Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney - Howard Sounes (2010)
PART ONE. WITH THE BEATLES
Chapter 12. WEIRD VIBES
THE BEATLES AT WAR
Shortly after returning home from India, in May 1968, the Beatles convened at George Harrison’s home in Esher to run through 23 new songs that became the basis of their next album, The Beatles, better known as the White Album(and hereafter referred to as such) because it was packaged in a plain white sleeve. John brought the largest number of songs to the demo session including ‘The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill’, ‘Dear Prudence’, ‘Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey’, ‘I’m So Tired’, ‘Julia’, ‘Revolution’, ‘Yer Blues’ and ‘Sexy Sadie’, the last being a swipe at the randy Maharishi. George’s contributions were notably ‘Piggies’ and ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, while Paul demonstrated ‘Back in the USSR’, ‘Blackbird’, ‘Honey Pie’, ‘Junk,’ ‘Mother Nature’s Son’, ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ and the delightfully silly ‘Rocky Raccoon’.
Here then was the backbone of the only double studio album the Beatles recorded, a relative rarity in the music industry at the time, with songs to spare. Moreover, here was a wide range of musical styles, from the country sound of ‘Rocky Raccoon’ via Paul’s Beach Boys-on-the-Volga pastiche (‘Back in the USSR’) to the experimentation of ‘Revolution 9’, together with more traditional songs of love and regret, graced by some of the best lyrics the boys ever penned.
The White Album is a boldly, unapologetically ambitious and arty record. Gone are the corny songs of Beatlemania. The Beatles were now men making mature, reflective music, the quantity and variety of which sets the White Album apart as one of their greatest achievements. This important and welcome musical variety - the variety of a box of Good News chocolates, which George references on another of his songs, ‘Savoy Truffle’- is partly a result of the fact the Beatles were no longer a harmonious team. They were increasingly at war with one another, often working individually on their own songs, sniping at each other and at odds with the studio staff who’d served them for years, which had an unexpectedly positive result in that the set-up changed; old faces left, new people and new studios were used. The format was shaken up, the Beatles getting away from making the self-consciously clever albums of the mid-1960s, culminating in Sgt. Pepper, allowing themselves instead to spread out and do as they pleased, however wild the music sounded, and indeed the wilder the better. It is when the Beatles seem to go too far that the White Album is most interesting.
In a way Yoko Ono is to be thanked for this shake-up in the Beatles’ working methods, even if her presence ultimately proved toxic. Having usurped Cynthia and moved into Kenwood, Yoko went everywhere with John nowadays, including attending the opening of the Beatles’ new King’s Road tailoring shop on 23 May. It soon became clear Yoko was not a docile Beatles partner in the mould of Cyn, Mo and Pattie. Yoko was also unlike Jane Asher, who had a career of her own but was assiduous in not getting mixed up in Paul’s work. ‘She was great because she didn’t interfere with anything, she had her own life to lead,’ Measles Bramwell says approvingly. In contrast Yoko interfered constantly.
When the band assembled in Studio Two at EMI to begin their new album, on Thursday 30 May 1968, Paul, George and Ringo were flabbergasted to find Yoko sitting with John, apparently intending to stay there while they recorded. In the past the Beatles hadn’t even liked Brian in the studio. Select friends were invited to watch sessions, it was true, and occasionally guests were asked to sing a backing vocal or shake a tambourine at a special event like Our World, but the Beatles’ day-to-day studio work was, in the union language of the day, a closed shop. Yoko broke the rules. She intruded, sitting with the boys among the mike stands and baffles, and when they began John’s ‘Revolution’, a blues that referenced the revolutions and uprisings sweeping the world, from Mao Tse-tung’s Cultural Revolution to the student protests in Paris, Yoko started contributing vocals - one couldn’t say singing - rather she yelped, moaned and squawked along with her lover.
John then decided he might get a better vocal if he lay down on the floor to sing this strange new song, to which he devoted the following two weeks. Ultimately, there were three versions of ‘Revolution’, or perhaps better to say variations on the theme: a blues crawl, ‘Revolution 1’, with shooby-doo-wah backing vocals; a faster hard-rock version that would appear on the flip-side of the Beatles’ next single; and the radically different ‘Revolution 9’, a sound collage in the musique concrete style; that is music created by combining a variety of recorded sounds, as Stockhausen did in 1956 with Gesang der Jünglinge. Although the form had been around for a decade, it was new to rock.
