Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney - Howard Sounes (2010)
PART TWO. AFTER THE BEATLES
Chapter 28. WHEN PAUL WAS SIXTY-FOUR
IN WHICH THE HAPPY COUPLE MOVE INTO THEIR NEW HOME
Paul and Heather began family life with baby Bea in the Cabin, their new lodge house in the Sussex woods, after the builders finished work in February 2004. Essentially, Sir Paul was seeking to recreate the snug family life he’d enjoyed with Linda when they came down from London to live in Waterfall, his original arboreal cottage on the other side of the estate. The two homes were strikingly similar, but this was not a comparable marriage.
The union was not yet an unremitting Hell. The couple had their good days, and could even appear very happy together, as when Paul invited Dave Gilmour and Nitin Sawhney to dinner. Nitin liked what he had seen of Heather so far, though he noted that, despite being half her husband’s age, she lacked Paul’s joie de vivre. ‘She seemed quite jaded in comparison to him. He seemed [like] somebody who was a young person in an older body - he’s very boyish.’ Before dinner, Paul took his guests out to a shed in the woods where he kept drinks, and mixed cocktails. Heather came down from the Cabin and joined them, telling the men how Paul had swept her off her feet when they met. She cooked and served a vegetarian meal, and then they all jammed around the piano - Heather playing sax, an instrument she had a passing acquaintance with. Husband and wife seemed en rapport that evening, and Paul did everything he could to keep Heather happy in the days ahead.
That Christmas, Sir Paul had given his wife a second £250,000 cash gift, meaning he’d given her £ 500,000 ($765,000) in the space of 12 months. She used the money to buy a £450,000 ($688,500) apartment at Thames Reach, a new apartment complex on the River Thames at Hammersmith. This was in addition to the beach house Paul had bought for her on the south coast, and his own homes in Sussex, Merseyside, London, Scotland and the United States, giving the couple the run of at least 13 properties.64 Paul also used his contacts to get Heather a star guest to interview when she filled in as presenter on Larry King Live in April 2004. At Paul’s request, Paul Newman agreed to be quizzed by Heather, who made a poor job of the interview in the opinion of critics. Despite this flop, Heather remained ambitious to establish herself as a media personality in the United States, which was in itself a significant cause of disagreement in the marriage. While Paul was happy to visit the USA regularly, he wanted to continue to live in the UK, and to bring Bea up in England, as he had raised his older children. He didn’t want Bea’s mother abroad for too much of the year.
In reply, Heather grumbled that Paul expected her to accompany him everywhere he went, according to divorce papers leaked to the press. It was alleged in the documents that Heather had other complaints, such as her claim that Paul didn’t want her to breastfeed Beatrice, telling his wife ‘they are my breasts’ and ‘I don’t want a mouthful of breast milk’. Heather breastfed her baby for six weeks until Paul supposedly wore her down, after which she gave up, feeling ‘miserable and demoralised’. Heather was still having surgical procedures done because of her 1993 accident, and she was allegedly unhappy about having to defer one such operation to accommodate Paul’s holiday plans. She also wearied of Paul’s request that she cook for them every night, like his mum and Linda had done. According to the divorce papers, Paul apparently expected Heather to play the established role of a traditional housewife/mother, even when she was hobbling around with a broken pelvic plate (as she was at Christmas). The list of alleged complaints grew longer: she liked to get up early, but he slept late, and he wanted her beside him when he woke. She wanted to use a bedpan in the night, because she found getting to the bathroom difficult; he ‘objected vociferously, saying that it would be like being in “an old woman’s home”’.
Heather was also at loggerheads with Paul’s pot-smoking PR man, Geoff Baker, a rare survivor of the Paul and Linda era (as Eric Stewart noted, Paul had let many of the old staff go since Heather had come on the scene). Heather and Geoff were like cat and dog, barely on speaking terms by the time Paul’s entourage squelched onto Worthy Farm in Somerset on Saturday 26 June 2004 to headline the Glastonbury Festival.
