Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney - Howard Sounes (2010)
PART ONE. WITH THE BEATLES
Chapter 14. CREATIVE DIFFERENCES
YOU NEVER GIVE ME YOUR MONEY
Returning to London from his honeymoon in the spring of 1969, Paul saw Apple on the brink of disaster. In recent months there had been discussions about bringing in a manager to sort out the financial and administrative mess at Savile Row. Paul suggested his new American in-laws, the Eastmans, for the job. When that was rejected by the other Beatles as nepotism, he floated the idea that they might hire Lord Beeching, the peer charged with rationalising the nation’s railways. Beeching recommended swingeing closures of railway lines and stations. Fed up with the excess at Apple, Paul apparently wanted Beeching-style cuts here, too. This send-for-Beeching suggestion didn’t go down well. Grumbled Peter Brown:
I mean it was just ludicrous. Beeching knew nothing about this business. Just because Beeching could fix the railways didn’t mean to say he could fix Apple, but that was all part of Paul’s stupidity - ‘We’ve got to get somebody who is important, because you and Neil, you came with us, how good can you be?’
According to Brown, Paul had a habit of pontificating about matters he didn’t understand. ‘One of the things I personally used to get irritated with is just, if you know him, and you work with him, he is opinionated about everything, including things he knows nothing about.’ And Paul’s lectures were rarely short.
Also, the four Beatles were now pulling in different directions. ‘For seven years there was this little unit of a jolly band just trooping around doing things,’ says Tony Bramwell nostalgically. ‘After Brian died it was a big change - John was going through his madness, George was going through his Indian stuff, [but] Paul was [still] pretty responsible about it. He hadn’t overdosed on acid, and he hadn’t ruined his life.’ Paul had tried to lead the band after Brian’s death, and the others had let him do so to a degree, with the result that much of what had been set up at Apple was in fact Paul’s idea. As Peter Brown notes:
It was only later when John came back out of his haze of LSD and heroin, or whatever else he was on, with Yoko, and wanted to be more proactive in what we were doing [that he would say], ‘Why are we doing this? Why is this like it is?’ ‘It’s because this is what we put in place when you were out of your mind … It happened because Neil and I put it together with Paul’s approval …’
Now John was more involved in the business, and he and Paul were at odds, which made for a miserable atmosphere at Savile Row. Bramwell again:
You just don’t know how horrible it was at Apple in that period. It was like being in the middle of a gigantic divorce … On one phone you’d have John asking you to do this, on the other phone you’d have Paul asking you to do [something else]. By then George and Ringo had washed their hands of it, [but] John and Paul were ‘Can you do this, but don’t tell any of the others?’ … John is like ‘Can you make a film of my cock?’ And Paul is like, ‘Do a big billboard in Trafalgar Square.’ It was just like being in a divorce.
As in any divorce, the correspondents had their antagonistic representatives. At the start of February 1969 John sent his man, Allen Klein, into Apple to conduct an audit. At the same time Paul persuaded the band to hire his father-in-law’s law firm as general counsel, with the result that Linda’s lawyer brother John Eastman started going through the Beatles’ paperwork. Inevitably Klein and Eastman clashed, Eastman’s Ivy League manner rubbing orphanage boy Klein up the wrong way. A crisis came when the Beatles had to deal with the issue of the Epstein family wanting to sell Nemperor Holdings Ltd (a new name for the rump of NEMS Enterprises). Clive Epstein had been care-taking the firm since his brother’s demise, and didn’t have much enthusiasm for the business. The Eastmans urged the Beatles to buy Nemperor from the Epsteins, using an advance on EMI royalties, a deal Clive and his mother were inclined to accept. But Klein was against it, saying at a meeting at the Dorchester Hotel that the deal was an expensive ‘piece of crap’, and John Eastman a ‘shithead’, according to Peter Brown, who notes that Paul and his brother-in-law then left the room in a huff. With the enemy out of the way, Klein dripped poisonous words into the ears of John, George and Ringo, saying that if he managed the group there would be a more equitable balance of power, and they would all have more money. The alternative was to let themselves be run by Paul and his in-laws. Lennon, Harrison and Starkey were easily persuaded.
