PAUL TAKES CHARGE - WITH THE BEATLES - Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney - Howard Sounes

Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney - Howard Sounes (2010)




‘EPSTEIN DIES AT 32’, screamed the front page of the Daily Mirror on Monday 28 August 1967, adding in parenthesis that Epstein was ‘The Beatle-making Prince of Pop’. There was a hint in the coverage that the Prince of Pop may have taken his own life, but Brian’s friends agree with the coroner that the death was accidental. Brian had been taking too many pills for too long and had finally overdone it. He left no note, which counted against self-murder. Likewise he had plans for the week ahead. Still, there was a sense that Brian had been going downhill for a while, and despair can come suddenly and overwhelmingly in the night. ‘Brian’s death was a tragedy,’ says his lawyer Rex Makin, ‘but a tragedy waiting to happen.’

When their manager had been laid to rest, the Beatles convened a series of meetings to decide how they should proceed without him. Robert Stigwood had an option to take over all of NEMS, and thereby the management of the Beatles, which the boys didn’t want. Stigwood was paid off and the Beatles remained with the rump of the old company, now headed by Brian’s brother Clive. At a meeting at Ringo’s London flat, in Montagu Square, it was decided that the reins of the band’s day-to-day management should be picked up by Brian’s assistant and friend, Peter Brown, a member of the original Liverpool ‘family’ who’d come down to London with the boys (the others being, notably, Neil, Mal, ‘Measles’ Bramwell and Brian himself). Paul doubted frankly that Brown was up to the job. Who was Peter, after all, but a mate of Brian’s who used to sell records in Lewis’s? Peter himself felt out of sorts at the first band meeting after Brian’s death. ‘I was emotionally very distraught, and I wasn’t sure what I could do, and I wasn’t sure whether I was ready to [lead] the band.’ During a break in discussions, he got up and walked to the window.

The next thing I felt was arms being put around me and somebody hugging me and it was John - it always upsets me to tell the story - and he just looked at me and said, ‘Are you alright?’ And I realised that only he and I felt this enormous emotional loss of Brian.

Certainly Paul was the most businesslike this day and during the days ahead. ‘Then Paul took the initiative of saying, “We’ve gotta do something. We’ll do Magical Mystery Tour.” Paul took the lead and everyone went along with it, disaster though it was.’

Having already recorded some material for Magical Mystery Tour, Paul led the Beatles back into the studio in September with a renewed sense of purpose, laying down John’s mighty ‘I am the Walrus’, and George’s typically insubstantial ‘Blue Jay Way’, as well as the instrumental ‘Flying’, all of which would feature in the forthcoming picture. The Beatles were in a hurry to get these songs down, and the film made, because they wanted to spend time with their new guru, the Maharishi, at his ashram in the Himalayas. It was Paul who decided Magical Mystery Tour could be shot very quickly indeed, having observed a two-man TV crew filming the Maharishi at the London Hilton. If the Beatles worked in a similar way, Paul figured they could make their film in a matter of weeks. Pre-production was therefore hurried and absurdly inadequate. The Beatles didn’t even have a director, just a mate of Barry Miles’s named Peter Theobald, a young film-maker who’d been hired as a ‘Director/Cameraman’, handed 15 pages of notes and told he had six weeks to shoot the picture. ‘We never want that Help! scene again,’ McCartney told Theobald, who noted that the band ‘didn’t want chalk marks to walk to, with lines to get right, or “Take for the 28th time - ACTION!”; they wanted it to be freewheeling, to pick up things as they happened, and they did want it to be their film as well as being in it’.

Paul’s initial discussion with Theobald took place on Wednesday 6 September 1967. Madly, Paul decreed that the Beatles would start filming the following Monday. His idea was to hire a coach, put the Beatles in it, along with a diverse cast of supporting actors, to be plucked from the pages of the show business directory Spotlight, then motor down to the West Country, which Paul had fond holiday memories of, and film an impromptu road movie with musical interludes. Not only did Theobald have no script; no budget had been prepared, the coach hadn’t been hired, and no actors had been engaged. John Lennon spent an afternoon floating in his swimming pool thinking of the sort of people he might like to have in the picture, and decided he’d quite like a music hall comic he’d once seen named Nat ‘Rubber Neck’ Jackley, so Nat received a call. Meanwhile, no one thought to consult the relevant trade unions, which had considerable control over how films were crewed in the United Kingdom at the time. As far as the unions were concerned, the whole production would be illegitimate, which caused problems later on.