Sir Paul had heard from his friends what a great gig Glastonbury was - one of the largest and most famous music festivals in the world, as well as a delightfully eccentric event - so he told his office to contact the festival’s farmer-founder Michael Eavis in 2003 asking if he could accommodate Macca at Glastonbury that year. When Eavis reported that the headline Saturday night slot was already taken by Radiohead, it was arranged that Paul would bring his show to Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage in 2004 instead. ‘He brought all the trimmings with him, he had all the gas lights … so much production. We were quite overwhelmed at the amount of energy that his people put into that show,’ says Eavis, who felt a personal connection to Paul as a man in his 60s who’d grown up with the Beatles’ music and who, like Paul, had recently lost a wife to cancer.
The Glastonbury Festival attracted 150,000 people over the weekend of 25-27 June 2004, the main arena packed for the headline show on Saturday night, a vast and muddy medieval army of an audience waving banners and flags under driving rain as Sir Paul began his set. Glastonbury is, of course, near Stonehenge, with numerous other ancient and supposedly mystical sites in the area, which captured the interest of a star who’d always had a weakness for mumbo-jumbo.65 ‘Standing in the conference of key stones we are buzzing,’ Paul told his audience excitedly, apparently feeling the magick. Clearly exhilarated, he proceeded to give one of the best shows of his life, two and a half hours of music complete with his greatest hits and choicest Beatles anecdotes. American audiences loved it when Paul talked to them from the stage about the Beatles, but Macca had always been viewed with more scepticism at home. ‘Boring!’ shouted irreverent young hecklers as Paul rattled on about the 1960s, which was of less interest to these scamps than what they might be doing in the 2060s. There were also sarcastic requests for ‘Rupert and the Frog Song’. Turning a deaf ear, Sir Paul continued to deliver a powerhouse set. Even the cheekiest urchins in the crowd were singing along to ‘Hey Jude’ by the end.
When Paul came off stage, he asked to see Michael Eavis. ‘Normally they are so drained afterwards that they don’t want to see anybody, so I didn’t expect him to be chatty and friendly and everything, but he was so excited, he was so thrilled, he was weeping tears of joy. It was such a good show,’ says the impresario-farmer. ‘The pair of us we just hugged each other for a bit. It was lovely.’ The men also spoke of having lost their wives to cancer, but then Eavis - a gentle, lovable fellow - saw Heather looking daggers at them from across the room and sensed she wanted him to leave. ‘She was a bit edgy.’
Geoff Baker didn’t survive the Heather era. He left Sir Paul’s employ three months after Glastonbury, with an unusually harsh testimonial from the boss. Reacting to a suggestion in the press that Heather was behind Baker’s sacking, Paul said in a statement: ‘The actual truth, which I had been trying to spare him the embarrassment of going public with, was that he had gradually been getting more and more unstable over the past few years.’ The David Blaine incident had apparently been a turning point.
I was trying to keep out of sight of a small crowd of photographers when to my horror I saw Geoff pointing me out to the paparazzi who then ran towards me in a feeding frenzy … just another example of his crazy behaviour. After that I tried to let him down gently, but it was my decision alone to let him go as I didn’t want that kind of instability around me.
After 15 years of loyal service, Baker took his sacking remarkably well. ‘He was pissed off, wasn’t he? He was having a go at me. I can’t lie and say I wasn’t drinking too much, because I was.’ Baker remained touchingly loyal to his old boss after his dismissal, never saying a bad word about him. Heather was another matter. Baker had grown to loathe the woman, as so many had.
