To me, Paul's the guy who drank milk out of the bottle and blew
cigarette smoke in front of the TV so I couldn't see the cartoons.
I wondered what all the girls saw in him. He even left his socks
at the foot of the bed.
— Ruth McCartney —
TIME IS TAPPIN' ON MY FOREHEAD
McCartney in Motion
In the same ongoing pattern since John Lennon's death, once again it took an outside force to seriously challenge McCartney's musical evolution. This time it was a most unlikely catalyst: the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic commissioned McCartney to compose an original work to mark its 150th anniversary. In 1991 McCartney unveiled the eagerly awaited composition, some two years in the making, his Liverpool Oratorio. The ambitious 95-minute choral work debuted within the cavernous Liverpool Anglican Church (the second largest in Europe), ironically on the very spot its esteemed composer once failed a childhood audition.
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"My dad sent me to try for a scholarship because several free books came with it," Paul remembered. "But I didn't manage it. So it was kind of strange to see all these kids in the chorus the night of the premiere, because they had gotten the gig."
Billed as a simple tale of one man's search for love and faith, the piece, in eight extended movements, focuses on the life and times of a fellow named Shanty. The work's centerpiece—the complex relationship between father and child—highlights its strikingly autobiographical overtones. McCartney, however, downplayed that angle, stressing his composition is ultimately about "giving peace a chance."
In truth, the Liverpool Oratorio was Paul's uneven attempt at reclaiming his working-class roots. "I have met prime ministers, including Harold Wilson and Margaret Thatcher, and the mayors of most American cities," he pointed out, "but I have never met anyone whose common sense and values can match those of your ordinary Liverpool working man."
During its worldwide tour of select cities the Oratorio played to decidedly mixed reviews. While the Orange County Register praised select passages as bearing "great charm and melodic inventiveness," Time magazine rendered it "strangely flat." The Guardian's Paul Fisher prodded old wounds by writing, "McCartney's literary self is far more uncertain than his musical self and the sugary libretto needed an editor with even a fraction of Lennon's cynicism."
In light of the generally less-than-glowing reviews McCartney said: "In some sort of innocent, ignorant way I'd forgotten I'd be putting it out there for every Cambridge matriculation exam on the planet. Of course, I was foolish not to expect the critics to go after it but I suppose it was just a safety valve in me, something that says 'Don't worry about it.'"
As the buzz swelled about the cool new "classical" Beatle. McCartney quietly celebrated his fiftieth birthday on June 18, 1992. Slight jowls now tugged at the once youthful, impish face, crow's feet etched the corners of his eyes, while tasteful silver flecks dusted his well-kempt hair. He even joked about plastic surgery. "A little makeup here and there is fine. It's show biz. But actually cutting and snipping? I live on a farm in rural England. Nobody buys new noses where I'm from!"
If the ever-steady Paul lapsed into a mid-life crisis, it certainly wasn't apparent. McCartney retreated quite happily to the family's 160-acre Peasmarsh estate, where reindeer roam casually in the front yard. Paul proudly tells visitors how he designed the mock Tudor home with its octagon windows and wildfowl pond, and how he and Linda established their own sanctuary on Exmoor to protect the deer.
Paul spent his leisure time sailing a Sunfish or in his studio painting, an avocation he took up at forty. In a short time McCartney created, in both oils and watercolor, some two hundred canvases, consisting of landscapes, abstracts, and several awkward likenesses of his wife. They hang side by side with the family's collection of old masters, which now reportedly includes a Rembrandt and a Renoir. It is rumored that Paul even quietly accepts commissions.
Just twenty minutes down the road McCartney continued to compose and record in his private 48-track, state-of-the-art Hog Hill Studios, a renovated mill dating back to the 1700s. Standing beside the latest technical wizardry was the Mellotron used in "Strawberry Fields Forever" and Elvis Presley's stand-up bass from "Heartbreak Hotel."
In 1992, Linda published yet another coffee table book, Linda McCartney's Sixties, a compilation of her insightful photographs of that decade's most famous personalities, including Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and the Rolling Stones. The collection, which also traveled throughout the United States, sparked some talk of Paul having squelched her career by turning her into a reluctant band member. "Paul jokes he ruined my career," she responded, "but I never really thought of myself as having a 'career' in photography."
To the press McCartney paints a Currier & Ives portrait of life at the edge of the Romney Marshes: the down-home boy repairing the cow shed or lovingly feeding the chickens. According to Linda, "The house is always full. The kids come by; we have friends over." It has been widely observed, however, that except for a handful of celebrity chums like Brian Clarke, Elvis Costello, and Keith Richards few outsiders have ever set foot inside McCartneyland.
Conversely, Peasmarsh natives haven't exactly embraced their celebrated neighbors, dubbing the property's looming watchtower "Paulditz," after Colditz, the notorious World War II P.O.W compound. Paul, it seems, has placed an informal gag order on the entire village; even brother Mike will no longer speak publicly about the family. Stephen Jempson, proprietor of Jempson's Family Food Centre, which occasionally delivers groceries to the famous residents, acknowledged, "The consensus here is that no information should be given to journalists as is the McCartneys' express wish. Therefore, I'm not prepared to comment."
The town's reward for its collective silence was a hundred weight of potatoes to each and every pensioner at Christmas! As one resident wisecracked, "Goodness knows what the old dears will do with them, but I'm sure they send their grateful thanks."
One newcomer, obviously not yet indoctrinated into the way of Mr. McCartney's neighborhood, recently commented, "The McCartneys live in the wilds beyond the village. As the crow flies, they're neighbors, but socially a million miles away. Paul had a couple of perfectly good cottages knocked down because they spoiled the view. . . . They're really soppy about animals. Over sentimental, some say.... On Valentine's Day we had three blokes called Cosmotheka doing a music hall act, but McCartney didn't come. I'm sure he likes to think of himself as a man of the people; it's just that so few of us have ever actually seen him!"
The local observations, though, aren't entirely negative. As one villager noted, "I did see him in a shop once telling his children not to jump the queue like any other responsible parent. His children went to the Church of England school here and he attended parents' evenings. Linda served up vegetables at the weekly jumble sales. When the children went to the state secondary school, Linda was always taking photographs. They seem like very devoted parents and have made a real effort to avoid their children being spoiled... . It's impossible to go for a walk round these country lanes without being asked where Paul McCartney lives. You can't really blame them for hiding."
To their credit Paul and Linda educated their children at the local Thomas Peacocke Community in Rye. The McCartneys then sent Mary and Stella to Barrow Hill State Junior School. Paul personally picked them up every weekday afternoon.
"The nannies used to go mad," said one student. "Here was the most famous pop star in the world and he was one of the only parents to show up when it was time to go home."
Brenda Loydell, a teacher at Peacocke, noted, "I very much admire their decision to send the children to comprehensive. The girls still have close friends who went to this school."
Paul simply wasn't comfortable with the idea of boarding school: "I considered sending James to Eton, but I couldn't bear the thought of him coming home talking all posh saying, 'Hello, Pater.'"
