The Paul which the public sees is not the real Paul. He has a built-in PR
man: the facade is there all the time. Behind it is a very serious man.
He gives off that pleasant little-boy-lost image. But behind it is a highly
intelligent and extremely hardworking bloke. He always knew what he
was doing, and was very, very money conscious. Not tight, but careful,
extremely careful. He was very astute and business-like, and very
organized. But the facade was this little-boy-lost, wondering what it was
all about and thinking, "Isn 't this fun?"
— Brian Sommerville — (The Beatles' first press officer)
A CONSPIRACY OF ONE
McCartney Behind Closed Doors
Following the Beatles' appearance on the BBC special, "Swinging Sounds '63," on April 18, 1963, the more-than-eligible McCartney enthusiastically homed in on lovely Jane Asher, the popular seventeen-year-old British acting star, who earlier in the evening had posed with the Beatles for a Radio Times photographer.
For the decidedly upwardly mobile young bachelor, Jane Asher was as close to a perfect match as possible. Born in London on April 5, 1946, she was the daughter of prominent London physician Richard Asher and his wife, Margaret, a professor at the prestigious Guildhall School of Music. The bloodlines secure, there was Jane herself, a professional actress from the age of five. Her early screen credits include Alfie, The Greengage Summer, Mandy, The Masque of the Red Death, The Prince and the Pauper, and The Quatermass Experiment. She has also appeared in countless theatrical productions and on many of Britain's top television programs, including "The Saint," as well as in TV adaptations of Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov and George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss.
The stunningly beautiful redhead was everything McCartney had ever envisioned in a woman, and certainly worlds apart from the numerous other young ladies he had known. Lovely, talented, gracious, and refined, Jane Asher was the perfect royal consort to one of England's princes of rock 'n' roll. From the beginning theirs was a match made in heaven, love so strong, only fate, time, and buxom, pushy American heiress Linda Eastman could even begin to nudge. From almost the moment they first met they began regularly and exclusively dating. Jim McCartney was thrilled with what he considered to be his son's first official girlfriend. Nothing would have made him happier he said, than to see them wed. Even brother Mike was smitten. Remembering their first meeting, Paul later recalled: "We [the Beatles] all said, 'Will you marry me?' which was what we said to every girl at the time. [She was a] rare London bird, the sort we'd always heard about. We thought we were set."
After the gig, Paul met up with the young starlet at his hotel, the Royal Court on Sloane Square, for a coffee. Later Paul, John, George, an old mate, singer Shane Fenton, and journalist Chris Hutchins took Jane to Hutchins' flat on the Kings Road where they sat on the floor, polishing off a bottle of good Irish whiskey and actively flirting with the somewhat overwhelmed young actress. After a respectable, collective schmooze, Paul and Jane retreated to the bedroom where much to the amazement and wonder of the other four, they spent the evening talking about their favorite foods and what consistency they preferred their gravy. "They couldn't believe I was still a virgin," Asher later recalled. Even macho man Paul was unusually candid when it came to that first time together. "I knew this was the girl for me," he told Hunter Davies in 1967. "I hadn't tried to grab her or make her. I told her, 'It appears you're a nice girl.'" As the night wore on, Fenton suggested that he and the three Beatles go on to a West End night club he knew, dropping Jane off at her home on the way. As she was stepping out of the singer's big American car, Paul gently grabbed her by the arm, asking if he might ring her the next day. She said yes, that would be fine, and quickly scrawled her number on a scrap of paper pulled from the bottom of her purse.
Over the next few weeks they became inseparable, roaming the streets of Mayfair, arm in arm. Ironically, in those days, it was the radiant young actress people tended to recognize, not Beatle Paul, which caused more than a few ripples in the ill-fated relationship. For the moment, though, the couple were both head over heels in love, so much so that, unknown to his many female fans, McCartney soon accepted an invitation from Jane's mother to move into the Ashers' smart family home at 57 Wimpole Street in London.
Jane's brother Peter, half of the hit sixties singing duo Peter and Gordon, remembers Paul as a considerate house guest whose few possessions could be divided into three basic categories: expensive camera and recording equipment, a pop star's wardrobe of trendy clothes, and cash. McCartney, apparently drawing on his conservative family roots, had a habit of stashing wads of tightly wrapped ten- and twenty-pound notes all over the top-floor rooms he shared with Peter. Asher, who went on to become a much-sought-after record producer, remembers uncovering McCartney's wages under the Beatle's seldom slept-in bed, and even tucked away in the lauded bassist's sock drawer. Asked to comment on his rather idiosyncratic banking system, McCartney jokingly replied that he was just grateful Asher never helped himself to any of his hard-won bread. McCartney and his well-known yen for money, it would seem, go back a long way. Although Paul lived in the same house as Jane, they kept separate rooms and were always extremely discreet regarding their personal affairs. McCartney, in particular, was very mindful of Jane's parents' wish that their talented daughter's reputation remain spotless under the watchful eye of London's Fleet Street gos-sip mongers.
Not surprisingly, Brian Epstein was less than thrilled that the group's number-one heartthrob was making himself at least psychologically off-limits to a generation of admiring girlhood. Brian Sommerville, the Beatles' early publicity manger, recalls the conflict:
There was a considerable difference of opinion over the Jane Asher situation. Brian made a terrible fuss about it, saying it would offend the fans, but, in effect, Paul just told him to mind his own business. Brian was probably just being over-cautious, and Paul more far-sighted, knowing that sort of thing didn't really matter. But at the time it was a textbook rule of publicity that the artist must appear single and available.
Tony Barrow, longtime promo man for NEMS, confirms Sommerville's assessment of Epstein's displeasure over the McCartney/Asher affair:
Epstein himself admitted to me on more than one occasion that McCartney was the Beatle who gave him the greatest headaches, pushed him to the limit, and usually got his own way. Epstein certainly went out of his way to avoid upsetting Paul. Behind McCartney's back though, Eppy disliked the amount of public interest that surrounded the romance. He asked me how my press office might cool the situation. I had to admit that it was not the type of story one could cover up — especially with so many public appearances of the pair at celebrity functions where the press had been invited in ad lib numbers. Overruling everyone's wishes to the contrary, of course, was McCartney himself. As far as he was concerned, sooner or later he and Jane would marry, despite his constant, "just good friends" posturing to the news media.
Suggestions that McCartney was attempting to enhance his social status through association with the picture-perfect Asher hardly seem valid in view of his lifetime of championing working-class people and values. As Brian Sommerville, now a successful attorney, points out: "He just found himself in a set of circumstances, loved the girl, and fell naturally into those circumstances as if he'd been brought up in the Bloomsbury set all his life."
While discretion was definitely the watchword for the much-written-about romance, occasionally one or the other of the young lovebirds would venture into print on the subject. Interviewed for the splashy British teen rag Fabulous in February of 1964, Asher faithfully endorsed the Epstein party line regarding her by-then passionate affair with McCartney. "We aren't engaged!" she began, in a fruitless effort to try to stop the rumors, "and we certainly aren't secretly married. We're just dating. I like Paul. He is very nice. But it is impossible to date him without everyone spotting him as he wears his hair the same way all the time. And whenever the Beatles pop round to my father's home, the street soon fills up with people. We don't get much chance to be on our own."
Throughout their time together, Asher continued to accept acting jobs, determined not to allow the Beatles' brilliant aura to obscure her blossoming career. McCartney tried his best to be big about it, but eventually began to resent her devoting so much of herself to working. Never a big fan of the stage, he nonetheless faithfully attended most of Asher's opening nights and backstage cocktail parties, but never really connected with the arty, serious types who seem to gravitate to the boards. "The only thing the theatre ever gave me was a sore arse," he once complained to the late playwright Joe Orton during his Asher days in London. It would become another significant, though not overwhelming factor in the relationship's eventual disintegration.
For the time being at any rate, Paul and Jane were basically happy. Curious and anxious to experience the finer things in life, McCartney, somewhat atypically, allowed himself to be schooled by his upper-crust girlfriend in the airs and graces of London's gentry. Whether it was practicing his stilted schoolboy French in fancy restaurants, or frequenting London's finer teilor shops, the provincial Beatle was eager to advance himself culturally. "I don't want to sound like Jonathan Miller go-ing on," he commented to the London Evening Standard at the time, "but I'm trying to cram everything in, all the things that I've missed. People are saying things, painting things, and composing things that are great, and I must know what people are doing." Despite his newfound high cultch, he wasn't about to renounce his modest origins. When the same interviewer happened to mention he was reading William Burroughs' Naked Lunch, Paul replied that he was himself currently ploughing through The Packed Lunch by Greedy Blighter.
As for Jane Asher, she was simply a young lady very much in love with someone she desperately wanted to see happy and content. It is important to remember, however, that it was Paul, and not Beatle Paul who had captured her heart. In direct contrast to the manhunting Linda Eastman, the introspective redhead could never be accused of being a groupie.
