'I can tell you right now, she didn 't marry a millionaire Beatle to end up in a Liverpool saloon singing "Pack up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag" with middle-aged women called Mildred.'
Lillian Roxon, reviewing the McCartneys' TV special
Lillian Roxon had been Linda's closest friend from mid-1966 until Linda left for London in September '68. A member of the radical Sydney bohemian crowd known as the 'Push' before she moved to New York (and the person to whom The Female Eunuch, by the fabulously famous feminist philosopher Germaine Greer, was dedicated), Lillian had been described by a friend named Craig McGregor as 'mistress of the put-down and the send-up, the come-on and the come-uppance, the double-faced about-turn and the uncompromising insult'. But as the New York correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald, most of what she wrote was, to paraphrase: 'Australia's leading entymologist, Dr -----, and his lovely wife Peggy were in New York recently, where they spent an evening at the theater and then mingled with the likes of Andy Warhol and the Kennedy family at Max's Kansas City, this city's most exciting "underground" hangout.' And, as a columnist for the New York Daily News, where she covered the pop music scene, she was unfailingly generous; she was neither a critic nor a gossip-monger, and worked hard at keeping her powerful contacts satisfied with what she wrote. Friends who could read between Lillian's lines could always find some Tabasco sauce in the white rice, but her articles generally concerned whose record was coming out, whose concert was in the near or distant future and what some star had said to her. The uncompromising insults came forth plentifully, but usually over the phone talking to a friend about someone else, or in person; when verbal weaponry wasn't sufficient, she'd just hit someone who'd behaved poorly over the head with her pocketbook.
Soon after Linda and Paul were married, Lillian wrote a glowing story about her in Woman's Day which emphasized her wonderful and classy qualities, told from the point of view of an intimate, appreciative friend - which indeed she had been. But after feeling neglected, that is, being neglected by Linda for a few years (and no doubt under pressure from her agents and editors to do an update about her great friend), Lillian grew increasingly bitter and unyielding.
Her support for Linda, apart from her friendship and affection, had been extremely important in settling the question of Linda's 'acceptability' with already established professional journalists, particularly women, when Linda first burst radiantly on to the scene in the summer of 1966. Linda had no problem with men, straight or otherwise. Women, on the other hand, were not jumping on her glowing little bandwagon so quickly; it could have been said that she was just another pretty face, that she used men, that she slept around, that her main talent was her seductiveness - all those things could have been said, whatever their merit, were it not for the very powerful mantle of Lillian's protection. Although a teeny bit prone to flying off the handle, and to some (usually justifiable) vindictiveness, Lillian was a paragon of professionalism; she was a regular contributor to two of the world's largest daily newspapers, was a few years older than most of us, and had been filing columns and articles well before many of us, certainly Linda and me, had arrived with rock's big bang in the mid-60s. Her judgments were severe, and she did not tolerate frivolity when it came to work - not that she minded people getting laid as often as they could, as long as it didn't interfere with their jobs, and as long as they told Lillian all about it. So when Lillian said, often literally, to those who were sceptical of Linda Eastman's sudden leap on to the A-list of rock insiders, 'You leave this woman alone! She is a fabulous photographer, totally professional and very bright, and she deserves to be successful,' potential critics, for the most part, backed off. Linda's enemies became Lillian's enemies, and who needed that? Besides, Lillian was not merely fearsome, but truly adored; she was great fun, knew everything and everyone, and had the world's biggest heart, which went along - sometimes nicely, sometimes not - with the world's longest memory.
In the spring of '73, the shit hit the fan when Lillian wrote a review of the television special James Paul McCartney that was the meanest piece she had ever written for public consumption in her New York years. It was headlined 'AN UNDISTINGUISHED MCCARTNEY SPECIAL'.
Did you see them in that pub scene . . . Paul as congenial and friendly as all get-out. .. Linda positively catatonic with horror at having to mingle with ordinary people.