The McCartney kids definitely grew up learning the value of a pound. One time on vacation in Barbados then ten-year-old Stella was shopping with the family and spied a ring in a store window. Although the price was a mere $1.60, she tentatively asked her father if it was too much. A smiling Paul, knowing he'd done his job, replied that it was indeed reasonable and bought the ring.
"You see," Paul once remarked, "if my kids are going to inherit money, and they will, it's important they have their feet on the ground. That's what Linda and I have tried to teach. In fact, we wanted to give them only one thing really; we wanted them to have big hearts."
Shielding the children from the limelight was also a top priority. Paul and Linda always made sure a trusted friend or family member, never a celebrity, escorted the girls. Friends of the McCartney children attest they still generally shun the London nightlife for more sedate evenings at the movies or casual weekends at home.
Observed one friend, "Stella and Mary could easily do the Browns and Harry's Bar scene if they wanted, but they're more eclectic than that. You're more likely to find them in Notting Hill, in less glamorous, more funky places. They certainly like having fun, but they do it away from the paparazzi."
Incredibly, it seems as if the McCartney brood hardly realizes they're the progeny of a lauded former Beatle. One evening Mary, wearing thigh-high boots, a paisley waistcoat, and mini skirt, made a rare public appearance at the Sirens premiere when a photographer asked to take her picture. Hastily covering her face with a fan, she protested, "Why are you taking my picture? I'm nobody!"
When a reporter asked Stella what it was like to be the daughter of a Beatle, she replied, "It's just so naff. So uncool. You never even have to introduce yourself. You're famous before you even do anything."
Spending time at East Gate with the family, Paul continued his unfettered lifestyle, beginning the day with a simple fare of tea and toast, and perhaps on Sundays vegetarian sausage and eggs. "I remember when the Beatles first went to Hamburg, our bedrooms were just behind the toilet in this cinema and we were earning the huge fee of fifteen pounds a week; all we seemed to eat was egg and chips. We didn't know what German food was, so it was always egg and chips. And being Continental, they'd always serve it with a gherkin. As a Liverpool lad I'd never seen a gherkin before. The only pickled thing I'd seen was an onion in the chippie."
Inevitably, their simple veggie fare is culled from one of Linda's two successful cookbooks. She has called herself a "peasant cook" who believes the key to tasty dishes is in the flavoring (lemon and oregano, in particular) and light sauteing of the vegetables in oil before cooking. "I grew up in a family that loved good food, but I was the only one who really liked to cook," she remembered. "When I was growing up in Scarsdale, we had a cook. Maybe because of my insecurity I used to hang around the kitchen and watch her."
As for her husband, Paul's favorite meal these days seems to be quiche and tomato soup. Like Lennon before him, Macca is apparently quite a fair breadmaker, according to Linda, who said he made it everyday during England's bread strike. "My best dish is mashed potatoes," he has acknowledged. "A little milk, some chopped onions, that's the Liverpool version."
The McCartneys' zeal for strictly meatless fare extends to their professional life as well. During Paul's last tour the ever-frugal entertainer decided it would be economically savvy to serve a veggie banquet. "The food was so good," claimed McCartney, "most people didn't miss meat at all. We even had a few converts by the time it was over."
According to Paul's kid sister Ruth, however, during a 1991 show in Munich the roadies were locked inside the arena to prevent them from going to the Pizza Hut across the street in violation of Paul's strict "veggies only" mandate. No one knows who gave the order for the surprise lock-up. There were also rumors of a top-secret "meat room," where the roadies could eat what they liked, as well as a private air-conditioned glass "meditation box" Paul takes on tour with him and uses faithfully before every show.
Even with the mighty McCartneys leading the way, not everyone blissfully jumped on the bandwagon. The Guardian, ever a thorn in the McCartneys' side, went on the attack in a searing article entitled, "The Unbearable Smugness of Being Vegetarian": "Vegetarianism has never just been about not eating meat. It has almost always involved lifestyle choices, moral poses, and ascetic habits. That all-or-nothing attitude to vegetables runs all the way from Pythagoras, who believed animals had souls, to Tolstoy, who liked to think vegetarianism might help establish God's kingdom on earth."
Unphased, Linda continued to refer to meat as "flesh" or the more provocative "slab of fear." Her first cookbook has sold over 250,000 copies, and her Linda McCartney's Home-style Cooking (a top-flight line of tasty frozen entrees, whose eighteen items include lasagna, pot pies, and even goulash) reportedly nets a staggering 55 million dollars annually.
"Humans have won the species battle on this planet," Paul has said. "Perhaps in victory we could be noble, but we're not. We still continue to mash every little thing that moves."
The health-conscious McCartney, though, still confesses to a fondness for Johnnie Walker Red and Coke Classic, but he now imposes strict limits: "Four is my max. Four and I'm anybody's. It all began with the Beatles. It started as bourbon and 7-Up, which I think Ringo drank, being the sophisticate among us. If there was anything American like Lark cigarettes, Ringo knew about it. To us Ringo was older. Besides, he'd worked at Butlin's, grown a beard, and wore a suit. That was all very sophisticated to us, especially drinking bourbon, which I'd never heard of. But bourbon and 7-Up was the drink, which turned into Scotch and Coke somewhere along the line, probably when we couldn't find any bourbon."
As 1993 approached, McCartney was planning an eight-month world tour that would include his first televised concert from Charlotte, North Carolina to support his 23rd album, Off the Ground. The album's release was tied, of course, to McCartney's $100-million recording deal with Capitol/EMI, signed in December—virtually a lifetime contract.
At 51, Paul declared it was all about a continuing need to prove himself: "I'm not desperate for people to think of me as a rock star, but it's true that once you get on tour you start hearing them say, 'Hey, you can sing. You're not really bad, are you? I didn't realize you wrote that!' When you hear that, you think, 'Where have they been for the past twenty years? It kind of surprises you how soon people forget what it is you do.... So I pack my bags, pick up the Hoffner, and get out on the road again, aiming to give people a party they can remember the rest of their lives.
"People say to me 'Paul, what is there left to work for?' But the point is I don't do this for the money anymore, or even the honor or applause. I do it for myself. That's what's left to work for. Always."
A May appearance at the Hollywood Bowl for Earth Day, sponsored by Concerts for the Environment, found the musician propelled into the activist role by contemporaries like Sting, Pete Townshend, and Peter Gabriel. Unlike his unusually well-versed colleagues, McCartney's approach was less subtle as he illustrated with his earnest, painfully polemical, unintentionally humorous lyrics for "Looking for Changes": "I saw a monkey that was learning to choke/A guy beside him gave him cigarettes to smoke/And every time that monkey started to cough/The bastard laughed his head off." Real stirring stuff indeed!
Paul told the Los Angeles press, "Enjoy Earth Day. In this universe this is the planet we live on. We must be aware of it and take care of it." When pressed for further wisdom, he admitted, "Generally, I'm not a guy with a lot of messages. ... I say, 'Hang in there and let's hope things get straightened out and we're going into a good phase.'" With that, he politely begged off, saying he had a show to do.