When Linda McCartney read hurtful things about herself in the press, she wisely chose to turn the other cheek, expressing her frustration only at the very end of her life in ‘The Light Comes from Within’. She would have made it far worse had she moaned. This is the mistake Heather now made. She was increasingly and obviously irked by the negative press she received in Britain, which grew increasingly hostile as a consensus developed that she was a shrill, devious, self-publicising harridan into whose clutches a great man had tragically fallen. When Heather was informed in advance that the Sunday Times would be running a story in which it was observed that losing a leg was the best thing that ever happened to Heather, she allegedly implored Paul to intervene. He was scheduled to play at the forthcoming Super Bowl, his second appearance at the event in three years. Rupert Murdoch’s Fox network broadcast the Super Bowl and Murdoch owned the Sunday Times. According to divorce papers, Heather suggested Paul tell Murdoch he wouldn’t play the show unless the press baron pulled the Times story. Paul refused. Yet he did register dismay at the article in a defence of Heather on her website, writing that the press were ‘wildly wrong’ about his wife, and denying stories about her manipulating him. Contrary to reports, she hadn’t made him have plastic surgery; nor made him dye his hair; he’d been doing that for years; she wasn’t behind the sacking of Baker; and she wasn’t at loggerheads with his children. ‘The media sometimes suggests a rift between my kids and Heather, but in fact we get on great …’ Which was not what others said.
After appearing at Live 8 in the summer of 2005, Paul took his band back on the road in September with a string of US arena shows. To warm the audience up before each concert, a montage of images were shown on the enormous display screens alongside the stage, telling the story of Paul’s life in pictures, his marriage to Linda passed over quickly, followed by abundant images of his winsome second wife. Paul had a new album to plug, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, another of his occasional one-man-band records, made in London and Los Angeles with the British producer Nigel Goodrich, who’d made his name with Radiohead. Being Paul’s producer was frequently a poisoned chalice, as we have seen, and this collaboration got off to a typically difficult start when Goodrich dared urge Sir Paul to try harder. ‘Fuck off, Nigel!’ replied the star, who walked out of the studio. He decided to persevere with Goodrich nonetheless, and having a strong character behind the glass helped Paul create a good album. Standout tracks include ‘Jenny Wren’ and ‘Promise to You Girl’, in which Paul refers to sweeping away the dead leaves of his past. Most intriguing were the words to ‘Riding to Vanity Fair’, in which Paul sang about someone who’d used him on their journey to Vanity Fair, the fictional town of the depraved and the dishonest in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, which Paul had a copy of as a boy. Vanity Fair is also a satirical novel by Thackeray, of course, featuring ‘the odious little adventuress’ Becky Sharp, a scheming minx with a resemblance to Heather Mills, though Paul surely wasn’t thinking of his wife in that way. He wouldn’t say who he had in mind for the song.
The album cracked the top ten in Britain and the US, where Paul was spending a lot of time, partly to appease his wife. After decades in which he had used hotels when he came to New York, Paul now had his own Manhattan apartment, in a townhouse on West 54th Street, between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue, next door to the offices of Eastman & Eastman and across the street from the Museum of Modern Art. The townhouse accommodated MPL Communications, the American arm of Sir Paul’s now very large publishing company. The star had the upper storeys converted into a penthouse apartment for himself and Heather, who made it clear that she also had her eye on space downstairs as a private office. Paul told his wife ‘he did not want her to have an office in the same building’, according to the leaked divorce papers. Even though Heather argued that the idea made sense, in that she could work the phones while Bea was taking her nap, Paul wouldn’t relent. Instead, he ‘reluctantly agreed to provide her with alternative office space in the city’. Heather told Paul that the new office - a 20-minute walk away - was too far and too small, further complaining of being chased by paparazzi when she went to have a look. When she refused to use it, Paul called her an ‘ungrateful bitch’, a remark that particularly upset Heather, because his staff overheard.
Some readers might think Paul was speaking the plain truth in calling his wife ungrateful, considering everything he’d done for her. For a man who’d always lived relatively modestly, he was exceptionally generous to his second wife. On top of the large cash gifts, the £360,000-a-year allowance, the joint credit card, the beach house, the London flat at Thames Reach and the New York office, during 2005 he gave Heather jewellery worth £264,000 ($403,920). Yet, like Oliver Twist, Heather always wanted more. In November she emailed Paul Winn, Paul’s accountant at MPL in London, asking Winn to pay £480,000 ($734,400) into her NatWest Bank account so she could clear a £480,000 mortgage on her Thames Reach property. She asked for the money twice, but did not receive it for the very good reason there was no mortgage on the flat - a situation later characterised in court as verging on the fraudulent.