Not surprisingly, one of the first things McCartney did when he began to make some big money from the band was to buy for his father and brother a fine new family home, "Rembrandt," on the Wirral, Baskervyle Road, Heswall, in Cheshire. Purchased in July of 1964 for a respectable £8750, the five-bedroom bungalow among other things boasted its own rambling wine cellar. Intent on seeing the place made as comfortable as possible, McCartney immediately sunk in an additional £8000 for decorating and furnishing the place, even installing a first-class central-heating system, something of a rarity in Britain even today. One of the great advantages of being a homeowner for McCartney was that he now had someplace relatively private to be alone with Jane. Summer afternoons were spent picnicking in the large back garden, downing a pint or two at their favorite local, or casually motoring along Cheshire's winding back roads on matching motor scooters.
But all was not roses. For Asher an especially irksome facet of McCartney's Beatle business was his perhaps overly attentive catering to the fans. She was more embarrassed than jealous of the hordes of screaming girls who gathered whenever Paul was around. Being from the theater, Asher didn't particularly have to worry about her professional life overflowing into her private world. When the curtain fell it was time to switch off and be herself. The same could not be said though for a Beatle. As such, McCartney was hounded from dawn to dusk, pursued and put upon by willing females from six to sixty, and he quite frankly loved it. Tony Barrow remembers: "Jane refused to accept that the Beatles' fans were of any long-term importance. She objected to Paul depending so much on the adoration of 'Beatle People.' On one occasion she lost her temper in my hearing and asked why Paul did not see for himself that the affection of the fans was trivial and shortlived while her true love for him was deep and permanent."
An example of how this kind of devotion to the fans can carry with it potential for trouble at home is a little encounter remembered in Beatle historian Bill King's superlative Beatle-fan magazine, by aficionada Marianne Goldsmith:
My sister and I lived with our parents in St. John's Wood, which was close to Paul McCartney's house and the Abbey Road studios. One evening a party was going on next door and an Aston Martin was parked in our driveway. I had to go and ask if the car could be moved. Guess who it belonged to? Yes, Paul. So he came out with Jane Asher and said he was just going. I managed to say, "Please can I have your autograph?" And he turned to Jane and said, "Have you got a thingy?" And she gave him a pen. I produced an envelope for him to sign. His hand glided across it. He put, "To Marianne, Love Paul McCartney xxx." As he handed it to me my hand touched his and I stuttered, "Thank you very much. I don't know how I can thank you." He said, "What about a kiss?" I think he had been drinking. So I leaned into the car, forgetting about Jane, and kissed him. My head swooned, and before I knew it, he had driven off into the night.
Eventually, things began to get a little crowded for the couple at the Ashlers', prompting the upper-echelon young professionals to go house-hunting. After a long string of false leads, pricey real estate catalogs, and running about, McCartney ultimately settled upon a fine three-story Victorian townhouse at 7 Cavendish Avenue, in London's prestigious St. John's Wood. When he purchased it for £40,000 late in 1966, McCartney didn't really do too much with it at first. On the contrary, he seemed to delight in allowing the large, rectangular back yard to revert to an overgrown state, a condition the tidy and orderly Jim McCartney found most annoying.
After a time, McCartney was persuaded that he needed a bit of help with the place, so he hired an elderly couple, Mr. and Mrs. Kelly to oversee its day-to-day operation. He drew the line however at hiring a secretary, insisting that he could handle all of his personal business quite well on his own. The couple's life in St. John's Wood soon settled into a hypnotic domesticity centered around their need for privacy and space. Jane generally did most of the cooking, and was said to be quite a culinary whiz although Paul tended to prefer a good hearty Liverpool fry-up to anything too fancy. After Linda Eastman moved in following McCartney's stormy split with Asher in 1968, Wings insider Jo Jo Laine reports that the once-elegant townhome was soon reduced to a smelly, dog-hair-covered "shit hole," completely taken over by the sexy American photographer's uninhibited love of all things free and natural. But for the moment, anyway, Asher's eminent good sense and taste reigned supreme. "Jane spent a huge amount of time decorating Paul's new home to her personal taste," says Tony Barrow, "selecting fresh wallpaper throughout and choosing beautiful carpets to match. Everything pointed towards a wedding. Paul and Jane soon started to entertain visitors and throw small but lavish dinner parties just like an old married couple."
Unfortunately, despite their finely tuned domesticity, living virtually in the heart of London tended to attract the fans. Completely surrounded by a high brick wall, the London hideaway also sported a menacing-looking front gate covered in thick iron sheeting. The gate opened mechanically from the inside after prospective visitors had been cleared via an intercom. More evenings than not the intrusive buzzer would sound every few minutes, poked at by fans and all manner of wandering loonies and brazen opportunists. True to his public, however, McCartney would generally drop what he was doing and trot out to sign autographs or pose for a quick snap from a blinding sea of clattering cameras.
To those closest to the couple it now seemed a certainty that they would soon marry, a sentiment publicly encouraged by Asher herself in several interviews granted to the media at the time. "I am not Paul's wife — but yes, we are going to get married," she told the Sunday Mirror. "We won't be married for a while yet, but when it happens we've got a family planned. First we want a boy and then — come what may. There's no particular reason why we are not getting married right away, except that we're both pretty young .... I shan't give up my career unless it interferes with our being together." In a 1967 interview in the Daily Express, she had this to say about her future plans with McCartney: "I love Paul. I love him very deeply, and he feels the same. I don't think either of us has looked at anyone else since we first met. ... I want to get married probably this year and have lots and lots of babies. I certainly would be surprised indeed if I married anyone but Paul."
At Asher's insistence, McCartney had also bought a 183-acre rural retreat in June of 1966 called High Park Farm near the tiny hamlet of Machrihanish, very close to the equally tiny village of Campbeltown. The farm's original owner, Janet Brown, recalls meeting the big-city buyers: "Our farm had been up for sale for quite awhile, but what a surprise my husband and I had when we saw the famous pair. Paul told me that it had always been his ambition to own a farm in Scotland."
McCartney and Asher's time away from the non-stop grind in London and the Beatles did them both a world of good. The living conditions on the bare-bones farm were rough, which prompted McCartney to learn a bit about carpentry.
They even went so far as to make their own primitive furniture out of several old wooden packing crates they had found piled in the barn. (Playing poor up on his Scottish farm has remained one of McCartney's favorite pastimes even to this day.) Bathing at first in an abandoned stainless steel dairy trough set on a concrete slab, the pioneering pop star eventually ordered an old tub installed in the house. It would remain one of the very few conveniences he would add to his private hippie/gypsy paradise.
"Jane cooked our meals on a horrible old electric cooker we'd picked up cheap," recalls Alistair Taylor, one of Paul and Jane's few semi-regular house guests. "She's a super cook and you'd never know what a primitive kitchen she was working in. ... We did a little bit of decorating as well. AH that chocolate brown paint makes the farmhouse look like the inside of an Aero bar. Paul, at last, decided he'd had enough of it, so we went down to Campbeltown and bought lots of packets of colored pens. The three of us spent the next few hours just drawing little doodles in all these colors, spreading them all over the wall trying to relieve the gloom." So much for lifestyles of the rich and famous!
Surely the most exotic trek McCartney and Asher took together started in February of 1968 when they left Heathrow Airport for the extravagant Himalayan home of the giggly, mixed-up mystic, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The eagerly anticipated Himalayan high, however, soon fell short of expectations when the garrulous guru supposedly came on hot and heavy to celebrity meditator Mia Farrow. Questioned upon his return to England five weeks later about their magic carpet ride to inner peace in Rishikesh, McCartney would say only that at first the Beatles figured the Maharishi was somehow superhuman, but soon found out he was as fallible as anyone else. Asher, a side of whom was inclined towards things spiritual, appeared genuinely disappointed that their quest for nirvana had ended on such a sorry, negative note.
Still, 1967 was definitely an eventful year for the pair. In January Asher left London for an extended tour of America as part of the Bristol Old Vic. Upon her arrival in the U.S., however, it was clear that the media was far more interested in her relationship with McCartney than in her sterling acting ability- "I don't need the publicity," she chastised one particularly aggressive reporter from the Sunday Express.
I don't want it — and I don't like it. It puts me at such an awful disadvantage, you know ... it upsets me and I hate being upset. Because when I'm upset I'm no good at my work or anything. I know that most people think I basically love it all, and am secretly overjoyed and revelling in the gossip. But they're wrong. The press just doesn't understand about actresses and the theatre. I've become a publicity freak, and this I resent. How do I begin to tell you what it means to an actress who is trying to make it on talent alone?
While in America Jane turned twenty-one. Flying from London, McCartney caught his girlfriend's performance in Romeo and Juliet and then joined her for a big birthday bash.
Still, McCartney had some difficulty accepting the "working woman" in Asher. Interviewed by author Hunter Davies, the couple discussed the conflict:
"I've always wanted to beat Jane down," McCartney confided.