The starting point for this misconceived adventure was Allsop Place, a quiet turning behind Madame Tussaud’s museum, traditionally used as an embarkation point for provincial package tours of the type the Beatles once played with Helen Shapiro. Allsop Place was also close to Paul’s London home. The auteur arrived bright and early on Monday 11 September 1967, dressed in costume (Paul’s normal clothes, plus a Fair Isle sweater), to meet his hastily assembled crew and cast which, in addition to ‘Rubber Neck’ Jackley, included a heavy-set actress named Jessie Robbins, who would play Ringo’s aunt; the eccentric Scots performer Ivor Cutler, who would play a courier named Buster Blood-vessel who lusted after the aunt; a dolly-bird guide; a dwarf photographer; and an accompanying team of friends and associates including Magic Alex, Nell Aspinall and Mal Evans.

Where was the coach? It still hadn’t shown up. So Paul went for a cup of tea at the nearby London Transport canteen. By the time he came back, the coach had arrived. It was a Bedford VAL hire coach, of the type commonly used to take school kids to the swimming baths and pensioners on touring holidays, its sides freshly painted yellow and decorated with hippie decals and the words MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR. The coachwork was so freshly painted the paint was still wet. Everybody climbed aboard and drove west out of London, pausing in Surrey to pick up the three suburban Beatles.

Filming began immediately all four stars were aboard, the starting point of the plot, such as it was, being that Ringo was taking his Aunt Jessie on a coach trip. Along the way there would be songs and semi-improvised set pieces influenced by the Goons, the Theatre of the Absurd (which Paul was familiar with from seeing plays such as Ubu Roi) and recent LSD trips. Viewed afresh, it all looks strikingly like Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which is a compliment to the Beatles because Python didn’t come into existence until the following year. Unlike Python, however, Magical Mystery Tour wasn’t funny.

The picture was a hoot to make, though. By evening, this twentieth-century ship of fools had reached picturesque Teignmouth, in Devon, where everybody checked into the Royal Hotel. One of the many aspects of film-making the Beatles hadn’t put sufficient thought into was the logistics of looking after a cast and crew on location; Paul found he had to spend hours making sure everybody had a room for the night and something hot to eat - a terrible bore. After breakfast the following day they got back on the coach and drove towards Dartmoor, intending to film at Widecombe Fair. Negotiating the narrow country byways, the Beatles’ coach got stuck on a hump-back bridge, causing a traffic jam of angry, honking motorists, who were themselves held up behind a convoy of press. Frustrated by the delay, John leapt out and started tearing the stickers off the side of the Beatles’ coach in a rage. Then it rained, causing the still-wet paint to run down the sides of the vehicle.

The Beatles abandoned Widecombe Fair and drove instead to the seaside resort of Newquay, in Cornwall, where they checked into the Atlantic Hotel. The original idea had been to stay in a different location every night, but that was obviously impractical, so the Beatles used the Atlantic as their base for the remaining three days of the tour. Despite the chaos, Paul showed every sign of enjoying himself, riding a tandem on the beach with dwarf actor George Laydon, leading a singsong in a pub in Perranporth, and chatting up female holiday-makers, such as 17-year-old bikini-clad Catherine Osborne, who, on the final day of her summer vacation, found herself to her surprise in a Beatles movie. ‘All I wanted was an autograph,’ she told the man from the Daily Express.29

When they got back to London the boys filmed a striptease scene at the Raymond Revue Bar in Soho, hiring the absurdist Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, with whom the Beatles had become friendly, to perform a piece of nonsense titled ‘Death Cab for Cutie’ (a headline Bonzo member Neil Innes had spied in an American crime magazine). Innes recalls John and Ringo filming everything with their own 16mm cameras, while Paul directed the main production. ‘What are you doing?’ Innes asked.

‘We’re doing the Weybridge version,’ Lennon replied laconically, revealing the (perhaps) tantalising prospect of an entirely different cut of Magical Mystery Tour.