Then John suggested Yoko dub a backing vocal - instead of Paul. McCartney ‘gave John a look of disbelief and then walked away in disgust’, recalls studio engineer Geoff Emerick, who’d worked on every Beatles album since Revolver, but wasn’t enjoying this one. Before long, Yoko was in the control room, venting her opinion on what they’d recorded so far. ‘Well, it’s pretty good,’ she told George Martin of one take of ‘Revolution’, ‘but I think it should be played a bit faster.’ A line had been crossed. John was allowing this strange little woman, with whom he’d become infatuated, to enter into and meddle with a band that, aside from small disagreements, had hitherto been four friends united against the world. It was a shocking breach of etiquette. ‘It just spoiled everything,’ laments Tony Bramwell, who blames Yoko ultimately for the break-up of the band. ‘Yoko was the acerbation (sic) in the studio that caused the split between all of them. George called her the witch; Ringo hated her; Paul couldn’t understand why somebody would bring their wife to work.’31 There was some sexism in the attitude to Yoko, even a touch of xenophobia. Unkind remarks were made about ‘the Jap’. But one can see why Paul, George and Ringo were irritated. Yoko wasn’t a musician, at least not as they were, but the latest flaky character to have taken John’s fancy. At the same time, she was a catalyst for change.
When the Beatles were recording, they normally started with a John song, then a Paul song. This time they went straight from ‘Revolution’ (not that it was finished) to a Ringo song, ‘Don’t Pass Me By’, which showed how strange things had become. Stranger followed. It was unheard of for band members to leave London while an album was in production. Yet Paul, George and Ringo now left John and Yoko to fiddle with ‘Revolution’, and amused themselves elsewhere: George travelling to California to take part in a documentary about Ravi Shankar, Ringo going with him for company; while Paul went up north to be best man at his brother’s wedding.
Mike McCartney married his fiancée Angela Fishwick on Saturday 7 June 1968 in North Wales, the service conducted by Buddy Bevan, the relation who’d married Jim and Ange four years earlier. Mike’s show business career had taken off in recent months, the Scaffold scoring a novelty hit with ‘Thank U Very Much’, making Paul’s brother a celebrity in his own right under the stage name of Mike McGear. Mike deported himself like an archetypal Sixties’ dandy, coming to his wedding in a flamboyant white suit, black shirt and groovy white neckerchief. In contrast, Paul wore a conservative suit and tie to the wedding. Jane was also simply dressed. The couple posed obligingly for pictures with the bride and groom after the service, then everybody went back to Rembrandt to celebrate the union, Paul reading out the congratulatory telegrams. He and Jane seemed happy. ‘They could not have been more lovey-dovey and it was in very private circumstances where they didn’t have to put anything on for the press,’ recalls Tony Barrow, who was present. Yet as soon as he got back to London, Paul took another woman to bed.
When Paul went on American television asking the public to send Apple their ideas, Francie Schwartz was one of those viewers who took the star at his word. A 24-year-old advertising agency worker from New York, Francie bought a plane ticket to London and presented herself at the Apple office with a movie script she wanted produced. She persuaded Tony Bramwell to let her see Paul. ‘I only introduced them because she had this strange film idea which I thought would appeal to him,’ recalls Bramwell. It wasn’t actually that difficult to meet Paul in this way. Unlike his fellow Beatles, Paul came into the Apple office most days, and made the time to listen to at least some of the new ideas that came in. Anybody who was personable and persistent had a chance of having a word with the star. It helped if you were an attractive young woman. In fact, Francie was a rather plain woman, with prematurely grey hair. Yet Paul found her pretty enough. ‘Am I impressing you now, with my feet up on this big desk?’ he asked, as they flirted in his office.
Nothing happened between them until after Mike’s wedding, when Jane had gone back to the Bristol Old Vic. With Jane out of the way, Paul came over to Francie’s Chelsea flat, with Martha the dog, and jumped into bed. ‘The sheepdog followed us into the bedroom to watch,’ Francie wrote in her candid memoir, Body Count. She called Paul Mr Plump, for reasons unexplained. Likewise, he called her Clancy. It was clear to Clancy that, despite being engaged to be married, and putting on such a good show at his brother’s wedding, Mr Plump and his fiancée were not getting along. Paul seemed to think Jane had a boyfriend in Bristol, and rather than try and win her back he chose to get even with her, allowing Francie to move into Cavendish with him while Jane was away, also getting his new girlfriend a job in the Apple press office. He even invited Francie along to EMI recording sessions - surely a touch of tit for tat. While John and Yoko worked together on ‘Revolution 9’ in Studio Three at Abbey Road, Paul took Francie next door to watch him record ‘Blackbird’ in Studio Two. A greater contrast to ‘Revolution 9’ is hard to imagine than this pretty, guitar-picking tune, the melody based on a Bach bourrée, while the lyric, recorded shortly after the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, was meant as a metaphor for the American Civil Rights struggle. ‘As is often the case with my things, a veiling took place, so, rather than say “Black woman living in Little Rock” and be very specific, she became a bird, became symbolic …’
Paul then left Francie and the difficult White Album sessions to go on a business trip to Los Angeles with Apple staff men Ron Kass and Tony Bramwell, plus his school friend Ivan Vaughan. The threesome flew to LA via New York where, in the transit lounge at JFK, Paul called and left a message with Linda Eastman’s answering service, saying he was on his way to the West Coast and could be reached at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Arriving in LA several hours later, Paul checked into the pink hotel on Sunset Boulevard, taking Bungalow Number Five, which was favoured by Howard Hughes, then hit the clubs. Word soon got around that Paul was in town. ‘He pulled a few slappers [and] by the time we got back to the Beverly Hills Hotel there was queues around the block of girls trying to get in,’ says Bramwell.