The L. A. gig was most notable for an impromptu appearance by Ringo Starr for a celebrity chorus of "Hey Jude." Once again, the incident ignited rumors of a Fab reunion, which Paul was quick to dismiss: "If you could bring back Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton and have them do a funny little routine, wouldn't we love it? We always want what we can't have. We want summer, that first summer, those golden days when we all had nothing to do except look for girls." Little did he know just how soon he would swallow those words.
With the tour came the inevitable press junket, an obligation which Paul admitted he was never really comfortable with: "I'm not a great believer in the public me. When John and I were having our ding dongs, and he was getting at me in the press, I thought, This isn't me'. I don't like to give anyone the whole deal. I think it's stupid. I haven't seen Madonna's book [Sex], but I presume she gives it all away. People are doing too much of that for their own good."
He then candidly admitted, "I'm a smoke-screen expert since John got shot. I lie all the time. It's the price of fame."
One could scarcely blame the aging rock star for his stellar distrust of the press. In 1991 a bootleg tape of Linda's backing vocals—a particularly indictful and off-key snippet—leaked to the press, which broadcast it worldwide. "It was a horror," grimaced McCartney. "I had to remind her the Stones also have tapes out like that. It's easy to isolate harmonies. You just take it out and it sounds horrible on the radio. She had to be very strong because it's not easy to be made fun of."
"I really don't give a damn what people think," retorted Linda. "I've always wanted to meet [the people responsible] and stick my fingers in their eyes."
The image-conscious McCartney was savvy enough, however, to use it to promote the "sensitive" Paul, the one who takes his entire family on the road, whose kids show up for rehearsals to cheer on their rockin' dad. His party line promotes the image of a clean-living, ever-faithful husband and stalwart father who never misses a chance to remind the public he's still just a man of the people.
"I'm an ordinary bloke," he has said. "Not because I'm famous, but ordinary in the sense I was brought up in Liverpool by very ordinary people. They were earthy people who taught me straight values: honesty, respect, and politeness. I've stuck with those and tried to pass them on to my kids. When certain people get rich, they sometimes wear fur coats and big diamond watches. I've gone the other way. I'd rather be remembered as a musician than a celebrity."
As a teenager Paul used to wait outside Liverpool theaters hoping to snag a celebrity autograph. "Some just didn't want to know and walked by this scruffy kid with his bit of paper and a pencil. But one American band stopped, signed the autographs, and their leader said, 'Hey kid, you can walk with me to the car.' That made me feel so good that when I got my bit of fame, I thought, 'If you can help make someone's day by signing your name for them, why not do it?'"
But then there is that other Paul, the one who manipulates interviews when he isn't being deliberately curt with the media. One journalist complained, "Seldom did McCartney offer more than short, monosyllabic answers. He couldn't conceal his boredom." According to one British reporter, the appearance of the gracious, accommodating, more mellow Paul hinges on whether he's smoked his "herbal jazzed cigarettes" as he calls them. The reporter recalled a one-on-one chat in St. Paul, Minnesota during the mid-seventies: "I remember him as friendly and charming. His answers to questions were thoughtful and he spoke in paragraphs, not sentences. It was not unlike many other interviews with big stars I've conducted over the years. With one exception. McCartney smoked a joint during the interview. And being a nice guy, he passed it around to the others in the room."
A writer from the Star Tribune described a less-easygoing encounter: "McCartney and his people can be very demanding. For every happy 'My Encounter with a Beatle' story ('we talked about our sandals,' said a staffer), there was a tale from hell. For instance, on one occasion there was a frantic scramble to remove several Cornish hens from the backstage catering area as the McCartneys didn't approve of such food."
While such actions might be forgiven on a public level, it's not so easy to absolve the McCartneys for transgressions that involve their own family. The meticulously run, multi-million-dollar McCartney PR machine paints a portrait of a loving family man who treasures home, hearth, and Mother Earth above fame. Few, however, have peered behind the massive, impenetrable wall that guards his private life. In an extended series of taped interviews recorded in 1994 with Paul's stepmother Angie McCartney and his adopted sister Ruth, they bared their souls about their entire fourteen-year experience with Paul and Linda. According to Angie and Ruth, when deemed necessary, McCartney has turned his money and status into a weapon of intimidation to silence all naysayers. Then why did they dare to step forward after so many years?
"Because we've been written out of history," Angie affirmed, "and because Paul has chosen not to even recognize our existence. After the many fine years I shared with his father it is the final insult."
Indeed, only a few years ago, a German reporter asked McCartney to comment on sister Ruth's show-biz success. "I don't have a sister," he answered and walked steadily past.
Conversely, Angie and Ruth vividly recalled visiting the Bahamas during the filming of Help!, and happily swapping stories with John Lennon and actor Victor Spinetti by night. In the middle of a press conference, before a packed room of reporters, Paul spotted his family and coldly snapped, "What are you doing here!" Fortunately, John defused the mortifying moment by congratulating Jim and Angie on their recent marriage and making plans to get together later in the day.
Back home with Jim in Liverpool, Angie quickly became the target of the clannish, gossipy McCartneys, led by the acerbic matriarch Auntie Jin and the kind-but-sheepish Millie (who basically raised Paul following the death of his mum). "Don't get any ideas above your station," they constantly reminded Angie. "Never forget, you're only a married-in!"
Intent on keeping her an outsider, they accused Angie of a sordid past as well as of having countless torrid affairs with everyone from the gardener to family friend Michael Barratt, a popular British television presenter.
Throughout their marriage Angie was regularly traumatized by Paul's nearly constant manipulation. The first great shock occurred when suddently—without reason— Jim approached his young wife and declared, "Angie, it's just not working out. I don't think we should be married anymore. I know Paul will see you and Ruth alright." This horrifying vignette was repeated only a few years later when the Great Beatle, in a rage over Angie attending a concert without being specifically invited, ordered his father to "get rid of her!"
In fact, Jim McCartney was an exceptionally kind, loving man who doted on Ruth and even adopted her, making her under British law a full-fledged daughter and forever a McCartney—something that obviously irks Paul to this day. Naturally meek and ultra-conservative, Jim could never stand up to his superstar son and suffered in silence under his own roof, a victim of Paul's role as financial benefactor. Another point of contention was Paul's legendary devotion to pot.
"Don't be bringing that stuff into this house!" warned Jim.
"Whose house is it anyway?" Paul challenged.
"Well, it's in my name," the obviously mortified elder McCartney replied.
"I paid for it and don't you bloody forget it!"
Another time, after the sudden death of Angie's sister Mae, several close friends were invited over to give comfort and support. No one was aware that Paul and Linda were heading up to Liverpool; one of McCartney's iron-clad rules was always "no guests when we come to visit." Despite apologies from a grieving Angie, Paul reportedly exploded. "Listen, this is my house! Don't ever forget I put every fuckin' crumb of food into your mouth and your kids. If it wasn't for me, you'd be on the bloody street!"
When Aunt Millie tried to smooth things over, Paul lashed out, "Just keep out of it, Millie! This is my fuckin' house! I paid for it and I feed all of them!"
