THAT DIFFICULT SECOND MARRIAGE - AFTER THE BEATLES - Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney - Howard Sounes

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




On the morning of 11 September 2001, Sir Paul McCartney and his fiancée Heather Mills were sitting in the first-class compartment of a commercial aeroplane at John F. Kennedy Airport, about to fly to London. As their aircraft taxied for take-off, the couple saw the familiar outline of Manhattan blemished by a pall of smoke rising from the World Trade Center. The captain asked everybody to remain calm as he found out what was happening. Passengers instinctively started calling family members on their cell phones. They were all still sitting there 17 minutes later when a second terrorist-guided aircraft slammed into the South Tower of the Trade Center, shortly after which came news of a third plane hitting the Pentagon and that, as a result, all commercial flights were grounded. When they had disembarked, Paul and Heather were driven back to Long Island where, like most people, the couple sat watching television coverage of these extraordinary events.

Paul and Heather had been in New York so that Heather could collect an award for her charity work. Since getting engaged to Sir Paul, she had become more prominent in public life on both sides of the Atlantic, giving the impression she expected to be taken notice of independently of her fiancé, though she wouldn’t have received anything like as much attention if her name hadn’t been linked with his. Linda had always been happy to be Paul’s consort, never trying to overshadow him. With Heather there was the sense of a rival ego. Ever since she first sold her story to the British tabloids, she had revelled in media attention, albeit pretty second-rate stuff. Now she swaggered on an international stage. In fact Heather soon bored of sitting at home with Paul in Amagansett and left him there to fulfil ‘urgent charity commitments’ in the U K.

When she returned to Long Island a few days later, Heather suggested to Paul that he ‘do a charity concert’ for 9/11. Paul wasn’t immediately keen. His new album, Driving Rain, was due out and he didn’t want to give the impression he was using the disaster to sell records. Heather told him not to be so silly. ‘Write a song about freedom,’ she suggested, picking a touchstone word used repeatedly by President George W. Bush in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, his speeches implying a link with Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, which the US subsequently invaded. Many observers, Paul included, came to see this as a blunder, there being no proven link between 9/11 and Saddam’s Iraq. ‘The opportunity that was lost was that people felt a massive natural sympathy for the people of America, and the political moves that followed 9/11 wasted that opportunity,’ he later remarked. ‘It was like someone in the playground got hit, and didn’t quite know who hit him, and he just decided to swipe out at the nearest person - and that turned out to be Iraq.’ In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, however, empathising with the hurt suffered by the American people, Paul acceded to his fiancée’s suggestion and set President Bush’s rhetoric to music.

The song ‘Freedom’, co-written with Heather, was one of McCartney’s most lumpen compositions, with a heavy-handed football chant of a tune and lyrics that read like the words culled from Republican bumper stickers:

This is my right, a right given by God
To live a free life, to live in freedom

Talkin’ about freedom
I’m talkin’ ’bout freedom
I will fight for the right
To live in freedom

Harvey Weinstein and the television company VH-1 were already planning a concert in aid of the firefighters and other emergency workers who had suffered and distinguished themselves during the attacks, with the Who committed to perform. Sir Paul was persuaded to abandon plans for his own 9/11 concert and join the VH-1 event. In doing so, he became the headliner, with some backstage bad feeling. ‘I think the Who feel that they were in before Paul,’ comments a VH-1 executive.

The Who were the first people contacted, and they agreed to anchor it, and when other people heard the Who were in they started coming in. At the same time Paul was in town and [he] became the anchor and headliner of the Concert for New York, but as you might understand there was a certain amount of confusion among some of the other people who felt that, ‘Gee, I committed before Paul did, how come it’s become Paul’s concert?’ … It starts to get into a touchy area because different people’s egos are involved.

Pete Townshend remembers events differently:

When I was approached by Harvey Weinstein, Paul had already made a commitment I think - pressed by Heather Mills who was on a plane on the runway at Kennedy with him watching as the towers fell. He was simply unsure how the show was going to unfold. We did not commit to play on condition of being headliners or anchors. We just committed to do it … It may be of course that our MANAGEMENT [sic] were peeved that Paul should take over the anchor spot. But we would always defer to the Stones or the Beatles (Macca).

The show at Madison Square Garden on 20 October 2001 was a highly emotional event featuring appearances by actors, sports stars and political figures, including New York’s Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Roughly half the acts were British, with David Bowie, Eric Clapton, Jagger and Richards, Sir Elton John and the Who all performing before Sir Paul took the stage in an FDNY T-shirt. Starting with ‘I’m Down’, he went on to perform two songs from his new album including the single ‘From a Lover to a Friend’, before closing with ‘Yesterday’, ‘Freedom’ and ‘Let It Be’, the finale being a foot-stomping reprise of ‘Freedom’, which was released as a single. The show, which raised millions for charity, naturally overshadowed the release of Driving Rain, a weak album that made little impact on the charts. Likewise, ‘Freedom’ just scraped into Billboard ’s Hot 100.