Lee Eastman flew into London to support his son and son-in-law, a second meeting being convened in Peter Brown’s office at Apple. Proceedings got off to a roaring start when Klein informed everybody that Lee Eastman wasn’t the man they thought he was, but a Jew named Leopold Epstein. Klein wasn’t making an anti-Semitic remark - he was himself Jewish - but seeking to show that Eastman was a phony. ‘Klein had done some research on Lee Eastman and had turned up the information that his name had [been changed from] Epstein,’ recalls Brown. ‘Klein had also armed John with this intelligence, and throughout the meeting the two of them referred to the Eastmans as “Epstein”.’ Lee could put up with that, but when Klein began interrupting him and swearing, the lawyer lost his temper, bawled Klein out, then stormed from the meeting, taking Paul with him. This was becoming a habit. John Eastman then wrote to the Epsteins, a letter that apparently recommended they should have a meeting to discuss ‘the propriety of the negotiations surrounding the nine-year agreement between EMI and the Beatles and [NEMS/Nemperor] ’. According to Brown, the tone of the letter infuriated the Epsteins, who reacted by selling Nemperor to a City investment firm, Triumph. Apple responded by asking EMI to pay Beatles royalties directly to them, with the sad result that Brian’s family ended up suing the Beatles.
On top of this, Dick James sold his share of Northern Songs to Sir Lew Grade’s Associated Television Corporation (ATV). Sir Lew had been after Northern Songs for years and James, ignored and increasingly scorned by the Beatles, agreed a deal with his partner, Charles Silver, to sell their shares to Sir Lew, adding to a stake he already owned. The mogul now went shopping for additional shares to gain control of the company. Apple resisted this takeover, urging minority shareholders to sell to them instead of ATV, coming up with a counter-bid, underwritten by Lennon and Klein. Unwilling to get involved in any business deal with Klein, Paul withheld his support, partly as a result of which the counter-bid failed and Sir Lew acquired an additional 15 per cent of Northern Songs, thereby gaining control of all the songs John and Paul had written since 1962, plus the songs they would write under contract until 1973.
As calamity followed calamity, the Beatles continued to argue over who should lead them forward, pitching Paul and the Eastmans against John, George and Ritchie, who wanted Allen Klein. The row boiled over on Friday 9 May 1969, when the group was working with Glyn Johns at the Olympic Sound Studio in south-west London. John, George and Ringo cornered Paul, telling him they’d all signed with Klein and needed Paul’s signature there and then to complete the deal. Paul prevaricated, arguing that the 20 per cent commission Klein wanted was too high. ‘He’ll take 15 per cent,’ he told his partners, reminding them: ‘We’re a big act!’ He certainly didn’t see the need to sign anything immediately. The others insisted Paul had to sign now because Klein was on his way back to New York for a meeting with his board. The meeting was scheduled for the next day. ‘I said, “It’s Friday night. He doesn’t work on a Saturday, and anyway Allen Klein is a law unto himself. He hasn’t got a board he has to report to’,” Paul recalled. “‘You’re not going to push me into this.”’ Klein, who had been on his way to the airport, was so enraged when he heard Paul was refusing to cooperate that he turned around and came to the studio. ‘[Klein] had this incredible row with Paul in the studio with me in the control room,’ remembers Glyn Johns. ‘I turned all the mikes off, because it was none of my business, but they were shouting so loudly at each other I could hear their conversation through the glass.’ Around this time Paul recorded a track at Olympic named, appropriately, ‘My Dark Hour’, with musician Steve Miller, who recalls that Paul worked off some of his frustration playing drums on the song: ‘[He] really beat the hell out of those drums.’
Although Paul had not signed with Klein (he never did), the other three Beatles now out-voted McCartney, hiring the American accountant, who instigated a reign of terror at Apple. Many of the pampered denizens of Savile Row were sent, figuratively speaking, to the guillotine. While this caused anguish, the office was over-staffed, Apple employees living royally on the Beatles’ money. Derek Taylor’s press office was particularly profligate. As mentioned, Taylor believed Paul was the sender of anonymous postcards the PR man received at home, some weird and ‘some outright nasty ones’ as Taylor recalled, with stamps torn in half and cryptic messages, one of which, addressed to Derek’s wife, read: ‘Tell your boy to obey the schoolmasters.’ Derek was in no doubt these were from Paul, though the star didn’t admit sending them. By Taylor’s account, Apple staff feared the Beatle. Returning to their desks from a long lunch, the message they most dreaded was ‘Paul called’. One day McCartney organised a staff meeting, to complain about the extravagant way Apple employees were conducting themselves at the Beatles’ expense, telling them bluntly, ‘Don’t forget, you’re not very good, any of you, you know that, don’t you?’
