THE EVER-PRESENT PAST - AFTER THE BEATLES - Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney - Howard Sounes

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




Heather Mills didn’t believe Sir Paul was only worth £387 million ($ 592m). He’d told his wife he was twice as rich, as her barrister informed the judge during a preliminary divorce hearing. Mr Justice Sir Hugh Bennett, a near contemporary of Sir Paul’s, having been born in 1943, and a fellow knight of the realm, asked for updated estimates of the star’s assets as a result, but the difference didn’t prove significant.

Heather claimed to be short of cash so, while the divorce was thrashed out, Sir Paul agreed to pay his wife an interim sum of £5.5 million ($ 8.4m), which would give her enough to live on and buy a house. She chose a large, secluded property at Robertsbridge, 13 miles from Peasmarsh. This way they could both have access to Bea, and take turns ferrying her to a local preparatory school. Unlike Paul’s older children, Bea would be educated privately.

As his second marriage drew to an expensive conclusion, Sir Paul severed another important connection. He had signed with EMI as a young Beatle, and released all his subsequent UK records with the company, but the star now decided the old firm wasn’t up to the challenge of marketing his new album, Memory Almost Full. Like most major record labels, EMI was suffering in the age of digital downloads, with several of its biggest acts voicing dissatisfaction with their sales figures, on top of which the company had recently been taken over by a private equity firm. Paul began talking to Hear Music, a new company co-founded by the Starbucks chain, whose executives impressed Sir Paul partly by promising that, if he signed with them, Memory Almost Full would be on sale not only in the company’s coffee shops in the West but in 400 Starbucks in China, one of the few territories he hadn’t yet conquered.

With the exception of the lovesick Driving Rain, Paul’s rock albums had been getting more interesting lately, and Memory Almost Full turned out to be a particularly good listen, opening with the party pop of ‘Dance Tonight’ then plunging into more introspective territory. After young love, soured love has inspired more good songs than any other human experience. Bob and Sara Dylan’s problems in the 1970s led to Dylan making his supreme album Blood on the Tracks, for example. While Memory Almost Full wasn’t that strong, it followed in the same tradition. Paul expresses bitter-sweet thanks to a lover whom one presumes is Heather in ‘Gratitude’, acknowledging that she’d done him wrong, but he couldn’t hate her for it. Meanwhile ‘You Tell Me’ found Paul exploring memories of Linda, the focus of the song given away by the reference to a red cardinal, a bird native to the Arizona desert. Other songs looked back to the Beatles, Paul’s ‘ever-present past’. Once, he’d tried to ignore his history. Now he dealt with it squarely. The lovely ‘That Was Me’ presents a musical slide show of his early life, from scout camp to sweating cobwebs on stage at the Cavern as the Beatles worked their way up and out of Liverpool and onto TV. ‘That was me!’ Paul yelped, as if surprised to realise the glossy young man on the Ed Sullivan Show was the sexagenarian singing now.

There are no better lyrics on Memory Almost Full than in ‘The End of the End’ in which the star faces down death itself. Composed at Cavendish Avenue on Dad’s old NEMS piano, the lyric is original, poetic and true in way that had eluded Paul for much of his career, with simple and pleasing rhymes that remain in the mind, the second verse of the song being especially elegant:

On the day that I die I’d like jokes to be told,
And stories of old to be rolled out like carpets
that children have played on,
And laid on while listening to stories of old.

Yet Paul wasn’t ready to stop. That autumn he was seen with a new girlfriend, a dark, pencil-thin American named Nancy Shevell. Almost a quarter of a century Paul’s junior, Nancy was the daughter of a New Jersey trucking magnate, Myron ‘Mike’ Shevell, who’d led a colourful life. A fraud investigation caused Shevell’s companies to go bankrupt in the 1970s, after which he took over New England Motor Freight (NEMF), a small firm located in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Sopranos territory, building the company up into a huge concern with a $400 million turnover (£261m), facing accusations of racketeering in the process.

Nancy Shevell was involved in this family firm. She joined NEMF in 1983 after graduating from Arizona State, the same university Linda attended. The following year, Nancy married law student Bruce Blakeman, who became prominent in the political life of New Jersey. In 1988, when Nancy Shevell was a Vice President of NEMF, the US government sued the trucking firm, with other defendants, for colluding with the Mafia. The chief defendant in the case was the head of the Genovese crime family, Vincent ‘Chin’ Gigante, whom Mike Shevell allegedly conspired with in hiring labour. In bringing the court action, the government sought, in part, to stop Nancy’s father ‘endeavoring to obtain the assistance of organised crime figures regarding any labor relations matters’. Shevell entered a ‘Consent Decree’ by which he agreed to restore union members ‘who had been deprived of work as a result of the sweetheart arrangement’ and promised not to get involved in labour negotiations again. NEMF kept on trucking.

Apart from helping run the family firm, Nancy and her husband raised a son named Arlen, maintaining homes in New York and the Hamptons, where they first became friendly with Paul and Linda. The Blakemans were still married, though separated, when Nancy began seeing Sir Paul in October 2007. In many ways, Nancy was a similar woman to Linda: she was American, Jewish, the moneyed daughter of a tough, self-made man. She had also suffered a bout with breast cancer and, again like Linda, was a denizen of New York and Long Island. Nancy’s Manhattan apartment was a 10-minute walk from the building where Linda used to live on the Upper East Side. In romancing Nancy, Paul was retracing his past.

The couple were first photographed together on a beach in the Hamptons in the autumn of 2007. When he got home to London, Paul went to see Nitin Sawhney, who’d developed a successful career since they first worked together. Sawhney had invited his superstar friend to contribute to his new album, London Undersound. The musicians had talked about Paul doing a song about his experiences with the paparazzi during his relationship with Heather Mills, but Paul was more exercised now about the photographers who had caught him with Nancy. ‘He came in feeling quite passionate and saying, “I’m amazed they managed to take a picture of me. I didn’t think they were around. I really didn’t expect that,”’ recalls Sawhney. ‘In one way he was quite admiring of it. He kind of laughed it off. But you could see it wasn’t something he felt that comfortable with either.’ These sentiments went into ‘My Soul’, in which Paul spoke and sang about photographers stealing the soul. Sawhney chose not to improve Paul’s vocal digitally, allowing the star to sound his age. ‘Some people have said Oh he sounds a bit old! I think, well, good. He’s not a young bloke.’