The momentous events of 9/11 also overshadowed the last days of George Harrison, who, having survived a knife attack by a maniac intruder at Friar Park in 1999, was in the US receiving treatment for cancer. His situation was terminal. Paul visited his old friend at Staten Island University Hospital in November. Theirs had always been a difficult relationship, from the Quarry Men until a year ago when the Anthology book was published. George had worked in the past with Genesis, a small British publishing house, to produce expensive, leather-bound limited editions of his book, I Me Mine, and his friend Derek Taylor’s memoir, Fifty Years Adrift. George had told the Apple board he wanted the Anthology book to come out initially in a similar, leather-bound edition. Paul was aghast. ‘Paul objected because he was vegetarian,’ reports George’s confidant Neil Innes. ‘So George was muttering about that. [The relationship] had got a bit strained towards the end with silly things.’ All bickering was now put to one side. Sitting by the hospital bed of his childhood friend, and colleague in one of the great musical adventures of the twentieth century, Paul took George’s hand in his and stroked it tenderly. As he left the hospital, he reflected that he’d never touched George like that before in all the years they’d known each other.

It was with fast-fading George in mind, and the loss of Linda, that Paul prepared for the first performances of his choral work Ecce Cor Meum. Beforehand, Paul and Heather stayed again in Oxford as guests of Magdalen President Anthony Smith, who found he liked Ms Mills no more now that she was Sir Paul’s fiancée.

You know when a woman loves a man she’s with, and there was no love there. Everyone could see it. Everyone around [them]. You could just see it, you could feel it, and he didn’t, or he had convinced himself that, because he was a good man, which he is, an extremely morally motivated person, in all things, I think, he felt he ought to love her. That’s my theory.

The first performance of Ecce Cor Meum was held in the new college chapel, then before a larger audience at the Sheldonian Theatre. The piece was demanding and under-rehearsed, which Paul’s collaborator David Matthews found surprising in light of the fact that the normally punctilious Paul had previously made as much time and money available as was necessary to ensure his classical works came off well. Perhaps he was distracted by his new love. In any event, Paul got up on stage to excuse Ecce Cor Meum as a work in progress. He would make changes before bringing it before an audience again.

Three weeks later, on 29 November 2001, George Harrison died aged 58. Paul received the news in a late-night telephone call from Olivia Harrison, who had her husband cremated in a private ceremony in California. The death was a momentous loss, the third Beatle to have left the stage before his time (counting Stuart Sutcliffe), and Paul seemed determined not to fumble his public reaction as he had when John died almost 21 years ago. Arranging to meet the press in the lane outside his Sussex estate, he spoke to reporters of how George was his childhood friend, a brave, beautiful, funny man whose music would live forever, revealing nothing of their difficult personal relationship. ‘I love him, like he’s my brother,’ he said mournfully as the crows cawed to each other in the trees.


In the new year, Paul took Heather back to India, where he bought her more jewellery, one of many ways in which he showed generosity towards his fiancée. He also advanced her £150,000 ($229,500) to decorate her new seaside home near Hove, writing off the original £800,000 home loan as a gift, and gave Heather a joint Coutts credit card - a useful accoutrement as they set out together on tour.

Initially planned as a spring tour of 20 North American cities, the so-called Driving USA tour grew into a 14-month round-the-world odyssey with a sense that Paul was seeking to demonstrate to his fiancée what a big star he was. Though this may seem unnecessary to anybody with the slightest interest in popular culture, Heather professed herself largely ignorant of Paul’s history, claiming not to know that classic songs that came on the radio - ‘Back in the USSR’, for example - were by the Beatles. Her favourite group was the Australian heavy rock act AC/DC.

Paul’s new road band featured the Americans Rusty Anderson and Abe Laboriel Jr from the Driving Rain sessions; he also rehired Englishman Paul ‘Wix’ Wickens who’d played keyboards on tour and on record with McCartney between 1989 and ’93. As an old hand, Wix told the Americans how exciting it would be to play with Paul on stage, ‘the right voice singing these songs, and you’re all part of it’. The last member to join the band was Californian Brian Ray, who would play guitar and bass (when Paul took up a different instrument). The musicians performed their first gig together when Paul sang ‘Freedom’ at Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans in February 2002, an event that also served to commemorate 9/11, the tour proper starting two months later in Oakland, California.