"I've refused," said Asher. "I've been brought up to be always doing something. And I enjoy acting. I didn't want to give that up."
"I know now I was being silly," McCartney replied, aware of his selfishness. "It was a game, trying to beat you down."
Asher also indicated to Davies changes she observed in the relationship following her return home after the Old Vic tour. "When I came back after five months, Paul had changed so much. He was on LSD, which I hadn't shared. I was jealous of all the spiritual experiences he'd had with John. There were fifteen people dropping in all day long. The house had changed and was full of stuff I didn't know about." Unshared experiences notwithstanding, the relationship continued. McCartney had never really abandoned his play-boy lifestyle and was out in the clubs trying his luck virtually every time Asher went off somewhere. Eventually, waking up, as he put it, to "old drinks and strange ladies," began to wear him down, and on Christmas Day 1967, he presented Jane with an exquisite diamond-and-emerald engagement ring and finally asked her to become his wife. She accepted. New Year's Day they motored up to Rembrandt and broke the news to his dad. "I'm thrilled," Jim exclaimed, beaming. "And Jane, my love," he said, giving her a fatherly peck on the cheek, "welcome to the family." For all Jane knew within months she would become Mrs. James Paul McCartney and lay to rest, once and for all, the many unhappy times she had been forced to endure as simply Paul's girlfriend. If she were his wife after all, things would surely become more stable, more certain. It wasn't to be.
In 1968 Francie Schwartz was a pretty twenty-four-year-old advertising copywriter living in New York. Like so many other young show business hopefuls, she yearned for a shot at the big time, and when it was announced that the Beatles' Apple Corp. was on the lookout for new talent and more than willing to back it all up with its mighty power and prestige, she was on the next plane out to London.
Making a beeline to Apple's headquarters on Wigmore Street, Schwartz happened to catch sight of Beatle Paul as he made his way through the company's austere lobby on his way to a late-morning meeting with his lawyers. Francie had found her moment. "Excuse me, Paul!" she sang out over the general din of the Beatles' eccentric seat of power. "Hi! I'm Francie from New York. Could I possibly speak to you for a moment?" Always a sucker for a pretty girl, McCartney ambled over and the two began to chat. "I'm a writer," Francie began. "That is, I'm trying to become a screen writer. I've been working on this film script for quite some time now, and I was wondering if you'd have a look?"
"Sure," said Paul, turning on the charm. "And what's this?" he wondered, reaching for a long manila envelope sticking out from under her arm.
"Oh, just a picture of me and my bio."
"Well, we've gotta have a look at that as well. May I?"
"Yes, of course. You know, it's really great to finally meet you," the young lady gushed, suddenly so nervous she almost dropped everything onto the carpet.
"So, anyway, how can we reach you?" Paul asked.
The next afternoon the still jet-lagged Schwartz was suddenly wakened by a loud knock at the door. It was a motorcycle courier with a letter from Apple. Carefully peeling back the beautiful cream-colored envelope bearing the striking, mysterious, levitating Apple logo, she took a long deep breath and began to read the hastily scrawled note: "Come, call, do something constructive." It was signed, "With love, Paul." Rooting in her purse through the unfamiliar English coins, she literally ran down the stairs of her cheap cold-water flat to the phone box in the foyer. After the mandatory Apple third degree and a ten-minute wait, Francie finally got through to her man. A few hasty "hellos" and "how are you's" later, McCartney told her to hop in a cab and come right over, he had something important to discuss.
Ushered into Apple's sacred inner sanctum, it soon began to dawn on the somewhat naive young woman that the famous Beatle might actually be more interested in her as a potential conquest than as a brilliant new discovery in the world of film.
Without a lot of fuss, he suddenly announced that if she wanted to be with him she'd have to be willing to remain "on call" twenty-four hours a day. Not exactly the most romantic of propositions. Still, she was interested enough to give him her number and patient enough to go home and wait. One month later to the day, the phone rang, and McCartney invited her to attend a late-night Beatle recording session at EMI studios.
Sitting next to Paul for hours, fascinated by the opportunity to witness the Beatles at work, Francie gently rubbed his shoulders while he and John worked on an early version of "Revolution." Not too surprisingly, Francie also remembers a lot of strong black hash being smoked by just about everyone there.
After the session Schwartz was limoed home without so much as a tender hug or a kiss from her potential new lover. The next morning, out of complete frustration, she dashed off a note to Paul at Apple saying, "Dear Mr. Plump: I think I'm going to have to go home soon. When am I going to see you?" A couple of days later, she received a reply in the form of a telegram stuck in among the morning milk bottles on her front stoop: "Make it Monday, Mr. P." "Tomorrow," she said to herself as she kneeled in her doorway, twirling the paper over and over. "Tomorrow."
Early the next morning the doorbell rang as she was taking her shower. Struggling to make herself presentable, she rushed down the stairs and flung open the front door. "It's fuck day!" shouted a jubilant, unshaven Paul McCartney as he and his ever-faithful sheepdog, Martha, bounded up the stairs. "It's fuck day!" As the two of them fell together in a heap on a bedside chair, the lusty Beatle bachelor began tearing away at her still-damp clothing, all the while kissing her passionately. Coming up for air a few frantic minutes later, Francie asked, "Do you love me?" "I don't know," the rough and ready McCartney intoned without missing a beat. It was the one and only time love was ever mentioned.
Later that evening, Francie once again accompanied him to the studio and afterwards home to St. John's Wood. Over a couple of very stiff drinks, McCartney began to brood about his relationship with Jane. "I don't know what the hell to do with her, you know," he began. "Why can't she understand how important it is for me to have a full-time lady? I just don't see the big fascination with her fucking career all the time. I can easily give her anything she really needs. What do you think?"
Schwartz listened patiently and none too subtly hinted that if she were ever in Jane's shoes she would stand by her man. "Would you really?" said McCartney, suddenly focusing on the real live woman in front of him.
"I'd be willing to try."
Without saying another word McCartney tenderly led her up the stairs into his dark, spacious bedroom where the couple spent the next few hours making love. As far as Francie was concerned anyway, this was, without a doubt, the real thing.
From that day on, Schwartz's "on call" services really came into play. She was expected to look after the house, though not to seriously tidy up. Paul apparently didn't like people going through his belongings. "Just leave things the way you find them, okay?" he would growl if she ever accidentally went too far in her house-cleaning chores. "You're a nosey parker aren't you, then?"
In addition, she was also expected to ring up Paul's local connections and arrange for them to deliver his weekly supply of hash and grass. Then there were her other various kitchen and bedroom duties. All things considered, it was a rather one-sided relationship. Still, for the moment at least, the young New Yorker felt a kind of strange satisfaction in knowing that she was helping someone she cared for, someone important not only to her, but to the entire world as well. If only, she thought to herself, Paul would begin to reciprocate.
That is not to say, however, that Paul and Francie never had any good times together. In her memoirs, published by Rolling Stone's Straight Arrow Books, she reflected that they "often visited friends in the country and even ran barefoot in the rain." But such truly romantic interludes, it seems, were fairly few and far between. She observed that as a lover he was "either terribly good or terribly bad," and claimed that on several occasions, coming home very late and very high, he used to go on about how women secretly liked being knocked around, and that even the super-refined Jane Asher seemed to get turned on by a little of the old rough stuff.
Perhaps the most humiliating experience she endured during her stint as Paul's paramour occurred late one evening after the couple had partied with friends at the trendy London nightspot, Revolution. Driving home, McCartney suddenly pulled over to the curb and told the confused young woman to wait in the car for a few minutes. As it turned out they were outside the home of one of Paul's old girlfriends with whom he had maintained a long and steamy affair. Fifteen minutes later, he returned to the car without saying a word and turned off in the direction of St. John's Wood.
"You fucking bastard!" Schwartz suddenly blurted out, no longer able to contain her emotion. "Couldn't you have at least taken me home first?"
"Why Paul? Why?" she said, choking on her tears.
"I don't know," McCartney said under his breath.
Meanwhile to the gentle, faithful Jane, the Francie Schwartz intrigue was about to become the final straw. Returning to St. John's Wood unexpectedly that July, following an Old Vic tour of the provinces, Jane motored onto Cavendish Avenue and glided to a stop just outside Paul's front gate. Margot Stevens, a die-hard McCartney devotee and longtime Apple Scruff, who happened to be hanging around outside, frantically pushed the buzzer in an effort to warn Paul that his fiancee was approaching. As it happened, Paul himself answered the call.
"It's Margot. Listen, Jane just pulled up. What about Francie?"
"Do you think I was born yesterday?" he said sarcastically. "Why don't you lot leave off for a bit. Don't you think I'd know if Jane were coming over?"
Stepping onto the curb, Jane said a quick hello to the fans and then, using her key, let herself into the cobblestone courtyard. Entering the house, she set down her purse and slowly walked up the stairs to the bedroom she shared with Paul. For some reason she stopped short of opening the door and quietly knocked. Inside, McCartney bolted straight up as if he had been stuck with an electric cattle prod.