Paul’s reaction to the paparazzi was mild compared to that of his estranged wife, who allowed herself to be endlessly wound up by the media. On the morning of 31 October, Heather invited herself onto the morning television show GMTV to rant about the British press, going ‘right over the top’ in the words of the divorce judge. Heather began by replying to the most damaging stories that had been published about her in recent months, her alleged past as a porn model and prostitute, stating that she had never made a secret of being a ‘glamour model’. As a teenager she aspired to be a celebrity topless model, like Maria Whittaker. ‘That was the thing to be in the Eighties.’ She had written about topless modelling in her memoirs. ‘Paul knew about my glamour-modelling. ’ Because of the photo-shoot she’d done for Die Freuden Der Liebe, the press now portrayed her, in her words, as a ‘hard core porn queen’. Her face expressed incredulity, as if she’d never seen the pictures of herself with her legs open.

Becoming increasingly worked up, she reminded television viewers of the very worst the papers had written: ‘They’ve called me a whore, a gold-digger, a fantasist, a liar, the most unbelievably hurtful things, and I’ve stayed quiet for my daughter, but we’ve had death threats. I’ve been close to suicide. So upset about this,’ she said, apparently overcome with emotion, though it looked like she was pretending to cry. ‘I’ve had worse press than a paedophile, or a murderer,’ she wailed, ‘and I’ve done nothing but charity for 20 years.’

Heather compared the way photographers treated her to the experience of the late Princess of Wales. ‘What did the paparazzi do to Diana? They chased her and they killed her,’ she stated, in an extravagant and inaccurate analogy.66 Heather then referred to her recent appearance on the American TV show, Dancing with the Stars. ‘The only respite I got [from the media] was going to America and I did Dancing with the Stars, because our charity was so damaged and we needed the money. I was the only person on the show that gave the money to the charity …’ (The impression was that she had given all the money to charity. When the divorce judge came to study the paperwork he found Heather had been paid $ 200,000 [then worth about £110,000] from which she donated £50,000 to the vegetarian group Viva! - which, by the by, wasn’t a registered charity at the time.)

Turning to her divorce case, Heather hinted darkly that she was the victim of a conspiracy. ‘There is so much fear from a certain party of the truth coming out that lots of things have been put out and done,’ she said mysteriously, repeating that she’d had death threats. ‘That means my daughter’s life is at risk, because she’s with me all the time.’ Despite the millions Paul had given her, Heather claimed she had to borrow money to hire bodyguards. ‘A certain part of the tabloid media created such a hate campaign against me, they put my life and my daughter’s life at risk. And that’s why I considered killing myself,’ she said, welling up again, ‘because I thought if I’m dead, she’s safe, and she can be with her father, and that is the truth. That’s the truth.’

Heather was ridiculed for this TV appearance, which apart from being a hysterical display seemingly contravened a legal agreement that she wouldn’t talk about the case in public. As a result, Heather’s relationship with her legal advisors broke down and she began representing herself in the case. Her outburst was also in marked contrast to the dignified silence maintained by Sir Paul. A hint of what he was feeling came when he said, in reply to a question about the divorce: ‘As Winston Churchill once said, “If you’re going through Hell, keep going!”’ But he said no more.


The gothic towers of the Royal Courts of Justice were cloaked in London fog as Sir Paul McCartney was driven down the Strand on Monday 11 February 2008, day one of a week of hearings during which his divorce would be settled. Seeing the press photographers erecting their ladders outside the main entrance of the High Court, which looks like a cross between a medieval church and an English public school as imagined by J.K. Rowling, Sir Paul ordered his driver to take him round the back way. He was familiar with the building. It is where he came in 1971 to sue his fellow Beatles.

Heather was already inside, a sharp-faced blonde in a pink blouse, black skirt and black boots, her false leg clumping on the flagstones as she strode down the corridor to Court 34. Having parted company with her lawyers, the famous charity worker was representing herself with the help of three ‘McKenzie friends’, a system whereby litigants in person are able to have people in court to advise them. In Heather’s case these were her sister Fiona, a solicitor advocate named David Rosen, and an American attorney Michael Shilub. In contrast, Sir Paul was represented by two of the most expensive and formidable lawyers in the land, Nicholas Mostyn QC and solicitor Fiona Shackleton.

A surprisingly slight figure in person, Sir Paul entered the corridor with a bouncy step, wearing a pinstripe suit, white shirt and tie, a scarf round his neck, non-leather shoes on his feet with thick, moulded soles. At 65, the grey was showing again at the roots of his tinted hair, which had been arranged to disguise where he was thinning, while his sagging jowls carried a trace of winter tan. He was nevertheless still handsome and affable. He wished the ladies and gentlemen of the press a friendly ‘good morning’, holding the door open for Ms Shackleton as they made their way into the ornate, wood-panelled courtroom, from which the press were excluded.

Inside Court 34, Heather asked Justice Bennett for a £125 million settlement ($191.2m). She said this vast sum would enable her to support herself and Bea in the style they had become accustomed to, allowing her to buy a new London home (in the £10 million [$15 m] price range), a $4.5 million (£ 3m) New York apartment and an office in Brighton, giving her a total of seven residences, all of which had to be staffed, naturally. The balance of the divorce payment would be invested to generate an income of £ 3.25 million a year ($4.97m), on which she expected to be able to get by.