Having associated himself so closely with 9/11, Sir Paul continued to wrap himself in the American flag during his progress across the United States in 2002, literally waving the Stars and Stripes on stage in Oakland, while subtly encouraging stories about his shows ‘healing’ America as the Beatles were seen to do in the Sixties after the assassination of President Kennedy. While he chose his words carefully - ‘there is a sort of healing thing going on again, and I’m proud to be part of that … we didn’t set out to do that with this tour, but we’re here at the right time …’ - such sentiments could appear opportunistic.

Sir Paul’s journey across the USA was almost regal, in the style of a man who really was the king of pop, whatever Michael Jackson claimed. The routine was that Sir Paul and his fiancée arrived at the venue mid-afternoon in a black, presidential-style limousine, flanked by police outriders, the star letting his window down slightly to wave to the fans waiting on the rampway, with their cameras and old LPs, wailing ‘Paul! Paul!’ in the faint hope of an autograph. He then played a lengthy sound check before retiring to his private backstage area, cordoned off and personalised with an Indian theme - drapes, cushions and scented candles. Before the show, Paul received VIP guests here, did press interviews, and ate a vegetarian repast prepared by the nine-strong kitchen staff, who were briefed to serve ‘nothing with a face’, which included caviar. Fortunately, Heather was also vegetarian. Everybody else on tour was obliged to be vegetarian so long as they expected to eat at Paul’s expense.

As the doors opened and the punters swarmed into the arena, Paul selected his stage clothes from two racks of trousers, shirts and jackets, and began his final, pre-show ritual. First he drank a cup of tea, then he went into one the vast backstage bathrooms, a corner of which had been prepared for his ablutions, which included inhaling warm water to clear his airways. Next he collected his band - Abe, Brian, Rusty and Wix - who stiffened to attention when ‘the boss’ entered their room. They sang warm-up songs together, Paul enjoying a comical chorus of ‘Hey Hey We’re the Monkees’; he then accepted a ritual Strepsil throat lozenge from John Hammel, whom he gave a high five in return, sucked the sweet for a few moments, took it out and placed it on a speaker cabinet, the same speaker every night. Paul is a man of routine. He would then peek out at the audience, turning back from the curtain with a pantomime look of terror as if to say: ‘THERE’S TOO MANY PEOPLE OUT THERE - I CAN’T GO ON!’ Finally, he went into a huddle with his band, asking God for a good show. Despite all the demands on His time, God usually obliged.

On the other side of the curtain, the audience were being entertained by a pageant of actors in colourful costume - Indian god, Magritte man with umbrella, clowns and acrobats - who paraded down the aisles to ambient music, including snatches of Rushes, then mounted the stage in a Cirque du Soleil-style tableau. Just before the audience became too restless - ‘This is all very well, but when’s the darn show gonna begin?’ - McCartney stepped on stage to a roar of excited recognition. He stood there for a moment accepting the love as his band took their places, then struck up ‘Hello Goodbye’ from 1967, when the world was fab and nobody dreamed of terrorists crashing planes into skyscrapers. The 15,000 or so people in the audience - a wide range of ages these days from mothers with their babies to the elderly - visibly relaxed as the music smoothed their cares. As guitarist Brian Ray observed, the concert-goers seemed to grow younger before his eyes.

Ever since his watershed tour of 1989 / 90, Paul had increased the Beatles content of his live show. Back in 1989 he played about 14 Beatles songs each night, slightly less than half the concert. Thirteen years later he played approximately 23 Beatles songs as part of a longer, 36-number set, with an all-Beatles encore. Tried and tested solo and Wings material such as ‘Live and Let Die’ filled out the middle of the programme, together with one or two recent numbers. Each night Paul spoke to the audience about his fiancée as an introduction to ‘Your Loving Flame’. Other numbers now assumed a memorial purpose. Paul played ‘My Love’ for Linda, something that seemingly irritated Heather. During a solo acoustic set, Paul introduced ‘Here Today’ as a song he’d written ‘after my dear friend John passed away’. He then exchanged his Martin guitar for a ukulele, telling the audience how, when he used to go round to George Harrison’s house, the ukuleles would come out after dinner, his friend being a George Formby fan. ‘I said to him, “I do a little song on ukulele.” I played it for him and I’ll do it for you tonight as a tribute to George.’ Paul proceeded to perform George’s most lovely song, ‘Something’, accompanying himself on ukulele, a very touching moment indeed, introduced in such a way that audiences might be forgiven for thinking this was the one and only night Paul had paid this musical tribute to his friend. In fact, once he realised how well it worked, Paul gave his ukulele ‘Something’, with a virtually verbatim prologue, every night. It became as much a fixture of his show as the audience response section of ‘Hey Jude’ and the explosions in ‘Live and Let Die’.