"Who's there?" he asked, suddenly filled with frantic anticipation.
"It's Jane, silly," Asher replied, obviously happy to hear her lover's voice again.
Springing to the doorway, Paul carefully slipped out into the hall, his heart pounding. Peering into the darkened room, Jane suddenly zeroed in on Francie, standing next to the bed, clad only in the fine oriental silk dressing gown Jane had given Paul for Christmas.
"Uh, look .. ." Paul started, anxiously rubbing his brow.
Broken-hearted, Asher looked him in the eyes for a moment, the tears welling up even as she turned away and ran back down the stairs and out of Paul's life forever. The whole thing played like a scene from some B-grade British movie, but unfortunately there was to be no happy ending. Francie now moved up the ladder in Paul's mixed-up love life. Convinced momentarily that she was definitely the one, he even took her home to meet his father. Despite his reputation for diplomacy and tact, Jim was not impressed and all but ignored his son's new love throughout an uncomfortable and embarrassing weekend.
In time the affair came to an abrupt end. Francie simply left one morning while the great Beatle was out. "Paul," she said later, "was an outrageous adolescent, a little Medici prince, powdered and laid on a satin pillow at an early age. But he was so pretty."
Francie Schwartz wasn't McCartney's only sexual transgression in his five-year relationship with Jane Asher. He was also known to have been intimate with folk singer Julie Felix and, of course, Linda Eastman.
From day one, McCartney and Asher's romance was tempestuous. Tony Barrow says that behind closed doors they often fought like cats and dogs. Although a diehard show-business professional, Jane was, unlike McCartney, basically very quiet and shy. On July 20, 1968, she appeared on the BBC television show "Dee Time," and offhandedly announced that the engagement was off. She later told reporters, "I know it sounds corny, but we still see each other, and love each other, but it hasn't worked out. Perhaps we'll be childhood sweethearts and meet again, and get married when we're about seventy."
After nearly a twenty-year silence on the subject, in a 1986 interview given to promote his critically disastrous Press to Play album, McCartney had this to say about his long-suffering lost love:
We nearly did get married. But it always used to fall short of the mark and something happened. And one of us would think it wasn't right, for which I'm obviously glad now. Jane and I had a long, good relationship — I still like her. I don't know whether she likes me, but I don't see any reason why not. We don't see each other at all.
McCartney achieved a measure of notoriety when, in late June of 1967, American televangelist Billy Graham knelt down in his plush Washington hotel suite and began to pray for the redemption of the wayward Beatle's soul. Billy's inspiration had been McCartney's sensational statement in Life magazine that he had taken the dreaded hallucinogen LSD several times and, worse still, enjoyed it. "I am praying for Paul," Graham confirmed to reporters, "that he finds what he is looking for. He has reached the top of his profession and now he is searching for the true purpose of his life. But he will not find it through taking LSD."
McCartney's first trek into the uncharted territories of his mind via LSD had taken place after a Beatles recording session. Lennon had taken what he assumed was a handful of uppers, realizing too late he had accidently ingested several thousand micrograms of powerful White Micro Dot. Teetering precariously close to the edge, he panicked during a vocal overdub and was whisked outside in an effort to calm him. "I can't remember what album it was," he recalled later.
But I took it and I suddenly got so scared on the mike. I thought I was going to crack. I had to get some air, so they took me upstairs on the roof and George Martin was looking at me funny, and then it dawned on me I must have taken acid. I said, "Well, I can't go on, you'll have to do it and I'll just stay and watch." You know, I got very nervous just watching them all. I was saying, "Is it all right?" and they were saying, "Yeah." They had all been very kind and carried on making the record.
As the session progressed, John, lost in inner space, became increasingly edgy, prompting the others to pack it in for the evening. They soon realized no real work could be accomplished with their leader in such a hyperkinetic, electric state.
"I think I'd better take John home with me," Paul confided to George, as Harrison carefully wiped down, and then packed away, his Gretsch Country Gentleman electric.
"Good idea," said George, "He might need a little looking after." Plodding through EMI's long, narrow hallway, Lennon felt his legs turning to spaghetti. Looking down to examine the trouble, his feet suddenly seemed miles away, two tiny pin-heads unwinding like a spool of kite string on a blustery spring day.
On their way to Cavendish Avenue in Paul's purple Mini Cooper, Paul decided it was now or never. "You haven't got another hit there, have you?" he asked, observing John in the back seat through the rear-view mirror.
"Yeah, sure," croaked Lennon, rustling through his coat pocket for another bright white tab. "I could use the company."
Sitting together cross-legged on McCartney's huge oriental rug in the diningroom at the rear of the house, the two men stared intensely into each other's glazed eyes for what seemed an eternity. "I know, man . . ." McCartney trailed off after at least an hour of this time-honored psychedelic ritual, "I know."
Now that Paul had finally followed suit and entered the doors of perception, he emerged a changed person. "God is in everything," he observed to a journalist friend a couple of weeks later. "God is in the space between us. God is in the table in front of you. It just happens I realize all this through acid. It could have been through anything else." In Liverpool, Jim McCartney was unimpressed.
By the time the Beatles' hallucinogenic adventures hit the papers, McCartney was convinced that if not an outright psychic panacea, LSD was, at least, a powerful catalyst in the spiritual evolution of the species. Straining with the evangelical zeal of the neophyte, he eagerly discussed his acid-induced insights with both reporters and friends, praising to the skies the wonders of this accidental derivative of the humble ergot fungus. Not surprisingly, it led him into tangles with the media:
REPORTER: So, now you seem to be encouraging your fans to take drugs!
PAUL: No, I don't think my fans are going to take drugs just because I did. That's not the point anyway. I was asked whether I had [taken LSD] or not, and from then on the whole bit about how far it's going to go, and how many people it's going to encourage, is up to the newspapers, and up to you.
REPORTER: But as a public figure surely you've got a responsibility to ...
PAUL: I'm not trying to spread the word about this. The man from the newspaper is the man from the mass media. I'll keep it a personal thing if he does, too, you know... It's his responsibility for spreading it, not mine. You are spreading it now at this moment. This is going into all the homes in Britain, and I'd rather it didn't. You're asking me the question, you want me to be honest, I'll be honest. But it's you lot who've got the responsibility not to spread this.
As usual, the canny McCartney demanded and got the final word.
Days later, in a scathing editorial entitled "Beatle Paul, MBE, LSD and BF (Bloody Fool)," the Daily Mirror charged that he had behaved "like an irresponsible idiot," and suggested that he should see a psychiatrist.
Racing to the aid of his charge, Brian Epstein granted several interviews to journalists the following month, defending the Beatle's statements about the drug. "Paul rang me to say he had told the press he had taken LSD," he explained to one reporter.
I was very worried. I came up to London knowing I was going to be asked to comment on Paul's decision. I finally decided that I would admit I had taken LSD as well. There were several reasons for this. One was certainly to make things easier for Paul. People don't particularly enjoy being lone wolves. And I didn't feel like being dishonest and covering up, especially as I believe that a lot of good has come from hallucinatory drugs.
In a 1984 interview, Alistair Taylor, a lifelong opponent of drug use, reflected on what he felt were the deeper reasons behind the Beatles' turning on.
Look, if you weren't there you can't begin to understand the pressure and their way of life. I can't convey to you what it was like. It was unbearable and they just had to do something. Imagine, you can't walk down the street, you can't go out in a car, you can't do anything without being torn to shreds, day in, day out, you know? The real development, I think, came about as an escape. It was fun, they could afford it, and they mixed with people who said, "Hey, try this." I mean, Lennon spent weeks trying to persuade me to go on a trip, but I never did. I had nothing to do with drugs. I tried a joint about twice, and I decided it was an idiot's game, quite frankly. Who needs it? But John and Derek [Taylor] would spend hours trying to persuade me. "We'll be with you, it's great." It was all done in fun, really.
Towards the end of McCartney's relatively short-lived fascination with acid he began to think twice about having been so keen to sing its praises publicly and backed off from stirring up any further controversy. "I don't recommend it," he told the papers. "It can open a few doors, but it's not any answer. You get answers yourself."
John Lennon, ever the cynic, later charged that it was simply McCartney's inbred squareness that led him to recant his earlier position on the unholy sacrament.
In L.A., the second time we took it, Paul felt very out of it, because we were all a bit slightly cruel, sort of, "We're taking it and you're not!" But we kept seeing him, you know? I think George was pretty heavy on it; we are probably the most cracked. Paul is a bit more stable than George and I. I think LSD profoundly shocked him — and Ringo. I think maybe they'll regret it.
McCartney, however, offered another, less critical assessment of his crazy acid days to Hunter Davies in The Beatles. "Me — I'm conservative. I feel the need to check things out. I was the last to try pot and LSD and floral clothes. I'm just slower than John, the least likely to succeed in class."