To complete the picture the Beatles needed a studio. As nobody had thought to book Twickenham, they shot the requisite scenes at a disused air force base at West Malling in Kent, including a wacky car chase and the Beatles miming to John’s ‘I am the Walrus’, the only real point of interest in the whole film, for this was weird and powerful music, performed by Lennon wearing an egg-head while his fellow Beatles donned strangely disquieting animal masks. Paul put on the head of a hippo.30 The lads then moved into a hangar to shoot ‘Your Mother Should Know’, which gave Paul an opportunity to emulate Fred Astaire, putting on a white tuxedo and dancing down stairs with his band mates. The whole thing was truly nutty, as visitors observed. ‘The day I went down, Paul was directing 40 assorted dwarfs, vicars, footballers, mums and dads with prams full of babies and George and Ringo dressed as gangsters,’ journalist Hunter Davies reported for the Sunday Times. ‘As a starting rocket went off, [Paul] had them all charging across the empty airfield, then charging back again. John was asleep in his Rolls Royce.’ Paul was now directing full time, Peter Theobald having left the production after a dispute blew up with the unions over the crewing of the picture.

At the end, the Beatles threw a wrap party at which the Bonzos again performed, the band’s drummer ‘Legs’ Larry Smith doing a tap dance while wearing false breasts. (‘Come on, Larry, show us yer tits!’ heckled Lennon. ‘We’ve all seen them before.’) Paul then edited the picture in a Soho cutting room, which took most of October, at the end of which he popped over to France to film himself miming to ‘The Fool on the Hill’ as additional footage. Paul didn’t bother to take his passport or money, but being a Beatle he managed to get there and back. With a little more work in the cutting room the whole bag of nonsense was tied up by November, Paul capping the project by directing a promotional film for the band’s lightweight but enjoyable new single, ‘Hello Goodbye’, featuring the boys in their Sgt. Pepper suits on stage at the Saville Theatre. The single and the accompanying double EP of songs from Magical Mystery Tour proved a great success in Britain, while a full-length Magical Mystery Tour soundtrack was released as a regular LP in North America. Featuring all the film tunes, plus ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, ‘Penny Lane’ and ‘All You Need is Love’, this is a surprisingly strong album.

It was Paul’s mistaken decision to sell first rights to Magical Mystery Tour to the BBC, rather than open the picture theatrically at cinemas. The Corporation didn’t pay much money for the rights, but its controllers agreed to broadcast the film on Boxing Day, when it would be guaranteed a massive audience. Paul, who like most British people held the BBC in affection and respect, thought the audience size the main thing. The problem was that the BBC intended to show what was a colour film in black and white at a time when the Corporation was still phasing in colour transmission, and the BBC wanted cuts to the picture before showing it to a family audience at Christmas. Scenes of Ivor Cutler canoodling with Ringo’s aunt would have to go; bare breasts would be covered up.

With this unsatisfactory deal done, Paul and Jane went to Scotland for a few days’ holiday at High Park, missing the opening of the Apple Shop on 5 December. During their stay in Kintyre, Paul and Jane called in on their farmer neighbours, the Blacks, whose teenage son Jamie was home from boarding school for the festive season. ‘My vivid memory is that he played “Lady Madonna” on that piano in the living room, before he released it, which was just [fantastic],’ recalls Jamie, whose school friends never believed his story, even though Paul gave him an autograph to endorse it. ‘Lady Madonna’ was a good and important new song, in the style of Fats Domino, that went to number one the following year. While the song has a rollicking tune, and the words are put over with brio, the lyric is also tender and personal, evoking the image of Mary McCartney as midwife, tending mothers and their babies in Liverpool as she had during Paul’s childhood. The phrase ‘Lady Madonna’ also has a clear Christian meaning, of course, conflating Paul’s memory of his mother with the Virgin Mary in what is a boogie-woogie hymn.

