'I am just an ordinary person and want to live in peace.'
Paul McCartney, explaining to a Life magazine reporter that he was not dead.
When Linda married Paul, she brought to him not only the prodigious emotional strength that would help pull him through a very hard time, but also her family, corporately known as the law firm of Eastman & Eastman (that is, her father and her brother). As Linda guided her new husband through the devastated landscape of his old career as a member of the Beatles and into a tremendously successful new one as a solo artist, her family took control of his legal and financial position and made him the richest musician in the history of the world. What Paul McCartney would have become without men (and a woman) named Epstein no one can ever know; with his talent and intelligence he was not destined to be a loser. But with the guidance of Brian Epstein, without whom Paul readily acknowledges there would have been no Beatles, he was one half (or one quarter, if you will) of a creative force which no history of the twentieth century can ignore; and in the good care of Lee (ne Epstein), John and Linda Eastman, he survived and he thrived once the Beatles were, indeed, history.
She hated 'business', she always said, but Linda was plunged into a maelstrom of such activity in 1969 when she married Paul, and it was coming at her from all directions. Not only was her new husband preoccupied on about half-a-dozen separate fronts (management; publishing; Apple; John and Yoko; John, George and Ringo, etc.) with the excruciating break-up of the Beatles, but now her father and brother had jumped into the fray as well.
It hadn't taken long for Lee Eastman to reverse his position on the subject of his daughter's involvement with the degenerate world of rock and roll when he found himself with a Beatle in the family. Clearly, as a very successful player in the lucrative field of song publishing, Lee could see the possibilities of a connection with this celebrated songwriter - part of a team or not, Paul had written 'Yesterday' and 'Michelle' by himself, and those two songs alone had earned millions of dollars, although they did not all flow into Paul's pocket by any means. As Lee saw it, they should have done, and he no doubt saw an opportunity to make certain that in the future anything Paul wrote would enrich the ex-Beatle, Lee's daughter, Lee's grandchildren, Lee himself and his son John. He did indeed accomplish all that.
The concept of music publishing is confusing, and although I wish it could be explained in twenty-five words or less, it can't, so bear with me. Everything will be much simpler if the process is even vaguely understood: the 'copyright' (literally, the right to make and sell copies) automatically belongs entirely to the writer, and it exists the moment a song is written or recorded on tape. Simultaneously, the writer owns the related 'publishing' rights. Music publishing, as a practical matter, consists of getting exposure for the song (having other people record it, or getting it on a movie soundtrack, etc.) and collection of the money thereby earned; even when the song is played on the radio, on a jukebox or in an elevator, there is money to be collected. When you record your own song, and the recordings are sold, the manufacturer of the record is required by law to pay money to the owner of the copyright. This might be you, the writer, or you might have sold the copyrights and attendant publishing, in which case someone else gets the money.
Although it's only pennies a time, if 100 other people record that song (as with 'Yesterday', which has been recorded far more than 100 times) and it's played on the radio millions of times (it's all kept track of), huge amounts of money can be generated.
In 1962, the very young and naive John Lennon and Paul McCartney agreed to the formation of a company to be called Northern Songs, which would own all the songs they had written and would write until 1973. Northern Songs was to be a division of Dick James' own publishing company. The ownership of Northern Songs was then split. Dick James got half of Northern Songs, John and Paul got twenty per cent each, and Brian Epstein ten per cent. Then (at a later date) George and Ringo were given less than two per cent each out of Paul and John's share. So the great bulk of Beatles' copyrights was not owned by John and Paul, who wrote the songs, and it came to rankle them greatly. John's widow and Paul continue to be rankled to this day.
When Lee Eastman suggested to Paul that his publishing affairs might be handled far more skilfully than they had been, that is, handled by Lee, Paul gladly agreed, appointing Eastman & Eastman (still the name of the company, although Lee died in 1991) to administer all his publishing henceforth. Copyrights (i.e. publishing) have to be 'administered', that is, registered, kept track of, accounted for, supervised, money collected from, etc., and whoever administers the publishing gets a standard (and very nice) ten per cent of the income. 'I guess Paul figured it's all in the family, Paul trusted his own family, and the company is impeccably reputable by any standards,' says Nat Weiss.