Despite the routine, the concerts were entertaining and moving, the spectacle enhanced by huge display screens, as big as those in Times Square, a montage of colours and themed images, pictures of Beatlemania accompanying ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ for example. At the end of this particular song Paul had an alarming habit of tossing his famous Höfner violin bass to John Hammel, whose other duties included ensuring the boss’s guitars had new strings for every show, standing guard while he briefly but warmly greeted his VIP visitors backstage, and pouring a celebratory glass of Dom Pérignon for Paul and Heather on the bus afterwards.

In pictures taken by Paul’s official tour photographer, Bill Bernstein, Paul and Heather presented the image of happiness on tour, but away from the cameras there were ugly scenes between the couple. In mid-May, the Driving USA tour reached Florida, Paul and Heather checking into the Turnberry Isle Resort and Club in Miami. On Saturday 18 May, Paul played the second of two shows at the National Car Rental Center in Fort Lauderdale, returning to the Miami hotel with Heather afterwards. This was the end of the first part of his tour and naturally an opportunity to party. In the early hours of the following morning, hotel guests awoke to hear Paul and Heather having a blazing row. Paul was heard shouting: ‘I don’t want to marry you. The wedding’s off!’ Heather’s engagement ring was then apparently flung - by an unknown hand - from their hotel window. Told that a valuable ring had ‘fallen’ from Sir Paul’s suite, hotel staff spent a good part of the following day searching for it, hiring metal detectors to help them do the job. The ring was eventually found and returned to Sir Paul, who was by this time back in England, where he had gone to help celebrate his monarch’s Golden Jubilee.

To mark Queen Elizabeth II’s 50 years on the throne a unique pop concert was staged on 3 June 200263 inside the usually private grounds of Buckingham Palace. The bill included a roll-call of British rock stars - rock music being one of Britain’s more successful post-war industries - headed naturally by Sir Paul. It was good to see such a quintessentially English artist at the centre of such a very British event, especially after Paul had wrapped himself in the American flag on tour in the USA, the star playing Beatles songs on his Magic Piano in the grounds of Buckingham Palace, the music relayed to a million people outside the garden walls on what was a beautiful, soft summer’s evening in the capital. At the end of the show, Paul played a cheeky reprise of ‘Her Majesty’, the bonus ditty that concluded Abbey Road, daring to flirt with a monarch who was 43 when he made that album, and was now a grandmother of 76. At the end of the show, when the Queen came on stage to join Sir Paul and the other artists, McCartney suggested to Her Majesty that they might hold a show like this in her back garden every year, to which she replied tartly that she didn’t think so.

Apart from coming home to play for his Queen, this summer break in Sir Paul’s tour schedule gave Paul and Heather an opportunity to get married. For they had patched up their relationship after that quarrel in Miami. In acknowledgement of the musician’s Irish ancestry, the wedding was held in County Monaghan, the land of Paul’s maternal ancestors. The Mohins had been poor farmers, so poor Grandfather Mohin left Ireland to make his living on the mainland. Two generations later, his grandson returned as one of the richest stars in show business, so rich he hired a castle for his big day, booking himself and his guests into Castle Leslie, an hour south of Belfast. The whole affair was meant to be secret, but the castle’s octogenarian owner Sir John Leslie let the cat out of the bag a week in advance when he told journalists: ‘It’s next Tuesday, but it’s top secret.’ The world’s press then stood at the gates of Castle Leslie and watched enormous supplies of food, booze, sound equipment, fireworks and flowers trucked onto the estate.

Paul’s Liverpool family were summoned to Heathrow Airport, where they were put on a chartered plane to Ireland. Brother Mike was to be best man again. Ringo Starr led the list of celebrity friends, who also included Dave Gilmour, Chrissie Hynde, Twiggy Lawson, Sir George Martin and Nitin Sawhney. Once again, Yoko Ono was notably absent. Heather’s aged father John Mills wasn’t invited either. While Paul’s daughters Mary and Stella attended, there was no sight of Heather and James, both of whom were understood to be against Dad’s second marriage.