Paul's reputation as a miser reached an all-time low when the errant multi-millionaire forced his own family out of Rembrandt and into a modest bungalow. While his aging father was suffering from crippling arthritis and a debilitating decline in his general health, Paul allotted them a meager income of only L7,000 a year. As Jim's condition worsened, the extended McCartney clan openly challenged Angie's decision to respect Jim's wish that he not be placed in a nursing home. Angie and Ruth's unconditional devotion caused even Paul to admit, "I can't thank you enough for everything you've done for my dad. You'll never want for anything."
Never would words ring so dreadfully hollow. Following Jim's painful death in 1976, Paul shunned Angie and Ruth, severing all assistance and cold-shouldering them emotionally. No one attended the funeral; even Aunt Millie refused to come. The very day of the funeral a close relative seized the opportunity to empty out the old man's closet, while a younger relative stole a case of whisky from the house. The bitter truth then gushed out: the McCartney clan had viewed Angie as a gold digger all along. Paul even left Angie to pay for the flowers he sent on his and Linda's behalf.
Incredibly, after Jim's death Angie and Ruth were actually snipped out of family pictures as if they'd never existed. Forced to sell their home, they were soon living in an empty building and sleeping on the bare floor! Angie recalled the humiliation of applying for a meager weekly allotment from social services, and having to sell precious mementos (including a copy of Paul's birth certificate). It was an unfortunate episode that garnered international headlines and further alienated the former Beatle. Mother and daughter, however, pushed on, with Ruth working five jobs for only L92 a week. "Six years after Jim died, we were living in our car, dating boring men for a free dinner," Angie bitterly recalled.
Their final contact with Paul occurred in 1980 when they reluctantly asked for his help. McCartney's callousness was palpable: "Why can't you stay at home, bottle fruit, and be a proper widow, Ange? I could easily help you, but I think it would be far more character-building for you to go it alone. Scrub floors, if you have to!"
Then to Ruth: "You're never gonna make it in the business. This dancer/choreographer nonsense is just a phase. You don't have anything going for you but my name. You're not really too bad-looking. Why don't you hang around the clubs and pick up a rich Arab boyfriend and do what women like you are made for." The fact is, however, that Ruth McCartney is one of the most persuasively beautiful, talented, and disciplined young women this author has had the pleasure to have known.
During that same call Paul also railed against Ruth and Angie for selling a family piano Paul had used extensively throughout the turbulent Beatle years.
Angie admitted: "Yes, we were guilty. We sold the piano for L680, along with a load of other old furniture we couldn't use anymore because we were being evicted by the mortgage company and we were flat broke."
"It turned up later at Sotheby's and went for L14,000," explained Ruth. "Mum was trying to dig out of a mountain of debt, much of it from Jim's medical expenses.... I put the phone down on him that day. I was his sister, we'd shared a bathroom, so I didn't see him as a god. I was one of the very few people left who would tell him to fuck off. I actually dared put the phone down on him. I'll never forget his last words to me. He said, 'You can't put the phone down on me.' 'Why?' I asked. 'Because,' came the pompous reply, 'I'm Paul McCartney!' I never heard from him again."
According to the pair, Linda was never especially charitable to them or Jim. Ruth said Linda thought nothing of reading Angie's private diary and deeply embarrassed her by disclosing a particularly personal entry before the entire family. Linda also prevented Ruth from attending a long-anticipated Wings launch party, yet allowed her own daughter Heather to go. When Linda was in Liverpool, she constantly "borrowed" food from Jim and Angie's refrigerator and then casually let it go to waste.
Sometimes, Angie said, flies would fall into the aging Jim's milk and Linda would expect him to still drink it. Woodworms too were tolerated at Rembrandt because "every creature has a right to live."
At the 21st birthday of Carol McCartney (Jim's niece), Mike warned Angie, a competent pianist, "if they ask you to play the piano tonight, give it a miss. There's only one star in this family!"
"Paul was such an immense presence," Ruth recalled, "traveling the world like a colossus. He began to see everything through a prism that was Paul McCartney. Others had no reality as entities apart from him. But Paul never intimidated John. Lennon would say, That bridge sucks, let's try something else.' He needed that. They were brothers, partners, and serious rivals. Their terrible infighting made the material that much better. Now when Paul works with someone [like] Elvis Costello, Costello is so in awe of him it doesn't work. No one can tell him, 'No, that doesn't make it. Let's try it this way.' If they do say what they think, they're not around long.
"The Beatles were not just a milestone, they were a saga, an ongoing musical drama they created and lived. Many of us remember our lives in terms of the Beatles. People tell me they got married around the time of Sgt. Pepper, sacked when Abbey Road was released, divorced when John was murdered.
"My memories are no different. They're forever linked to my mother Angie, my father Jim, my brothers Mike and Paul, to George, Ringo, and John. I was fortunate. I got closer to the light than most. I'll cherish the privilege of those memories while I exult in the life I have now. The life I've chosen."
On stage, however, the public image prevails. The ageing Beatle is still an impeccable showman. For the sheer love of performing Paul McCartney is unchallenged and remains the greatest single draw on the concert circuit. What distinguished the '93 tour (which played to 1.3 million fans in America alone) was McCartney's decision to perform Beatles tunes the Fabs had never played live, including "Paperback Writer," "Penny Lane," and "Lady Madonna." McCartney explained that the timing was finally right. "When the Beatles broke up, we all independently agreed we wouldn't do Beatles songs. We didn't talk to each other. Now there's so much water under the bridge it's time again. Either we completely turn our backs on that period forever and say, 'No, I didn't have a youth,' or we say, 'Jesus Christ, it was great!' I love singing those old songs, or rather rediscovering them."
But this was still very much a tour to support McCartney's latest album, Off the Ground, and considering the disappointing sales of past endeavors, his new material took center stage. This was a much-improved effort, with Paul recapturing the feel of his early Beatles roots. The Washington Post wrote: "McCartney's Off the Ground impresses with its unmistakable tunefulness and pop craft, beginning with the typically buoyant title cut. The entire album fairly resonates with echoes of things past, some as obvious as the 'All You Need Is Love' sentiment expressed on 'Hope of Deliverance,' others as subtle as the 'Penny Lane'-ish trumpet on 'Mistress and Maid.'"
For the project Paul again teamed up with his Flowers in the Dirt cohort, Elvis Costello, whose coauthorship on "The Lovers That Never Were" reined in the familiar McCartney chirpiness. Paul even drew shock waves for his first-ever use of profanity on "Big Boys Bickering." The publicity generated by the tour paid off, with sales for Off the Ground reaching three million dollars worldwide in just five months.
Coming off the triumphant American and Australian legs of his tour in September, McCartney was back on English soil in the middle of a wildly successful three-night date at the Earl's Court Olympia in London. On the 12th of that month he and Linda received a harrowing call from the Coast Guard: James McCartney was reported missing at sea. The boy, along with a party of four friends, had gone body-boarding off Camber Sands near Rye to celebrate his sixteenth birthday. When the others surfed back to shore, James was nowhere to be found and in a panic they called for help. As twilight approached, the Coast Guard mounted a helicopter-and-lifeboat search while a distraught Paul and Linda, along with daughter Stella, rushed to the site. The family could only watch helplessly as gusty twenty-m.p.h. winds coupled with a fierce rainstorm to unleash terrorizing swells over the dark ocean waters.