With the advice of his father-in-law and brother-in-law, Paul McCartney as we speak is close to being a billionaire (or beyond; does it really matter at this point?) via the publishing he now owns, which includes - besides most of his own solo work - all the songs written by Buddy Holly, Hoagy Carmichael ('Stardust'), the scores of A Chorus Line, Annie, Grease and on and on. His is the largest independently owned publishing company in existence. The majority share of the Lennon-McCartney catalogue of song copyrights, as a publishing entity known as Northern Songs, slipped through the hands of Paul and of John's widow when it came on the market in the 1980s, and is now owned by Michael Jackson, the performer, in partnership with Sony.
So, Linda may have hated business ('Give me a lump of bread and a bit of lettuce in the garden, and forget the rest,' she told Playboy in 1984), but she was the daughter, sister and wife of very shrewd businessmen, and did not object to them becoming immensely rich as a team, although she was not much interested in the details. Linda was not one to forget how disapproving Lee Eastman had been of her for a very long time, but she was quick (always, throughout their life together, with Paul's permission) to forgive. So she was delighted to see her father and Paul bonding, financially, legally and, to some extent, socially. 'We're giving my dad a Rolls-Royce for his birthday!' Linda told me one year in the late 1970s, thrilled that everything was continuing to go so swimmingly between her husband and her father.
For the Eastmans had been involved not only with Paul's extensive and complicated publishing enterprises, but with his legal situation visa-vis the Beatles as they were falling apart. Lee had moved swiftly in February 1969, convincing Paul to have Eastman & Eastman hired as legal counsel to Apple, the Beatles' own, extremely troubled company. The urgency was because, thanks to Yoko's influence, the Beatles were now involved with an enticingly sharp-talking accountant named Allen Klein as their business manager, and Klein was a player guaranteed to horrify the distinguished Eastman clan. The war between Paul on one side, with Yoko/John and the other Beatles in opposition, escalated explosively with the intervention of two New York parties, each from a very different side of the music business tracks.
Nat Weiss (whose account of anything relating to the Beatles is both penetrating and hilarious) recalls,
In early '69, Yoko called Allen Klein because Mick Jagger told her that Klein had gotten the Stones a much better recording deal than the Beatles had. Besides affirming what Jagger had told Yoko, Klein also said that he could help her with her movies, and that was the motivating thing - I mean, she wasn't interested in Beatle royalties. She told Lennon about the royalties, and he called me up about this and said, 'Oh, it's going to be a good thing, getting involved with Klein,' and this was very difficult for me because Brian [Epstein] had hated Allen Klein. He was an alley cat. But I went to see him since John asked me to.
I went to his office and there he was, eating spaghetti, and he waved a paper and said, 'You see!' and he showed me the signatures of three Beatles. I said, 'I don't see four.' Then he asked me for Brian Epstein's papers. I said, 'No. If you want anything, sue me. I'd rather burn them.'
I didn't want to get that involved, it was Brian's thing and I could never get any emotional satisfaction out of it. And Neil Aspinall was there, he'd been the Beatles' road manager from the start and he would give his life for any one of those guys. But Allen Klein came in, fired this one, fired that one, tried to fire Neil Aspinall, ripped up Paul's song 'The Long and Winding Road', stuck in a female chorus, and then Paul, on the advice of Lee, sued the Beatles.
George came in to see me, and I said, 'How can you sign with him?' and George said, 'Well, he can do certain things.' I said, 'Mussolini made the trains run on time but he destroyed a country; this man is no good.' It ended up that he ripped off George as well as everyone else, and George had to sue him, and he went to jail for some things he did anyhow.
Paul had been outvoted so that Klein was hired as business manager. Paul had to break up the Beatles at that point, he had to break it up to sue. I never would have imagined it would end that way.
Paul probably wanted to keep the Beatles together, and he couldn't; I think Yoko wanted to separate John from the Beatles, and George didn't know what was happening, and Ringo - as Brian said, 'The great thing about Ringo is that he's the least talented, and never uptight about it.'