Paul’s barristers argued in reply that Heather should leave the marriage with total assets of no more than £15 million ($22.9m), on top of which Sir Paul would pay for Beatrice’s nanny, education and security. Heather addressed the judge personally, relating details of Paul’s alleged assault on her with a wine glass in April 2006, also claiming her husband had colluded with the press in a hate campaign against her. The arguments went on all week. On Friday, a Beatles fan managed to approach Sir Paul in the corridor outside the courtroom with a copy of the White Album for signature. Paul refused. When the fan told Heather, she remarked mischievously: ‘That’s a pity. You are the sort of person who made him what he is today.’

When the couple failed to agree a settlement within the week, Justice Bennett retired to formulate his own judgment. As Sir Paul waited, he consoled Nancy Shevell, whose unmarried 50-year-old brother Jon, a fellow executive with the family trucking firm, had been found dead of an overdose at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Justice Bennett emailed his draft judgment to Paul and Heather, who were called back to the High Court on Monday 17 March 2008 for the conclusion of their case. Paul was in a good mood when he came to court that morning, burbling to himself - ‘bup-bup-bup!’ - as he mounted the steps to Court 34. A more subdued Heather followed, dressed for the big day in a curious harlequin trouser suit of many colours.

Behind the ‘No Admittance’ sign, Justice Bennett read his 58-page judgment aloud to the McCartneys. The headline result was that Sir Paul should pay Lady McCartney a lump sum of £16.5 million ($25.2m), meaning that, with the wealth she had acquired during their marriage, the charity worker would walk away with cash and assets worth £24.3 million ($37.1m), which was £100 million less than she’d asked for, and roughly what Paul had offered her two years ago. In addition, Paul would pay approximately £ 35,000 a year ($ 53,000) for Beatrice’s nanny and education. As much as anybody who has to go to court to end their marriage can be said to be victorious, Paul was.

With Sir Paul’s agreement, and in order to quash press speculation about a case that had already generated acres of newsprint, with many wild allegations, the judge intended to do something very unusual. He wanted to publish his judgment in full on the court website, so the press and public could read the true facts of the matter. Normally, the terms of a divorce remain confidential. Although Heather had been pre-warned about this, the fact that intimate details of her case were about to become common knowledge took her aback. She asked for personal details about her and Beatrice to be redacted. Some were, but she still wasn’t happy, and in the dramatic final moments of the case the angry charity worker tipped a jug of water over Fiona Shackleton’s head.

Heather emerged into the public corridor to announce to the press that she would speak to them outside. ‘We’ve got to do this in front of the TV cameras!’ she said, leading the pack away down the corridor towards the Strand.

Sir Paul emerged from the courtroom minutes later with Ms Shackleton, her hair plastered down on her head like a dog that’s been put under a garden hose. Asked what the outcome of the case was, Paul said: ‘You will see - it will all be revealed!’ Indeed, the press were being given a printed summary of the judgment as his wife began her speech at the Strand gate of the High Court, surrounded by a large crowd of reporters, photographers and cameramen. In talking about the case, as she proceeded to do at length, Heather contravened a court order.

‘First of all, I just want to say I’m so glad it’s over,’ she said over the sound of passing traffic and the rustle of cameras, proclaiming herself happy with the £16.5 million settlement. It was as good as could be expected considering she wasn’t represented by a barrister (entirely her own fault). ‘Obviously the court do not want a litigant in person to do well … so when they write the judgment up, they’re never going to try and make it look in my favour.’ She was angry that the full judgment was going to be made public, and would be appealing against this. ‘I wanted to keep the judgment private. Paul has just said he wants it public, that’s the only reason I’m talking. He’s always wanted it public because he wants to look like he’s this generous Sir Paul.’

Away from the cameras, just inside the door of the Royal Courts of Justice, Heather’s sister Fiona told journalists that all the negative headlines about Heather in recent times had been orchestrated by Paul. ‘I can’t believe a man can be that low,’ she sniped, adding poisonously in case anybody had forgotten the history that had taken place in this very building: ‘He sued his three best friends, remember.’

Heather’s appeal was unsuccessful, and the next day Justice Bennett’s judgment was published in full, giving the public unprecedented detail not only of the divorce but of Sir Paul’s personal life. The star had effectively sanctioned the court to tell the world what he was worth, where he lived and what security he had. The rationale, perhaps, was that the document showed him to be an honest man, while Justice Bennett came to highly critical conclusions about Heather Mills McCartney. His words made fascinating reading.

‘The wife is a strong willed and determined personality. She has shown great fortitude in the face of, and overcoming her disability,’ His Lordship wrote at the start of his judgment, adding that Heather was ‘a kindly person … devoted to her charitable causes’ and that she had conducted her own case with ‘steely, yet courteous determination’. That was the best he could say about her.

The husband’s evidence was, in my judgment, balanced. He expressed himself moderately though at times with justifiable irritation, if not anger. He was consistent, accurate and honest. But I regret to have to say I cannot say the same about the wife’s evidence. Having watched and listened to her give evidence, having studied the documents, and having given in her favour every allowance for the enormous strain she must have been under (and in conducting her own case) I am driven to the conclusion that much of her evidence, both written and oral, was not just inconsistent and inaccurate but also less than candid. Overall she was a less than impressive witness.

This was damning, and the subsequent details proved very revealing.

During the case, Heather argued that she was ‘wealthy and financially independent in her own right’ before she met Paul, claiming to have been a millionairess since 1999. She earned approximately £ 200,000 a year ($306,000) as a model, and up to £ 25,000 an hour ($38,250) as a celebrity speaker. If Heather persuaded the judge she was already a woman of means she could expect a higher settlement. But the judge decided Heather’s claims of being rich in her own right were ‘wholly exaggerated’ and lacking corroboration. ‘During the hearing she was asked repeatedly to produce bank statements … No bank statements were ever produced.’ Her tax returns showed her annual earnings were in the more modest range of £11,500 to £112,000 ($17,595 - $171,360) prior to her marriage. Also, there was no paperwork to support her assertion that she gave the rest of her income to charity.