The ceremony itself was to be held in St Salvator’s Church on the Leslie estate at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday 11 June. The guests assembled inside the seventeenth-century church, where they waited, and waited, press helicopters thudding overhead as photographers took aerial pictures, Sir Paul pacing up and down nervously, a sprig of lavender from Dad’s bush at Rembrandt in his button-hole for luck. He needed it. Brother Mike was present and correct, unlike when Paul married Lin, but the bride-to-be was missing. ‘We were all sitting in the church for an hour, our bums on the hard seats, packed; where are they?’ recalls cousin Mike Robbins. ‘We’re an hour waiting for her, waiting to come down the [aisle].’ Finally the music started. ‘Thank Christ for that! By then we are talking to each other. Everybody is standing up and talking in this little church, talking to people you’ve never met before.’ Some say Heather had been delayed putting on her wedding dress, others that she and Paul had had a last-minute row. In any event it was with a sense of relief that the couple emerged from the church as husband and wife to be showered with confetti.

The reception was lavish. ‘A huge marquee was erected to give a vast dinner for 300 guests served on gold plates, which the guests were told to keep as souvenirs,’ reports Sir John Leslie. The food had an Indian theme, the wines rare and expensive vintages. The dinner proved too rich for some. Notes Mike Robbins, whose enjoyment of the big day was further tempered by suspicions about the bride:

You couldn’t get anything decent to eat. It was magnificent. There were Indian maidens in saris giving you little bhaji things, [but] I hate bloody foreign food. I thought, Hasn’t anybody got a sausage roll or a pork pie? But, oh, it was magnificent. The flowers! It cost bloody millions, must have done. And by then we knew, the family knew, my family are not dopey, we knew this was a wrong’un.

Paul gave a hilarious wedding speech, causing his guests to cry with laughter. ‘I don’t recall any of it, but I remember thinking, God, he’s a sharp cookie,’ says Nitin Sawhney. ‘He’s very, very funny. And he will say things with absolutely no fear, [which] makes people very funny.’ Then everybody adjourned to the second marquee, where there was a band and dancing, at the end of which Sir Paul and Lady McCartney boarded Paul’s motor boat the Barnaby Rudge, which he’d had brought over from Rye and bedecked with flowers. A colossal fireworks display erupted as the married couple chugged away down the lake cheered by their relatives and friends.

Six years hence, when this union ended in a divorce court, telling personal details emerged about the build-up to the wedding, including the fact that Paul continued to wear Linda’s ring until the day itself, then exchanged it for a new ring; and that he and Heather used contraception until their wedding night. In other words, he didn’t seem sure he was doing the right thing until the last minute. Then he made the mistake of his life.


Sir Paul’s performance at Buckingham Palace was another step in an evolving relationship with his monarch. It started in a sense when Paul won a prize for a schoolboy essay about her Coronation. Playing before members of the Royal Family at the Royal Variety Show ten years later was a landmark in the Beatles’ story, two years after which the Queen bestowed MBEs upon the fab four, unprecedented for pop stars at the time. Over subsequent years, Paul had been presented to the Royal Family many times, been invited to dinners, performed at St James’ Palace, received a personal donation from the Queen for LIPA, then welcomed her to his school, after which he’d been knighted and asked to headline her Golden Jubilee concert. His easy manner with his monarch showed how well acquainted they now were.

That July, the Queen paid an official visit to Liverpool, taking the time to call in on the Walker Art Gallery where Paul was showing his paintings. ‘I had to mind him on the day the Queen came,’ recalls Liverpudlian journalist Gillian Reynolds, who was active in raising money for the city’s museums. ‘It’s a bit like minding the Pope. Everybody wanted to touch the hem of his garment.’ Gillian was struck as others have been by Paul’s easy, conversational manner with the Queen. Whereas almost everybody was obsequious and flustered in Her Majesty’s presence, Paul remained relaxed with a woman he had clearly got to know quite well over the past four decades.

It was really strange because he was so cheery and chatty with the Queen. He said, ‘Oh, Your Majesty, you’re a keen photographer, we’d love to show some of your work here in the Walker.’ It took my breath away … She gave him this very roguish look and she said, ‘I bet you would!’ … She was really quite flirtatious with him - acknowledging a somewhat closer relationship than one might expect.

After a summer break, Paul resumed his North American tour, renamed the Back in the US tour, travelling with Heather, who was entitled to call herself Lady McCartney since their wedding but tended to style herself Heather Mills McCartney. She took the opportunity of being in America to promote a revised version of her autobiography, retitled A Single Step, from which had been excised the more lurid details of her affair with Milos the Yugoslav ski instructor, with new pages added that gave a surprisingly candid insight into her relationship with Sir Paul. In the book, Heather revealed intimate details of their courtship as well as making it plain how much she disapproved of his smoking marijuana. Interviewed by the broadcaster Barbara Walters on TV, Heather made further complaints about hubby. ‘I am married to the most famous person in the world and that is very unfortunate for me,’ she said, making it clear she didn’t like her charity work being overshadowed by Paul. Indeed, she seemed to find her husband generally annoying. ‘This is a man who has had his own way his entire life,’ she told Walters. ‘When you become famous at 19, it is sometimes hard to listen to other people’s opinions.’