Actually, it was not until late 1970 that Paul filed the lawsuit against the other Beatles; the chaos, dating from the advent of Klein vs. The Eastmans, took nearly two years to reach that point. It was 1970 that was really the awful year, when Linda and Paul exiled themselves to Scotland and Paul nearly went to pieces, but for Linda's presence. The previous year, in comparison, at least the first three quarters of it, was not that bad and saw some remarkably redeeming events, like the making of Abbey Road, the Beatles' farewell masterpiece before the split, and the birth of Mary McCartney in August.
Nothing in Linda's life had prepared her for the downside of her relationship with Paul; despised and envied worldwide, Linda now found herself with her Prince Charming losing confidence in himself and sinking into a deep depression. The head-over-heels, somewhat bewildered bride had become the strong one in the relationship. It was a situation she never could have foreseen (unlike Yoko, who started off strong and only got stronger), but then again, she didn't think much about the future until it became the present, and although it was a staggeringly difficult time for her, she was ready to deal with it. There were reserves of determination within her, and a still embryonic ability to inspire others, that no one, least of all Linda herself, ever knew existed until they were needed.
Imagine the irony in this picture. Lovely, talented, buoyant Linda Eastman wins the biggest prize of all, and finds that the fairy tale is not at all rosy. Every woman on earth dreams of how wonderful it must be to be married to Beatle Paul . . . and the reality is that the man, your husband and the father of your kids, is spiralling downwards from within.
'I was very scared,' she told me. 'I didn't want to give up, but it was a mess, it was unreal, and I had to handle this all by myself. There was no choice. I had to try. We had two children, we'd just been married a year, and my husband didn't want to get out of bed. He was drinking too much. He would tell me he felt useless. I knew he was torturing himself, blaming himself for the break-up, and I was sure that he could get beyond it, but if he didn't believe in himself, what could I do? I could only try, that's all I could do. Let me tell you, my hands were full.'
As Paul told Joan Goodman in the Playboy interview: 'I was impossible, I don't know how anyone could have lived with me. For the first time in my life, I was on the scrap heap, in my own eyes ... I'd never experienced it before. It was bad on Linda. Let's say I wouldn't have liked to live with me. So I don't know how Linda stuck it out.'
It's odd how the external and internal aspects of a life lived in the glare (or perhaps the shadow) of extreme fame come together, align themselves, contradict each other, propel actuality.
In the autumn of 1969, on the one hand, the Beatles as a happy, creative, life-enhancing foursome are dying as a productive unit; on the other, Abbey Road is released, an album produced a few months earlier at Paul's insistence that the group members give up their separate pursuits and come together once again to go into the studio with producer George Martin, to do what they always did best, and very likely for the last time. To their fans (and to this day, perhaps), the Beatles never sounded so strong, and therefore the rumours 'couldn't be true" that they were in the process of dissolution. Paul, as a singer and songwriter, was as strong and vital as he had ever been on 'Carry That Weight' and 'You Never Give Me Your Money'.
But of course the rumours were true; in September, John told Paul that he was leaving the group, that the 'divorce' of the Beatles was at hand. Paul was in a hideous frame of mind, made even worse by an extracted promise not to reveal what was happening to the group because Klein was negotiating a new recording contract for the Beatles; there would be a lot of money upon signing, but there would be no contract at all if the record company knew the truth. With Linda, Heather and Mary, Paul got the hell out of London and headed for his farm in Scotland, at 'the end of nowhere', as Linda would always describe its location, most approvingly.
Helplessly at first, Linda watched her husband virtually dying on the inside, mirroring the death of his band. (Thanks to Linda, in another sense, he had already 'died' as a viable bachelor, and she knew very well that millions of girls wished that she was dead, or at least that she'd never been born.) It was very grim.
Exactly what the frightened little family needed at that moment was the news, a front-page story all over the world, that Paul was literally dead. It was a self-perpetuating hoax of a magnitude no one had ever before seen; dozens of 'clues' were discovered that 'proved' the real Paul McCartney had died in a horrible automobile accident in 1966, and that the person now assuming his identity was an impostor, 'is paul dead?' seemed to be the most discussed and debated question in the world in the autumn of 1969. Paul's response: 'I'm dead, am I? Why does nobody ever tell me anything?' But that wasn't good enough. The story kept gathering momentum as an army of Beatles scholars searched for, and found, evidence of Paul's death in nearly everything the band had done since the fatal crash. (This external ill wind for Paul and Linda, blew some good nevertheless, as the sales of Beatles' recordings spiked worldwide, making the Lads, and all who had a piece of them, a little bit richer yet.)
