with him in 1964; rather he felt he had been selfish and, when he returned to the USA, he regretted the fact that his action had led to losing contact with his daughter, who was now living in England with another man, although he believed Paul would make a good father. When ‘Get Back’ was released in the spring of 1969 it was a US number one for five weeks, so Mel could not avoid hearing the song, and the lyrics seemed to relate to his attempts to reconnect with Heather. ‘People said they thought that [it was about him]. He thought sometimes it was,’ says Beverly. ‘Well, they didn’t want him around. So, Get back. Go home, go back to where you belong.’ When Mel tried to contact Heather, Beverly says, ‘it was all excuses’ as to why he couldn’t see his daughter. ‘They weren’t really nice to him in the earlier years.’
THE ROBIN HOOD OF POP
During the making of Get Back, John Lennon gave an interview to journalist Ray Coleman of Disc magazine complaining that Apple was a financial mess and he was down to his last £ 50,000 ($76,500). ‘If it carries on like this, we’ll be broke in six months,’ he said. The remarks were picked up by newspapers and magazines around the world, read with particular interest by the Rolling Stones’ manager Allen Klein, who set out to persuade Lennon that he could rescue the Beatles.
Klein was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1931, son of a kosher butcher. At the age of two, following the death of his mother, he was placed in an orphanage, later raised by an aunt. He became an accountant who built a reputation as the ‘Robin Hood of Pop’ by recovering royalties owed to his pop star clients, in return for a commission. Before long he was representing a number of well-known artists including Sam Cooke, whom he once offered to Brian Epstein as a support act for the Beatles. At the same time Klein suggested he might take a look at the Beatles’ books. This impertinent offer was rebuffed, but over the years Klein edged closer to the biggest act on Earth, signing Paul’s friend Donovan, then the Stones, for whom Klein negotiated that thumping $1.25 million advance from Decca. Paul was impressed, but Klein made no real headway with the Beatles until John’s ‘six-months-from-bankruptcy’ interview.
Paul was furious when he read John’s comments in print, berating Ray Coleman for reporting Lennon’s loose talk: ‘You know John shoots his mouth off and doesn’t mean it!’ The quote was misleading. John may have been down to his last £ 50,000 ‘in readies’, as Paul would say, but that was a lot of money in 1969, and in reality they were all rich men. John and Yoko lived like royalty, chauffeur-driven to the studio in a white Rolls Royce, dining on caviar, soon to move into Tittenhurst Park, a mansion near Ascot set in 72 acres of grounds. John wasn’t alone in living extravagantly. George and Pattie Harrison were about to move into a similarly vast pad, a gothic mansion at Henley-on-Thames named Friar Park; it featured 25 bedrooms and two lakes, one of which extended under the house. Ritchie was also acquiring expensive tastes. Only Paul lived modestly, owning one substantial but not ostentatious London home, a Scottish hideaway, some judiciously purchased works of art, and a couple of nice cars.
Paul was losing money, too, of course, because of Apple’s crazy schemes, lack of business discipline and day-to-day expenses. Derek Taylor’s press office operated as a free all-day bar for Derek’s journalist mates while Peter Brown enjoyed cordon bleu luncheons in his office. Nevertheless, Brown insists that the core business, Apple Records, made money. ‘I will always [maintain] that Apple was a very successful company,’ he says trenchantly.
All this about people ripping us off and all that kind of thing - of course there was some latitude. It was marginal in the big picture, and also part of our image was that we had to be nice people - cool people and nice people - it was the culture of the time. You didn’t do nasty things. You’re not cruel. We were artists, and we were treating people with more respect than maybe the rest of the business world. So I always feel that Apple, the reputation it got for being mismanaged or out of [hand], was unfair.
Allen Klein was very different to the cool, nice people at Apple. A small, squat American with a pugnacious face, slicked-back hair and a fat belly, Klein looked like a truck driver and had a calculator brain. He also had the ability to charm the credulous, which for all his wit and cleverness Lennon was. When he met Klein at the Dorchester Hotel, John warmed to a man who told him that he, too, had had a tough upbringing, being an orphan and all; Klein exhibited a wide knowledge of John’s music, which was nice to hear; and, cleverly, Klein was attentive and respectful to Yoko, whose influence he discerned. The meeting went so well that John drafted an immediate memo to Sir Joseph Lockwood, informing the EMI chairman that Klein was authorised to represent John’s interests forthwith. With the issuing of this missive, the Beatles’ end-game began.