The judge referred to Paul’s marriage to Linda McCartney:

Repeatedly in his evidence the husband described how even during his relationship with the wife [Heather] in 1999 to 2002 he was grieving for Linda. I have no doubt the husband found the wife very attractive. But equally I have no doubt that he was still very emotionally tied to Linda. It is not without significance that until the husband married the wife he wore the wedding ring given to him by Linda. Upon being married to the wife he removed it and it was replaced by a ring given to him by the wife. The wife for her part must have felt rather swept off her feet by a man as famous as the husband. I think this may well have warped her perception leading her to indulge in make-belief.

To that end, the judge rejected Heather’s claims that she and Paul had lived together as man and wife since March 2000, accepting Sir Paul was correct in saying they only started cohabiting on their wedding night in June 2002, when they also stopped using contraception.

As Paul had made clear, there was ‘considerable volatility in their relationship’ leading up to the big day at Castle Leslie. ‘There were good times, there were bad times,’ noted the judge, ‘and the relationship always left in the husband’s mind a question whether he and the wife were going to be ultimately right for each other.’

Justice Bennett described Heather’s claim that Paul had bought the house in Beverly Hills as a gift for her as ‘wishful thinking’. She claimed to have passed up business opportunities for his sake. ‘I would have made millions,’ Heather told the judge extravagantly during the case, saying her husband held her back. Yet tax returns showed Heather earned more during her marriage than before it and, far from hindering her career, Paul had arranged for her to interview Paul Newman on Larry King Live. Heather alleged that Paul frustrated her charitable activities, and failed to make good with his promised donations. On the contrary, the judge found that Paul introduced Heather to the animal welfare organisations she now associated herself with, notably Viva!, while his sister-in-law Jody Eastman introduced Heather to the Adopt-A-Minefield organisation, to which Paul had given an astounding £3.4 million ($ 5.2m) during their marriage.

Heather had taken credit for ‘counselling’ Paul after his bereavement and said she had helped him get on better with his children, particularly his adoptive daughter Heather (of whom almost nothing was seen these days). She also helped him write songs, encouraged him to tour, and helped with set design and stage-lighting. ‘I was his full-time wife, mother, lover, confidante, business partner and psychologist, ’ she had told the court. Paul agreed that Heather helped him over Linda’s death, but denied she encouraged him to get back on the road. ‘He firmly said that she contributed nothing to the tours,’ reported Justice Bennett.

Her presence on his tours came about because she loved the husband, enjoyed being there and because she thoroughly enjoyed the media and public attention. I am prepared to accept that her presence was emotionally supportive to him but to suggest that in some way she was his ‘business partner’ is, I am sorry to have to say, make-belief.

Her claim to have been Paul’s psychologist was ‘typical of her make-belief’.

Sir Paul was an immensely rich man before he met Heather and the judge noted that he’d grown richer during the marriage, through touring rather than record sales. He quoted Sir Paul on the records he had made during the marriage - including Driving Rain, Standing Stone and Chaos and Creation in the Backyard - saying that though they had been critically acclaimed, the work ‘has not yet been profitable’. The judge saw no evidence to corroborate Heather’s claim that her husband was twice as rich as he said he was. As to Heather’s own assets, they were principally due to her husband’s generosity. Justice Bennett listed the numerous gifts and loans Sir Paul had given his wife, and addressed the repeated requests Heather had made to MPL for £450,000 ($ 688,500) to clear a nonexistent mortgage on her Thames Reach apartment. ‘Mr Mostyn put to her that that was a fraudulent attempt to extract money from the husband,’ the judge noted.

In my judgment it is unnecessary to go so far as to characterise what the wife attempted as fraudulent. However, it is not an episode that does her any credit whatsoever. Either she knew or must have known that there were no loans on Thames Reach, yet she tried to suggest that there were and thereby obtain monies by underhand means. Her attempts when cross-examined to suggest that she may have got in a muddle and confused this property with others, to my mind, had a hollow ring. In the light of the husband’s generosity towards her, as I have set out, I find the wife’s behaviour distinctly distasteful … it damages her overall credibility.

Heather now possessed cash and property totalling £7.8 million ($11.9m), mostly thanks to Paul. She was spending at a rapid rate, though, having blown £3.7 million ($5.6m) during a recent 15-month period - including £184,463 ($282,228) on private planes and helicopters - and she apparently expected to continue living the high life. By her calculation, she would spend £499,000 a year on holidays ($763,470); £125,000 on clothes ($191,250); £ 30,000 a year ($45,900) on equestrian activities (even though she did not ride, as the judge noted); and £39,000 a year ($59,670) on wine (even though she hardly drank). Bennett was scathing: ‘Although she strongly denied it her case boils down to the syndrome of “me, too”.’

Heather was greatly concerned about her personal security, telling the court she’d received death threats, and claiming Sir Paul was behind stories about her leaked to the press, which compromised her security. As a result, she claimed to have spent £ 349,862 ($ 535,288) on security men, and expected to spend £ 542,000 a year ($829,260) to provide her and Bea with round-the-clock protection in future. Despite being asked repeatedly by the judge, she failed to produce ‘one single invoice or receipt’ to substantiate these expenses, while Heather’s fortress mentality contrasted to what Paul told the court about his own security.

Aside from when he was on tour, Sir Paul said he’d never felt the need for full-time security people, not until Heather insisted on it. He acquiesced to her request, but had reverted to his freewheeling ways since their separation. He had no full-time bodyguards in Sussex, relying on estate workers to keep their eyes open for intruders. ‘The only person with me on a permanent basis is my PA, John Hammel.’ John did not stay with him at night, however, and he and Linda had brought up their kids largely without protection.

It is not healthy for a child to have security 24/7. It sets them apart from their peers and makes them an object of curiosity and, at times, ridicule. Such children live in gilded cages. I do not want this for Beatrice. I am rarely photographed with Beatrice. She needs as normal an upbringing as possible, and surrounding her with round-the-clock security is not the way to achieve this.