The next day, after fooling about by the pool with the girls he’d met, Paul went to see Capitol Records chief Alan Livingston, then came back to change before his next engagement. ‘And there was Linda!’ recalls Bramwell. ‘Sitting on the doorstep.’ Having received Paul’s message, Linda had taken the first available flight from New York to LA. ‘So immediately Paul got me to clear away all the birds, and just locked himself in the room with her.’ That night Paul attended to the main bit of business he had come to California for, which was making a personal appearance at a Capitol Records sales convention, screening a promotional movie about Apple, and telling the executives that future Beatles records would appear under the Apple label (though the band still remained tied to EMI). Having played the businessman, Paul returned to Linda at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
At this stage another girlfriend showed up. One of the local calls Paul had made when he arrived in Los Angeles was to actress Peggy Lipton, his bedfellow on two previous trips to LA. Seemingly, he was ringing around to see who was available. Despite the fact Peggy was now living with the record producer Lou Adler, she hopped in her car and sped over to the Beverly Hills Hotel, where she found a number of young women already waiting outside Bungalow Five. Measles told Peggy that Paul was sleeping - it was 4 o’clock in the morning - and that when he got up they were going out on a boat with the film director Mike Nichols. Peggy decided to wait. When Paul emerged from his room at 8:00 a.m., Peggy figured she was on for the boat trip. ‘As I gathered my things, preparing to join him, I spotted a woman coming out of the bedroom in Paul’s bungalow,’ Peggy later wrote. ‘Apparently, she had shown up before I arrived, and Paul, in his altered state, had forgotten I was on the way.’ Peggy watched tearfully as Paul and Linda Eastman ran for a limousine that took them to the harbour. This was the end of Peggy and Paul.
Paul and Linda spent the day together on Mike Nichols’s motorboat, the Quest, drinking champagne, eating bacon sandwiches and canoodling like love birds. ‘They were absolutely inseparable. It was like instant,’ notes Bramwell. ‘She was perfect for him: motherly …’ (Tony figured Paul had been looking for a mother substitute) ‘… big-breasted, and she had a je ne sais quoi.’ Like Paul, Linda was also a dedicated pot-head. She’d brought a bag of grass with her, which they dipped into, becoming closer as they got stoned, really close in the way John and Yoko were. ‘We were all conscious of - and somewhat amazed by - the depth of feeling Paul obviously had for Linda,’ adds Bramwell, noting that when they checked out of the Beverly Hills Hotel the next day Paul and Linda were ‘like Siamese twins, holding hands and gazing into each other’s eyes all the way to the airport’.
Paul was flying to London, Linda to New York. Before her domestic flight, Linda waited with her lover in the international VIP lounge at LAX. The couple were startled by the sudden arrival of FBI agents. ‘We’re investigating a bomb scare on the flight to London; do you know anybody who might want to blow up the plane? ’ an agent asked McCartney.
‘It might be a Rolling Stones fan,’ Paul joked. More likely a jealous boyfriend or husband. The Beatles always left a trail of cuckolds behind them. The FBI wanted to search their luggage, at which point Linda had the foresight to kick her bag, in which she had her marijuana, under a chair, then sauntered off to the domestic terminal to catch her own flight at the end of what she would later refer to nostalgically as their first ‘dirty weekend’ together.
When McCartney got home to Cavendish Avenue, he continued his affair with Francie Schwartz, who didn’t rate him as a lover. Opining that Paul was basically lonely without Jane, whom he hadn’t told about Francie, she wrote in her memoirs:
He had his hang-ups, and I think he felt sometimes that he wasn’t manly enough. His body was sweet, and beautiful … one could be happy if one didn’t demand too much, or even want too much. The relationship had begun on the “save me” lament, not on a rush of sexual flashes … He hadn’t formally dumped Jane and so at first I was a secret. I stayed in the house for weeks, cleaning, reading, calling the dope dealer. I was to score for my old man. You’d think he could have taken care of it, but he didn’t.