WHY DON’T WE DO IT ON THE ROOF?
Despite George Harrison’s declared opposition to Paul’s movie/TV special, and John’s complete lack of interest, Michael Lindsay-Hogg had continued filming the Beatles at Savile Row, while Paul tried to persuade his band mates that they needed to return to live performance, to end this film project, and for the long-term health of the group. But the others seemed to have developed stage fright in the two and a half years since they’d bowed out at Candlestick Park. When Paul argued that once they were on stage again it would be fine, John looked very doubtful.
Many novel venues were suggested for the show, including the Sahara Desert and a concert on a boat. ‘It’ll have to be a bloody big boat,’ George observed, thinking of the space needed to accommodate the band, film crew and audience. ‘It’ll have to be bigger than the Royal Iris,’ he added, in reference to the dances they’d once played on the Mersey ferries. As the boys bantered back and forth, Paul tried to pull them into line. ‘All right, we can’t go on like this … can we? We can’t go on like this indefinitely,’ he said, sounding like teacher again.
‘We seem to be,’ said Ritchie.
Lindsay-Hogg claims credit for suggesting the Beatles do the concert on the roof of the Apple building. The date was set for Thursday 30 January 1969, Glyn Johns running cables down through the stairwell to the basement so he could record the show, though the whole thing remained unconfirmed until the last minute. ‘We were going to go up at 12:30, to get the lunch-time crowd, and they were still sort of batting it around amongst themselves - were they going to do it, were they not going to do it?’ recalls Lindsay-Hogg.
George didn’t want to do it. And Paul was saying, ‘Please, why not? What’s wrong with it? We’re just going to go up there. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll just drop it in the ocean.’ And they didn’t decide. George was sort of a no; Ringo was on the fence; Paul was, ‘This is going to be fun.’ And then John said, ‘Fuck it, let’s do it!’ Then they went up on the roof … That was the last time they played together.
It was a cold, grey day. The Beatles wore warm clothes accordingly. John had on his ex-wife’s fur jacket. George wore a black jacket with lime green trousers, Ritchie a red waterproof. Paul, still with a full beard, wore a buttoned-up three-piece suit. With Billy Preston on the organ, the Beatles played for just under three-quarters of an hour that Thursday afternoon, performing all new songs including ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ and ‘Get Back’, which they started and ended with. Although the concert, if indeed it could be so called, was intended as a public event, people on the street five storeys below couldn’t see the Beatles on the roof, while their music blew about on the wind. Still, a sizeable crowd gathered below and the police were eventually summoned, by complaints about the noise, from the station at the top of Savile Row, as the Beatles guessed they would be. Lindsay-Hogg had a camera set up in the hall to film the officers when they arrived to shut down the gig. By the time Mr Plod emerged on the roof to ask the Beatles to desist, the boys were ready to oblige, having played until their fingers were cold. They ran through ‘Get Back’ one last time, Paul and John exchanging happy, comradely looks, Lennon coming up with the perfect ad-lib ending: ‘I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we passed the audition.’ Maureen Starkey and Peter Brown led a smattering of applause.
WEDDING BELLS ARE BREAKING UP THAT OLD GANG OF MINE
Glyn Johns attempted to make an album out of the tapes he’d amassed over the past few weeks, including the rooftop concert.
The whole reason why I came up with the idea for my version of [the record that became] Let it Be to be the way it was was because I had sat and witnessed them having a laugh, basically, and being hysterically funny, and just behaving like normal musicians, and they had at this point made the most stunning ‘produced’ records you could possibly conceive of in popular music, they’d broken all the barriers, they’d reinvented the recording process, all kinds of things, and I’d seen them sitting round playing live and singing together and behaving like normal people, basically. [So] I just thought how fantastic it would be to have an album not only of them playing live with new material, but actually to show that they were human beings, that they could have a laugh … I went to Olympic Studios one evening and I mixed, very roughly, a bunch of rehearsals of the day. I left false starts in, and I left them taking the piss out of each other or whatever in, and I had acetates cut for each of them. [I] said I thought this was a good idea that they might like to consider for the record, and they all came back the next day and said no - It wasn’t what they wanted.