The trip to Scotland gave Paul and Jane a chance to talk about their relationship. There had been problems before Jane went to the USA with the Bristol Old Vic, and when she came back she found Paul, if anything, even more difficult to live with. ‘Paul had changed so much. He was on LSD, which I hadn’t shared. I was jealous of all the spiritual experiences he’d had with John. There were 15 people dropping in all day long. The house had changed and was full of stuff I didn’t know about,’ she confided in Hunter Davies, in one of the very few interviews she ever gave on the subject of her relationship with Paul. Davies enjoyed unparalleled access to the Beatles and their associates while researching an authorised biography of the band. Gamely, Jane tried to fit in with Paul’s new world. She went along with him and the others to see the Maharishi, even though she (in common with the sensible George Martin) didn’t think much of the yogi. Jane put up with the drug-taking, and got along as best she could with Paul’s hippie friends. When wallpaper painter Dudley Edwards came back to Cavendish for a visit, Jane traded her Ford Popular with him for a statue of Shiva. ‘At that time they seemed to be very much a couple,’ comments Dudley, ‘everything seemed to be fine.’ Others weren’t so sure. During visits to Rembrandt, Jim and Angie McCartney overheard arguments. Jim hoped the youngsters would be all right. Everybody liked Jane, and thought her a positive influence on Paul.

The Scottish break seemed to do Paul and Jane good. Afterwards, the couple invited Paul’s father and Angie and her daughter Ruth to Cavendish for a family Christmas. When they were all gathered around the tree on Christmas Day, unwrapping their presents, Jane opened a special gift from Paul to reveal a diamond engagement ring. He asked her to marry him, and she said yes. The engagement was announced to the press shortly thereafter. Whatever problems they had had, the couple seemed to have reached an understanding by which Paul would stop being jealous of Jane’s career. ‘I always wanted to beat Jane down,’ Paul admitted to Hunter Davies. A striking phrase, beat her down, but one that summed up the way men of his background typically treated women. John, Paul, George and Ritchie all expected their partners to stay home. Cyn, Mo and Pattie didn’t work after they married into the band. Even though his own mother had worked, Paul didn’t want Jane to have a career. ‘I wanted her to give up work completely,’ he told Davies during a joint interview with his fiancée for the book.

‘I refused,’ Jane interjected. ‘I’ve been brought up to be always doing something. And I enjoy acting. I didn’t want to give that up.’

‘I know now I was just being silly,’ admitted Paul. ‘It was just a game, trying to beat you down.’

With Paul and Jane’s future apparently settled, the McCartneys sat down together at 8:35 p.m. on 26 December 1967 to watch Magical Mystery Tour on BBC1, as did millions of people across the U K. It was a huge disappointment. The film was plotless and, although apparently meant to be amusing, failed to raise a laugh. Even though there were several good songs, and the film was less than an hour long, it dragged, and the decision to broadcast what was a colour picture in black and white robbed the flick of the modicum of visual appeal it originally possessed. Viewers called the BBC with complaints, others wrote to the newspapers to express how let down they felt. ‘Everyone was looking for a plot. But purposely it wasn’t there … We did it as a series of disconnected, unconnected events. They were not meant to have any depth,’ commented Paul, defending the picture to Don Short of theDaily Mirror. At least the Beatles had tried to do something different. As he said: ‘We could always write and do nice things and become more and more famous. But we wanted to try something different … It doesn’t mean that we won’t go on trying.’ Indeed, the remaining months of the Beatles’ existence as a working band would be marked by an unswerving, and laudable, commitment to innovation.


The Beatles flew to India in mid-February 1968 for what George Harrison described, with his facility for a phrase, as ‘the world famous “Beatles in the Himalayas” sketch’. They travelled in two groups. John, Cynthia, George and Pattie flew first to Delhi on 15 February, with Pattie’s sister Jenny and Mal Evans. Paul, Jane, Ritchie and Maureen followed four days later. They then drove 200 miles to Rishikesh in a fleet of old, British-made cars that served locally as taxis. As ever, the Beatles were trailed by a pack of reporters and photographers, who were having a fine time following the crazy Beatles around the world. The press found George difficult; he pretended to sleep all the way to India, for example, so they couldn’t ask him questions. Ringo was good for a laugh. He’d brought a case of Heinz baked beans with him, claiming not to be able to stomach foreign food. John was also entertaining, but unpredictable; while Paul was the newspaperman’s pet, the sensible Beatle they could usually count on to say a few words and pose for a picture, as he did on the Lakshman Jhula bridge crossing the Ganges into Rishikesh.