When Jane telephoned from Bristol ‘he would get very uptight, very awkward and phony’. Apart from the sheepdog Martha, there was now a puppy in the house, Eddie, whom Paul had bought for Jane, plus five cats, the beginning of what became a menagerie of domestic animals, few of which seemed house-trained. ‘I was constantly cleaning up shit.’
While his domestic life descended into farce, Paul retained enough discipline to go into the EMI studios and Apple office most days, working on the new band album and diverse Apple projects. He liked to be busy. One side-project was creating a theme tune for a television series named Thingumybob. Having dreamt up the tune, Paul decided it needed a brass band, so he called upon the Black Dyke Mills Band, the most famous band of its kind in the world, originally comprised of employees of a Yorkshire worsted mill. The band’s conductor, Geoffrey Brand, came into Apple to see Paul, whom he found sitting under a Liverpool Institute school photo. Paul pointed out the little boys who were George Harrison, Neil Aspinall, brother Mike McCartney and himself. This trip down memory lane was interrupted by the telephone ringing. ‘As soon as he started to talk the phone rang and it was someone from New York who’d been waiting to get to him for days and so he said, “I have to talk to this chap,” and we started off again,’ recalls Brand, ‘and then it was somebody from Tokyo, you know.’ Finally, Paul silenced the calls, picked up a guitar and played the tune to Thingumybob , humming it as well. Brand made a note on manuscript paper. Paul told him to take the little bit he’d demonstrated and extend it to fill three minutes as a score for the Black Dyke Mills Band. Apple would probably put it out as a record, which meant he needed a B-side. ‘I’ll tell you what, and this is going to be a hit, we’re doing a film called Yellow Submarine,’ Paul told the conductor. ‘Do an arrangement for “Yellow Submarine” as well. We’ll put that on the back.’
A recording date for Thingumybob was arranged at the Victoria Hall, Saltaire, on Sunday 30 June 1968. Geoffrey Brand checked into the Victoria Hotel in nearby Bradford for the session, and Paul asked him to book an extra room. ‘Paul came down to breakfast on the Sunday morning with his dog,’ recalls the conductor. ‘Martha sat next to Paul at the breakfast table and Paul ordered two cooked breakfasts, one of which he ate and the other he fed to Martha.’ To get the sound he wanted on the recording Paul had the brass band perform outside the Victoria Hall, drawing a crowd of children whom he amused by playing a trumpet. When a cornet player asked to check a note, Paul said, ‘It’s no use asking me, I can’t read music.’ Paul was at his best at times like this, allowing ordinary people to share in and enjoy his celebrity, whilst his decision to make a record with a brass band, in the middle of the White Album sessions, showed how rooted he remained in northern working-class culture.
Back in London, the Beatles were seriously getting on each others’ nerves. When he finished ‘Revolution 9’, John asked Paul’s opinion of the record, which is without doubt the most radical piece of music the Beatles ever released: an uncompromising musical collage, without coherent tune or intelligible lyric. ‘Not bad,’ replied Paul unenthusiastically.
‘Not bad?’ snapped Lennon. ‘You have no idea what you’re talking about … This is the direction the Beatles should be going in from now on!’
Just as John had taken an inordinate amount of time on the various versions of ‘Revolution’, Paul was now driving everybody spare with ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’, not one of his best works, and one that John only reluctantly played along with, complaining that it was ‘granny music shit’. When, after several days’ work, Paul announced that he wanted to start all over again, Lennon walked out of the studio, reappearing at the top of the stairs screaming: ‘I AM FUCKING STONED!’ He descended, ranting that he fucking knew how the fucking song should fucking well go, sat at the piano and bashed out the now-familiar intro. Still Paul wasn’t satisfied, and he decided, when Ritchie was out of the studio, to re-record the drums, which didn’t do anything for Ritchie’s ego. He was already feeling left out. George Harrison wasn’t much happier, and the EMI staff felt demoralised working for bickering, demanding Beatles. Geoff Emerick woke up one morning and realised that, far from being a joy, as it had been, working as the Beatles’ engineer was making him depressed. A few nights before, he’d been in the studio very late when the band came back from a club, intending to play through the night, as they liked to do, expecting EMI staff simply to be on hand to accommodate them. Rather than face the Beatles, Emerick hid behind a cupboard.