In 1986, Lennon's prophecy that McCartney might one day regret his flirtation with the drug was realized when he told Britain's Q magazine: "I was given a lot of stick for being the last one to take acid. I wish I'd held out in a way, although it was the times. ... I remember John going on the old 'Grey Whistle Test,' saying, 'Paul only took it four times! We all took it twenty times!' It was as if you scored points."
Although he ultimately rejected LSD, McCartney did go on to sample all manner of other under-the-counter pharmaceutical delights from fine Afgani opiated hash to Colombian cocaine. In a 1986 interview with Rolling Stone he claimed to have been experimenting with cocaine at the time of Sgt. Pepper, before any of the other Beatles and the record industry generally, but abandoned it because of its severe downside: "I could never stand that feeling at the back of the throat — it was like you were choking, you know? So I knocked that on the head. I just thought, 'This is not fun.' "
Despite his claims to the contrary, Paul's penchant for the infamous "Devil's Dandruff" didn't end with the collective lunacy of the sixties. Jo Jo Laine remembers an incident from McCartney's 1976 Wings Over Europe tour: "One time in Liverpool for one of the New Year's parties we had some, and we all had a snort. It was Denny and I, Jimmy [McCulloch], Henry [McCullough], and Paul. It was mine. I'm the one who brought it. Paul didn't do a lot, but I remember thinking, 'He's not as straight as everybody thinks he is.'"
Recreational activities aside, the latter half of the sixties also saw McCartney increasingly concerned with the pursuit of serious art. Although John Lennon has the reputation of being the "artistic" member of the group, it should be noted that the inspiration and planning for the albums Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Magical Mystery Tour, much of The White Album, and the operatic side two of Abbey Road belong almost solely to McCartney.
Long after John, George, and Ringo had retreated to the staid placidity of London's pastoral suburbs, McCartney was burning the midnight oil with the likes of junkie author William Burroughs, beat poet Allen Ginsberg, heralded LSD manufacturer Michael Hollingshead, International Times founder Barry Miles, and Marianne Faithfull's husband, John Dunbar, who owned and operated the celebrated Indica Gallery and bookstore on Southampton Row. Through Dunbar, McCartney began to look at art in a new way. Giving himself up to Dunbar's gentle guidance, he soon became a devotee of avant-garde filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni and a patron of Greek sculptor Takis and his bizarre collection of magnetic machine art. "He wasn't especially interested in the art scene at first," remembers the handsome, bespectacled Dunbar. "He was just generally being turned on to things. Acid had come along by that time and it made a big difference."
Together, McCartney and Dunbar began making their own underground films, stalking around London with twin 16 mm cameras, shooting just about anything they considered freaky or far out. Back at St. John's Wood, the two spaced-out cinematic pioneers would carefully dub in a soundtrack of McCartney's own electronic music, often working late into the night like a couple of mad scientists in Frankenstein's lab. Although nothing of any great importance surfaced from all this frantic activity, McCartney did have fun. He recalls the phase:
I had a very rich avant-garde period which was a buzz, making movies and stuff. Because I was living on my own in London, and all the other guys were married in the suburbs, they were very square in my mind, and they'd come over to my pad where there'd be people hanging out and weird sculptures and I'd be piecing together little films and stuff.
As the years pass, it seems increasingly important to McCartney to be remembered as the "arty" Beatle or at very least the first of the four to dabble in experimental film and music. Even ten years after John Lennon's death, his larger-than-life presence weighs heavily on Paul who despite his post-Beatles accomplishments still seems to resent John's image as the band's cultural trailblazer. "I was making 8mm movies and showing them to Antonioni," he told Q magazine in 1986.
I had all sorts of theories of music. We'd put on a Ravi Shankar record to our home movies and it'd synchronize and John used to come from Weybridge, kind of looking slightly goofy and saying, "Wow! This is great! We should do more of this!" I used to sit in a basement in Montague Square with William Burroughs and a couple of gay guys he knew from Morocco, and that Marianne Faithfull - John Dunbar crowd, doing little tapes, crazy stuff with guitar and cello. But it didn't occur to me the next NME interview I did to rave about William Burroughs. Maybe it would have been good for me to do that.
Not surprisingly, McCartney's "artier than thou" ideas didn't go down well with the rest of the group.
The closest the public ever got to viewing any of Paul McCartney's deliberately obscure cinema verite was in 1968 when a writer from Britain's Punch magazine wrote about the dubious honor afforded him at Cavendish Avenue. There he viewed two of McCartney's LSD-inspired epics: The Defeat of the Dog and The Next Spring Then. "They were not like ordinary people's home movies," he wrote.
There were over exposures, double exposures, blinding orange lights, quick cuts from professional wrestling to a crowded car park to a close-up of a television weather map. There were long stillshots of a grey cloudy sky and a wet grey pavement, jumping Chinese ivory carvings and affectionate slow-motion studies of his sheepdog Martha and his cat. The accompanying music, on a record player and faultlessly synchronized, was by the Modern Jazz Quartet and Bach.
Despite Paul's penchant for all things new and exciting, there were definite limits:
[John and I] had dinner one night — just a friendly dinner, just bein' mates — and I remember him saying he was thinking of having this trepanning thing done: drilling a hole in the skull. The Romans or the Greeks or somebody used to do it, so that gave it a validity in John's mind, I think. And he said, "Would you be up for that? Do you fancy doin' that? We could go and get it done." I said, "Why?" He said, "It relieves the pressure on your brain." So I said, "Look, you go try it, and if it's great, you tell me, and maybe I'll do it."
For a while, the privacy and freedom afforded the Beatles by their rejection of the road was a balm, a breath of fresh air for the stressed-out quartet. After five frantic years of being together night and day, often for months on end, each of them now had the option of wandering off on his own for awhile.
Following the unbridled success of their films A Hard Day's Night and Help!, the Beatles' music became noticeably more introspective, interesting, and intricate.
As early as Rubber Soul Paul McCartney had asserted his colossal talent for melding strong lyrics with widely appealing melodies, as in "You Won't See Me," "I'm Looking Through You," and "Wait." All three tunes seem a kind of oblique invitation to his oft-absent lover, Jane Asher, to emotionally ante Up and settle down with him once and for all.
The Beatles' next album, Revolver, further showcased McCartney as a musical painter with a wonderfully full and varied palette. Here, for the first time, emerges a truly compassionate Paul, wounded by an uncaring world that capriclously casts aside the broken and lonely, as he portrays in "Eleanor Rigby" and the hauntingly beautiful "For No One." "At first I thought ["Eleanor Rigby"] was a bit like 'Annabel Lee,' but not so sexy," reflects McCartney.
Then I realized I'd said she was picking up the rice in church, so she had to be a cleaner; she had missed the wedding, and she was suddenly lonely. In fact she had missed it all — she was the spinster type.
Jane was in a play in Bristol then, and I was walking round the streets waiting for her to finish. The thought just came: "Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice and lives in a dream." So there she was. The next thing was Father MacKenzie. It was going to be Father McCartney, but then I thought that was a bit of a hang-up for my dad, being in this lonely song. So we looked through the phone book. That's the beauty of working at random — it does come up perfectly, much better than if you try to think it with your intellect. In the next verse we thought of an old feller going through dustbins; but it got too involved — embarrassing. That was the point anyway. She didn't make it, she never made it with anyone, she didn't even look as if she was going to.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Revolver re-affirmed McCartney's more familiar, optimistic self, in cuts such as "Good Day Sunshine" and the Tamala Motown-inspired "Got to Get You into My Life," with a good-natured subtlety that both stimulated and assured the listener.
Then came the album that was to define the music of the entire decade, the iconoclastic Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The album, recorded at EMI Studios between December 1966 and April 1967, was McCartney's answer to, or perhaps grand elevation of, the Beach Boys' eclectic Pet Sounds LP, but also gleaned more than a little inspiration from the Mothers of Invention's startling Freak Out, which McCartney later called "the first pop album that was not simply a set of singles all strung together."
Always uppermost in McCartney's mind was to keep the Beatles at the very pinnacle of all that was exciting and different. With Sgt. Pepper he set out not just to bruise the barriers of popular music but to obliterate them. "Normally a Beatles album would just be a collection of songs with a nice picture on the cover, nothing more," says Paul. "So the idea was to do a complete thing that you could make what you like of, just a little magical presentation."
Aiding and abetting McCartney in his grandiose schemes to tie together the entire package of music and album graphics into a unified concept was Mai Evans, who is said to have originated the album's unforgettable title. He also helped out on the lyrics to the album's title track and assisted Paul with the tune "Fixing a Hole." Although he remained uncredited, the former telecommunications engineer from suburban Liverpool did receive an unspecified royalty for his efforts.