Derek survived the terror, protected as he was by his friend George Harrison, but many others went. Alex Mardas was given the chop, as was Apple Electronics. The Beatles finally got rid of ‘Measles’. Denis O’Dell, head of Apple Films, left. Zapple was shut, leaving Barry Miles stranded in New York where he was recording a spoken-word LP with Allen Ginsberg. ‘We’d done two tracks, and suddenly the recording studio said, “We’ve been told that’s the end of it.” I said, “What? It’s news to me.” I tried of course to call the Beatles. No way. You know. They just mysteriously disappear.’ It fell to Peter Brown to tell Alistair Taylor that his employment with the Beatles was also over. Alistair was one of the original gang who’d come down from Liverpool with the boys, part of the ‘family’, and he took his sacking badly, breaking down in tears. He tried to call Paul. ‘But Paul refused to come to the phone,’ Taylor later told Bob Spitz. ‘Nothing in my life ever hurt as much as that.’ Another Apple employee who’d been close to Paul was Peter Asher who, despite Paul’s split with Jane, had been running Apple Records with Ron Kass, who was now fired. Reading the writing on the wall, Peter quit. The Ashers were mourning a shocking death at the time. Jane and Peter’s father had been found dead in the coal cellar of their Wimpole Street house on 2 May. The coroner found that Dr Asher, always an eccentric character, had killed himself with an overdose of barbiturates.
THEIR LAST AND GREATEST ALBUM
Paul and Lin took Heather on holiday to Corfu in May, then returned home to continue the Apple battle. The McCartneys invited Ritchie and Mo Starkey to dinner at Cavendish in the hope of talking the drummer round. Such an invitation was a treat; Linda was a superb cook. In the days before she turned vegetarian she did wonders with a chicken. After giving the Starkeys a feed, the McCartneys tried to persuade Ritchie to join them in the fight against Klein. When the drummer demurred, saying Klein didn’t seem that bad to him, Linda started crying. ‘They’ve got you, too!’ she sobbed, as though Ritchie had been taken over by zombies.
John Ono Lennon, as he was now known, having changed his middle name from Winston, was also beyond reason. He and Yoko were in a world of their own, looking and behaving like members of a religious cult. Doped up and dressed in white, they floated about London conducting bizarre happenings that were part art events, part sincere peace campaigning and also clearly a grab for attention. One of their nuttiest ideas was that Apple should send an acorn to every world leader to plant for peace. Apple Staff were despatched to the royal parks to gather the acorns, only to find that it was the wrong time of year. The squirrels had already eaten their stores. Then John and Yoko flew to Canada to conduct their second bed-in for peace, at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, demonstrating in the process that, despite his whacked-out appearance, John still possessed a genius for music-making. He made a compelling in situ recording of ‘Give Peace a Chance’. With overdubbed drums by Ringo, the song was released on 4 July as a single, not by the Beatles, but by a new entity, the Plastic Ono Band, a clear indication that John wanted out of the Beatles.
It therefore came as a considerable surprise to George Martin when Paul telephoned to say that the Beatles wanted to make one more album with their old producer. With no sign of the recently recorded Let It Be tapes being released, and with John so strange, distant and unpleasant recently, Martin had assumed his working days with the boys were over.
My immediate response was, ‘Only if you let me produce it the way we used to.’ [Paul] said, ‘We will, we want to.’ ‘John included?’ ‘Yes, honestly.’ So I said, ‘Well, if you really want to, let’s do it. Let’s get together again.’ It was a very happy record. I guess it was happy because everybody thought it was going to be the last.
Geoff Emerick would again be their engineer. Having had the courage to walk out on the Beatles during the White Album sessions, when they had behaved so badly, the engineer had won the musicians’ respect and trust. They rewarded Geoff with a job at Apple, and he would work with Paul on various projects for years to come.
So the old team was reunited in Studio Two at EMI seven years after the Beatles started their recording career with George Martin in this same lofty room. Remarkably, the boys’ last hurrah would prove for many listeners to be their best LP. In common with the White Album, the record that would be named Abbey Road had a variety of music, ranging from loose, blues-based rock ’n’ roll to sophisticated song suites, yet it was assembled more selectively, creating one immaculate disc that can be played endlessly without sounding stale.