Now the usually unflappable George Martin got into an argument with Paul over ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’, as Emerick recalls in his memoir Here, There and Everywhere. ‘Paul, can you try rephrasing the last line of each verse?’ Martin asked from the lofty control room.
‘If you think you can do it any better, why don’t you fucking come down here and sing it yourself?’ Paul retorted.
Gentleman George finally lost his temper. ‘Then bloody sing it again!’ he shouted down at McCartney. ‘I give up. I just don’t know any better how to help you.’
The next day Emerick resigned as the Beatles’ engineer, refusing to work one more day with them. He was replaced by Ken Scott. George Martin went on three weeks’ holiday, leaving his young assistant Chris Thomas to deal with the impossible bastards, as the great producer sometimes called the Beatles under his breath.32 On the first day after George’s departure, Paul walked into the studio and asked Thomas abruptly what he was doing there, as though nobody had told him Martin was going away. ‘George told me to come down, didn’t you know?’ Thomas asked.
‘Oh well, if you want to produce us, fine, and if you don’t, we’ll just tell you to fuck off,’ McCartney replied unpleasantly. Then he strode out. Despite this unpromising start, Chris Thomas stuck with the sessions and made an important contribution to the album, forging a good enough relationship with Paul to work with him deep into his solo career.
The pressure was starting to tell on Paul, who let his frustrations out at Cavendish. ‘If he wasn’t in a good mood, he’d drink hideous Scotch- Coke combinations, throw food at the dogs and cats, drop his clothes in a path to the bed, and ignore me completely,’ Francie Schwartz would write, further claiming that there was a wild, rough-house element to their love-making. Sometimes Paul would grab Francie and pull her into the bath with him; they made love in the open at night on Primrose Hill; and she went down on Paul while he was driving around London, possibly the inspiration for Paul’s ‘Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?’ One night, Paul took Francie to a new club, Revolution, then stopped on the way home to pay a house call on another girlfriend, possibly Maggie McGivern, who says she was still seeing Paul at this time. Francie suffered the humiliation of waiting for Mr Plump while he did what he had to do. ‘When he returned, about 15 minutes later, I was burning. “Why did you do that? Why the hell couldn’t you take me home first? ” “I don’t know,” he answered, and I could tell he was a little sick inside about it, too.’
One morning, Paul and Francie were in bed together at Cavendish when there was a knock at the bedroom door. ‘Who is it?’ asked Paul, for there were always friends floating around the house.
‘Jane,’ replied his fiancée, who had returned to London to appear in a play.
Paul leapt out of bed, put on some clothes, and led Jane downstairs and into the garden. Francie came to the window to watch them. Paul yelled at Francie to get back inside. Then Jane left. A little later, Margaret Asher came to Cavendish and boxed up her daughter’s belongings, leaving a note for Paul. The boy she had given a home to when he came down from Liverpool, fed and looked after as a mother would, had let her daughter down.
A couple of days after this the Beatles attended the London première of the Yellow Submarine film, which had turned out better than expected. Although the Beatles had little to do with the project, Heinz Edelmann and the TVC animators had captured the character of the band, their style and wit, as well as the feel of swinging London in exuberant Pop Art images that were attractive and amusing. The film was capped by a brief personal appearance by the boys introducing the final number, Paul’s ‘All Together Now’, which proved a perfect ending. The première audience laughed and clapped and sang along, endorsing Yellow Submarine as an instant classic.
Beatles partners accompanied the boys to the Yellow Submarine première, including Yoko Ono, but there was no sign of Jane Asher on the red carpet. The reason emerged a few days later when, on Saturday 21 July, the actress appeared on Simon Dee’s BBC television show and told the presenter her engagement was off. ‘Did you break it off?’ Dee asked.
‘I haven’t broken it off, but it’s finished,’ Jane replied firmly, which was all she had to say on the matter, then and ever more.
The announcement caught almost everybody by surprise. ‘It just seemed such a mistake!’ laments Jann Haworth. ‘What little I knew of them, it looked right, and they were really cut out to be together, and it seemed a real shame.’ Taking a more masculine view, Tony Bramwell figured Paul simply got caught out. ‘He was caught with his pants down with the horrible Francie. Brrr,’ he shudders at the memory of the American, whom he did not like. ‘She was horrible.’ For his part, Paul seemed surprised by Jane’s public announcement, which made him look foolish. He and Francie drove to Rembrandt, where he was obliged to face the press before retreating inside Dad’s house in what his girlfriend terms ‘a poisonous mood’.