The first Pepper composition the Beatles committed to tape was Paul's "When I'm Sixty-Four," work commencing at 6:45 p.m. on Tuesday December 6, 1966. Although, the Beatles used to perform a version of this vaudevillian ditty at the Cavern occasionally, when their amps broke down, Paul may have included this number as a tribute to his father who on his next birthday would turn sixty-four.
The next track to see daylight was the hauntingly ethereal, "A Day in the Life," tentatively entitled "In the Life of. . ." on the first day's tape log. John and Paul recalled the genesis of the work. "I was writing the song with the Daily Mail propped up in front of me on the piano," said John.
I had it open at the "News in Brief" section or whatever they call it. Anyway, there was a paragraph about four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire, being discovered, but there was still one word missing in that particular verse when we began to record. I knew the line should go, "Now they know how many holes it takes to ... the Albert Hall." It was a nonsense verse really, but for some reason I just couldn't think of the bloody verb! It was actually Terry Doran who finally said, "Fill the Albert Hall, John."
Paul McCartney remembers:
There'd been a story about a lucky man who'd made the grade, and there was a photograph of him sitting in his big car, and when John saw it he just had to laugh! That's all just a little black comedy, you know. The next bit was another song altogether, but it happened to fit well with the first section. It was really only me remembering what it was like to run up the road to catch the school bus, having a smoke, and then going into class. We decided, "Bugger this, we're going to write a real turn-on song!" This was the only one on the album written as a deliberate provocation to people. But what we really wanted was to turn you on to the truth rather than just bloody pot!
The album's title track was started on February 1 and by 1:45 a.m. the next morning a rough demo remix was already in the can, enabling acetates to be made for further review and work by McCartney at home.
One week later, the Beatles moved across London to Regent Sound Studios on Tottenham Court Road for work on Paul's surreal "Fixing a Hole." After a prolonged rehearsal, the band forged ahead, recording three complete takes of the finished song, eventually settling on the second as their final choice. McCartney comments:
If you're a junkie sitting in a room fixing a hole then that's what it will mean to you, but when I wrote it I meant if there's a crack, or the room is uncolorful, then I'll paint it. It's about fans too: I invited one in once, and the next day she was in the Daily Mirror with her mother saying we were going to get married. So now we just tell the fans, "Forget it."
McCartney's "Lovely Rita" was recorded chiefly on February 23 and 24 at EMI with overdubs added in March. The whimsical tale of a London civil servant who "allows her heart to be towed away" at the end of every romantic evening, "Lovely Rita" is based on a real-life encounter between McCartney and a St. John's Wood traffic warden, who ticketed the Beatle's illegally parked Mini on Garden Street in 1967. "Lovely Rita" is in reality Lovely "Meta," today a retired nineteen-year veteran of the force. "He saw that my name was Meta," remembers Constable Davis, "and he laughed and said, 'That would make a nice jingle, I could use that.' We chatted for a few minutes and then he drove off. I didn't think anymore of it, but later, the song came out and although I knew the record was about me I never bought a copy."
"Getting Better," a frank rock 'n' roll confessional from Paul, was laid down on March 9 with serious work beginning at one o'clock in the morning, (although the band was officially booked to start at seven). Paul has often commented that the song is a textbook example of how the Lennon/McCartney compositions were strengthened by the collaborators' differing, and complementary, perspectives. When McCartney sang "I've got to admit it's getting better," Lennon caustically added, "It can't get no worse."
The next McCartney track to be laid down was the schmaltzy "She's Leaving Home" with six takes of the complicated string arrangements recorded on March 17. "It's about a much younger girl than Eleanor Rigby, but the same sort of loneliness," recalls McCartney. "That was a Daily Mirror story again. This girl left home and her father said, 'We gave her everything, I don't know why she left.' But he didn't give her that much, not what she really wanted when she went away."
The final, mostly McCartney track on the album, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)," was recorded in one intense eleven-hour session on April 1. As Paul was due to fly out to the U.S. two days later, it would also be his final Pepper session, although taping continued for a full three weeks under the steady hand of George Martin and sporadic appearances by the other three. "I think the reprise version of the song is more exciting than the first cut of Sgt. Pepper," says Beatles recording engineer Geoff Emerick. "There's a nice quality about it. We recorded the Beatles in the huge Abbey Road number one studio which was quite hard because of the acoustics of the place. It's difficult to capture the tightness of the rhythm section in there."
The next challenge was to create an album jacket that would appropriately reflect and package the work's progressive musical content. The Beatles had commissioned The Fool, an aberrant tribe of hippie designers from Holland, to do the job, but McCartney's friend and advisor, art expert Robert Fraser, convinced them that The Fool's splashy, swirling designs would date far too quickly, possibly impeding the record's longevity. In addition to their work on the front cover, The Fool also submitted graphics for both the inside gatefold spread and a psychedelic liner sleeve to hold the actual disc. The inside artwork, however, didn't align properly with the newly commissioned photo put together by artist Peter Blake, and so was dropped at the last minute in favor of the famous portrait of the Beatles by twenty-five-year-old Chelsea photographer Michael Cooper. By way of consolation for The Fool's efforts, however, their electric red-and-pink liner was used.
Neil Aspinall recalls some of the pitfalls of working with The Fool:
They hadn't somehow checked on the album size and their design was just slightly out of scale. So they said, "Oh, O.K., we'll put a border on it." So we now had this design which was too small and a border being added just to fill up space. I said to the fellows, "What are we selling here, a Beatles album or a centrefold with a design by The Fool which isn't even ready? Hadn't we better get a picture taken of the four of you, and stick that in so we can see who you are?"
In order to expedite matters, at the Beatles' behest, EMI hired Robert Fraser for £1500 to oversee the production of Sgt. Pepper's by-now wildly ambitious sleeve. He, in turn, brought in Peter Blake who set about designing and assembling the collage of famous faces to be used as a backdrop against which the Beatles would be photographed. "I went along to [Peter's] house with Robert," Paul recalls in the lavish giveaway-program to his 1989/90 world tour:
Because originally the idea was gonna be that this group was being given a presentation by a Lord Mayor on a kind of grassy knoll with a floral clock, which is very typical of Cleethorpes in Lancashire and all the parks — the floral clock. It was going to be that, and that might have said, "Congratulations, Beatles" or something. And we were going to be standing receiving a silver cup or something from this guy. I drew it all out — little sketches (being sold at Sotheby's regularly, these sketches, they got found). I took this to Peter Blake and he started developing them. He said instead of the floral clock, couldn't we have all these heroes that we'd written these lists of.
From there each of the Beatles was asked to submit the names of twelve personalities they would like to see mixed in amongst the pantheon of famous faces being assembled at Chelsea Manor Studios on Flood Street.
Finally, after two weeks of almost continuous work by Blake and his wife, sculptor Jann Haworth, the outrageous set was completed and the photo session held on March 30, 1967, commencing at 11 p.m. It took Michael Cooper just a little over three hours to get the shots he needed for both the front and back covers as well as the interior gatefold photo.
The next afternoon, Blake returned to the studio to help pack away all the various bits and pieces, only to find that almost everything was already gone, picked over by various assistants and friends of the group. Two decades later, one of the sixty-plus cardboard heads still occasionally turns up at Christy's or Sotheby's and is immediately snapped up by wealthy Beatle freaks from Tokyo to L.A.
It is little known that in addition to the album, a Sgt. Pepper film was also planned, with a distinct scenario envisaged for each of the thirteen spectacular tunes. The project, to have been produced in association with the London-based Peacock Productions Limited, went as far as being officially planned and budgeted with a confidential production report signed on Tuesday, September 26, 1967, by producers Hathaway and Peacock. Included in the document were particulars relating to the location, studio, and editing facilities needed for the fifty-two-minute film which was promised for completion late that November. The locations were listed as follows:
A. Longleat/Country: Sgt. P & Reprise
B. Kew Gardens: Lucy
C. Circus: A Little Help
D. Fun Fair: Mr. Kite
E. Air Field: Sixty-Four
F. Modern Middle C House: Leaving Home
G. London Streets Etc. Rita
H. School: Getting Better
I. Factory/Offices/Lifts: Within
J. Studio: 40% of Within and Good Morning
K. Studio/Meditation Room: Fixing A Hole
L. Observatory/Planetarium: Lucy
M. Recording Session: Day in the Life Parts I, II, III
Why the film, which was to be shot in Eastman color for "color television presentation," was never made remains a mystery never publicly commented on by either the Beatles or anyone close to them. In the late seventies, however, an obscure film clip began surfacing occasionally on television around the world. It was later identified as a segment from the ill-fated project. As the cinematic counterpart to the epic "A Day in the Life," the fragmented footage was indicative of the acid-soaked era that spawned it. Apple insider Peter Brown explains:
It was a mess. The guy who arranged it, Vic Sing, was involved with the movie Wonderwall and it was he and Paul who set the whole thing up. They filmed the last session at Abbey Road which was the one with the London Symphony Orchestra. As everyone arrived, most of us were given 16mm cameras and hand mikes and told to film whatever we liked. But no provision had been made by either of them for any straight film taking, so everything that was done was just off-the-wall. There was nothing long enough — just people playing around the cameras.