Then came the first in a series of alleged marital arguments. According to court documents later leaked to the press (we shall come to the how and why later), when Paul’s tour reached Los Angeles that autumn Heather complained to her husband about the Barbara Walters interview, in which the host had tackled her on some of the less flattering stories emerging about her early life. Paul apparently dismissed Heather’s concerns, saying she was in a mood. Heather decided he was drunk. The row allegedly escalated when they got back to their LA home. According to Heather’s account later set down in legalese: ‘The Petitioner [Sir Paul] grabbed the Respondent [Heather] by the neck and pushed her over a coffee table. He then went outside, and in his drunken state he fell down a hill, cutting his arm (which remains scarred to this day).’

This alleged incident occurred shortly before a break in the tour. Heather stayed in the US, appearing on Larry King Live. Her experience with Barbara Walters had not put her off American chat shows. Indeed, she appeared repeatedly on Larry King in the months to come, usually to talk about her charity work, though she increasingly found herself facing tough questions about her past. Larry was as likely as Barbara to put her on the spot. ‘Did you ever have to prostitute yourself?’ King asked Heather directly on 1 November 2002.

‘No, never!’

On the day of this broadcast, on the other side of the Atlantic, the people of Campbeltown were commemorating the life of Paul’s first wife with the opening of a memorial garden in the wee toon. After Linda’s death, local people contacted Paul to ask if he might help them open an art gallery in his wife’s name, with a permanent display of her photographs. Paul’s vet, Alastair Cousin, went to see the musician in London about it and gained the impression Paul was all for the gallery, that is until Heather Mills came on the scene. ‘It was put very much down the list of priorities as far as he was concerned … So I’m afraid that really never happened, which was a big disappointment.’ Instead, the town created a memorial garden, the centrepiece of which is an amateurish bronze of Linda, sculpted by Paul’s cousin Jane Robbins.

Sir Paul didn’t attend the opening, and was rarely seen in Kintyre these days. Heather didn’t seem to care for a place so heavily loaded with memories of her husband’s first marriage. And the star himself was back on the road, playing shows in Mexico, then Japan. In November 2002 a new double live album appeared, Back in the US (marketed as Back in the World outside the United States). Its chief point of interest was that Paul unilaterally reversed the Lennon-McCartney credits on the Beatles songs featured - all songs Paul had written alone, or with limited help from John - to ‘composed by Paul McCartney and John Lennon’. Yoko was not impressed. Even Ringo was quoted as saying it was ‘underhand’. Still, the lone two surviving Beatles appeared together on stage at the Royal Albert Hall in November to honour George Harrison, a year and a day since his death. In a long, perfectly paced tribute show - featuring many old friends, from 82-year-old Ravi Shankar to Eric Clapton - Paul played ‘Something’ on the ukulele, with Ritchie, Eric and the house band coming in halfway through, which proved an even more effective arrangement than Paul’s solo version. In future, he’d do the song this way. ‘I was choked with emotion at the Concert for George when he sang “Something”,’ comments Ravi Shankar. ‘It is amazing to see how much he [still] loves to perform and sing.’

Paul now set out on the European leg of what was becoming a world tour. ‘ [It was] as if we were listening to the best Beatles’ tribute band in the world,’ wrote Ray Connolly perspicaciously in his Daily Mail review of the first night in Paris. A few days later, in his Barcelona dressing room, Sir Paul gave to the Daily Mirror what now reads as an ironic comment on his second marriage: ‘Heather said to me this morning, “I don’t think of you as rich, you know.”’ Only rich enough to give Heather a cash gift of £250,000 in December ($382,500), after which he set up a £360,000-a-year allowance for his wife ($550,800), paid quarterly. As the tour progressed, more unflattering stories began to emerge about Heather at home in England where, in early May, Channel 4 broadcast an investigation, Heather Mills: The Real Mrs McCartney, which contrasted her account of her life in print with what people who knew her remembered. There appeared to be gaps between the story and the truth.