Having vacated Kenwood in favour of Cynthia and Julian, John and Yoko moved into Cavendish with Paul and Francie. By Francie’s account, she, John and Yoko got into the habit of watching TV in the evening while they ate opium cookies. Meanwhile, Paul continued to race between home, office, recording studio and night clubs, attending to band business and Apple projects. One morning, when John was going through his mail at Cavendish, he found a postcard addressed to him with the message, ‘You and your Jap tart think you’re hot shit.’ Paul admitted he’d sent the card for a joke. He had a strange habit of sending anonymous postcards, another of his victims being Derek Taylor, who ran the Apple press office with more profligacy than Paul liked. The card to John and Yoko may have been meant as a joke, but it made for an awkward atmosphere in the house. ‘It was embarrassing. The three of us swivelled around, staring at him. You could feel the pain in John,’ Schwartz wrote of the moment Paul admitted to sending it. Not long afterwards, John and Yoko moved out of the house and into Ritchie’s flat in Montagu Square, both drifting into heavier drug use, ultimately heroin, which further altered John’s mood and appearance. Behind his pebbled spectacles, Lennon’s face paled and seemingly attenuated, making his bony nose more prominent. The chameleon Beatle started to resemble Yoko’s twin brother.
At this stage, Francie was given her marching orders from Cavendish. Her relationship with Paul had never been smooth. Friends recall McCartney throwing her out at least once before the final split, literally throwing her bag out the door on one occasion. Finally, she gave up and booked a ticket home to the United States. ‘Don’t cry. I’m a cunt,’ McCartney told her, in their not-so-romantic farewell. At least one member of the Beatles organisation believes Paul used Francie as an excuse to end his relationship with Jane.
‘I think [Schwartz] thought there was a lot of love on his side for her, and there was none whatsoever that I could detect. He used her entirely. I’m not saying that he didn’t get on with her physically, that it was a good extended one-night stand, but I don’t think in Paul’s mind it was ever more than that,’ says Tony Barrow, who is also of the opinion that Jane took her break-up with Paul in her stride. ‘I think she had realised by then that he was not going to marry her, simply because she was determined not to give up the theatre, and he was determined that she should.’
While this is an interesting hypothesis it is hard to believe that a relationship that had lasted more than five years, one both partners expected to lead to marriage, should have come undone without hurt and regret on both sides. Also, Jane’s subsequent studied silence on the matter can be interpreted as an indication of how bruised she was by the ending of her engagement to Paul, messy and public as it had been.
Having taken up with Yoko Ono, John Lennon now demanded as expeditious a divorce as possible from his wife, relegating Cynthia and their son Julian to his past. He would see little of the boy in the years ahead.
Although Cyn had been part of the Beatles’ inner circle since the beginning of their great adventure - on the scene before Paul met Jane, Ritchie married Maureen, or George wed Pattie - she now fell into a state of purdah. Beatles people were scared of talking to Cyn lest it offend John. In fact, virtually the only member of the Beatles family who bothered to contact her after the break-up was Paul. To his credit, McCartney drove over to Kenwood to tell Cyn how sorry he was about the way John had treated her. Paul had hardly behaved better with Jane, and Cynthia believes Paul felt bad about that. ‘Paul blamed himself and was heartbroken,’ she later wrote, contradicting Tony Barrow’s impression that Paul wasn’t unduly bothered by the recent break-up with his fiancée. Paul may well have been more honest with an old friend like Cynthia than a male employee.
It was Paul’s habit to dream up songs on the drive to Kenwood, for this is where he and John met to write in the old days, and although the circumstances were very different as he drove to console Cyn, the act of making the journey engendered a song, intended to cheer up five-year-old Julian Lennon. ‘I started with the idea “Hey Jules”, which was Julian, “don’t make it bad, take a sad song and make it better.” Hey, try and deal with this terrible thing. I knew it was not going to be easy for him,’ Paul explained. ‘I always feel sorry for kids in divorces … their little brain spinning round in confusion, going “Did I do this? Was it me?”’ He later changed the title to ‘Hey Jude’ because it was more euphonious. Paul perfected the song at Cavendish while John and Yoko were visiting, John interpreting the lyric egocentrically to mean that Paul approved of his relationship with Yoko, that ‘go and get her’ meant he should leave Cyn for Yoko. Paul muttered that the words weren’t right yet. He needed to fix the dummy line, ‘The movement you need is on your shoulder’. John insisted he keep it and, though it doesn’t make sense, it has become so familiar we don’t question it.