The record didn’t get off to a promising start. When the band assembled at EMI on Tuesday 1 July there was no sign of John. Their founding member had recently gone on holiday to Scotland with Yoko, Julian and Yoko’s daughter Kyoko, with the intention of visiting John’s Scottish relatives. With poor eyesight, and limited experience as a motorist, Lennon crashed the Austin Maxi he was driving into a ditch the day the Beatles were due to start work in London, with the result that the family were taken to hospital in the Highlands town of Golspie. All save Julian needed stitches, John requiring 17 to his face. Yoko had injured her back.
As the Lennons convalesced in Scotland, the other three Beatles started work at EMI, Paul beginning proceedings with ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’, the tune dreamt up on that carefree day with Lin and Heather in New York, while the lyric was seemingly inspired by his acrimonious dealings with Allen Klein. Paul also recorded the cheeky ditty ‘Her Majesty’, which would close the album with a flirtatious wink at the Queen. More substantial was the song suite ‘Golden Slumbers’/‘Carry That Weight’, the lyrics to the first part adapted from an Elizabethan verse:
Golden slumbers kisse your eyes,
Smiles awake you when you rise:
Sleepe pretty wantons doe not cry,
And I will sing a lullabie …
These are the words of English poet Thomas Dekker (1572-1632), which Paul had seen on sheet music, at his father’s house on the Wirral, set to a lullaby that Paul’s stepsister Ruth had been learning to play on the piano. Although the words were originally meant to rock a baby to sleep, Paul reinterpreted the 400-year-old rhyme in a radically different way, creating music that starts sweetly, then plunges dramatically, with Paul roaring out Dekker’s words. Seguing from this brief piece of music into ‘Carry That Weight’ was a trick Paul and John used repeatedly on this their last album, using up scraps of music and general leftovers. That this worked so well is a tribute to the superb musicianship throughout, not least Paul’s bass-playing and Ringo’s drumming, which had never sounded better. George Harrison’s guitar parts were also judicious, while Harrison finally came into his own as a songwriter on Abbey Road with ‘Something’ and ‘Here Comes the Sun’, respectively the best and second best songs he ever composed. Ringo’s ‘Octopus’ Garden’ was also enjoyable in the tradition of the Beatles’ children’s songs, while Paul’s ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ introduced one of several creepy characters to Abbey Road, the maniac medical student Maxwell Edison. Paul explained Maxwell’s hammer to Barry Miles as ‘an analogy for when something goes wrong out of the blue’, though it might also be interpreted as wishful thinking on his part. How Paul must have longed for a hammer to come crashing down on Allen Klein’s head. Or John’s. Or Yoko’s.
Without Lennon, the early Abbey Road sessions were happy and harmonious, with Paul sliding joyfully down the banister from George Martin’s control room like a carefree young Beatle. There was one spat with Harrison, but it blew over. Then John and Yoko appeared, dressed in matching black, a tow truck following with the smashed-up remains of their touring car, a memento of their brush with death. Men from Harrods also came with a bed, which they erected in the studio so that the injured Yoko could lie there watching the boys work. ‘I thought I’d seen it all,’ Geoff Emerick noted in his memoirs of this supremely strange moment in the Beatles story, ‘but this took the cake.’ John asked for a microphone to be suspended over the bed so Yoko could make comments on what she heard, and she didn’t hold back. ‘Beatles will do this, Beatles will do that,’ she’d say, omitting the definite article.
‘Actually, it’s the Beatles, luv,’ Paul corrected her, just about controlling his temper. This bizarre scene became stranger still when Yoko put on a tiara.
Before continuing, the Beatles and their partners watched a rough cut of Let It Be. ‘There was a lot more of John and Yoko than was in the final cut,’ says the director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who went out to dinner afterwards with the McCartneys and Lennons. Everybody seemed to be getting along fine, John and Paul reminiscing about old times, which was safe territory. ‘Talking about their time in Liverpool when they were kids and what it was like growing up - a nice kind of cosy evening.’ Lindsay-Hogg went home from the restaurant with a good feeling about the project, to watch Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. A day or two later, Peter Brown called to say there was too much John and Yoko in the first cut of Let It Be. Brown had received three phone calls. ‘So I think it was the others, and of course the central voice will always be Paul,’ says Lindsay-Hogg. ‘The others thought it maybe had slanted too much to John and Yoko.’