Paul was seen to slip into St John’s Wood Church in December 2005 and sit alone in quiet contemplation. This church had special memories for him, as the place he and Linda had their 1969 wedding blessed. Church workers who were putting up the Christmas decorations when Paul came in also noted that it was around the time of the 25th anniversary of John Lennon’s murder. What a lot had happened to Paul since that awful day, and what a mess he now found himself in.
WHEN YOU’RE IN HELL, KEEP GOING
When it seemed things could hardly get worse for Sir Paul and Lady McCartney, it emerged that their new Cabin and its pavilion had been constructed on the Sussex estate without planning permission. When this surprising oversight was noticed, and Paul applied for retrospective permission, Rother District Council turned him down. Paul now faced the prospect of having to demolish the home he had built for his new family, or launch a planning battle to retain the buildings. Unlikely though it was that he would win such a contest, he chose the latter course of action, employing experts to prepare a case that relied partly on their client’s need for ‘privacy and security’, arguing that it was important that his residence ‘is isolated and completely screened from public view and intervention. The Estate Lodge [Cabin] and associated Pavilion satisfy these requirements completely.’
While this retrospective application proceeded, Paul and Heather campaigned in Canada against the annual seal cull, which they added to a list of causes that included being pro-veggie, anti-poverty and anti-landmines. These predictably safe and worthy issues gave Heather endless reason to expound on television and in print to the degree that she and Paul started to appear more than a little tiresome, the antithesis of the tradition of the rich undertaking their good works discreetly. And there was now a whiff of bullshit about the McCartneys. While they appeared together as a united, loving couple, posing with a cuddly seal pup in Canada in March 2006, they were on the brink of separation. Just before the final break-up, Heather tried again to extract cash from MPL to clear what she now claimed were four loans on the Thames Reach property, totalling £450,000 ($688,500). On 1 March 2006, the accountant Paul Winn informed Heather that he would not pay her the money ‘without proof that the loans exist …’ Heather could not provide such proof because there was no mortgage.
Seven weeks after Paul Winn knocked back this latest request for money, Paul asked Heather to accompany him on a trip, according to the leaked divorce papers. She had recently had ‘revision surgery’ on her left leg. The papers alleged that Paul failed to make adequate provision for his wife in the circumstances. She was apparently obliged to ‘crawl on her hands and knees up the aeroplane steps’. Three days later, on Tuesday 25 April 2006, the couple reportedly had a particularly bad domestic row which ended with Sir Paul allegedly pouring the remainder of a bottle of red wine over Heather. He then ‘threw what remained in his wine glass at the Respondent’, as the story went in legal papers. ‘The Petitioner [Sir Paul] then reached to grab [Heather’s] wine glass and broke the bowl of the glass from the stem. He then lunged at the Respondent with the broken, sharp stem of the wine glass, which cut and pierced the Respondent’s arm just below the elbow, and it began to bleed profusely. He proceeded to manhandle the Respondent, flung her into her wheelchair and wheeled it outside, screaming at her to apologise for “winding him up”.’
The following evening, despite Heather asking Paul to stay with her in the Cabin because she felt unable to cope with Beatrice alone, Sir Paul allegedly stalked off into the woods. She telephoned him, according to the leaked divorce papers, begging him to come back. ‘ [Sir Paul] mocked her pleas, mimicking the voice of a nagging spouse, and refused to return.’ When McCartney did return from his walk, he seemed the worse for drink.