The Maharishi’s ashram was situated on a 15-acre plot of land beside the Ganges, at a point where the river gushes out of the Himalayas, with a large and comfortable bungalow accommodating the yogi and huts for his followers, fifty or so people at this time, most of whom were Westerners. The Beatles brought a host of celebrity friends and flunkies with them, including Donovan, Magic Alex, Mike Love of the Beach Boys, and Mia Farrow with two of her siblings. The band members, who’d parted with the requisite week’s wages in exchange for their stay (a huge sum in their case), moved into their huts with the intention of remaining for two months, and acclimatised as best they could. Although they were high up in the mountains, the weather was oppressively hot. Each morning began with a communal vegetarian breakfast, interrupted by apes swinging down from the trees to pinch their food. The disciples then met with the Maharishi to talk and meditate. After lunch there was more time for meditation. There was indeed a rare amount of time for the Beatles to hang out together, think and make music, which was the happiest outcome of the trip. They wrote a lot of songs in India.

George loved the atmosphere, sinking deeply into the Indian spiritual life, which became part of his quotidian existence. Ritchie and Maureen weren’t so happy. The Starkeys wouldn’t eat the local food; Mo disliked the flies, and they missed their kids, two-year-old Zak and Jason, born the previous summer, whom they had left at home. For her part, Cynthia Lennon hoped for a second honeymoon with John, but found her husband moody and distant, taking himself off to sleep in a separate hut and spending much of his time writing songs, numbers such as ‘Yer Blues’ and ‘Dear Prudence’, about Mia Farrow’s sister, who caused concern by shutting herself away and meditating at inordinate length.

For his part, Paul wrote a ska pastiche, ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’, and a pretty tune, ‘Junk’, which he was never able to fit good words to, finally settling on a seemingly random jumble of images. The result is virtually meaningless:

Motor cars, handlebars, bicycles for two,
Broken-hearted jubilee.
Parachutes, army boots, sleeping bags for two,
Sentimental jamboree.

Inevitably, business interrupted this Indian idyll. George thought Apple should make a picture about transcendental meditation, and Denis O’Dell, head of Apple Films, was sent for to discuss the idea. When O’Dell arrived, he tried to talk the Beatles into committing instead to a film of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, which had become a cult book with the hippie generation. For a brief time the band considered the suggestion. Lennon fancied himself in the role of the wizard Gandalf. Paul might have been the plucky hobbit hero, Frodo. Stanley Kubrick had been approached to direct. The bizarre idea of the Beatles starring in Stanley Kubrick’s production of The Lord of the Ringscame to nought, like the TM film and so many putative movies. More to the point, when Paul tried to talk to George about the Beatles’ next album, Harrison almost bit his head off. ‘I remember talking about the next album and he would say: “We’re not here to talk music - we’re here to meditate.” Oh yeah, all right Georgie Boy. Calm down, man …’ Ritchie and Mo returned home, fed up with the strange food, the flies, the thieving monkeys and the heat. Paul and Jane followed shortly thereafter.

After Ritchie, Mo, Paul and Jane had all left, John Lennon got it into his head that the Maharishi had made passes at some of the Western girls in the ashram, including Mia Farrow, and decided this was gross hypocrisy on the yogi’s part. Lennon confronted the Maharishi in ‘his very rich-looking bungalow’, then left the ashram in high dudgeon, denouncing the yogi as a randy conman. This was all very odd, and probably disingenuous on Lennon’s part. While he may well have been a charlatan, and the whole TM programme stuff and nonsense, didn’t the yogi have as much right as the next man to try and get laid? The truth was perhaps that, by throwing his tantrum, John was creating a cover for his own imminent and far more discreditable act of sexual betrayal, which we shall come to shortly. George Harrison remained loyal to the yogi, though, and Ritchie and Paul also maintained a long-term respect for the Maharishi and transcendental meditation, which Paul continues to practise.


Back in London the Beatles decided that they wanted members of the public to come forward with their songs and other ideas, which Apple would help them produce. To promote this egalitarian initiative Paul created a print advertisement, featuring Alistair Taylor from the Apple office. Taylor was photographed as a busker under the line, ‘This man has talent …’ The copy read that the busker had sent his audition tape into Apple and thereby transformed himself into a star who now drove a Bentley. The ad was placed in the music press inviting people to send in their demos. The Apple office in Baker Street was inundated with mail as a result. No great new talent was discovered this way, but Apple did begin to sign acts, some of whom proved very successful.