As the director returned to his cutting room, the Beatles completed Abbey Road. Following in the footsteps of Maxwell Edison, John introduced two more sinister characters to the record: Mean Mr Mustard, a dirty old man, and the androgynous Polythene Pam. The latter was seemingly inspired by a long-past conversation of John’s with poet Royston Ellis, whom the boys met in Liverpool, then hooked up with again on tour in the Channel Islands in 1963. While they were on Guernsey, Ellis introduced John to a girlfriend named Stephanie, whereupon they all dressed up in oilskins and polythene for a sex romp, though Ellis can’t recall the exact nature of the couplings. ‘There was some sexual encounter, put it like that, with John and Stephanie and myself. But I can’t remember [the details].’
‘Pam’ was paired as another song suite with Paul’s ‘She Came in Through the Bathroom Window’, inspired by a recent break-in at Cavendish Avenue. Having scaled Paul’s garden wall, Chris the Apple Scruff had opened Paul’s gate and ushered in Little Sue, Big Sue, Emma, Di and Carol Bedford. The girls then put a ladder up against the back of Paul’s house, sending Di up first, because she was smallest.
‘I’m in the bathroom!’ she called down.
Carol went up the ladder next and made it through the bathroom window just before the ladder fell over, as she describes in Waiting for the Beatles. The two girls then ran downstairs and opened the front door to let the others in. They rootled through Paul and Linda’s things, marvelling at Ringo’s stage drums, seizing armfuls of Paul’s clothes, Di swiping a framed photo, another girl scooping up photographic slides.
The following day Margo called at Cavendish with Bam Bam, having prearranged to take Martha for a walk. Some of the other girls were with her. Rose ‘Rosie’ Martin, a Cockney cleaner who’d recently started working for Paul, and would remain in his employ for the rest of her working life, told the girls that Paul wanted a word with them. He came outside with Linda, both looking serious. ‘It seems someone broke into my house on Sunday afternoon,’ Paul told the Scruffs. ‘I hate to say it, but I think it was some of the girls.’
‘What makes you think that?’ asked Margo.
‘By what they took. Pictures mostly. Anyone else - a real burglar - would have taken more expensive things.’ Paul said the slides were Linda’s, pictures she’d shot of the band, while the framed photo was of sentimental value to Paul, being a picture of him and his dad. He asked the girls to put the word around that he’d like the pictures back. They could keep the clothes. The girls returned the framed photo, and some slides, but many pictures were never recovered. This was just one of a number of burglaries Paul suffered at Cavendish over the years, in the course of which he lost a lot of memorabilia, including his home movies. ‘Everything was stolen by fans, this is the sad thing,’ says Barry Miles. ‘He owns hardly anything. This is why he occasionally buys stuff from Sotheby’s.’
A few days after the bathroom break-in Paul told the Scruffs he’d written a song about the girls who broke into his home.
‘A tribute, huh?’ asked Carol Bedford, missing the point. ‘What’s it called?
‘“She Came in Through the Bathroom Window.”’
This tune forms the centrepiece of the long medley of song suites that takes up most of what was, in the days of long-playing records, Side Two of Abbey Road, the long medley being one of the most glorious achievements of the Beatles’ recording career, beginning quietly with Paul singing his lament, ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’, and concluding with the aptly named ‘The End’, in which the Beatles seem to ascend to Heaven on a cloud of raucous rock ’n’ roll, John, Paul and George locked in a three-way guitar duel as Ritchie drums furiously, the patron saints of pop dispensing groovy benedictions to the world as they depart: love you; love you … The sky clears, a simple piano motif plays, and the words of Paul ring out as he sings that, in the end, the love we take is equal to the love we make.
Fab. The best lyric Paul McCartney ever wrote was the perfect ending to the Beatles’ last and greatest album, emphasising that, ultimately, their message had been one of love.
Having considered naming the LP Everest, indicating that they had reached their peak, also incidentally a brand of cigarettes smoked by Geoff Emerick, the boys decided instead to title the album Abbey Road. It made sense to name the record after the London street where they had made so much wonderful music (and as a result of which the studio was later officially renamed Abbey Road Studios, hereafter referred to as such). Again Paul came up with the cover concept, sketching a drawing of the Beatles walking across the zebra crossing in front of the EMI buildings. They did so on the morning of Friday 8 August 1969, one of those glorious mid-summer days when London basks in sunshine, the trees in leaf, the red geraniums seeming to smile cheerfully from their window boxes at the red phone boxes and red pillar boxes, which stand to attention like guardsmen under forget-me-not skies.