[Heather] pulled him, staggering, towards the ground-floor bathroom, undressed him, ran the bath and helped him into it. She then phoned the Petitioner’s psychiatrist for advice and he told her not to attempt to move him (she might otherwise ‘do herself an injury’), to get a duvet and two pillows, to empty the bath of water, cover him, and leave him there. The Respondent thereupon dragged herself upstairs, on her hands and knees … and brought back down the duvet and pillows. She found that [Paul] had vomited on himself. She rinsed him off, and (worried that he might choke if he vomited again in the night, unattended), she got him out of the bath, dried him, and dragged him upstairs to bed …
The sun rose on Thursday 27 April, the last full day of Paul and Heather’s life together. Believing Paul would be too hung over to help, according to the leaked divorce papers, Heather called a babysitter to get Beatrice ready for nursery, then drove to the school. When Heather returned to the Cabin, Paul was up, trying to make a joke of what had happened the night before. That evening Sir Paul drank ‘very little (a half bottle of wine)’ and went to bed. The allegations continue:
The following day, Friday 28 April 2006, the Petitioner went to London, but said he would be back in time to help the Respondent put Beatrice to bed. He did not arrive back at her bedtime, even though he knew the Respondent could not cope on her own … At 10:00 p.m. [Sir Paul] returned home staggering drunk and slurring his words, demanding his dinner. The Respondent stated that it was on the stove but that she would not be cooking for him again, as he had no respect for her. The Petitioner called her ‘a nag’ and went to bed. That evening the Respondent realised the marriage had irretrievably broken down and left, crawling on her hands and knees whilst dragging her wheelchair, crutches and basic personal possessions to the car.
They separated the following day, after less than four years of married life.
The McCartneys announced their separation a month later, blaming the media largely: ‘Our parting is amicable and both of us still care about each other very much but have found it increasingly difficult to maintain a normal relationship with the constant intrusion into our private lives …’ Heather sold her Thames Reach property and bought a barn conversion not far from the Peasmarsh estate, accompanied almost constantly by her sister Fiona and a male personal trainer. Sir Paul sought solace with his grown-up children, spending time with Stella and her husband at their country house in Worcestershire. Stelly was now a wealthy and famous woman in her own right, head of the eponymous Stella McCartney fashion house, with boutique stores in London and abroad.
Now it was clear that Sir Paul’s ill-starred marriage had failed, the popular British press, for whom Sir Paul had always been a pet, began to publish the harshest and most sensational stories about his estranged wife. LADY MACCA HARD CORE PORN SHAME screamed the front page of the Sun on 5 June 2006. Its journalists had laid their hands on a German sex manual from 1988, Die Freuden der Liebe (The Joys of Love), in which Heather was pictured nude and semi-nude, simulating sex acts with an equally bare male model. The picture set, shot in London around the time of Heather’s supposed stint as a cosmetics model in France, was presented as a sex manual, but a manual without any words, leading the Sun to describe the images as pure pornography, thereby labelling Heather a ‘former porn star’. Heather’s lawyers disputed the picture set was pornography, describing the book as ‘a lover’s guide’, which became a moot point when even more explicit pictures of Heather emerged, including classic top-shelf images of the model with her legs splayed apart.
The News of the World then published HEATHER THE £ 5K HOOKER, alleging that during the time Heather had supposedly been a legitimate model in Paris she had actually been working in London and elsewhere as a whore. Unlike the nudey pictures, there was no empirical evidence Heather had taken part in group sex with Arabs for £ 5,000 ($7,650), as the News of the World alleged. It was all down to the word of denizens of this shadowy world. Heather threatened to sue, but no action came to trial. Sir Paul’s friends said he was oblivious to Heather’s past, if indeed the hooker story was true, but even if she had been a prostitute, would he really have been so shocked? Paul had knocked about with working girls in Hamburg.