The idea for Magical Mystery Tour first occurred to McCartney while in Denver Colorado with Mai Evans to help celebrate Jane Asher's twenty-first birthday. The concept was simple: the Beatles would invite a select group of close friends, fan club secretaries, bizarre character actors, midgets, and circus freaks to travel around the English countryside with them in a rented coach and just see what happened. "Getting quite excited about planning the television film," Evans wrote in his diary during the trip. "Idea going at the moment is make it about some sort of Mystery Tour (Roll Up! Roll Up!). Paul is getting lots of ideas and we're jotting them down as we go."
Flying home on Tuesday, April 11, 1967, McCartney began working on the lyrics for the project's title track, mapping out further ideas with Evans for the proposed one-hour special-Borrowing some paper from one of the stewardesses, McCartney carefully drew a large circle and then divided it up into several equal sections. He then pencilled in various ideas as to the film's content and structure, leaving several blanks for his colleagues back in London to work out. Nine days later, the Beatles began recording the song "Magical Mystery Tour," but were soon sidetracked by their promised participation that June in the global satellite telecast, "Our World," on which they performed "All You Need Is Love."
On Thursday, August 24, just a couple of days prior to Brian Epstein's tragic death from an accidental overdose of sleeping pills, he and the Beatles met to discuss the group's plans for the rest of the year. He is said to have been very keen about Paul's idea for the Mystery Tour film and advised his charges to carry on with their plans. Within three days, Brian Epstein was dead. Thrown into a tailspin by this totally unexpected turn of events, the Beatles decided to postpone further work on the film until returning from a three-month meditation course they had promised to attend at the Maharishi's Rishikesh ashram. A few days later, however, they changed their minds, reasoning that it would make more sense to postpone their holidays until after the filming had been completed.
On Friday, September 1, a meeting was held at Paul's to discuss the particulars of the ambitious project. Neil Aspinall remembers:
While everyone added ideas, Paul sat at his typewriter and with one over-worked finger put down a list headed "Main Points." Underneath he put: "Coach Tour (Three Days) with people on board. Week beginning Sept. 4 — Cameraman, Sound, Cast, Driver. Hotels to be arranged for 2 nights. 'Magical Mystery Tour' Emblem to be designed. Yellow coach to be hired (Sept. 4 to Sept. 9). Microphone system in coach. Must be good all-round vision. Tour 'staff — Driver, Courier, Hostess. Three staff uniforms required. Coach destination — Cornwall??? After coach — Shepperton Studios (One Week)." On another sheet he typed out a sequence of arrangements to be made: "Write outline script. Decide cast. Engage cast. Decide when shooting starts. Sets for studios. Fix completion date."
Ringo, listed in the credits as "Richard Starkey, MBE," was ostensibly director of photography, and although all of the Beatles contributed to the final editing of the film, it was mostly Ringo and Paul who supervised production. Setting off enroute to Cornwall together on Monday, September 11, the Beatles and thirty-nine others began the arduous task of filming without benefit of any real script, competent technical advice, or even much of a clue as to where they were heading. Needless to say, right from day one, the Magical Mystery Tour was an unqualified disaster.
One of the most unfortunate setbacks had to do with shooting the dreamy "Fool on the Hill" sequence in Nice on October 30, 1967. Jetting off solo, Paul soon realized he'd not only forgotten his passport but his wallet as well, leaving him in difficulty with French customs officials. A series of frantic phone calls resulted in the document's being rush-delivered by air freight several agonizing hours later. To make matters worse, someone at NEMS had forgotten to include any money with the passport, and McCartney's hotel refused to accept his signature for the room or advance him any credit. Once again the international phone lines were buzzing.
As for McCartney's contribution to the score, it is perhaps his soulful "Fool on the Hill" that is best remembered although his post-Pepper music-hall offering, "Your Mother Should Know," also stands up well. Unfortunately, it was the film itself that people had problems with. Lennon observed:
Paul made an attempt to carry on as if Brian hadn't died by saying, "Now, now, boys, we're going to make a record." Being the kind of person I am, I thought, "Well, we're going to make a record all right...."
Paul had a tendency to come along and say well, he's written these ten songs, let's record now. And I said, "Well, give us a couple of days, and I'll knock a few off," or something like that.... Paul said, "Well, here's the segment, you write a little piece for that," and I thought, "Bloody hell," so I ran off and wrote the dream sequence for the fat woman and the whole thing with the spaghetti. George and I were sort of grumbling about the fuckin' movie but we thought we'd better do it as we had the feeling we owed it to the public to do these daft things.
Magical Mystery Tour was first aired on Boxing Day, 1967, on BBC. The Daily Mail called it "blatant rubbish," while the Los Angeles Times reported, "Critics and Viewers Boo: Beatles produce First Flop with Yule Film." Paul McCartney commented that if the film had been shown in color as originally intended, rather than black and white, it might have made more sense. Nevertheless, American network officials ultimately canceled their option to broadcast the film in the United States. Twenty-odd years later, the Mystery Tour's critical and commercial failure still seems to nag McCartney.
We didn't worry about the fact that we didn't know anything about making films and had never made one before. We realized years ago you don't really need any knowledge to do anything. All you need is sense. It started out to be one of those kind of things like The Wild One, with Marlon Brando. At the time it couldn't be released. The interest in it came later. Magical Mystery Tour was a bit like that. So all of those things work out well. You've got to be patient. I think it was a good show. It will have its day, you know.
The White Album signaled the beginning of the end for the Beatles as a group. Although they were still working together, they were beginning to grow apart. No longer was Beatle music the cohesive, joint effort it had been in earlier years; rather, it was usually Paul or John with a backing group. Recorded under the working title A Doll's House, the album featured a stark, all-white cover designed by artist John Kosh, with the title "The Beatles" embossed across the front. Inserted inside the two-record set were 8" x 10" head shots of the four Beatles and a phantasmagoric, collage-style poster (wich doubled as a lyric sheet) by Richard Hamilton. Years later, John Lennon reflected that of all the Beatles' albums this one stood out as his personal favorite. Paul too, was partial to the impressive thirty-song opus.
But even as they were at their most creative as a group, the inevitable death knell had already been sounded; the band played on, unwilling troubadors at their own musical wake. "They attempted to be nice to each other when they were laying down the basic tracks," remembers Ken Scott, one of their engineers from the early days of A Hard Day's Night and Help!
But there was one time, when we were putting bass on one of Paul's songs.... Everything was going real well, and then John and Ringo walked in and for the half hour they were there, you could have cut the atmosphere with a knife. It was awful. At one point Ringo quit the band for a couple of weeks — he had reached that point, and he walked. When he came back, they filled the entire studio with flowers and big WELCOME HOME banners. They wanted him back.
The Beatles' ever-faithful father figure, George Martin, was beginning to show signs of strain and took a well-deserved three-week holiday in the middle of recording, bringing in latter-day Who producer, Chris Thomas, to oversee the continuing work. In his absence the pace accelerated and a full ten tunes were recorded by the time he returned. "The fastest track we did was 'Birthday,'" engineer Scott recalls. "We started it in the afternoon, then we all went round to Paul's house to watch one of the old rock 'n' roll movies, The Girl Can't Help It, that was being shown on TV. That gave everyone a new lease on life, and we went back in the studio and finished the song that night."
McCartney's thirteen-plus tracks on The White Album are the work of a punchier, more mature composer intent on stretching his songwriting and performing talents to the limit. In "Back in the U.S.S.R." he mimics not only the perpetually sunny Beach Boys but also himself through a rapid-fire succession of vocal gymnastics only the most limber of rock performers could ever hope to match.
"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" is Paul's surreal, reggae-inspired ode to a Jamaican friend. "I might have given him a couple of lyrics," John recalled in December of 1980, "but it's his song, his lyric."
Also included on The White Album are three of Paul's outstanding miniatures. Perhaps insubstantial in themselves, they work admirably in the context of the expansive two-record set. The first, "Wild Honey Pie," was originally just a typical McCartney off-the-cuff ad lib which was later edited down and fitted between "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" and Lennon's silly "Bungalow Bill." Of "Wild Honey Pie" Paul has said, "This was just a fragment of an instrumental which we weren't sure about, but Pattie [Harrison] liked it very much so we decided to leave it on the album." Steve Holly, virtuoso drummer for Wings in its last, fragile incarnation, remembers Paul often working up and recording several similarly offbeat compositions including a ditty about going for a pee, aptly entitled "Call of Nature." The next unfinished McCartney gem on the album is the reasonably obscene, "Why Don't We Do It in the Road." None of the other Beatles performs on this peculiarly barren track; Paul screams out the mantra-like lyrics with a gritty rasp reminiscent of his delivery on the Abbey Road opus, "Oh! Darling." Finally, the twenty-seven-second "Can You Take Me Back" may be one of the spiritually richest lyrics McCartney has ever created.