One official told them grimly, "Anyone in distress at sea at dusk is in serious trouble."
For several hours the search continued, the McCartneys in tears. At last, young James—shaken and exhausted but otherwise safe—drifted into shore. The storm had blown him a mile and a half out to sea, but thanks to a wet suit and his considerable experience as a swimmer he managed to keep his wits about him.
The album and tour behind him, Paul kept a relatively low profile over the next two years. He reportedly spent a lot of time in his immaculate Regency-style MPL Soho offices, a company so clandestine not even a telephone listing exists and the number of employees (believed to be about twenty) is top secret. These days, however, the company is prominent on the internet with at least two first-class sites hawking its vast publishing concerns as well as Paul's new Flaming Pie album.
As Derek Taylor recalled: "When Paul first set up MPL, I went to see what he'd made of it. It was on three or four floors and was exactly what he'd wanted Apple to be. It was beautiful, orderly, nice carpets, plenty of hush, nice modern paintings on the walls. Paul likes to keep his office as orderly as possible, a quality he shares with George. They are tidy people. Apple was messy. All sorts of people wandered in and out.
"Paul pays enormous attention to detail. All perfectionists can be exacting at times and Paul doesn't like short cuts. He puts in a strict five-day week. This is a man who could be sitting on an island in the sun, but he loves hard work."
McCartney has been also keeping close tabs on the renovation of his old family home at 20 Forthlin Road. Purchased by the National Trust in 1995 for $50,000, the Allerton home of Liverpool's most famous son, heralded as the "Birthplace of the Beatles," is being readied for its slated opening in 1998. Heading the project is Julian Gibbs, Historic Buildings Representative for the Trust. His zeal for the property has often placed him at odds with elitist officials who declared this public shrine an unworthy piece of pop culture. In Gibbs's view: "The Trust looks after the houses of Churchill, Kipling, Hardy, why not McCartney? The Beatles are certainly twentieth-century icons."
Gibbs faces a formidable and exciting challenge. The home's last owner, one Mrs. Jones, did a complete overhaul, coating the walls with a heavy-duty plaster called Artex. The kindly woman often acted as an unofficial tour guide, inviting in fans and giving them souvenirs like tiny pieces of the old net curtains.
Most of the budget, however, will be reserved for the exterior, preserving the original front door, timber sash windows, and wooden gate, along with the privet hedge. Inside there will be prominent displays of photographs by Mike McCartney (who is acting as an advisor on the project) and Jim's old piano. Gibbs hopes the Hard Rock Cafe will donate Paul's bedroom door. "Everyone expects it to become a popular attraction, fun and evocative, not precious or sentimental. Forthlin Road is the stuff of dreams: a legend was created in this ordinary house, which looks exactly like thousands of others."
McCartney himself is more than pleased. "My mum would have been dead chuffed to think our little council house would end up with the National Trust. It's a fantastic honor for me and my family. This house was the scene of many formative Beatles years such as leaving for Hamburg, rehearsing our act, and writing songs. Sometimes we made a bit of a row. I hope it will be quieter now that the National Trust has got it."
One time, when he and Linda pulled up outside in their sleek black Mercedes, Paul recalled a young boy knocking on the car window. "You know, Paul McCartney used to live there," he smartly informed the pair.
"Have you ever seen him?" Paul grinned.
"No, but me dad has."
"Well, now you can tell your dad you've met Paul McCartney as well and he's come back to look at his old digs." With that he drove off, leaving the youngster staring back in awe.
This was one example, noted Derek Taylor, of McCartney's inherent benevolence. "What is obvious is his enormous personal charm. Behind, where nobody sees, he's also extremely generous. He can be quite sensitive to criticism like anyone. We had some very bad rows over a book I wrote, but he bore no malice because it was not a disloyal book. He's nice with the little people."
Another project that kept McCartney busy over 1994 and 1995 was a new cinematographic adventure, one of the former Beatle's little-known passions. It all started when the musician began perusing contact sheets Linda had shot of the Grateful Dead over 1967-1968. Not only had she photographed the band performing in New York's Central Park, but she'd also captured rare private moments of the Dead at home in San Francisco. Studying the shots reminded McCartney of an experience he'd had as a kid while trying to amuse himself when bedridden with an illness: "By concentrating on a photograph in a newspaper I seemed to be able to make it move. Looking at these images, I got that feeling again and thought maybe I could make these four rolls more interesting by making a film of the Dead at a time of which not much footage exists."
McCartney then filmed the prints in a variety of styles on a rostrum camera and loaded the resulting film into a computer and began to edit. The final product, The Grateful Dead, A Photofilm, a nine-minute presentation, featured a soundtrack compiled from excerpts of three Dead tracks: "Now Potato Caboose," "That's It for the Other One" and "Alligator." McCartney's coproducer, Robert "Robbie" Montgomery, said it was definitely Paul's baby from start to finish. "It became a film that examines a time and a feeling that no longer exists."
The film debuted at the London Film Festival in November 1995 and was subsequently shown at major festivals worldwide over the next year, culminating with its triumphant run at the prestigious New York Film Festival in October 1996.
That modest coup notwithstanding, it was greatly overshadowed that November by the eagerly anticipated airing of the ABC-television series The Beatles Anthology, along with the accompanying three-volume, six-CD set of the same name. The six-hour documentary, produced under the working title The Long and Winding Road, had long been on McCartney's agenda. The timing among the three surviving Beatles, however, hadn't really yet been right.
As Paul explained: "The fact is we were arguing for so many years over business, we couldn't have done it. Once we started to resolve our differences—now we're chatty and mates again—we began looking for the CD, the T-shirt and the cookbook!" It was widely reported that the $130-million compensation very much appealed to George Harrison and Ringo Starr, both rumored to be in need of ready cash.
Actually, the Beatles ball started rolling again in 1994 with the release of the two-CD Live at the BBC, which quickly sold an enticing eight million copies. The market for Beatles product was definitely still happening and simply waiting for the remaining Fabs to capitalize. For McCartney, of course, the motivation went further than mere dollars. As always, his competitiveness with John figured prominently. Writer Richard Corliss put it this way: "Paul always shivered in John's shadow. Partly it was his looks. He was cute, coquettish—almost the girl of the group—so how could he also be smart? He was the favorite of the girls, whose screams dominated early Beatles concerts, but he wasn't really a guy's guy. No way could he satisfy the emerging establishment of rock critics, a strictly male coterie. He just tried too hard. Paul always wanted to be loved, which is the essence of the pop star. John didn't care. The essence of the rock star. His edginess suggested a rolling interior life; you could write a novel about what you imagined was inside John Lennon. Then he had the rock star's karma to die violently. Now he is in the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist and McCartney isn't."
Anthology video director Bob Smeaton added his own insight: "Since John's death Paul has faded into the background. It has become very much 'John Lennon and the Beatles.' And I think Paul desperately wanted to put his side of the story across."