Such was the sorry state of Paul’s affairs as he reached 64. A lifetime ago, ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ had been one the first tunes McCartney composed at Forthlin Road, putting lyrics to the song in his twenties when the Beatles recorded Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Precociously, he had projected himself decades into the future, envisaging life as a grey-haired old man sitting by the fire with his wife. If they scrimped and saved, perhaps they could afford a summer holiday in the Isle of Wight, cheered by visits from their grandkids Vera, Chuck and Dave. Now he’d reached this fabled age, the reality was rather different. Paul’s hair might indeed be grey, but he’d dyed out the traces; the wife he expected to live with into old age was gone, so was his second wife, and theirs had not been a life of sitting by the fire. As to scrimping and saving, Sir Paul had so much money, and so many assets, he didn’t have a clear idea how much he was worth. With a divorce settlement looming, he had to hire the accountants Ernst & Young to find out how rich he actually was.
Paul did have three grandchildren, though: Arthur, Elliot and Miller. The first two were Mary’s boys, aged seven and three respectively, the third was Stelly’s 16-month-old son. In the weeks leading up to Granddad’s landmark birthday, Mary and Stella marshalled everybody at Abbey Road Studios to record a family rendition of ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ as a surprise gift. Sir Paul was out of the country when they made the recording. He was in Las Vegas, where Cirque du Soleil was holding a dress rehearsal for Love, a new Beatles-themed show that necessitated a coming together between Paul and Yoko, who hadn’t been on the best of terms in recent years. They seemed OK now. When Paul returned home from Vegas, the family, including little Bea, greeted him in Sussex with a rousing chorus of ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ and gave him their special recording.
A month later, Paul filed for divorce from Heather on the grounds of her unreasonable behaviour. Heather replied that he had been the unreasonable one, and she would contest the action. Paul had the locks changed at 7 Cavendish Avenue and the press were on hand to photograph the moment when Heather tried in vain to open the front gate, eventually sending a man over the top to open it from within, whereupon Paul’s staff called the police. All good fun. On 11 August, Paul’s lawyers offered the other side a quickie divorce based on ‘cross-decrees’ (his complaint and her reply), without getting into a long debate about who was in the wrong. Heather’s lawyers rejected this, with a draft ‘Answer and Cross-Petition’ - that is, Heather’s allegations about Paul’s behaviour during their marriage. The damaging document was couched in ‘very strong terms indeed’, in the words of the divorce judge, and was leaked to the press. Before that leak, however, came another important stage in the proceedings: Ernst & Young reported on what Sir Paul was worth.
Speculation about how rich Paul McCartney was had been a journalistic parlour game for years. By common agreement, Sir Paul was the wealthiest Beatle, possibly the richest rock star in the world. Most recently, the Sunday Times had estimated his wealth at £825 million, easily making him a dollar billionaire. The true size of Sir Paul’s wealth was less than this figure (which erroneously gave Paul the direct benefit of Linda’s estate). He was still an exceedingly wealthy man, though, the owner of ‘vast - I repeat vast - wealth’ as the divorce judge remarked breathlessly. Sir Paul’s net wealth added up to approximately £387 million ($592m), concluded the accountants, making him the richest rock star in Britain and one of the wealthiest entertainers in the world. There is little doubt the figure is accurate (as much as such audits can be with fluctuating share prices, property values and currency exchanges). Ernst & Young had access to all Sir Paul’s financial records, including his extensive publishing interests and shares in Apple Corps and other companies through which Beatles money still flowed.
In detail, Sir Paul’s business assets came to approximately £241 million ($ 369m). In addition he owned property worth £ 33.9 million ($ 51.8m), investments of £ 34.3 million ($ 52.4m), and another £15.1 million ($23.1m) in various bank accounts (interestingly, he kept £ 6,000 [$ 9,180] in ready cash, to pay the milkman perhaps). Valuables, including original artwork by de Kooning, Magritte, Matisse, Picasso and Renoir, were worth another £32.2 million ($49.26m), with £36 million ($55m) tucked away in pension funds. In a statement, Paul said that most of this wealth had been accumulated prior to his marriage, though he had added £ 39 million to his fortune during the marriage (or $ 59.6m). In that time he had been generous to not only his wife, but also her family, lending Fiona Mills £421,000 ($ 644,130) to buy a house, and buying another Mills relative a £193,000 property ($295,290). All these figures were as yet confidential, as the details of divorces usually remain. This was to be a highly unusual divorce, however, both in its bitterness and in how much information emerged into the public domain.