Paul added that Heather’s attitude to the press was contradictory: she courted attention, yet complained about what the papers published. The judge noted that Heather had been ‘her own worst enemy’ at times.

Heather had attempted to bring allegations about Paul’s conduct into the divorce case; that is, the lurid allegations leaked to the press in October 2006. ‘The conduct complained of by the wife can be summarised as follows,’ recapped the judge.

Prior to their separation at the end of April 2006 the husband treated the wife abusively and/or violently culminating in the unhappy events of 25 April 2006 … He abused alcohol and drugs. He was possessive and jealous. He failed to protect the wife from the attention of the media. He was insensitive to her disability. Furthermore, it is alleged that post-separation the husband manipulated and colluded with the press against the wife and has failed to enforce confidentiality by his friends and associates. The wife blames the husband for the leaking to the media of her Answer and Cross-Petition which alleges in strong terms unreasonable behaviour by the husband against her. The husband has failed to provide her with a sufficient degree of security from the media and generally he has behaved badly.

In reply, Sir Paul’s QC told the court about Heather’s conduct after the separation. ‘First, it is said on 25 June 2006 the wife illegally bugged the husband’s telephone, in particular a call between him and his daughter Stella in which Stella made very unflattering comments about the wife,’ the judge summarised. ‘It is further said the wife subsequently leaked the intercepted material to the press so as to discredit him.’ (This had seemingly led to a Sunday Mirrorstory, ‘The Maccagate Tapes’).

Second, on 17 October 2006 the wife, or someone acting on her behalf, leaked to the media some or all of the contents of her Answer and Cross-Petition which contained untrue and distorted allegations against the husband in order to discredit him. Third, the wife has failed to abide by court orders re[garding] confidentiality. On 31 October 2007 and 1 November 2007 the wife gave several interviews to UK and US television stations in which she made many false statements about the husband and these proceedings in order to discredit him. Individually and collectively these actions, it is said, represent a deliberate attempt by the wife to ruin the husband’s reputation.

Somebody leaked Heather’s Answer and Cross-Petition to the press.

Both the wife and the husband accuse each other of doing it. The wife says that the husband did it in order to capitalise on his good press and to blacken the wife’s name for making such unfounded allegations. The husband says the wife did it in order to blacken his reputation.

The judge chose not to decide who was lying.

In his closing comments, Justice Bennett said that if an applicant came before him with an excessive claim, which they failed to back up with logical arguments, then they had themselves to blame if they failed to get what they wanted. ‘This case is a paradigm example of an applicant failing to put a rational and logical case and thus failing to assist the court in its quasi-inquisitorial role to reach a fair result.’ He ordered that neither Paul nor Heather disclose further details to the media. Even Heather learned to be bound by this order and, unable to say anything of substance about her husband, and with plenty of money to spend, she faded into the semi-obscurity from whence she had come, occasionally popping up on TV, and employing a succession of public relations consultants, who found themselves hard-pressed to improve her image. One spent much of his time trying to turn Heather’s Wikipedia entry to her favour.


Many of Paul’s associates had died prematurely, several worn down by the rigours of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. Brian, John, Linda and George had all passed away before their time, along with a host of supporting players in the epic story of Paul’s life. Now Neil Aspinall, the backroom boy who had as much claim as anyone to being the ‘fifth Beatle’, was dying of cancer in New York. Paul went to see him, as he had George, thanked Nell, as the boys always called their friend fondly, for all he had done for the band, discreetly paid his medical bills, and mourned his passing when he died in March 2008 at the age of 66.

Neither Paul nor Ringo attended Neil’s funeral in his adoptive home town of Twickenham, just outside London. ‘We went to Neil’s house for the reception afterwards and Yoko said to me, “Where is Paul and Ringo?” And I said, “I don’t know. You should know better than I do where they are’,” says Peter Brown, who attended the service along with Olivia Harrison, Sir George Martin and Mary and James McCartney.

Paul was represented through his children, but he and Ringo were not there. Now whether they thought it was more discreet for them not to go … but it wasn’t as if there was going to be a million paparazzi or anything. So I don’t know what happened that day.

Sir Paul spent a good part of the spring on holiday with Nancy Shevell, his decree nisi coming through in May, at the end of which he returned to Liverpool to help his home town celebrate its year as European Capital of Culture. In recent times Liverpool had been perceived not so much as a place to go to enrich one’s mind as a scruffy, declining seaport beset with social and economic problems. So the Capital of Culture accolade - a European Union initiative to boost investment in designated cities - was a welcome fillip to Merseyside. A huge amount of money was being invested in building works, including a new shopping arcade opposite the docks, part of which had some time since been restored and given World Heritage status, with the city hosting an impressive series of cultural events in 2008 ranging from art shows to symphony concerts. Art with a capital A was all very well, but for millions Liverpool was the Beatles, and the city’s year as Capital of Culture would ring hollow without a Beatle or two in attendance. They got both.

Ringo Starr, now in his 68th year, opened Liverpool’s celebratory year by playing drums on the roof of St George’s Hall in the city centre on 8 January 2008, and proclaiming improbably that he might return from tax exile in Monte Carlo to live on Merseyside. When Ringo subsequently told Jonathan Ross on TV that he couldn’t think of a single thing about Liverpool he actually missed, and had only said he might come back to please the crowd, Liverpudlians were outraged. Many had long thought Ringo thick, and this seemed to prove it. Ringo’s head was cut off a topiary likeness of the band in Allerton, while cabbies told visitors to the city that if ‘that twat’ ever came back to Merseyside he’d be pelted with eggs.

The centrepiece of the year of culture was the Liverpool Sound concert on Sunday 1 June at Anfield, iconic home of Liverpool Football Club. The event was headlined, naturally, by the other, more important ex-Beatle, the one who, drugs and women aside, rarely put a foot wrong. Sir Paul McCartney arrived on Merseyside a few days in advance of the show, spending part of Saturday driving around the city with his major-domo John Hammel, son James and daughter Beatrice, a lively little kid now coming up for five. In contrast to Paul’s older children, Bea was being brought up by her mum in an atmosphere of conspicuous wealth. This tour of Liverpool was intended to show her the normal world Daddy came from.