A childhood girlfriend disputed details in Heather’s memoirs about the two of them being held prisoner by a paedophile in Tyne and Wear. She sued Heather on the grounds that the model’s memoir had identified her without permission, and falsified the events themselves, and won compensation. Charles Stapley, effectively Heather’s stepfather, likewise disputed Heather’s published story of running away from him and her mother to join the fair on Clapham Common. ‘When she disappeared at the weekends, and she was still at school, she did go and sleep in the back of a truck with a chap who worked on the dodgems, but that was just at weekends,’ he said, describing Heather as a ‘damaged personality’. The Clapham jeweller who’d employed Heather as a teenager alleged that she stole far more from him than she had admitted to in her books, including gold chains worth £25,000 ($38,250). ‘She virtually plundered the shop,’ asserted Jim Guy. Most damaging was the testimony of two women associates of Adnan Khashoggi who spoke of Heather enjoying the high life with wealthy Arabs in London and Paris at the time she claimed to be working as a model for a French cosmetics firm. Ros Ashley, who said she met Heather in Khashoggi’s London hotel, and allegedly groomed her for success in this twilight world, said her friend’s ambition was to ‘meet a wealthy man [who] would be able to give her a good lifestyle and a little bit of prestige and status’. It seemed she had been looked after by a Lebanese businessman for a time, but had excelled herself in marrying Sir Paul.

In May 2003, McCartney’s world tour reached Rome, the star playing two prestige shows at the Colosseum, a relatively small acoustic show inside the ancient amphitheatre on 10 May, followed by a free rock concert for half a million people outside the stadium the following day. This was the biggest show of Paul’s career to date. Heather was again upset about stories in the press, it would later be alleged, and again Paul seemed indifferent to her concerns. ‘An argument ensued in the bathroom during which [Sir Paul] became angry and pushed [Heather] into the bath’, according to the divorce papers later leaked to the press. The couple apparently argued over Heather’s decision not to accompany her husband to an after-show party, choosing to have dinner with her sister Fiona instead. Sir Paul allegedly withdrew his security people ‘in a fit of pique’, leaving Heather unprotected among a mob of fans.

Ten days later, Paul played the AOL Stadium in Hamburg, introducing Heather to his old St Pauli friends Horst Fascher and Astrid Kirchherr, who in common with so many of Paul’s associates didn’t warm to his second wife. Astrid felt Heather had taken advantage of Paul’s vulnerability. ‘He was so protected by Linda, and surrounded with her love and care, that he was like an unborn baby towards women, and [Heather] just could roll him around her fingers,’ she remarks. ‘Then being handicapped and good-looking, he probably felt sorry [for] this woman with one leg. [But] she turned out a bitch.’ Few people were able to be so candid to Paul’s face of course. His children had told him what they thought of Heather, but he’d rejected their counsel. There was increasingly an element of the Emperor’s New Clothes about this marriage.

Away from Paul’s hearing, Heather was a figure of ridicule, some of it cruel. It wasn’t her fault she’d lost a leg, and indeed she had coped bravely with her disability, but being a monopod seemed funny to some. Sick jokes went round pubs and offices, as they had when Paul married Linda. ‘What do you call a dog with Wings?’ people had asked in the 1970s.

The punch line was: ‘Linda McCartney’.

Now they asked: ‘What’s got three legs and lives on a farm?’

‘Paul McCartney and Heather Mills.’

Sir Paul didn’t hear any of this. He lived in a world where everybody told him how great he was and every year brought new levels of achievement. He was reaching a stage in his career where it wasn’t enough just to play huge, sold-out shows. His tours had to include special event concerts, such as giving that first pop concert at the Colosseum. For years Paul had wanted to play behind the Iron Curtain, too. He had grown up in a Cold War world, whereby the USSR in particular was perceived as an impenetrable, sinister place, so he found the idea of playing in Red Square enticing. In post-glasnost Russia, Paul was given his chance.

Before the Moscow show, Paul and Heather were granted an audience in the Kremlin with President Vladimir Putin. The McCartneys told the President they were campaigning against landmines, a subject he deflected deftly. When Putin said he probably wouldn’t be attending the concert itself, Paul treated the Russian leader to a private performance of ‘Let It Be’. In the event the President did come to the show in Red Square on 24 May 2003. Never had there been a better place to sing ‘Back in the USSR’, with its ironic Cold War lyrics.