Meanwhile, Lindsay-Hogg worked on a rough cut of the film that, like the album, came to be known as Let it Be. Work was hampered by the fact that nobody had kept a record of continuity, which took months to sort out. ‘I was very keen to try and get what became Let it Be in shape as quickly as we could, so it was in motion and nothing would happen to it.’ The director was right to be fearful. Almost as soon as they came down from the roof of the Apple building, the Beatles lost interest in the whole project, and started work instead on a new set of songs at Olympic that would constitute their final album, Abbey Road. Before they got too deeply into this, however, Paul took time out to get married.
On the evening of Tuesday 11 March 1969, Paul called his brother Mike, on tour with the Scaffold in Birmingham, inviting him to be best man at his wedding the next day. Paul had bought the ring and booked Marylebone Register Office, a short drive from Cavendish Avenue. All Mike had to do was show up for 10:00 a.m. And don’t be late!
News that Paul and Linda were to marry wasn’t altogether surprising. They had been a couple now for seven months, had known each other longer, and Lin was four months pregnant with Paul’s baby. At the same time, theirs wasn’t an entirely harmonious courtship. ‘We had a row the day before we got married - and nearly called off the wedding,’ Paul later revealed. ‘I’d characterise our relationship as rather volatile.’
Paul had come a long way from his days as a pin-up, yet many girls still harboured an adolescent dream that they would be the one he chose to marry, and when diehard fans found out he was getting married to somebody else they almost lost their reason. One such fan was a hairdresser named Jill, who was shampooing a client in Birmingham when news came over the radio that Paul was getting married in London later that morning. Jill put down her shampoo bottle, grabbed her coat and hurried to New Street station, where she caught the first train to the capital, intent on getting to Paul before he made his mistake.
Rain was falling as Jill arrived at Marylebone Register Office, a splendid Victorian edifice flanked by stone lions. A mob of 300 fans were milling about the entrance, with press photographers and reporters standing on the steps of the building. A limousine was at the kerb, and uniformed police were trying to keep order as traffic swished past on the busy Marylebone Road. Many of the girls present were super-fans like Jill, females in their late teens or early twenties who’d never outgrown their crush on Paul. The real hardcore fans - the girls who spent much of their time standing outside the Apple building - had been named the Apple Scruffs by George Harrison. The Scruffs also kept watch outside the EMI Studios on Abbey Road and the Beatles’ homes, mostly Paul’s house because he was the one in London. Among these Scruffs was American Carol Bedford, who later wrote a fascinating memoir about her experiences, explaining that she’d first screamed at the Beatles when they came through her home state of Texas in 1964. As soon as she left school, Carol came to England to join the girls who waited for the band outside their various addresses, along with Italian Lucy, who was obsessed with George; Chris who loved Paul; Sue, known as Sue-John, because of her obsession with Lennon; and Margo, a babysitter, who often brought her young charge, whom she called Bam Bam, to wait with her outside Paul’s house. When the girls became really annoying, Paul would call the police, but as time passed he learned to live with the Scruffs, striking up friendly relationships with the regulars, whom he termed the ‘Eyes and Ears of the World’, in recognition of the fact that they knew what the Beatles were doing before anybody else. He sometimes entrusted the girls to take Martha to the park.
True to their reputation as the Eyes and Ears of the World, the Scruffs found out the night before the wedding that Paul was getting married, and started sending up such a lamentation outside 7 Cavendish Avenue that Paul had to come out and give them a talking to: ‘You know I had to get married some time.’ Now the dread morning had come, the Scruffs were standing outside the register office in the rain singing a mournful medley of Beatles songs. It was enough to drive you crackers. Belatedly, Mike McCartney pulled up in a car, his train having broken down, and ran into the building to find Paul, Lin, Heather, Mal Evans, Peter Brown and Don Short of the Daily Mirror waiting impatiently. ‘Where the bloody hell have you been, you’re an hour late!’ said Paul, who was dressed in a grey suit and yellow tie. Lin wore a yellow coat. There was no sign of John and Yoko, the Harrisons or the Starkeys. George was at Savile Row, while John and Yoko were being driven to Poole in Dorset to visit Aunt Mimi, whom John had moved to the seaside after the attentions of fans had driven her out of Mendips. He heard about Paul’s nuptials on the car radio.