Stopping at 72 Western Avenue, Speke, Paul led Bea up the garden path to the door of his old corpy house. ‘This is where Daddy used to live,’ he told the child, as they posed for a souvenir picture outside what was now a run-down terrace. As they did so, the man next door popped his head over the wall. ‘All right, Macca!’ James ‘Brickhead’ Gillat, a tattooed joiner, hailed the superstar.

‘All right, la,’ rejoined McCartney pleasantly. ‘Is there anybody in?’

Sir Paul rang the bell of number 72 to introduce himself to the current occupants, Paddy and Lyn Kearney. He hoped they didn’t mind him taking a souvenir picture on the doorstep. The Kearneys and Brickhead were charmed by Paul, who still seemed connected to ordinary people. ‘He never walked away from us, never turned his back on us,’ says Brickhead admiringly after the great man left.

When Paul cruised by Forthlin Road with John, James and Bea, he decided not to go up to the door, wary of the tourists who arrived every few minutes to stand outside this much better-known address, taking pictures and pulling off bits of the hedge as keepsakes. Visitors on the National Trust tour were admitted in small groups by the live-in custodian John Halliday, who calculates he’d shown 70,000 people around Paul’s old house in the ten years it had been open to the public. One of John’s ambitions was to give Paul himself the tour, and now here was his chance. ‘I glanced out of the corner of me eye. He wasn’t driving; he was in the front passenger seat - I thought, that’s Paul!He gives me the thumbs up. I thought he’d come in, but he drove past.’

National Trust ticketholders were taken to Mendips before Forthlin Road, Aunt Mimi’s old home, also now managed by the charity. The two houses were included in the same £15 tour. This particular afternoon, Mendips was closed for a private visit from Yoko Ono and her son Sean. A well-preserved little woman of 75, with clever, sparkling eyes, and a daringly low décolletage, Yoko attended a host of events in the city that weekend, including a rare coming together of most of the surviving members of the Beatles family at LIPA the following afternoon.

As her contribution to the festivities, and to raise money for LIPA, Stella McCartney staged a lunchtime fashion show at the Institute on Sunday 1 June. Sir Paul showed up with son James, taking a seat in the front row of the Paul McCartney Auditorium alongside Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison. Paul kissed the widows and chatted with Yoko as if they’d never been anything but best friends. Watching them, one was reminded of a royal court, all eyes upon the heads of state, attended in turn by their lords and ladies. In the court of the Beatles, the followers included Paul’s brother Mike (his show business career as Mike McGear a distant memory), Sir George Martin, snowy-haired and almost stone deaf at 82, the rotund figure of the elderly court artist Sir Peter Blake, and LIPA chief Mark Featherstone-Witty. Every king needs a servant, and John Hammel hovered nearby, quick to tell the press photographers they’d taken enough pictures. Sir Paul welcomed the PR opportunity of a happy snap with Yoko - it made the front pages of the nationals the next day - but he didn’t want pictures of himself with Beatrice, who was being minded by Mike McCartney a few rows back, a pretty little girl dressed head to foot in pink.

When John Hammel had shooed the snappers away, Bea stood on her chair and loudly asked Daddy for an ice cream. Sir Paul turned, acknowledged Bea’s presence with an affectionate, fatherly expression, upon which she ran to him, climbed into his lap and chattered away for a few minutes before going back to sit with Uncle Mike for the start of the show.

Stella McCartney strode onto the stage - a perky, ginger-haired woman of 36 - to acknowledge her family links to Liverpool. ‘I’ve got about 50,000 relatives in this city,’ she said, upon which Sir Paul shouted: ‘Three cheers for Stella!’ The audience did as it was told. During the ensuring catwalk parade, Paul and his son sat with fuzzy looks on their faces watching the leggy beauties model Stella’s latest creations, Paul taking the occasional picture on his mobile phone as if lining up dates for later. Bea returned with a balloon, scrambled into Daddy’s lap, then fell asleep with her thumb in her mouth. ‘I thought, fantastic, he’s got a great relationship with her,’ notes Mark Featherstone-Witty.

Liverpool was overcast that evening as 36,000 people streamed towards Anfield for the concert, most of the ticketholders local people, though others had come from around the world to see Sir Paul play his home town. The fact he was playing at Anfield was special: the McCartneys had lived briefly round the corner at 10 Sunbury Road, and a home town show always has that bit of extra emotion. After the support acts, the Kaiser Chiefs and Zutons, two of whose members had attended LIPA, the comedian Peter Kay appeared on stage to a warm reception. ‘It’s my job to introduce the star turn tonight, ladies and gentlemen,’ said Kay, who is hugely popular in the north.

He’s a local lad who’s done very well for himself in the old music game. He’s played with some amazing people over the years: Stevie Wonder, Rupert the Bear [big laugh] and the Beatles! [huge cheer] … In conjunction with Liverpool County Council [boos and hisses], BBC Radio Merseyside [cheers] and Heatwave Sun Bed Centre, Norris Green [laughs], it is my duty to reveal Britain has got talent, ladies and gentleman, and his name is Sir Paul Mildred McCARTNEEEEEY!

Strolling on stage in a silver suit, Paul opened with ‘Hippy Hippy Shake’, taking his audience back to the Cavern. Next came ‘Jet’, the audience punching the air with the repeated exclamations of ‘Jet!’, singing along to the verses in the style of a football crowd at a home fixture. ‘Liverpool! I love ya!’ exclaimed Paul at the end of the number, and who would doubt him? In recent years he’d spent more time in the city than at any stage since the early Sixties, becoming almost a familiar figure in the streets again. Stories of the star strolling about town - popping into Lewis’s to buy a tie one day - were legion. ‘I was born just down the road from here, Walton Hospital, Rice Lane,’ he reminded his audience, ‘and I lived in Sunbury Road.’ Sitting in the Lower Centenary Stand, Brenda Rothwell turned to the person sitting beside her and said excitedly: ‘I live next door!’ After ‘Got to Get You into My Life’ Paul held up his Höfner bass and cried: ‘OK, let’s hear it for Speke! For Garston! …’ Local people cheered their suburb.