In their exasperation at the depressing story that wouldn't go away, Paul and Linda agreed to cooperate with a crew from Life magazine, which had appeared at the farm no one was supposed to be able to find, and with their two daughters posed for the beautiful cover photograph that appeared on the issue dated 7 November. Along with the photographs was an interview, in which Paul, with Linda at his side, revealed that his future was not as a Beatle, but as a husband and father. 'I am happy to be with my family, and I will work when I work,' he told Life's Dorothy Bacon. 'The Beatle thing is over. It has been exploded, partly by what we have done and partly by other people . . . Can you spread it around that I am just an ordinary person and want to live in peace? We have to go now, we have two children at home.'
Linda and the children were now the most important people in his life, and that was never to change.
In the pictures, Paul is intense, patriarchal, with his family gathered around him in an empty and hilly windswept landscape. He is anything but playful or moppety. Linda, in a plain dress, unadorned, natural and very beautiful, looks as if she were born in these hills. In spite of the undertones of Marie-Antoinette and her ladies-in-waiting playing at being milkmaids, the overriding impression is one of a pioneer couple with their young daughters, about to farm for sustenance the land they're standing on.
High Park Farm is about fifteen miles from the southern tip of the Kintyre peninsula, off the western coast of Scotland, a 600-mile drive from London. Getting there by car requires travelling to the north end of Kintyre, where one connects with the only road joining the peninsula to the Scottish mainland, and then south in the direction of Campbeltown, the nearest centre of civilization to the McCartney property. The most celebrated previous inhabitants of the area had been Robert Louis Stevenson, the enormously popular author who gave us Treasure Island and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and Robert the Bruce, who led the Scots to freedom from England in the fourteenth century. There hasn't been much development around Campbeltown since.
Paul had bought the property with its tiny decrepit farmhouse and tiny decrepit outbuildings at the height of Beatlemania, and Linda had loved it since their first trip there in November 1968, mice in the walls and all. She persuaded him to make some improvements, like pouring a cement floor with his very own hands; rustically inclined though she was, Linda preferred something more solid than planks thrown on the dirt under her feet - and the children's - as she cooked and scrubbed.
Drummer Denny Seiwell, who played on the New York sessions for Ram (Paul's second solo album), was summoned to the farm in 1971 - he knew not why at the time - and remembers clearly what is was like getting there from America.
You flew to that weird airport in Scotland, and Pan Am [after checking out the legitimacy of Seiwell's presence] had us driven down to Campbeltown in a van. It was a five-hour trek, and we were dropped off at a local rent-a-car, checked into a typical little Scottish hotel, and set out to find the farm, which was in the middle of nowhere.
We asked some of the villagers how to get to High Park Farm, and they said things like, 'Well, laddie, ye take the wee car ...' and I'm thinking, 'What the hell are they talking about?' We finally found the right road, and they had said that we'd come to a farmhouse, which was on the edge of the McCartney property, but after that there was no real road to their house. Well, the sun was setting in the black hills of Scotland and we beeped the horn and this old guy came out, and we said, 'How do you find Paul's farm?' and his answer was nearly unintelligible, but he opened this old wooden gate and there were these boulders everywhere. We ruined the car. We ruined about three rental cars; they wouldn't rent us any more cars in this village. Finally we got to the farm. Two bedrooms in the 'main house', a kitchen, the kids, the horses, the sheep. Linda cooked up a dinner that was to die for, real simple stuff, and what we [Seiwell and his wife, Monique] saw was nothing but straight, straight love between her and Paul.
'It was the most beautiful land you've ever seen,' Linda told Barry Miles. 'To me, it was the first feeling I'd ever had of civilization dropped away. I felt like it was in another era ... so different from all the hotels and limousines and the music business.'
This observation of Linda's covers a lot of ground, for as one can tell by not having to read it with much analysis, the Life magazine interview shows Paul's attitude towards the Beatles, the press and his entire career up to that point carrying a surprising amount of, for him, actual belligerence. It is now clear in retrospect that it was the business of music that was bringing him so low - what had once brought him (in spite of a few scary moments, like escaping the thugs of Imelda) joy, success and accomplishment, with a ride to the moon thrown in as a bonus, was now a source of profound misery.