The first watershed of information came a month after the Ernst & Young report was delivered confidentially to the interested parties when, at lunchtime on 17 October 2006, a fax machine at the Press Association emitted 9 of 13 pages of Heather’s ‘Answer and Cross-Petition’. As we have seen, Heather is identified in the document as ‘the Respondent’, replying to a case brought by ‘the Petitioner’ (Paul). Included were all the allegations we have already read of cruelty and mistreatment, starting with the night in 2002 when Sir Paul allegedly got drunk and pushed Heather over a coffee table, to the events of April 2006. In addition, the document alleged: ‘The Petitioner has been physically violent towards the Respondent.’ He had behaved in a ‘vindictive, punitive manner’ to his wife and, ‘In breach of his promises to the Respondent made when she agreed to marry him, the Petitioner continued to use illegal drugs, and to consume alcohol to excess, throughout the marriage …’ This fax was a windfall for the press, many newspapers printing the document verbatim, with reporters wondering who had been so kind as to send them the gift. It had been faxed anonymously. The fax was traced to a newsagent’s shop in London’s Drury Lane, the proprietor of which said a woman sent it. Heather Mills denied she was behind the leak, and began defamation proceedings against the Daily Mail and the Sun when these papers gave their readers that impression. In their defence, the publishers asserted Heather had been behind the leak, in order to damage Sir Paul’s reputation, and furthermore the allegations were lies. Again Heather’s action for defamation never came to trial.
Sir Paul’s lawyers verified the papers were genuine, by issuing a statement saying the star would like to respond, but the appropriate place to do so was in the divorce court. ‘Our client will be defending these allegations rigorously and appropriately.’ Behind the scenes, lawyers prepared a counter-claim against Heather in which they not only accused her of leaking the documents, but also of leaking details of private phone calls between Paul and his daughter Stella which had got into the press, while further alleging that during the marriage Sir Paul had been subject to ‘verbal abuse, extreme jealousy, false accusations of violence, and that throughout the marriage the wife had shown a consistent inability to tell the truth’.
It was the allegation that Paul had got drunk and pushed Heather around, ultimately stabbing her with a broken glass, that was most astonishing. Could Paul truly be such a termagant husband? Paul enjoyed a drink, with some evidence that he drank immoderately on occasion. The reader will recall Linda pushing Paul’s whisky glass away when the McCartneys visited their Kintyre neighbours in 1996. Others tell similar stories. ‘I saw when he got drunk and I saw when [Linda] would sort of clear the house because he was on the verge of getting drunk,’ says Danny Fields. There had been stand-up rows with girlfriends, Francie Schwartz implying in her memoirs that Paul was sometimes a little rough back in the Sixties. Yet friends were outraged by suggestions Paul was an abusive drunk. Eric Stewart, who had written to warn Paul about Heather before they married - and received no reply - now wrote offering himself as a character witness in the divorce. Eric explains why he wrote to Paul:
She’s saying he’s a drunk, he’s abusive. He’s not. Not in that way. He might be abusive verbally with people - he won’t suffer fools - but he’s not abusive physically to anybody. I said, ‘I will speak for you in court and I will say what I knew about her setting you up.’ And I did get a reply that time and he said, ‘Thanks for all that. if I need you I’ll let you know.’
It was a bleak time. On 21 October 2006, Paul’s old friend Brian Brolly, who’d helped him set up MPL, died of a heart attack. A week later, Beatrice McCartney’s third birthday degenerated into an ugly scene when press came to an open-air play centre where Paul and Heather had taken the child as a treat, resulting in a fracas with photographers.