Paul sang ‘My Love’ for Linda, whose picture appeared on the huge screens (all images of Heather excised). The audience applauded everything the star said, his every joke and story, and sang along heartily to almost every song, the ukulele tribute to George Harrison raising the crowd to a collective roar when Paul sang his friend’s sweetly questioning lyric, meant originally for George’s first wife, Pattie Boyd, but having a universal resonance: ‘You’re asking me will my love grow/I don’t know, I don’t know’. The words echoed around the stadium as a football chant, tears pricking the eyes of performer and fans. Olivia was watching. Yoko was beside her. She appeared to approve Paul’s performance of ‘Give Peace a Chance’, as a tribute to her late husband. Paul signed off with ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, setting middle-aged Liverpudlians jiving in the aisles, round ladies of pensionable age recreating the dance steps of their youth, touching their ample bosoms and sending out their love with the palms of their hands as Paul sang of his heart going boom.

With a detonation of fireworks, the home town celebration of the greatest pop band ever was over. In the club’s trophy room, Sir Paul greeted the selected friends, celebrity guests and relatives who’d been gathered to meet him briefly after the show, going down the line shaking hands and exchanging friendly words with everyone. ‘Even though I’ve known him all these years, I’m still in awe of the fact he’s a Beatle,’ says Sam Leach, a promoter from the early days who was among the guests. ‘If I call him Sir Paul, he laughs.’ Outside, the rest of the audience shuffled away down the narrow, red-brick streets of Anfield, chanting with drowsy happiness, ‘Liverpool! Liverpool!’


The musician’s life is on the road, and for an artist who loves to perform, tours are a pleasure, an opportunity to cast the happy spell of music over an audience and bask in their appreciation. ‘I think it’s basically magic,’ Paul has said. ‘There is such a thing as magic, and the Beatles were magic.’

Later that summer Paul indulged himself, and offset the cost of his recent divorce, with massive one-off shows in Kiev and Quebec (the latter to celebrate the province’s 400th birthday). En route to Canada, he joined Billy Joel on stage at Shea Stadium for the final concert at that famous venue before it was demolished to make way for a new home for the New York Mets. Afterwards, he got his old Ford Bronco out of his Amagansett garage, took Chuck Berry’s tip and motored west with Nancy Shevell on Route 66, via Chicago, St Louis, Flagstaff, Arizona (not forgetting Winona), 2,000 miles and more to LA. Everyday folks found themselves bumping into Sir Paul and his girlfriend at gas stations and diners along the way, the couple apparently happy together and happy to pose for pictures. It was a road trip he’d always wanted to make.

That autumn saw the release of a welcome third Fireman album, the records Paul made with Youth being among the most interesting of his later career. Electric Arguments was more song-based than their previous projects, with proper lyrics that seemed to criticise an ex-love - references to betrayal, lies and a woman who went looking for a pay daddy (‘Highway’) - without identifying Heather. Paul was always careful that way. Although a more mainstream offering than Rushes, the record was still too different for Macca traditionalists. ‘I don’t like this Electric Arguments,’ says New Yorker Linda Aiello, who otherwise lives in a state of McCartney devotion. ‘It’s not him, because it really isn’t him. It’s the Fireman … I can’t get into it.’

In the spring of 2009 Paul appeared on stage at Radio City Music Hall in New York with Ringo Starr, in support of Transcendental Meditation, one of the dopier Sixties’ crazes, but something the men had carried with them into old age. More North American shows followed. Having helped mark the closure of Shea Stadium, Paul played three sell-outs at the new home of the New York Mets, Citi Fields, promoted with an appearance on David Letterman’s Late Show at the Ed Sullivan Theater where the Beatles first electrified America. Paul performed a special homecoming set from the marquee, later releasing a live CD of the New York concerts, Good Evening New York City. Excluding the Radio City benefit, Paul played a dozen shows across the USA in the year, grossing almost $41 million (£26.7m). Together with the other concerts he’d given recently, the divorce was paid for.

Two old foes died that summer, first Michael Jackson in suspicious circumstances aged 50, never having given Paul a pay rise on Northern Songs, part of which Jackson had sold to Sony to help fund his excessive lifestyle, putting the songs beyond Paul’s grasp. It seemed he would never get them back now. Paul insisted in his tribute that he and Jackson had never really fallen out, despite all his grousing. Ten days later, almost unnoticed amidst the Jackson news, a true enemy, Allen Klein, died aged 77. As old friends and foes alike dropped away, McCartney rolled on, looking spry for a man approaching 70, popping over to Paris with Nancy to attend Stella’s latest fashion show, casting a paternal eye over son James as he recorded his first album at Hog Hill Mill, while Dad worked on a guitar concerto and oversaw the endless exploitation of the Beatles’ back catalogue, being the driving force behind the Beatles Rock Band video game, released in the autumn of 2009, around the same time as a complete digital reissue of the Beatles’ studio albums. Although almost everybody already had all this music, and the box sets cost almost $300 (£196), they sold strongly, helping make the Beatles the second best-selling act of the decade in America, just behind Eminem, a remarkable achievement for a group that split 39 years ago.

Always busy, Paul recorded a song for a new Robert De Niro picture, Everybody’s Fine, and had a movie of his own in the works - the animated film about Wirral the Squirrel he and Linda had decided on years back based on stories he used to tell the kids. To introduce the character to the public, Paul and Geoff Dunbar created in the first instance an illustrated children’s book, High in the Clouds, the plot of which harked back to the death of Mary McCartney - a trauma Paul still spoke of as if he were an orphaned child. ‘That association [is] very, very strong in High in the Clouds,’ says Dunbar. ‘For us in our childhoods, Mum was this great thing.’ In the book, Wirral loses his mother, as Paul had, after which the creature goes off into the world to find adventure, music and love with a cute little red squirrel named Wilhamina. At the end, the two characters stand together, looking at the stars. ‘If only Mum was with us,’ says Wirral.