Harkening back to McCartney's early music-hall influences are his tribute to his beloved sheepdog, Martha, in "Martha My Dear," and the big-band-inspired "Honey Pie." "Only someone like Paul could ever get away with doing that sort of lame-ass shit," John Lennon complained to me in 1971. "That's all due to his father, Jim, of course, who I must admit I've always rather liked. His brother Mike too. It's just Paul who sometimes gets my goat. Especially when he's intent on doing his fucking Cole Porter routine all the time like on 'Honey Pie'."
More subdued are "Blackbird," "Mother Nature's Son," and the beautifully simple "I Will." Even the often critical Lennon had to admit that McCartney's acoustic guitar work was excellent, his light touch cascading around his deeply felt lyrics like wind over water. Denny Laine, for one, has always acknowledged "Blackbird" as one of his former partner's great-est compositions. "It's such a simple melody to play," he would often say, while doodling around on his guitar. "Whenever I show people they just can't believe anything that sounds that good can end up being so damn simple. But it is. And that's a big part of Paul's incredible genius." Of "Mother Nature's Son" John recalled: "That was from a lecture by Maharishi where he was talking about nature, and I had a piece called, 'I'm Just a Child of Nature' which turned into 'Jealous Guy' years later."
Perhaps Paul's least-inspired track on The White Album is the inane B-western spoof, "Rocky Racoon." Like his early Wings single "Mary Had a Little Lamb," the popular mid-seventies tune "C Moon," and his as-yet-unreleased "Rupert Bear" ballad, "Rocky" is more a zany children's song rather than anything one would expect to find on a straight-ahead Beatles album. "I saw Bob Hope doing it once on the telly years ago," John once recalled. "I just thanked God it wasn't one of mine."
Finally, Paul's two token pre-heavy-metal rockers, "Birthday" and "Helter Skelter," are stirring examples of the Beatles at their hard-driving best. In spite of the fact that American mass murderer Charles Manson adopted "Helter Skelter" as his anthem of terror during his 1969 killing spree in Los Angeles, the manic tune has not been compromised and remains one of McCartney's finest vocals.
Although not released until after Abbey Road, Let It Be was the next full-fledged Beatles project. A fine semi-live album, it also spun off into an intriguing motion picture documentary, and even an excellent picture book. "In a nutshell it was time for another Beatle movie or something," recalled John:
Paul wanted to go on the road. He sort of set it up, and there were discussions about where to go and all that. I was stoned all the time anyway so I didn't really give a shit. Nobody did. We put down a few tracks and nobody was in it at all. The tape ended up like the bootleg version. We didn't want to know about it anymore, so we just left it to Glyn Johns and said, "Here, mix it." We got an acetate in the mail and we called each other and said, "What do you think?" We were going to let it out in really shitty condition. I thought it was good to let it out and show people what had happened to us, we can't get it together, we don't play together any more; you know, leave us alone.
Despite the turmoil surrounding the production, Let It Be contains several classic McCartney cuts, foremost among them his two heartfelt ballads, "The Long and Winding Road" and the majestic "Let It Be." Paul illuminates the genesis of the latter:
I had a lot of bad times in the sixties and we used to sort of — probably all the drugs — lie in bed and wonder what was going on and feel quite paranoid. I had a dream one night about my mother. She died when I was fourteen so I hadn't really heard from her in quite awhile, and it was very good. It gave me some strength. "In my darkest hour, Mother Mary comes to me." I get dreams with John in, and my Dad. It's wondrous, it's like magic. Of course you're not seeing them, you're meeting yourself, or whatever....
Another significant McCartney creation recorded for what the album jacket touted as this "New phase Beatles album" was "Get Back." In the high-powered track McCartney sings about a character he calls simply "Jo Jo." According to Jo Jo Laine, McCartney was referring to her. During the first, dizzying heights of Beatlemania the starstruck young lady ran across 'Paul's home address in a fan magazine and began writing her hero dozens of affectionate, flowery letters. After a couple of years she stopped, never having received a reply and all but forgot about her mad crush on the baby-faced Beatle. Although McCartney never acknowledged his devoted follower later, Jo Jo likes to think that when he was writing the lyrics for the tune he may have obliquely referred to the long-distance groupie. She further claims that Linda told Denny about it all some years later when the ravishing Boston model was first dating Laine. "I don't really think she liked it much at all," says Jo Jo. "As a matter of fact, every time they played that particular tune Linda used to stare daggers at me whenever Paul got to the bits about me."
Finally, McCartney's good-natured "Two of Us" echoes back to a time of innocence when it was John and Paul, not John and Yoko, a long-distant time when two teenage boys from suburban Liverpool struggled to find the sound that would one day change the face of popular music. "From 'Love Me Do' to 'Let It Be,' wasn't really such a big step," recalled Lennon in 1971. "Just a gradual awakening of the lives we were all living at the time. I can never let it go completely because it was my youth, you know? A very special youth that only Paul and I were there to share."
Originally entitled simply Everest, the Abbey Road LP was the Beatles' final studio album and, in retrospect, their last hurrah together as a band. McCartney recalls the titling of the work:
We were working a lot in there at the time, always wondering what we were going to call it and Geoff Emerick, the engineer, always used to smoke Everest cigarettes, so we were thinking of things of like Ever Rest. It was kind of working out to be a biggish album — and it was going quite well and then everybody started saying that it wasn't a very good title really. We were in Studio 3, the little one at the front which used to have record covers on the ceiling in those days and looked like a record shop, and said, "Why don't we call it Abbey Road and have a picture of us on that crossing outside?" It was the simplest thing to do. For everyone that didn't know the name of the studio, that would imply something kind of mystical — Monastery Avenue sort of thing.
The sessions for Abbey Road began in earnest in July of 1969 with all four Beatles eager to bury the hatchet and get back to making music the way they once did, as a team. At first George Martin was skeptical and only agreed to be coaxed back from his work at his own successful AIR Studios on the condition that the Beatles allow him to direct the sessions as a producer rather than in the relatively subservient fifth-fiddle role he had played on the previous few albums. "Let It Be was a miserable experience and I never thought that we would get back together again," Martin recalls. "So I was very surprised when Paul rang me up and said, 'We want to make another record. Will you produce it for us, really produce it?' I said, 'Yes, if I am really allowed to produce it. If I have to go back and accept a lot of instructions which I don't like I won't do it.' It was really good, even though the boys tended to do their own items, sometimes in different studios at the same time, and I had to be dashing from one place to another."
After assurances from Paul that all would be well, the sessions commenced at 2:30 p.m. on July 1, with McCartney overdubbing a lead vocal for "You Never Give Me Your Money." Arriving well before the others the next day, he laid down the twenty-three-second acoustic track, "Her Majesty," moving on to "Golden Slumbers" with George and Ringo later in the day.
The next McCartney composition to be recorded was the whimsical "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" on July 9. This turned out to be John's first appearance at this round of sessions; he and Yoko had been waylaid in Scotland after crashing their car into a ditch while visiting with Lennon's Aunt Mater near Durness. Pregnant and under doctor's orders to stay in bed and rest, Yoko was happily accommodated by John who ordered a large double bed be brought into the studio to help facilitate her recovery. Setting up the microphones for the session that morning, the engineers were astounded at this latest Lennon eccentricity. Sometime later, Yoko arrived by ambulance and was carefully lowered onto the mattress by two uniformed attendants. The other three Beatles were not amused. To make matters worse, Lennon insisted a micro-phone be hung directly over his ailing lover's face in case her highness felt moved to participate! Of course if for some reason John had to pop into one of the other studios for a moment or two for a quick overdub, the bed was simply rolled alongside wherever Lennon happened to perch. All in all vintage Yoko Ono.
On July 17, a lead vocal for another McCartney tune, the brilliant fifties-inspired "Oh! Darling," was recorded. This version was ultimately discarded in favor of a stronger, gutsier rendition sometime later. Alan Parsons, now a respected musician in his own right, happened to be second engineer on that particular afternoon. "Perhaps my main memory of the Abbey Road sessions," he told Beatles historian and author Mark Lewisohn, "is of Paul coming into Studio 3 ... to do the vocal on 'Oh! Darling.'"
That was a feature of the Abbey Road sessions: you very rarely saw all four Beatles together... But Paul came in several days running to do the lead on "Oh! Darling." He'd come in, sing it and say "No, that's not it, I'll try it again tomorrow." He only tried it once per day, I suppose he wanted to capture a certain rawness which could only be done once before the voice changed. I remember his saying, "Five years ago I could have done this in a flash," referring, I suppose, to the days of "Long Tall Sally" and "Kansas City."
"The End" is just that, Paul's final bit of homespun cosmic truth tacked onto the tail of this moving, four-part medley by the four, perfectly tying together and encapsulating eight years of inspired music from the band the world refuses to forget.
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