'Bad things were happening in the business then, in 1969,' Linda said to me in that discussion I had with her and Paul in the summer of 1992.
'To whom?' I asked.
'To everybody,' she answered. 'Everybody. There was a sourness. There were parasites moving in, there was friction. Everybody started getting hugely successful, and with success came craziness, and any beautiful glow attracts a lot of ugly creatures.'
'There's only so long a good mood can last,' Paul added.
'Oh, there were so many fucked-up things in 1969,' I observed. 'The Nixon administration came to power.'
'And there was repression,' said Paul, having distanced himself enough from that time to include, and very astutely, the unattractive political situation facing the 'groovy youthquake' of the mid-60s.
'Kennedy!' exclaimed Linda, who was not what one might define as a scholar of contemporary history.
'No darling,' I said. 'We're talking about later than that. We're way past Kennedy, we're talking about the Nixon crowd.'
'Try and stay with us, Linda,' Paul chided her, very lovingly, a bit exasperated, but so affectionate - very Paul and Linda, that, I always thought - like Burns and Allen: 'Say "Goodnight", Grade.' If you got in there, it really was a comedy team, as were, say, the Beatles themselves.
We talked that afternoon about the grandiosity of 1968 that had turned to dust in our hands as the decade ended. 'I thought I could decide right there that this would turn into that, no doubt about it, and I still don't know how I could have been so sure about anything,' I said.
'We [Linda and Paul, presumably] get the same sort of feeling,' he replied. 'You don't know. We all got liberated at the beginning of it, then we got certain bad habits, drugs and stuff set in, and we couldn't all put it into a nice little system that would take us thirty or forty years into the future. It was just too wild for that, anyone who tried to organize it went out the window, so it just had to run its little thing, its vitality, like a firework. There was kind of a Roman Empire winding up, and then the Beatles broke up, and that kind of gave the signal. Rock and roll lost its vitality ... for the time being, then it spat back with punk and everything and it was all fine again.
'But we did feel a winding up, didn't we? And I always say, the reason why the 60s keep coming back is that there has been nothing better in the interim.'
'Oh, remember flower-power?' Linda put in. 'I never went to a love-in, I guess it's too late now ... Oh! look at that chipmunk, look at that! Over there, that's really life, not Life magazine.'
If Linda McCartney didn't have a way with words, she had a way with feelings.
'I didn't spend half enough time with Linda as I would have liked to,' Pete Townshend told me about a year after she'd died.
I really came to know Paul so much better and to love him and to accept him in a way that I don't think I would have done had he had a more traditional kind of showbiz marriage.
She showed the world a new way of doing it, of doing marriage, like rock and roll showed the world that there was a new kind of music, and it wasn't going to go away. She was there when people had to make decisions about it. Decided that there was something wrong with the world that said it will only last for another couple of years, and then we'll be back to Sarah Vaughan and Frank Sinatra.
But she believed, she knew, that this was not going to go away. This world that we've created is not going to go away, and we can even do it the way they used to. We can be real Americans. We can have a really happy family without going to church on Sundays. We can smoke the occasional joint. We can be good people with good happy children.
I think that Paul was growing into a feeling of dignity as an artist, as a pop artist, and Linda was essential to it. It was a loss in so many ways when Linda died, but you have to realize it was a loss to pop music too. This is a new business we're in. We're the first people to get old in it.
At her memorial, I said that her presence in Paul's life felt like my property, like their marriage was something that belonged to me. They showed us a way of doing it that was legitimate for us, they created a whole new world around their marriage, the sheer time they were together, and they reinforced all those things I believe in: the Stones, the Beatles, Paul and Linda, they'll all live with me through my lifetime.
An excellent witness to the newlywed Linda and Paul is Ruth McCartney, Paul's stepsister. Paul's father, Jim, who lost Paul's mother in 1956, was remarried in 1964 to Angie Stopworth Williams. Her husband of three years had been killed in a car accident in 1962, leaving her with a two-year-old daughter, Ruth. Such was the frenzy of Beatlemania in '64 that Paul's father and his new bride couldn't get married in Liverpool, but had to take a taxi to a village in northern Wales for the ceremony; on the way, they pressed the taxi driver into service as the best man. Jim and Angie honeymooned the following January in the Bahamas, where the Beatles were making Help!, and with Ruth they lived at Rembrandt, the house that Paul had bought for his father.