Joe Jevans, the registrar, did his work and Paul and Linda signed the marriage certificate, Mike and Mal countersigning as witnesses. Then they stepped outside to find that the sun was shining in their honour. The girls reacted to the appearance of bride and groom with a mixture of cheers and wails of despair, press photographers mobbing the couple for pictures. Fans surged forward at the same time, causing a quick-witted policeman to gather Heather up in his arms and stride ahead of Paul, who shouted that Linda and the kid were with him. Then he saw Margo with Bam Bam. ‘Is he all right, Margo?’ Paul asked, concerned for the baby in the crush. Finally, the wedding party was bundled into the waiting limousine, which took them back up to St John’s Wood for a blessing at the local church, then press pictures at Cavendish (Paul carried Lin over the threshold, obligingly, for the Daily Mirror). Later there was a reception at the Ritz Hotel. George and Pattie Harrison showed up late, explaining that DS Pilcher had chosen this of all days to raid their house in Esher, recovering a small amount of cannabis resin. George was incensed by the intrusion, exacerbated by the press, who had hopped over his garden wall to take pictures of the raid. Paraphrasing Scripture, he reminded the hacks with righteous indignation that foxes have holes, birds the sanctuary of nests, but Beatles seemingly had nowhere private to lay their heads.36 He and Pattie would later plead guilty to possession and receive a fine.
What with George being busted and Paul getting married, the press had two major Beatles stories on the same day. Paul got the good press on the front page, George the bad press inside. By marrying Paul, Linda also became a public figure that day, as she would remain for the rest of her life. Her relationship with the British media was complex from the start. As noted, Fleet Street always liked Paul, but journalists never warmed to his wife. Almost everybody interviewed for this book who knew Linda personally spoke well of her, yet people in the media who met her over the years, myself included, found Linda a gauche, abrasive woman lacking charm. Paul would explain this by saying Lin was shy. Members of the family maintain she never wanted to be in the public eye. Yet that was the life she chose, and the couple manipulated and exploited the press from the start. In her first interview as Mrs McCartney, Linda told Don Short that she wanted to scotch the rumour she was connected to the Eastman-Kodak firm, as The Times had reported that morning. ‘I don’t know how that mistake came about except through the name and the fact that I am a photographer …’ Linda’s friend Danny Fields says the truth is that Linda started the rumour herself to impress people she wanted to photograph. Now she was married to a Beatle she had a better way to impress the world.
When he saw that Paul had married Linda, John decided to marry Yoko. On his way to see Aunt Mimi, John told his chauffeur to take them to Portsmouth and book him and Yoko onto a ship; they’d get the captain to marry them. John figured that would be quieter and more dignified than the way Paul had behaved, playing up to the press as he had in London. When a shipboard wedding proved logistically impossible, John and Yoko flew to Paris, thence to the British dependency of Gibraltar, where a British subject could be married instantly. They did so on 20 March 1969.
Having gone to such lengths to avoid the press, John and Yoko then made sure they garnered maximum publicity for themselves by staging the first of their so-called bed-ins during a honeymoon in Amsterdam. This was a conceptual happening with a positive if infantile message: at a time of international political tension it was better to go to bed and think peaceful thoughts than make war. In practice it involved John and Yoko tucking themselves up in the Amsterdam Hilton under signs that read BED PEACE and HAIR PEACE, the latter a reference to their own extreme hirsuteness - John was now wearing a full beard, with hair down to his shoulders; Yoko’s grew halfway down her back - as well as being a Lennon pun (hair piece). When they’d arranged themselves, Derek Taylor invited the press in to photograph and interview the couple. Paul and Linda watched news coverage of this wacky event on television from their honeymoon suite in New York. It looked for all the world like John and Yoko were trying to upstage them, and in the months and years to come this rivalry became a pronounced feature of their lives, with John and Yoko pitted relentlessly against Paul and Linda. It was true, as Paul always said, in reference to an old song the Beatles once performed as part of their stage show, that wedding bells broke up the old gang.