So some twenty-five years later, the Fab Three gathered before the cameras to film their by-now-rather-Spartan reminiscences. If fans were perched on the edge of their seats hoping for some untapped nuggets of revelation, they were keenly disappointed. Of the LSD experience McCartney sheepishly recalled, "John was excited by that prospect and I was rather frightened." Of Beatlemania itself Harrison had this view: "They used us as an excuse to go mad, the world did, and then they blamed it on us." Stirring stuff indeed.
Despite the contention of most critics that the highlight of the show was Paul's primal performance of "I'm Down," it was more likely Lennon's terse, insightful quip about the band's dissolution that percolated most in viewer's minds: "It was a slow death."
Poor Paul, it seemed, couldn't win. Even from the grave Lennon lay at the heart of the project, providing the kind of Beatles reunion even the public hadn't dreamed possible. The ever-ambitious Yoko Ono had donated one of John's scratchy cassette demos he'd recorded around 1977: a wistful ballad of hope and redemption entitled "Free As a Bird." Once the track was digitally cleaned up, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr strolled into Abbey Road, prepared to make history. Under the tutelage of soppy producer Jeff Lynne, Ringo laid down his drums, Paul added bass and acoustic guitar, while George provided slide. Modern technology did the rest, at last allowing them to reunite with their slain comrade. As they put on the final touches, those distinctive Fab harmonies, the ever-ingratiating Lynne declared, "God, it sounds like the Beatles in there!"
The Beatles may have been back, but it became quickly evident they couldn't recapture the past. The resulting "Free As a Bird" sounded heavy-handed, hokey, and hopelessly dated. The only saving grace was Harrison's stirring guitar solo. The Beatles' accompanying "tragical history tour" video was even worse. Paul's added lyrics proved as limp as ever: "Whatever happened to/The life that we once knew/Can we really live without each other?" Despite Derek Taylor's repeated public predictions to the contrary, the tune peaked briefly in the lower end of Billboard's Top Forty before its inevitable crash and burn. Artistically and even culturally, the Beatles were as irretrievably lost as the late John Lennon. A fact that only a few thousand obsessive-compulsive fans and the Beatles themselves refused to acknowledge.
On the heels of the media frenzy, just when McCartney sought to kick back for some well-deserved time off, his idyllic world was shattered abruptly; in early December during a routine exam doctors found a suspicious lump in Linda's breast. A biopsy confirmed the diagnosis: the 53-year-old Linda McCartney had cancer. For Paul, the devastating news unearthed agonizing memories when his own mother Mary succumbed to the disease. For Linda, it was perhaps the cruelest of ironies. Just weeks before in a public appearance tied to one of her many vegetarian causes she proclaimed, "Doctors say you're far less likely to die of cancer and heart disease if you don't eat meat." Even a pristine lifestyle was unable to protect her from this insidious, often fatal, illness.
Ten days after the diagnosis Linda underwent a lumpec-tomy at London's Princess Grace Hospital, an operation Paul deemed "100 percent successful, thank God. Doctors have told her just to get some rest. We're very optimistic about the future and for the moment everything goes on as normal."
Except nothing was normal at all. While Linda recuperated uneasily in the hospital, Paul vigilantly at her side, thieves broke down the door of their Cavendish Avenue home, ransacking Stella's basement flat, nabbing an expensive camera and dozens of CDs, and causing thousands of pounds' worth of damage. "This is unfortunately a common occurrence," a weary Paul told the press. "This house has been broken into many times during the past thirty years, as this part of London is a favorite areas for burglars. Luckily, nothing of value was taken. We are improving security, but obviously this incident doesn't help at a time like this."
As soon as Paul brought Linda back to the farm, their peace was promptly invaded by hordes of photographers lying in wait to get a shot of the famous patient fresh from surgery. This time, the usually diplomatic Paul didn't mince words. "The doctors have said she will need a couple of months recuperation; she just needs peace and quiet at the moment. I have always played ball with the press, but now I ask all the reporters and photographers to please back off, as our family needs to be very positive. If they don't back off, I believe that under the circumstances they will be guilty of harassment and I promise I shall report them to the Press Complaints Commission."
With that, the McCartneys retreated behind an airtight veil of secrecy. After a few months Linda opted to follow up the surgery with chemotherapy. But no one caught so much as a glimpse of her. As one neighbor observed, "Linda used to run around in a modest cerise Ford Fiesta, but I haven't seen her out and about for a very long time."
Meanwhile, as 1996 rolled around, McCartney was busy realizing a seven-year dream. In January the doors opened to his Liverpool Institute of the Performing Arts [LIPA]. Situated on the site of his old grammar school, Paul founded the college by investing some two million dollars, helped along by a hefty donation from the Queen. The state-of-the-art facility is the first of its kind, offering 200 students a practical approach for breaking into—and surviving—the entertainment business. In the words of David Price, pop musician turned managing director for learning: "At degree level I think we are probably the only institute in the world which brings students from a number of disciplines together to study under one roof. We also have very high business and technological input into the courses."
In Paul's view: "It's all very well being able to write songs, but Lennon and McCartney were pretty neatly ripped off because they didn't know anything about business. So why not learn a little bit about business as you're writing the songs; it could save a lot of trouble in the future."
LIPA boasted a truly universal flavor, enrolling aspiring artists in the theater, music, and dance disciplines from all over the world. One aspiring recording engineer from Tokyo admitted, "I can't deny I took an interest in this place because it is Paul McCartney's school. I find what LIPA offers unique. It is very difficult to make money out of classical or modern music simply because it is not so popular."
One of the institute's greatest draws was its all-star faculty. Only a heavyweight like Paul McCartney could lure Tony award-winning theater designer John Napier, choreographer Gillian Lynne, and top rockers like Mark Knopfler and Elvis Costello into his classrooms. The institution put not only Liverpool but all of England on the map as "a very important place for pop," affirmed Price.
As the year advanced, McCartney's public appearances were noted for the conspicuous absence of Linda. In June, when he attended the official opening of LIPA by Queen Elizabeth, he would only say, "It's a bit hectic for her, but she's doing well."
Not surprisingly, by September speculation ran wild. Linda hadn't been seen since the surgery, some nine months earlier. Paul, seeking to quash the rumors, stated, "She is doing incredibly well and the doctors are amazingly pleased with her. Linda is the most positive person on Earth. She's fantastic. That's the thing about this, you have to be positive. No one gets away with a perfect life, and Linda and I have been luckier than most."
The McCartneys' ever-vigilant agent Geoff Baker chimed in as well. "[Linda's had] a complete recovery. She's feeling great. She's been horse riding nearly every day." He added that Linda had opted out of the public eye simply to spend more time with her family.
By October 6th, scarcely one month later, even the genial Mike McCartney, who had himself survived a frightening bout with skin cancer two years earlier, was forced to issue damage control when Paul failed to show for Abbey Road Studios' 65th birthday bash. "Everything is going fine," he stated. "Linda has more stamina than all of us and Paul is always there for her. There was a point when everyone was really concerned for her, but I think she is in the clear and we are all delighted. Thank God for modern science. Things have changed a lot since our mum died. Thank goodness we've got the facilities to arrest this thing early on."