Jane’s brother Peter Asher introduced James Taylor to the Apple record label, which Peter now helped run. Paul played on Taylor’s début LP, which launched the American star on a long career. Less notably, Jackie Lomax, a former member of the Mersey Beat group the Undertakers, also joined Apple around this time. Perhaps the most surprising Apple artist was a devoutly religious classical composer named John Tavener, a doubly surprising signing because Tavener came to Apple via Ringo Starr, who’d been introduced to the composer by his builder brother Roger Tavener, who’d been working on Ringo’s new house at St George’s Hill. Uncommercial though his music was, John Tavener fitted into the strange world of Apple, which released his oratorio The Whale. ‘I felt comfortable because of the enthusiasm of the Beatles,’ says the composer, who discovered that Paul in particular was really quite interested in the elite world of ‘serious’ composition. ‘Stockhausen sent him records of his, and he was listening a lot.’

Apart from the eclectic nature of the Apple artists, it was striking how often Paul’s instincts proved right. Paul gave another Apple signing, the band Badfinger, a simple but nonetheless catchy song he’d written entitled ‘Come and Get it’, and told the group exactly how to record it. When the band did what he said, ‘Come and Get It’ became a top ten hit. Even more spectacular was Paul’s success with Mary Hopkin, a Welsh folk singer who was drawn to his attention by the model Twiggy, a good enough friend to be invited to dinner with the McCartneys at Rembrandt. Twiggy mentioned to Paul that she had seen Hopkin on the TV talent show, Opportunity Knocks, the show George Harrison invoked sarcastically when Paul first performed ‘Yesterday’ live on stage in Blackpool. ‘Twiggy said she had seen a great girl singer on Opportunity Knocks and luckily as it turned out this was the time we were looking around for singers for Apple Records.’ When he got back to London, and heard other people talking about Mary Hopkin, Paul invited her to London.

Mary was a shy 18-year-old with an ethereal voice reminiscent of Joan Baez. Paul didn’t like the Baez sound personally, but he thought he might have the right song for Mary to sing. Alongside his interest in the avant-garde, Paul never lost his love of traditional entertainment. As often as he would attend a performance of electronic music, or see a play at the Royal Court, Paul would go to concerts by crooners and watch cabaret acts at the Blue Angel in Mayfair. He’d recently seen Gene and Francesca Raskin at the Blue Angel performing ‘Those Were the Days’, their own arrangement of a traditional folk song. Paul wanted Mary to record a cover. The teenager found the nostalgic, world-weary lyric hard to empathise with and sang it at first as though she didn’t mean it. ‘I kept showing her the way she should sing it and generally worked on it and suddenly she got it …’ said Paul, who instinctively felt he knew best. As with Badfinger, he was right. When Mary sang the song Paul’s way, it went to number one in 13 countries.


John and Paul flew to New York on Saturday 11 May 1968 to further promote Apple, taking Magic Alex along for the ride. Though their arrival at Kennedy Airport lacked the hysteria of their first visit to the States four years previously, there was a sizeable crowd of fans and press to greet the two Beatles and trail them to the St Regis Hotel. Not wanting to be prisoners in the hotel, as they had once been at the Plaza, the boys called Brian Epstein’s former partner Nat Weiss, who invited John and Paul to use his apartment on East 73rd Street while he stayed in their suite.

On Sunday John and Paul left Nat’s apartment to take an Apple board meeting on a Chinese Junk sailing around the Statue of Liberty, and to meet the press, explaining Apple and appealing for more ordinary people to come forward with their ideas. ‘We really want to help people, but without doing it like charity or seeming like ordinary patrons of the arts,’ Paul told reporters earnestly. Their intentions were laudable, but Paul and John appeared astonishingly, and endearingly, naive. It is almost impossible to imagine a major star today saying as Paul did in New York in 1968:

we’re in the happy position of not really needing any more money, so for the first time the bosses aren’t in it for the profit. If you come and see me and say, ‘I’ve had such and such a dream,’ I will say, ‘Here’s so much money. Go away and do it.’ We’ve already bought all our dreams, so now we want to share that possibility with others.