The world tour ended with another big open-air concert at the King’s Dock in Liverpool on 1 June 2003 (Paul played the same venue in 1990), after which the star took Heather to Long Island, where she’d already upset the locals. Paul was a familiar and popular figure in the Hamptons. Storeowners and restaurateurs had known him and his family for years, and appreciated the unostentatious way Paul conducted himself on holiday. One of his favourite haunts was the Amagansett pizzeria, Felice’s Restaurant, run by an Italian family who had also known and loved Linda. They couldn’t stand Heather. ‘I don’t want to talk about her!’ says restaurateur Alda Lupo Stipanoe, throwing up her hands in dismay when Heather’s name is mentioned. ‘Nothing like the first wife. The first wife was a lady.’ Staff in the town library likewise found the new Lady McCartney impossible. ‘He is very charming. She was a complete bitch - rude, sense of importance, everything he isn’t,’ comments one librarian. Amagansett is where the next alleged domestic row occurred, according to the divorce papers. Heather had made her disapproval of marijuana clear, yet pot-smoking was an old habit with her husband. The allegation is this: ‘In Long Island in August 2003, [Heather] asked [Sir Paul] if he had been smoking marijuana. He became very angry, yelled at her, grabbed her neck and started choking her.’

Despite apparently being at each other’s throats, the couple returned to the UK to attend Stella McCartney’s 30 August wedding, on the Isle of Bute, to publisher Alasdhair Willis. Then they flew back down to Sussex. Like most of Paul’s homes, the Sussex estate was imbued with Linda’s memory. Since Lin’s death, Paul had hardly used Blossom Farm. The house they built in the 1980s was left as a shrine to his late wife. When he and Heather visited the estate, they stayed on Woodlands Farm, an adjacent property he’d acquired in 1989. As the name suggests, this new part of the estate included extensive woodland, in which was a large man-made lake. Paul had commissioned a pavilion and lodge to be built on the lakeside, the pavilion being a glass-fronted structure from which he could observe the wildlife, while the lodge was a substantial two-storey log cabin in which Sir Paul intended to live with Heather and their baby for, having suffered one miscarriage, Heather was pregnant again with their child. The Cabin, as he and Heather named the lakeside lodge, was under construction and was due to be finished in 2004.

While Paul and Heather were on the estate in September 2003 they had another in their series of alleged domestic rows, this time during dinner, according to the News of the World newspaper, which reported that the cleaner came in the next day to find a mark on the wall over the chair in which Paul sat, indicating that a bottle of tomato ketchup had been hurled at the star. Food was all over the place, with crockery, glasses and lamps broken. There was no reference to this incident, which would have been a story against Heather, in the leaked divorce papers.

All of which may help explain why Sir Paul was in such a foul mood when he went walkabout in London in the early hours of Friday 19 September 2003. Having dined in Soho with John Hammel and his PR man Geoff Baker, Paul decided he wanted to take a look at the American illusionist David Blaine, who was staging a fast in a Perspex box suspended next to Tower Bridge. This stunt had attracted widespread ridicule, Londoners coming by to heckle Blaine for doing something so asinine. When Sir Paul rolled up at Tower Bridge at 1:00 a.m., Geoff Baker hailed a press photographer, Kevin Wheal, who was watching the stunt for the Evening Standard. ‘Oi mate!’ Baker called out. ‘Macca’s over here. Do you want to come and get a picture?’ Baker urged the photographer to be quick, intending to introduce him to Paul first and ask if he would pose for a picture, which he would normally; ‘he likes the press, you know, to an extent’. Unfortunately, Wheal started running at the star, as Geoff recalls. ‘I thought, Oh fuck it! It was the running that caused the freak out.’

McCartney told the snapper he didn’t want to be photographed. ‘Listen mate, I’ve come to see this stupid cunt,’ Sir Paul said, indicating David Blaine and pushing Wheal away; ‘you’re not going to take a picture of me tonight - Fuck off, I’m a pedestrian on a private visit.’ Wheal says it was evident McCartney had been drinking.

A member of the public came up and asked if he could shake Paul’s hand. ‘Fuck off,’ replied McCartney. He then told Baker he was fired and ordered his driver to take him home to St John’s Wood.

The next day’s papers were full of this delicious story, which combined the ongoing comedy of Blaine’s stupid stunt with the novelty of a foul-mouthed Sir Paul McCartney f-ing and blinding in public when he was apparently the worse for drink. A police officer at the scene was quoted as saying: ‘Mr McCartney came down here rather drunk [and] was very abusive.’ Kevin Wheal made a complaint of common assault, which came to nothing, and Geoff Baker was reinstated as Paul’s PR man. Baker strenuously denies claims that Paul was drunk. ‘It was me that was drunk,’ he says, loyally taking the blame for this most unfortunate, out-of-character incident.

Paul spent much of the next month lying low in his house on Cavendish Avenue, occasionally escorting his pregnant wife across the road for a walk in Regent’s Park. Heather was then admitted to the nearby Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth where, on 28 October 2003, she gave birth to a baby girl they named Beatrice Milly, the first name in honour of Heather’s late mother, the second after one of Paul’s aunts. The star was a father again at 61, and caught in an increasingly difficult second marriage.