But was the deadly cancer really arrested? A critical turning point occurred on November 23, 1996 when Linda was scheduled to attend the opening of an exhibit of her photographs (entitled Roadworks for her accompanying book) at the National Museum of Photography, Film, and Television in Bradford. The exhibition included shots taken over thirty years, ranging from her stint as resident photographer at the Fillmore, to life on the road with Paul, to portraits of modern-day street life featuring panhandlers and bag ladies. The exhibit's curator, Martin Harrison, praised the collection as being "like their author, natural and spontaneous."
The anticipation of Linda's appearance took center stage. Geoff Baker, as always, confidently stated, "As far as I am aware she will certainly be at the opening. It will mark her return to public life."
Yet the exhibition came and went with Mrs. McCartney a disturbing no-show. Clearly, something was very wrong. It had been nearly a year since the operation to remove "a small lump" (as Paul had categorized it) and it was apparent the "few months recuperation" had metamorphsed into something far more worrisome.
In the wake of the family's adamant silence the press was giving increasing credence to an agency report, which had been circulating, that Linda had suffered a serious recurrence of the cancer and was receiving intensive treatment for several months in Los Angeles. Friends, however, claimed the couple were merely enjoying an extended holiday in southern California.
At last, in mid-December Linda braved the cameras for a brief appearance in Los Angeles. She videotaped her acceptance of a Lifetime Achievement honor from the animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals [PETA]. Linda stood at the podium for a mere forty-two seconds, but it was long enough to tell a very grim tale. Her usually healthy complexion now pasty and puffy, she wore a baggy blouse and jacket, her once-blonde tresses reduced to a wispy short crop of drab brown hair.
One guest remarked, "Her face was waxy and her eyebrows heavily pencilled. Her hair looked very thin and it was a uniform length all over as if it was just growing back." These were clear indications, not of the usual small dose of chemo, but of the high concentration that causes hair loss and fatigue. Linda looked as if she'd been fighting an intense, perhaps even losing, battle for some time.
Paul stood valiantly at her side, casting reassuring smiles. His hair was cut short in a display of "sympathetic suffering." According to renowned psychologist Martin Skinner: "This is an attempt to share pain through looking physically alike. It is a loving act. Couples do tend to mimic each other and in the end can look almost identical, especially in a marriage as loving and close as this."
It was clear that even so simple an endeavor as briefly attending a ceremony had exacted a severe toll. Linda thanked the hosts, actors Alec Baldwin and wife Kim Bassinger, before reading her brief speech from the teleprompter. Moving not a muscle, Linda slowly and awkwardly delivered her speech, glancing several times in Paul's direction for encouragement. The Daily Mirror reported, "Her eyebrows moved up and down like a cartoon character as she spoke about how much receiving the award meant to her. Paul stood behind her, supportive and proud, nodding in agreement."
Mrs. McCartney wound up the speech by saying, "You've certainly brightened up my year," with Paul chirping in, "Peace and love from me." "And from the kids," Linda added. Spontaneously they both cried, "And from the animals!" Linda then made a fist and exclaimed, "Yes!," as they carefully exited the podium. All things considered, it was a highly suspect performance.
McCartney chum Carla Lane was understandably supportive. "I think Linda looks wonderful. Paul is so pleased and the rest of the family overjoyed at the progress she's making. Right from the start she's been very spiritual about everything. She decided she wasn't going to let the cancer get her. She always remained bright, got on with life, and wondered how she could help others with the disease. She's also been talking about buying a scanner for a hospital. Her award from PETA will do her a power of good and she more than deserves that. Bless her."
Those carefully chosen words of optimism, however, belied the reality. In the aftermath the London papers quoted Dr. Tony Leathern, a breast cancer expert who spoke about fatality and how the "secondary spread" of tumors claimed the most victims. The type of chemotherapy Linda appeared to be receiving was so dangerously potent five percent of recipients died from the ill effects alone. "A positive attitude and a good quality of life determine how well a patient responds to chemotherapy," Leathern noted.
Once again spin-doctor Geoff Baker did his best to put a cheery veneer on the increasingly bleak situation. "I spoke to Linda only yesterday. She's doing great. She's happy, full of life, and back to work putting together a photo film of stills she took of the Beatles and working on a new book."
Rather ominously, he added, "I can't comment on any treatment she is receiving or has received. And I can't say if she's beaten the cancer. I'm not God!" This was a clearly definite departure from the supreme confidence of the past year.
Three months later, the attention once more returned to Paul as all of London was buzzing about his imminent investiture in the Order of Knighthood. While his Beatles cohorts ribbed him about the honor, reportedly calling him "Your Holiness," this was exactly the kind of mantle McCartney coveted, one that exceeded mere pop stardom, an acknowledgment of respectability and esteem from the highest authority. After all, in pop music only George Martin and Cliff Richard had been knighted. While Lennon had returned his MBE (one step below knighthood) some thirty years earlier, Paul had not only kept his, but now, finally, he had something Lennon didn't: a "sir" before his name.
Linda, of course, was fully expected to attend the ceremony. "She wouldn't dream of missing such an important event," a close friend divulged.
Yet on March 11, 1997 it was a solo McCartney, elegantly decked out in tails, who passed through the gates of Buckingham Palace. In a centuries-old tradition he knelt on one knee before Her Majesty. Tapping each shoulder with a sword, Queen Elizabeth officially knighted him for his service to popular music. Just like that, the 54-year-old Liverpool institution and international business man was now and forever "Sir" James Paul McCartney.
Emerging from the palace to a cadre of photographers and well-wishers sporting "Arise Sir Paul" t-shirts, he said, "I'm proud to be British. It's a wonderful day. It's a long way from a little terrace house in Liverpool. My mum and dad would have been extremely proud and perhaps they are."
Yet beneath the cultured, smiling "my brave face," Paul appeared noticeably subdued. Without Linda at his side on this most auspicious occasion one could only imagine the fears that loomed beneath the facade. As always, McCartney drew on the lodestar of his family. "The McCartneys are extremely close and it is wonderful to watch their ease when they are together," says Edward Sexton, the Knightsbridge tailor who used to design for the Beatles.
Of all the McCartney children it is clearly Heather who is not only the most talented but also the most troubled, having survived a perilous stretch in her twenties. At 33 she continues to gain respect as a potter, and, interestingly, has chosen India as her second home. Her coiled pots fashioned by the same ancient methods utilized by Mexican-Indian and Japanese potters (priced between $100 and $250) have been showcased in Selfridges on Oxford Street. Her work has even gained notice in the galleries of New York.
Mary, now 27, a dark-haired, delicately featured version of her father, remains in the family business, moving up at MPL as a copyright handler and photo editor. Determined to pay her dues, she worked for six years at the West End publishing company Music Sales on a L6.000 annual salary. She began there as a photo researcher, locating shots to illustrate books about rock musicians.