How different the Beatles themselves looked to the four boys signed by George Martin in 1962! Seven years on, John resembled an Old Testament prophet as he strode across the zebra crossing, dressed in white with a bushy beard. George Harrison’s long hair and beard emphasised his serious, cadaverous features, making him look much older than 26. Ringo had started to take on the flamboyance of a playboy millionaire. Paul was the least changed. Having shaved off his Fenian beard, he wore a crisp white shirt and a blue suit for the photo session, kicking off his sandals on what was a very warm day, presenting a handsome, mature version of his younger self. A week later he became a dad for the first time (setting aside the paternity claims against him) when, on 28 August 1969, Linda gave birth at the Avenue Hospital, around the corner, to a daughter they named Mary after Paul’s mum.
‘THE BEATLES THING IS OVER’
Before Abbey Road was released John went to Toronto, with Yoko, Eric Clapton and Klaus Voormann, to perform as the Plastic Ono Band. During the Canadian trip Lennon told Allen Klein that he intended to leave the Beatles. Klein begged John not to say anything to the others, because he was renegotiating their contract with Capitol Records. But when the Beatles met in London on 20 September, John blurted out his news.
Paul was talking about the band going back on the road, playing small venues at first to regain their confidence. He was certain this was the right thing to do, reminding John that whenever the Beatles played live they played good. It was touching the way he spoke about the band; Paul loved the Beatles. ‘Well, I think you’re daft,’ Lennon interrupted. ‘I wasn’t going to tell you until we signed the Capitol deal, but I’m leaving the group.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I mean the group is over. I’m leaving … I want a divorce,’ said John, thrilled to be cutting free of the band, as he had cut himself loose from Cyn.
Because Klein didn’t want Lennon’s decision made public, and thinking perhaps that John was just shooting his mouth off, as he liked to do, no official announcement was made, and the Beatles bumbled on almost like before. Things had changed, though. Abbey Road was released the following week, without a single to herald it, uniquely, but went to number one all the same. Then the Beatles whimsically put out ‘Something’/‘Come Together’ as a single; it made number four in Britain, number one in the USA. There was a new promotional film for ‘Something’, showing the Beatles with their partners. Paul and Linda were filmed at High Park, where they had retired after the birth of Mary. Paul, who had let his beard grow again, took to carrying Mary about in his fur-lined leather jacket, the epitome of a proud father.
The McCartneys were at their farm when the Apple press office started to receive enquiries from the United States asking if Paul had died. Weird though this sounds, a similar macabre rumour had gone around more than once before, usually as a result of Beatles fans - in order to try and deduce his actual whereabouts - ringing the newspapers with spurious enquiries about Paul being in car accidents. Tony Barrow explains: ‘If they rang up and said, “We hear he’s been in a car accident, hasn’t he, down in Surrey?” they were hoping for the answer, “No, of course not, he’s in [London].”’ This time, however, the rumour started in the USA, where fans had begun to see ‘hidden signs’ that Paul was dead on Beatles albums. There were apparently a host of clues on the Abbey Road sleeve, including the fact Paul was walking barefoot across the zebra crossing with a car number plate behind him, the last four characters of which were 28IF. Supposedly this meant he would have been 28 if he’d survived a fatal accident that the Beatles had hushed up, replacing Paul with a double so they could continue as a band. This was preposterous, not least because Paul appeared the least changed of all the Beatles. Anyway, the death of a musician does not automatically mean the end of a band. Brian Jones had died earlier that summer. The Rolling Stones simply replaced him. Nevertheless, the Paul is Dead story grew, fuelled by the fact Paul had been out of the public eye recently, spending time in Scotland with Linda and Heather and the baby. When Paul didn’t show his face, a student at Hofstra University in New York started a society: Is Paul McCartney Dead? Disc jockeys began playing Beatles records backwards to reveal hidden audio clues as to what had happened. Finally, Life magazine despatched a reporter and photographer to Scotland to get to the bottom of the story.