‘She is,’ replied Wilhamina, clutching his paw.

This little story expresses much of Paul’s own life: a sentimental man formed by his childhood experiences in Liverpool, from whence he had gone searching for love in a musical world. (For Wilhamina read Linda.) Now his squirrel story was to be made into a 3D Hollywood film. Hopefully it would be ready in time for Bea to appreciate, before she began to realise the enormity of who Daddy was.


On a frosty night in December 2009, with Christmas in the air, Sir Paul McCartney opened his latest tour - a European tour - in Hamburg, second city of his musical genesis. It was way back in 1960 that Paul first drove here with the boys, in Allan Williams’s overloaded van, to play the Indra. A lifetime later, Paul flew back by private jet to play the Color Line Arena, five subway stops from the Reeperbahn, declining an invitation to meet the city’s mayor, and keeping his fans waiting as he played a late sound check and ate his customary vegetarian pre-show supper. Although the animal rights group PETA, which McCartney had long been associated with, had stalls at the Hamburg show, distributing Eat No Meat literature, the intense animal activism of Linda’s day was gone. Once upon a time the McCartneys screened fierce antivivisection films before their shows, and banned meat products from gigs. Tonight, fans munched schinkenwurst at the concessions, while those who’d purchased €319 ($440) VIP ticket packages tucked into gourmet meats in the Platinum bar.

Germans are a punctual people, so when the advertised start time came and went, and they were obliged to wait a further 80 minutes for the show to begin, they became disgruntled, slow-clapping, booing and hissing the unseen star. Finally, Sir Paul stepped up on the stage - dressed in the dark suit, white shirt and braces he favoured these days for live performances - greeting his audience with a supremely confident shrug as if to say: ‘What’s up?’ Eleven thousand grumpy Germans were immediately pacified, then brought to their feet by the upbeat sound of ‘Magical Mystery Tour’, Paul as ever following Uncle Mike’s advice to him and John at the Fox and Hounds, Caversham. ‘A good act is shaped like a W,’ Mike had told the boys. You had to start on a high.

The sound quality was poor in Hamburg, as it invariably is in sports arenas, reedy at the top and boomy at the bottom, Paul’s vocals echoing off the back rows - these seats being so far from the stage that he put his hands to his eyes, peered down the hall and asked the people down there if they were all right - and his voice sounded thin at first, like an old man’s. But as he warmed up his voice strengthened, the band complementing and covering for the star while never presuming to upstage him.

‘Danke schön! Guten tag, Hamburg,’ said Paul, venturing a little schoolboy German, soon reverting to English. ‘It really is interesting to be back here in Hamburg.’

‘What about a trip to the Reeperbahn?’ asked a fan in front.

‘Hmmm.’ Paul considered it. ‘Not tonight.’

He spoke about when the Beatles first came to town, ‘when we were children’, and how they had met up with other ‘slightly older children’, name-checking old friends in the audience. In the first few rows sat Horst Fascher, Astrid Kirchherr and Klaus Voormann, little old people wrapped up warm on a cold December night. Indeed, the audience was mostly comprised of the late middle-aged, chubby, affluent and grey, glancing occasionally at their watches to make sure they didn’t get home too late. Although of an age with these pensioners, and despite his skin hanging down like the jowls of an old dog, Paul looked younger than them all, thanks principally to the art of his hairdresser. Apart from being dyed chestnut brown, his hair was so lustrous and thick these days one wondered if he was wearing a wig.

Taking off his jacket, and rolling up his sleeves, Sir Paul also looked more than ever like a nineteenth-century mill owner. This was not a young artist who needed the audience’s approval. He was here because he enjoyed playing music and revisiting the past, and those lucky enough to have a ticket were fortunate to share the moment with him. Between songs he regaled us all with stories from the old days, like the night his mate Jimi (Jimi Hendrix, that is) played ‘Sgt. Pepper’ at the Saville Theatre, and asked Eric (Clapton, you know) to come up and tune his guitar. Everybody, audience and band included, listened attentively to an elder telling tales of a vanished age. Linda was never far from Paul’s mind. As he played ‘The Long and Winding Road’, photos Linda had taken of their Arizona ranch, including the desert trail they rode just before she died, were shown on the screens. ‘Here Today’ was performed ‘für meinen freund, John … Are you listening?’ Paul asked suddenly, glancing up at the roof as if to find his friend’s ghost sitting in the rafters. ‘Something’ was done again on the ukulele for George, while pictures of the other departed Beatle were shown. Paul held his arms up to the last picture, a huge blow-up of a young smiling George, murmuring ‘Georgie! Georgie!’ in salute. When Paul turned back, his face was wet with tears.

With both John and George gone, and Ritchie always of lesser importance, it had fallen to Paul to carry the Beatles torch. Along with the sadness, there was a sense that he felt liberated by the fact John and George weren’t around to snipe at him any more. He could say and play whatever he liked now, including putting two Beatles numbers in his set for the first time, ‘And I Love Her’ and ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’, both of which went down a storm with the Germans even if John had mocked the latter as ‘granny music’.

After ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Helter Skelter’, Paul informed his audience that it was time for him to go home. The Hamburgers, who’d booed two hours previously, groaned. ‘It’s time for you to go home, too,’ Paul reminded them; it was almost midnight. He thanked his band and his crew. ‘But most of all, tonight, we want to thank you,’ he said, before playing ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, segueing into ‘The End’, pictures of a sun going down on the screens as Paul sang the sublime last lines about the love you take being equal to the love you make, after which everybody exhaled a happy Ahhhhh.

‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.’

As one fan remarked, ‘the best music - ever’.

‘Danke schön, Hamburg. We’ll see you next time!’