Unable to stop the flood of ugly stories, Sir Paul adopted a policy of dignified silence, pressing on with his work as Heather became ever more excitable and vociferous. Her popularity plummeted accordingly, reaching its nadir when she became the butt of a TV presenter’s joke. Presenting an awards show in London, Jonathan Ross described Heather as such a ‘fucking liar [I] wouldn’t be surprised if we found out she’s actually got two legs’.
BEHOLD MY (BROKEN) HEART
Nine years since the President of Magdalen College invited Sir Paul to write a modest choral work for the new college auditorium - and two years since the try-outs in Oxford - Sir Paul premièred the final version of Ecce Cor Meumat the Royal Albert Hall. Commissioned during Linda’s last months, the music had been in the works so long that Paul had been widowed, remarried and separated in the meantime.
Arranged in four movements, with a melancholy orchestral interlude written in the immediate aftermath of Linda’s death, Ecce Cor Meum was in many ways a typical example of McCartney music: there were lovely tunes, beautifully played and orchestrated, yet the result was uneven, bland in places, overwrought at the end, while the libretto struck the critic from the Independent as ‘sententious’. A bit of a mess really, reflecting the fact that Ecce, like his other classical works, was the result of hired hands trying to express what they thought Paul wanted to hear. Yet the crowd at the Albert Hall - many of whom were Beatles fans who just wanted to see Sir Paul close up - gave the work an enthusiastic reception, and urged him to his feet at the end to say a few words, which he did with his usual confidence and grace, acknowledging the support of friends and family in the audience.
There was in fact further personal discord behind the scenes. Although the extended McCartney family was close, Paul’s wealth had long created dissent in the clan. As we have seen, Paul had been very generous over the years with his family, helping relatives buy homes, lending money and in some instances putting ‘relies’ on the McCartney Pension so they didn’t need to work. Still some weren’t satisfied. When one relative was reminded by Paul’s accountant around the time of Ecce Cor Meum that a loan Paul had made, to help the relative buy their home, had not been repaid, the relation apparently retorted: ‘Fuck him, he’s got enough money and I don’t need to fuckin’ pay him back.’
Several relatives were invited to the première of Ecce Cor Meum, Paul’s Uncle Mike and his Aunt Bett Robbins being among those who accepted tickets, with Paul’s PA Holly Dearden booking the now-elderly couple into a first-class London hotel, where a butler greeted them with vintage champagne. As they enjoyed Paul’s hospitality, the Robbins discovered that not all the ‘relies’ were so pleased with their arrangements. Word had got about that Aunt Joan had been chauffeur-driven all the way from the Wirral to the show, in light of the fact she was in her 80s, leading to younger family members asking MPL to lay on door-to-door cars for them, too. ‘They wanted not only [a] free hotel, they wanted free cars from Liverpool and back again - because Joan Mac had a car,’ says Mike, who was told by Holly Dearden that one relation slammed the phone down on her when informed a car wasn’t available, telling the PA angrily: ‘I don’t want to talk to the monkey, I want to talk to the organ grinder.’ As a result, some of Paul’s nearest and dearest were not at Ecce Cor Meum.
All of a sudden it wasn’t as much fun being Paul McCartney. That winter Sir Paul abandoned his planning battle to keep the Cabin, agreeing to tear the wooden house down. There was slim consolation in the fact the council said he could keep the pavilion. A routine medical examination also revealed that Paul had a ‘minor heart irregularity’. It turned out to be nothing much to worry about, thankfully, unlike the news from Heather’s lawyers, three days before Christmas, that she wanted £50 million ($76.5m) as her divorce settlement. Just what you wanted to hear before the holidays. In the new year, Paul counter-offered with a more reasonable £16.5 million ($25.2m), which together with assets Heather had accrued during their marriage meant she would walk away with about £20 million ($30.6m). She turned this offer down as insufficient. Paul also filed an affidavit that revealed how much he had wanted their marriage to work. ‘I believed it was for life,’ he said, sadly.