While they were in town, Lennon and McCartney also gave a press conference at the Americana Hotel. Linda Eastman, whom Paul had met in London the previous summer, showed up. ‘It was at the Apple press conference that my relationship with Paul was rekindled. I managed to slip him my phone number,’ she recalled. ‘He rang me up later that day and told me they were leaving that evening, but he’d like it if I was able to travel out to the airport with him and John. So I went out in their limousine, sandwiched between Paul and John …’ Nat Weiss was also in the car. To his mind, this was all part of Linda’s relentless campaign to make Paul her husband. ‘Linda’s been after him for the longest time. An unstoppable event, [but] I don’t think he’d made his mind up about Linda at that point.’

As they flew home from New York, Paul and John were in fact both on the cusp of making momentous changes in their personal lives. Paul was falling in love with Linda Eastman, but hadn’t yet decided to break with Jane Asher, whom he had been with for four years, and was engaged to marry. When he arrived home, the couple carried on as normal, for now. Just as Jane had stood by Paul during these manic Beatles years, Cynthia Lennon had been John’s rock. Yet John’s eyes were also on someone new.

There are striking similarities between Linda Eastman and Yoko Ono, two strong women who now stride into the Beatles story, elbowing aside the loyal, sweet-natured Englishwomen John and Paul had been with for so long, and taking their places as consorts. Yoko was eight years older than Linda, considerably older than all four members of the Beatles, with a complex background. Born in Japan in 1933, Yoko came to America as a girl, was educated in the USA and made the United States her permanent home, becoming almost as American as Linda herself, though Yoko never relinquished Japanese nationality. Like Linda’s father, Yoko’s daddy was a man of wealth, a financier who managed the Bank of Tokyo in New York after the war. The Ono family lived in Scarsdale, the same upstate town Linda grew up in. Even more remarkably, Linda and Yoko both attended, then dropped out of, Sarah Lawrence College. Both women then drifted into bohemian New York City, to the disapproval of their parents. As Linda became a Manhattan press photographer, with friends on the arts scene, Yoko became a conceptual artist in the city’s Fluxus movement (artists who staged happenings, concerts and other free-form events). So Linda and Yoko were still swimming in the same pool. Furthermore, both were now divorcees with young daughters. Yoko married first a Japanese composer named Toshi Ichiyanagi; second, American film-maker Tony Cox, with whom she had a child, Kyoko, eight months younger than Linda’s daughter Heather See.

In 1966 Yoko came to London and, like Linda, made a beeline for the Beatles, specifically Paul, coming to Cavendish Avenue to ask McCartney to donate Beatles sheet music as a birthday gift for her composer friend John Cage. Paul referred Yoko to John Lennon, whom she first met at the Indica Gallery in November when she staged an art show, Unfinished Paintings and Objects. The work consisted of absurdist and humorous works in the tradition of Marcel Duchamp, including Ladder Piece. John gamely climbed a ladder to peer through a magnifying glass at a sign on the ceiling. It read ‘YES’. John laughed. He was also amused by an apple Yoko had on sale for the mad price of £200. ‘I thought, “Fuck, I can make that. I can put an apple on a stand. I want more.”’ Yoko sent John an enigmatic little book she’d written entitled Grapefruit, in which were printed such gnomic sentences as ‘Listen to the sound of the Earth turning’. John, with his weakness for twaddle, invited Yoko to lunch at Kenwood, after which she deluged him with invitations to her events, one of which he was persuaded to finance. John invited Yoko in return to a Beatles session, and made a clumsy initial pass, which she rebuffed. But when John went to Rishikesh, Yoko wrote to him regularly. Cynthia Lennon became sick of Yoko’s missives and what she saw as the woman’s ‘determined pursuit’ of her husband. Poor Cyn still loved John.

After India, Cynthia wanted to go to New York with John and Paul, but John wouldn’t allow it, so she went instead on holiday to Greece with a group of friends including Pattie Harrison and Magic Alex, leaving four-year-old Julian with a babysitter. When John returned home from New York, and found he had Kenwood to himself briefly, he lost no time in asking Yoko over. So it was that Cynthia came home to find her husband and his Japanese lover sitting in bathrobes in her sunroom, having been up all night making music and making love. Shocked and confused, Cynthia blurted out that she was going for lunch. Would anybody like to join her? John and Yoko declined. ‘The stupidity of that question has haunted me ever since,’ says Cynthia, who fled by taxi.