When the Life team knocked on Paul’s farmhouse door he reacted with fury at what he saw as an intrusion into his privacy, telling the journalists to fuck off, throwing a bucket of water at them, and swinging at the snapper, Terence Spencer, who had already banged off a picture of the enraged musician, proving he was alive and kicking, or rather punching. A few minutes later Paul realised that a picture of him swinging his fists might be bad PR, so he went after the journalists and made a deal with them. In exchange for Spencer’s roll of film, Paul and Linda would pose for another, nicer picture, and he would say a few words. What Paul said in this brief interview was interesting.
‘Perhaps the rumour [that I was dead] started because I haven’t been much in the press lately. I have done enough press for a lifetime and I don’t have anything to say these days,’ he told the journalists, in what was a frank insight into his state of mind, adding:
… the Beatle [sic] thing is over. It has been exploded, partly by what we have done and partly by other people. We are individuals, all different. John married Yoko, I married Linda. We didn’t marry the same girl … Can you spread it around that I am just an ordinary person and I want to live in peace?
The Beatle thing is over! Paul had effectively made the announcement. Yet his comment went almost unnoticed amidst the nonsense of his supposed demise.
Over the following months at Kintyre, Paul experienced something close to a nervous breakdown as he faced the fact that the band which had been almost his whole life since school was defunct, its members as redundant as Liverpool dockers. His best friend and partner didn’t want to work with him any more. Hurtfully, John would rather play with mutual acquaintances of theirs like Eric and Klaus. George and Ritchie didn’t seem to need him either. Paul had effectively shut himself out of Apple, because of his refusal to work with Allen Klein. There were no plans to make another album or film, or to tour. The only project on the blocks was Let It Be, which was his own failed attempt to unite the band. Who knew when that would be released? It was, in any event, old material now. All in all, a very sad state of affairs. ‘Paul was a Beatle. He was the most Beatley Beatle of them all,’ comments Tony Bramwell.
He tried [to keep them, going] with Mystery Tour, and then with Apple, and got them all doing things other than sitting round doped, and then they all sort of left him on his own again. All he wanted to do was keep the Beatles together. He tried very hard at it. And when it got post-Abbey Road … there was nothing left to hold together any more.
Paul stayed at High Park, sinking into depression. ‘I nearly had a breakdown, ’ he admitted to his daughter Mary years later for a documentary. ‘I suppose the hurt of it all, and the disappointment, and the sorrow of losing this great band, these great friends … I was going crazy. I wouldn’t get up in the morning; and when I did get up I wouldn’t shave or bother with anything; and I’d reach for the whisky …’ This was grim for Linda. She had a seven-year-old and a baby to look after, with a husband who was depressed and drunk. She later told friends it was one of the most difficult times in her life, while Paul reflected that he might have become a rock ’n’ roll casualty at this point in his career. He had, after all, experimented with a range of drugs up to and including heroin. He liked a drink. It would have been easy to booze and drug himself into oblivion.
Linda told Paul there was a way forward. He could make music without the Beatles. She would help, if he liked. With his wife’s support and encouragement, Paul began to think about a post-Beatles career, relying on Linda’s advice, and in the process developing an even deeper devotion to her. They became one of those couples who are so close they are like twins, and though their relationship had its ups and downs, it proved adamantine until death.
Shortly before Christmas the McCartneys returned to Cavendish Avenue, where Paul had a four-track recording machine installed. The first scrap of a song he recorded, as a test of the machine, would open what became his first solo LP. This test song, ‘The Lovely Linda’, is an insubstantial, even annoying track, ending with the unattractive sound of Paul sniggering. He also recorded two Beatles leftovers, ‘Junk’ and ‘Teddy Boy’, as well as an experimental percussion track, ‘Kreen-Akrore’. Some of the melodies were strong. Paul could always conjure a compelling riff - ‘That Would be Something’ and ‘Every Night’, for example - but he seemed bereft of meaningful words, with the result that nearly all the tracks he laid down are minor works. The sole exception was ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’, a powerful expression of his uxorious love for the woman who’d saved him from a situation that, as he sang, he didn’t understand. Paul worked on this homemade album, in the kitchen of his London home, at EMI and at Morgan Studios in West London, into the new year of 1970. Not only did he write and sing all the songs, he also played all the instruments and produced the tracks, the only other contributor being Linda, who sang shaky backing vocals in the manner of a schoolgirl thrust reluctantly onto stage at her end-of-term concert. Paul’s blind spot for his wife’s lack of musicality, a symptom of his devotion to her, would characterise and mar his subsequent career.