The Beatles recorded ‘Hey Jude’ at Trident, a small Soho studio the band was using, partly because it had an eight-track system, whereas EMI was behind the times with four-track. ‘Hey Jude’ was meant from the outset to be a single, rather than a White Album track, and it was an unusual single in several ways, not least because it was over seven minutes long at a time when most pop songs were under three. The song started quietly. Paul sang the first word ‘Hey …’ before a note had been struck, hitting the first F chord on the grand piano on the ‘Jude’, then accompanied himself through the first verse, joined by the others - George strumming guitar and harmonising with John; Ringo tapping a tambourine - from the middle of the second verse, after which Ringo’s drums came in and the song began to build. ‘Remember to let her under your skin/Then you begin to make it better,’ Paul sang, reaching the point where most singles end. Instead, he repeated the last word with increasing excitement, Little Richard-style: ‘Better, better, better, better BETTER, BETTER, BETTER …’ Finally screaming: ‘WHAAARRRR! ’ This began the impassioned four-minute coda, the Beatles rocking out over a 36-piece orchestra as John and George repeated the Zen-like Na na na na-na-na nas. Seldom has such a simple refrain sounded so powerful.
While they were recording the song, the Apple Shop shut. It had failed to live up to the Beatles’ vision, the freeholder doing little to help by insisting they paint over the Fool’s genie mural, which was a grievous loss to Baker Street. ‘The Beatles are tired of being shopkeepers,’ Paul told the press. The band took away what items of stock they wanted, then let the public grab what was left for free. Before Francie Schwartz went home to the USA, she and Paul daubed ‘REVOLUTION’ and ‘HEY JUDE’ on the whitewashed windows of the abandoned building, as publicity for the new single. Unfortunately, this read like anti-Semitic graffiti to local Jewish residents (Jude being German for Jew), who reacted furiously, one man throwing a soda siphon at the shop.
More professionally, the Beatles hired Michael Lindsay-Hogg to shoot a promotional film for ‘Hey Jude’ at Twickenham. Talking with Paul, the director came up with the idea of surrounding the band with a small audience, who would sing along with the Beatles miming their own song. ‘We probably did, I think, five or six takes on “Hey Jude” and between the takes [the] Beatles were sort of standing on their rostrum and they were surrounded by 100 people and they did what they knew how to do when they had people round them,’ says Lindsay-Hogg. ‘This was the first time they’d ever played to any kind of audience since they’d stopped touring in 1966, and at first they were doing it rather listlessly because they thought they had to do something … then they sort of got into it, and they kind of liked it.’ The promo was first shown in the UK on David Frost’s Sunday night television show, then around the world, helping launch what became the Beatles’ biggest-selling single: number one in the UK for two weeks and number one in the USA for an astounding nine weeks, sales soon topping five million copies. This was all the more impressive when one remembers that the Beatles weren’t touring in support of the record and had only recently suffered a major critical failure with Magical Mystery Tour.
‘Hey Jude’ was the first Beatles record released by Apple, though it was actually still a Parlophone disc in the UK, Capitol in the US, with the Apple logo attached. The corporation had new offices now, an eighteenth-century townhouse at 3 Savile Row, on the border of Mayfair and Piccadilly, next door to the tailors Gieves & Hawkes. This was a fine address in a classy part of Central London, showing how high the boys had risen in the world in the few years since Neil transported them from Liverpool in a van. It was typical of the Beatles to be so public about their place of business, very much putting themselves on show at Savile Row. Press and fans gathered daily outside No. 3, taking pictures and asking questions. There was only one main entrance (together with steps down to the basement, below the front door) so the Beatles couldn’t dodge their visitors. If they hated the attention, they bought the wrong house, and indeed one can only conclude that the boys liked being on display in this way. Paul in particular seemed to enjoy being recognised.
The Beatles brought a large entourage with them to Savile Row: employees, mates, and weird and wonderful hangers-on. Along with the ridiculous Magic Alex, there was Caleb the I-Ching thrower, whose prognostications could make or break an Apple deal; and a House Hippie, American Richard DiLello, who actually had a fairly responsible job in the press office. One of the House Hippie’s tasks was to deliver presentation sets of the first four Apple releases - ‘Hey Jude’, ‘Those Were the Days’, ‘Thingumybob’, and a Jackie Lomax song - to 10 Downing Street, Buckingham Palace and the Queen Mother’s residence. Everybody was delighted when the Queen Mum’s lady-in-waiting wrote back thanking the Beatles for the gift, saying how much HRH had enjoyed their discs. What the Queen herself made of this gift might be surmised from a remark Her Majesty made to EMI chairman Sir Joseph Lockwood around this time: ‘The Beatles are turning awfully funny, aren’t they?’ It was hard for Sir Joe to gainsay Her Majesty, grappling as he was with a request from John that EMI distribute an album he and Yoko had made named Unfinished Music Number 1: Two Virgins. As a record, it was almost unlistenable to, but what was most shocking was that Lennon wanted EMI to distribute the disc in a sleeve that featured full-length nude photos of himself and Yoko - cock, tits, bum, pubic hair and all. ‘What on Earth do you want to do it for?’ Sir Joe asked.