A Beatle had fallen in love with a strong-minded divorcee of moneyed American background, not a classical beauty, but a tough, worldly woman who would make a formidable life partner. That describes John Lennon and Yoko Ono as it does Paul McCartney and Linda Eastman. Two men who had been like brothers since school days were falling for almost identical women.


Born in 1942, Paul (left) around the age of seven, with his mother Mary and younger brother Michael, born in 1944.

In the mid-1950s the McCartneys moved to 20 Forthlin Road in the Liverpool suburb of Allerton, a council or ‘corpy’ house where the family was very happy until Paul’s mother fell ill with cancer.


Paul was nine when he posed for this school picture. He remains recognisable as the confident, happy child he was at Joseph Williams Primary School in Liverpool.



John Lennon (centre) aged 16 with his school skiffle band, the Quarry Men, playing at St Peter’s Church Fête, Woolton, on 6 July 1957, the day he met Paul McCartney.


This fascinating 1959 picture shows Paul and John as teenagers performing together at the Casbah, a youth club set up by Liverpool housewife Mona Best in the basement of her home. Her son Pete became the Beatles’ drummer.


In 1960 the Beatles went to Hamburg, Germany, where they met new friends including Astrid Kirchherr, who took this iconic photograph of the band’s first line-up. Left to right are Pete Best, George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Stuart Sutcliffe.


The Beatles playing the Cavern, Liverpool, February 1961, between their first and second trip to Hamburg.


Although he had a girlfriend at home, Paul spent much of his time in Hamburg with German barmaid Ruth Lallemann.


A fussy young man with little experience of show business, Brian Epstein was running the family record shop in Liverpool when he became the Beatles’ manager.


In 1962 the Beatles, with their new drummer Ringo Starr, began recording with George Martin at EMI in London. Paul learned to trust the producer, whom he remained close to into his solo career.


In the early days the Beatles were part of mainstream light entertainment, obliged to act the fool on TV and on stage. Here they are dressed up for the first of two runs of Beatles Christmas shows, London, December 1963.

The Beatles’ first visit to the United States was a sensation. Here they are on the Ed Sullivan Show, February 1964.



The Beatles’ first feature film, A Hard Day’s Night (1964), was their best, with all the band members acquitting themselves reasonably well on screen. Here McCartney is seen with actor Wilfrid Brambell, who played his grandfather.


Paul met the teenage actress Jane Asher in 1963. By 1965, when this picture was taken, he was lodging with her wealthy and sophisticated family in London’s Wimpole Street.


The Beatles at Shea Stadium, New York, on 15 August 1965. The band was playing the first ever stadium rock concert to an audience of 55,600 people.


Paul and Jane Asher had an open relationship, with Paul seeing other women, including Maggie McGivern, who worked as a nanny for Marianne Faithfull. Paul is seen here in 1966 with Maggie as he accepts a light from mutual friend Barry Miles.


Another attractive young woman linked with Paul was Marijke Koger of the hippie art group the Fool, which created the genie mural for the Apple shop.


Paul is seen here with his father Jim outside the star’s new London home, 7 Cavendish Avenue, a short walk from EMI’s Abbey Road studios.


Paul and Linda Eastman gaze into each other’s eyes at a press reception for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band at Brian Epstein’s London home, May 1967.


The Beatles’ concert on the roof of the Apple building on 30 January 1969 was their last public performance. Apple executive Peter Brown is seen (with beard) between Paul and John.


Paul married Linda Eastman at Marylebone Register Office, London, on 12 March 1969, just before the Beatles recorded their last LP. It was to be a very successful marriage.


As the Beatles fell apart, Paul and Linda retreated to their remote Scottish farm, High Park. They are seen here on the property in 1971, with their pet dog Martha.


Visitors to Paul and Linda’s Scottish farm were often surprised by how small and basic it was - just a little stone house with an iron roof. The location was, however, private and beautiful, with an ancient standing stone directly in front of the cottage.


In 1971, Paul launched his new band, Wings, featuring (clockwise from top) guitarists Denny Laine and Henry McCullough, Paul and Linda and drummer Denny Seiwell.


. Paul and Linda bought Waterfall, a rotunda hidden in woodland near the village of Peasmarsh, East Sussex, as a second country retreat in 1973. They subsequently made the house their principal home.