As the McCartneys made their homemade record, John Lennon continued to work with Yoko in the Plastic Ono Band to greater effect. ‘Instant Karma’, recorded at EMI in late January, with George Harrison playing guitar and Phil Spector producing, had a big, rocking sound and challenging lyrics that outclassed Paul’s efforts.
With Paul shutting himself off from the band, the other Beatles made decisions without him, giving the Let It Be tapes to Phil Spector to remix. Starting on 3 March, the American recast the songs in his Wall of Sound style, adding orchestra and choir to Paul’s keynote ballads ‘Let it Be’ and ‘The Long and Winding Road’. In doing so he over-egged the hymnal quality of ‘Let It Be’, and prefaced it with a sarcastic comment by John: ‘Now we’d like to do “’ark the Angels Come”.’ The Spectorisation of ‘The Long and Winding Road’ was even more egregious, giving the song a middle-of-the road sound rarely heard in the Beatles, though it would ironically be characteristic of Paul’s solo career. Was it a coincidence that Spector wrought his damage on 1 April, April Fool’s Day, when pranks are traditionally played on the unsuspecting? Paul certainly had no idea what was being done to his songs.
A point of crisis was inevitable, and it came shortly after the Beatles realised that Ringo’s first solo album, Sentimental Journey, Let It Be and Paul’s solo LP were all due to hit the shops around the same time. John, George and Ringo decided that McCartney would have to be pushed back, and wrote to Paul informing him that they’d given EMI instructions to delay the release of his record until June. Ritchie was given the task of delivering the note personally to Paul, who was so incensed that he threw Ritchie out of his house, screaming: ‘I’ll finish you now. You’ll pay!’ Paul then went ahead with plans to release McCartney on schedule.
To launch his new record and thereby his solo career Paul worked with Derek Taylor and Peter Brown on a question-and-answer interview to be given to the press in advance of the release, as well as being included with initial pressings of the LP itself. Over the course of four pages Paul explained how he’d made McCartney, working essentially on his own with Linda harmonising, ‘so it’s really a double act … she believes in me - constantly’. Asked to describe the theme of the album, he said, ‘Home, Family, Love’. As if to bear this out, the LP was packaged with family photos by Linda, including a charming picture of Heather with Martha, Heather’s nose blacked like the dog’s; a shot of baby Mary in Paul’s jacket in Kintyre; another of their standing stone. The crux of the questionnaire came when Paul spelt out his future vis-à-vis the Beatles. Asked if Allen Klein would have anything to do with his album, McCartney replied sharply: ‘Not if I can help it.’
‘Have you any plans to set up an independent production company?’
‘McCartney Productions,’ replied Paul, who had already taken steps to establish his own version of Apple. During the Beatles’ winter of discontent, Paul bought a company named Adagrose Ltd, changing its name to McCartney Productions Ltd, later MPL Communications, the umbrella organisation under which he would conduct all his post-Beatles business. Initially, McCartney Productions was a small affair, run by Paul and one other director, Brian Brolly, the registered office being a firm of City of London accountants. McCartney Productions registered a loss for its first few years, but the company was cash rich from the start, with assets of £82,530 ($126,270) recorded on its first return, and it grew substantially. Importantly, Paul was the sole share-holder. In this new company nobody would be in a position where they could tell him what to do.
To get back to the questionnaire, asked if he missed working with the other Beatles Paul replied, ‘No’. Ditto for ‘Are you planning a new album or single with the Beatles?’ He held back from saying the Beatles were finished, suggesting rather that he was giving the band a rest, while having no immediate plans to perform with them or write with John. Asked about the reasons for his break with the band, Paul cited what has become a music business cliché: ‘Personal differences, business differences, musical differences …’
This Q&A was released to the press on Friday 10 April 1970, with Don Short given a heads up. As a result the Daily Mirror splashed the story: ‘Paul is Quitting the Beatles’. Although Peter Brown had helped Paul compile the questionnaire, he didn’t approve of what the boss had done. ‘It was sort of Paul giving the finger to the other three. You know, “I can do this without you, and I am. And here it is.” Which was sort of arrogant.’
The Beatles story doesn’t end here. The band would never truly cease to exist so long as there was money to be made from exploiting its back-catalogue, and everything that Paul was and would do for the rest of his life related to what he had created with the Beatles. But John, Paul, George and Ritchie couldn’t continue making music together. The Sixties were over. The boys had become men, and Paul had to start a new life.