‘It’s art,’ replied Yoko.
‘In that case,’ said the chairman, ‘why not show Paul in the nude? He’s so much better looking.’
Meanwhile, the Beatles were causing chaos in the hallowed EMI Studios, where Sir Thomas Beecham and Sir Edward Elgar had made beautiful music, John screaming that he was suicidal and wanted to die on ‘Yer Blues’; Paul shrieking back at him on ‘Helter Skelter’; George singing about pigs, complete with porcine noises. There was, as George himself would say, ‘a weird vibe’. Then Ritchie quit.
‘Now Ringo’s gone, what are we gonna do?’ John Lennon’s cartoon character asks in Yellow Submarine after Ringo ejects himself from the sub.
‘Learn to sing trios,’ suggests Old Fred.
‘No, let’s save the poor devil,’ says Paul’s character.
In reality, Paul had been partly responsible for driving their drummer to resignation. Dating back to Quarry Men days, Paul had an unfortunate habit of telling his drummers what to play, and he was quite capable of having a bash himself if they didn’t oblige, which pissed Ritchie off. ‘Every time I went for a cup of tea, he was on the drums!’
Ritchie went round the band telling his friends individually that he was leaving, because he didn’t feel he was playing well, and he felt out of things, whereas ‘you three are really close’. John replied that he thought it was the other three who were close. Paul said the same, while George had always been justified in feeling ignored by Paul and John. In short, all four Beatles now felt isolated and miserable. It didn’t stop them continuing work on the White Album in Ringo’s absence, Paul playing the drums again on ‘Back in the USSR’, on the version we hear to this day. Ringo returned shortly thereafter, welcomed back warmly, with flowers arranged around his kit, but the Rubicon had been crossed: a Beatle had left the band.
When Paul came home from these fraught sessions he found Cavendish in chaos. His beautiful green velvet sofa was covered in dog hair; there was dog crap on the carpets; rancid milk and a rind of cheese were all that was to be found in the fridge; unwashed wine glasses, plates and dirty ashtrays littered the living room; his dope stash had been plundered; his expensive gadgets were nearly all broken, his colour TV, the hi-fi and electric curtains were on the fritz; ligger friends camped out his spare rooms; women fought like cats for a place in his grubby bed. When Barry Miles visited, he found several semi-clad chicks in residence. It was all too much, and yet not enough. So Paul reached out to the one woman who had made sense to him in recent months.
Linda Eastman was in California on assignment with her journalist friend Danny Fields when Paul called and invited her to London. She couldn’t come to England immediately. Work commitments took her to San Francisco first, where she photographed the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. As in the past, Linda ended up in bed with one of the musicians, this time Paul’s acquaintance Marty Balin, only she wouldn’t put out. He recalls:
She was a foxy chick, and all of us were trying to make it with her and get close to her and everything. Somehow she ended up with me sleeping the night where I was, at my pad, but she left her bra and her panties on, you know, and I was making my moves, and she just turned me down. She says, ‘I’m going to be with the biggest guy in the world.’ And then later she married Paul McCartney. She knew what she was headed for … She told me flat out - she had her sights set on somebody and that was that.
From Lee Eastman’s point of view, his daughter was now all but a lost cause. First Linda left Mel See to set up in New York as a rock photographer, a course of action Daddy disapproved of. In recent months she had at least managed to get her daughter into Dalton, a good private school in Manhattan, yet no sooner was this arranged than Linda was running off to London after another long-haired boyfriend. With maturity, Linda came to see Daddy’s point of view. ‘I remember Heather was just going to start Dalton and my [father was] so furious with me. She got into Dalton. It would have been great. It was really good for Heather; I wish she had had that kind of life, instead of this crazy life,’ Linda reflected with some sadness towards the end of her own life. ‘But I had no feeling of responsibility, I must have been quite irresponsible to think that a five-year-old kid is starting school for the first time, and I’m buzzing off leaving her.’ Finding somebody to look after Heather in New York, Linda came to London to discover her number one rock star boyfriend living in bachelor squalor at 7 Cavendish Avenue. Paul was not home when she arrived at the house. He was round the corner at EMI with the boys recording ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun’. Linda went over to Abbey Road and took pictures of the band working. It was late September 1968, almost the end of the Beatles, but the beginning of Paul and Linda’s life together.