A few days after Linda and Heather moved into Paul's London house, he took them up to Liverpool to meet the family. 'I think they had jetlag, they both kind of seemed like fish out of water,' Ruth recalled about her first meeting with Linda and Heather in November 1968. 'I was three years older than Heather, and she wasn't allowed to do a bunch of stuff that I could - when you're nine, and someone else is six, you can stay up till seven-thirty, but they've got to be in bed at five, so it's a pain in the ass. I'd spent three years earning all these privileges, and then you've got to back down to pretend to be six, but I'd grin and bear it.'
Raised in a traditional, working-class Liverpool Catholic environment, much as Paul was, little Ruth was constantly being astonished at the difference between Linda's and Heather's relationship, and that between herself and her own mother, Angie McCartney.
'We'd had the single mother and daughter thing, but it was totally different,' Ruth said.
I had never been exposed to any Americans before. The whole idea of marrying an American really shocked my Aunt Millie, who said, 'You know, she seems like a perfectly nice girl, but she is an American, and on top of that she's Jewish.' My Dad would say, 'What the hell difference does that make?', and Aunt Millie said, 'It's just a culture thing, love. I mean, he might as well have married a black thing.' But Aunt Millie had by far the most closed mind in the whole family, I'm happy to say.
Some of the differences in the way Heather and I were being raised surprised me. If Heather didn't finish her supper or was naughty, Linda would say, 'Go to your room!' And I was like, 'What is that about?' Because in England you were never sent to your room. You were made to rake the leaves or wash the car, not just, 'Go to your room and sit there.' My mother and Paul's father and Paul thought it was very strange. I remember being nine and thinking, 'Boy, being sent to my room would be a treat! I've got a nice big bed and teddy bears and books.' I just couldn't figure out how that was punishment.
There were all these different little ways, and my Dad would kind of throw Paul a glance, and Paul would give him that look -'Don't ask me! Don't get me involved!' You know, a Linda-is-doing-what-she-needs-to-do kind of look. But everything seemed odd to us about the way they did things - it's just that by the standards of old-fashioned Liverpool working-class Irish Catholic families, to be dragging around a kid in a ballet dress and Wellington boots and taking her to a film festival in France was a very strange thing. Also, when my Mum had to discipline me she never did it in front of visitors; she'd call me into the kitchen with some excuse, and then she'd fix me with a look and tell me what I'd done wrong. In English working-class circles, you never castigated a child in front of anybody. But Linda would do it all the time: 'Heather, don't be a pain! Go to your room!' We'd think, 'Oh poor child, she's being humiliated,' but I know that was never Linda's intention. She was a very caring mother, and she and Paul obviously had a very good relationship. She got her head together and did very well in business, so it turned out OK.
Linda encouraged Paul to adopt a let's-hit-the-road, spur-of-the-moment way of living, and Paul was happy to go along with it; it was therapeutic after being a Beatle all those years and good for him to be moving around without schedules, obligations, screaming crowds, and John, George and Ringo to deal with. Besides, one could easily hire a private plane to take the family to Portugal on a whim, for example -and the freedom to 'Just go!' certainly suited Linda's temperament as well. Things would not be quite that simple forever, but in '69 and '70, if an adventure were at hand, they grabbed the moment.
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Ruth recalls, 'They'd turn up in Liverpool and Heather would be in these muddy boots, and she'd say, "Have you got any shoes?" They'd be mowing the lawn or something in Scotland and the cold, rainy fog would blow in, and they'd say, "Oh, the hell with this! Let's jump in the Rolls-Royce and drive six hours and visit my Dad!" That's the way it went. If they didn't have the time or the inclination to pack, what's the problem? They could just go to Tiffany's or J.C. Penny and get what they needed when they got there.'
Alas, the spontaneous jaunts were, in truth, not very joyful, because Paul - as we noted earlier in this chapter - was a mess, and Linda was frightened. She rescued him, and their marriage, not only by being there, but by convincing her husband that he might try making some music: 'It's worked for you before, you know,' she told him.