"She wasn't flashy," said managing director Chris Charles-worth. "She drove an oldish car and never seemed to have much money in her pocket. She would come down to the pub with us after work and have a good chat. She was always smartly dressed, but not flamboyant. I remember thinking it was a credit to the McCartneys for bringing up their kids that way."
The brunette beauty has recently been linked with ex-Jam and Style Council front man Paul Weller. The pair was spotted holding hands and kissing at the launch of Welter's latest album. Weller was alleged to be "completely besotted" with the McCartneys' eldest. No word on Paul's reaction.
Meanwhile, the McCartney's youngest daughter Stella, now 25, a strawberry-blonde, moon-faced edition of her mother, was making quite a splash in the fiercely competitive fashion industry. A graduate of London's Central St. Martins School of Art and Design, Stella earned a reputation as a hard worker, toiling long hours over the sewing machine.
"I was impressed she even bothers getting up in the morning, let alone sewing her own clothes," a fellow student commented. "Lots of us paid people to finish off our sewing, but not Stella."
Her initiative was admirable, but Stella wasn't foolish enough to turn down the perks that came with having an influential father. At fifteen she traveled to Paris to work under Christian Lacroix and later in the fashion department at Vogue. Beatles-tailor Edward Sexton then took on the fledgling designer as an apprentice. Asking her to buy him a box of black buttonholes at the store, he found her as green as they come. "She got all the way down the stairs and out the door before she realized," he recalled with a grin.
Sexton reminded his young apprentice of one very important thing she could learn from her father. "If he writes a bad song, he'll never publish it. It's the same with your garments: they have to be perfect. Anything else is not worth it." Sexton might be a superb tailor, but it was clear he hadn't listened to much of the McCartney catalog!
If, as Paul insists, he is still "just an ordinary bloke," one particular episode severely compromised that carefully crafted image. The incident centered around Stella's graduation fashion show in June 1995, presented by fellow students at Central St. Mary's. A heavy media blitz was to be expected; there was little even the McCartneys could do to avoid it. But once inside, their behavior had a definite air of "big star" boorishness.
First off, the famous parents reportedly delayed the start of the show by manipulating front seats while other less-connected families waited to get in. Paul also rather untactfully penned a song "Stella Mayday" to honor the occasion. The event promptly turned into a circus when Stella's pals, supermodels Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell, cruised the runway strutting her line of neo-1940s fashions.
"Stella's a friend of mine," explained Campbell. "I wanted to help her out on this."
The resulting "Stellabration" splash in the morning papers praised her talents and announced that the young McCartney had been offered a position with Ralph Lauren. The coverage left the other participants quite rightly outraged.
"The press completely forgot there were seventy other students in the show," complained one graduate. "They all left after Stella's collection."
The gold-plated McCartney name, of course, has allowed Stella more than one precious foot in the door. As one industry insider pointed out, her creations have that built-in "association with the famous" to attract potential buyers. How many couture hopefuls fresh out of college have their own studio, are photographed with Oasis' Liam Gallagher and Patsy Kensit, and win layouts in Cosmopolitan, Harper's, and Vanity Fair? Just this past April, Stella landed a prime position as designer for the elite Paris fashion house Cloe, succeeding the now legendary Karl Lagerfeld. "This is all very exciting for Stella," beamed her dad. "Her mum and I and all of her family are very proud of her."
In her personal life Stella recently ended a long-term relationship and has been known to socialize with a pair of gay male designers. After hours she can often be found at Edward Sexton's Beauchamp Place Tailors enjoying a pint of beer and a friendly gab.
As for the McCartney "baby," James Paul, now nineteen, resembles his famous father in looks and personality. He is known to be good natured and smart, displaying the same saucy sense of humor as his dad. Like Paul, James, too, shows an aptitude for painting and plays both drums and guitar, though not left-handed. Still uncertain of what he wants to do, James has reportedly expressed an interest in enrolling in the Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts.
Today, as a shadow of uncertainty hovers over his family, McCartney, to his credit, hasn't folded up his tent. He is currently producing yet another photofilm of Linda's photographs and will soon release an album entitled Flaming Pie. In hopes of hyping the project, Paul licensed two cuts, "Young Boy" and "The World Tonight," to the soundtrack of Billy Crystal and Robin Williams' dubious comedy, Father's Day. As for Flaming Pie itself, the title alludes to a long-ago bio of the Beatles John Lennon wrote in which he refers to people jetting in and out of the scene aboard a flaming pie. The album includes the first-ever collaboration between Paul and Ringo. McCartney's also working on a symphonic piece to be unveiled at the 100th anniversary of EMI Records during the summer of 1997.
Paul hasn't lost the drive to perform nor forgotten his incredible history. On April 11, 1996 McCartney surprised and delighted Soho passersby with an impromptu twenty-minute concert from the rooftop of MPL. Had it really been twenty-eight years since the Beatles played their exuberant swan-song atop the Apple offices?
Fans and industry insiders alike hope the new CD will be the one that will revive the old McCartney magic. Radio Merseyside disc jockey Spencer Leigh observed, "What Paul needs now is a really strong album. It's a long time since he wrote a song that had the world singing."
As always, in business McCartney remains fiercely competitive and territorial. In March he fought Lily Evans (widow of Beatles roadie, Mal) over her intent to auction off the original lyrics for "With a Little Help from My Friends." Although it was certainly part of her husband's estate, Paul claimed Evans was never supposed to sell the collectible for his own enrichment. BBC-TV's Watchdog quickly labeled McCartney a "widow beater." The composer, however, stood firm on his vow to get his property back. Lily Evans eventually bowed to the tidal wave of pressure and quietly withdrew the coveted item from the selling block. All vintage McCartney.
Paul waged an even bigger battle with Quarrymen pianist John "Duff" Lowe over possession of "the holy grail of all Beatles memorabilia," the demo tape of "That'll Be the Day" recorded long ago in Liverpool. A High Court eventually ruled that the tape, reportedly worth at least $100,000, was owned by McCartney.
It is precisely this tenacity that sustains and fuels the towering McCartney empire. The figures are staggering. His 25 percent of Apple and 40-percent share of Maclen are worth some $150 million alone. Beatles royalties pay him an extra $20 million a year. Sales of The Beatles Anthology six-CD box sets netted $8.5 million with worldwide television rights garnering millions more. His $100 million art collection and extensive properties (most recently, the $350,000 addition of farmland in the Mull of Kintyre) continue to appreciate in value. Conservative estimates put McCartney's fortune at around $450 million; the fact is he is swiftly approaching billionaire status.
Worldly fortunes aside, McCartney stubbornly stands by his priorities: honesty, loyalty, and, above all, family. In a recent interview with Time magazine he summed up his homespun philosophy: "I still get wounded but I've come to the point where I tell myself 'Give yourself a break. No one else will.' I like ballads. I like babies. I like happy endings. They say domesticity is the enemy of art, but I don't think it is. I had to make a decision: am I going to be just a family guy or should I go up to London three nights a week, hit the nightclubs, occasionally drop my trousers, and swear in public? I made my decision and I feel okay with it.
"Ballads and babies. That's what happened to me."