I can tell you right now, she didn't marry a millionaire Beatle to end up in a Liverpool saloon singing 'Pack up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag' with middle-aged women called Mildred. TV special or not, she didn't crack a smile once in that scene except for a little novocained grimace after, I suspect, Paul had given her a good hard shove in the ribs . . . Take away Linda's ringlets, her picture hats, her tambourine (very Major Barbara) and what are we left with? Sweaty, pudgy, slack-mouthed Paul McCartney trying to get across what essentially turned out to be little more than bland easy-listening.
Not a soul I talked to afterwards could remember the names of most of the songs in James Paul McCartney, but they certainly had names for Linda's varied hair arrangements - her Stevie Wonder multi-braid, her Los Angeles groupie Moulin Rouge topknot, her modified Bette Midler 40s page-boy, and her quite unforgettable David Bowie split-level crewcut. . .
Paul revealed himself to be little more than an incredibly generous husband and a great piano player - when he could get the keyboard away from Linda . .. 'You are my sunshine', sang the people who gave the Beatles their original vitality, and Linda sat, her teeth relentlessly clamped in a Scarsdale lockjaw: I could have wept. . . Linda comes across as an incredibly cold and arrogant figure coming to life only when the TV cameras are focused right on her. She is a great beauty and someone should forget about Paul, and make a movie with her. She is obviously dying to become a star, you can tell. . .
Talk about shoot to cripple! 'Sweaty, pudgy, slack-mouthed'? 'Forget about Paul'? Critics had certainly been less than amazed by much of Paul's work after the Beatles, and the TV special didn't fare very well with the British press either, but Beatle Paul, the Cute Beatle, had never before been described as having lost his looks. Nor had it ever been written that his wife now had the star quality he'd lost - sarcastic as this was.
Linda knew how dangerous Lillian could be if she felt slighted, and I suspect that in four years she'd had time to get ready for the inevitable explosion, although no one is ever quite ready for such a vicious barrage from a former best friend in America's largest circulation newspaper. You may talk about such stuff rolling off your back, but if you don't walk like a duck or talk like a duck or look like a duck, you are not a duck. Still, the worst of it was what was said about Paul. I don't know what he said to his wife about what Lillian had written, but it can't have been very jolly. If Paul 'can't handle' criticism, as Linda said in the Playboy interview, his reaction to this review was quite likely terrifying to behold.
Lillian Roxon died suddenly four months after this article appeared; she was only in her early forties. I'd been talking to journalist Lisa Robinson, Lillian's closest friend, and she told me that she thought it odd that she hadn't heard from Lillian even once that particular day. 'She must be dead, then,' I said, seriously. Lisa asked her husband Richard Robinson and their friend Danny Goldberg to check Lillian's apartment, where they found her - she had died of an asthma attack the night before, only hours after she walked home the few blocks from Max's Kansas City, where we'd all been watching a new band perform.
Lisa always said that Lillian's Rock Encyclopedia had killed her. Before desktop computers existed, and before rock 'scholarship' was even remotely organized, Lillian had undertaken a chore that would have been daunting for a team of workers. The floor of her tiny apartment had been covered with stacks of notes that made her living room impassable by foot ('You're stepping on the Beach Boys!' she'd scream). She was torn between thoroughness and schedules, torn to the point of being tormented, and her fragile health just gave out. Lillian would have been pleased with her very prominent obituaries, and the turnout at her memorial, which included music industry moguls and the elite of entertainment journalism. 4jfe without her was going to be unimaginable; like a mother's love, Lillian's could never be replaced.
If the book killed her, Linda had wounded her deeply and had known what she'd done; but I don't believe that even when Lillian was hating her so vocally and visibly that she had ever stopped loving the woman who had been to her like a younger sister, a daughter, and in fact a best friend.
Linda called me about Lillian just after Wings returned from Lagos, and she was genuinely shattered. She said something about there having been no need to be so mean to Paul, but nothing about Lillian having been so mean to her. And to the end of Linda's life, as was noted before, she would tell me that her greatest regret was not having made up with Lillian. Well, a phone call would have been a move in the right direction, but Linda never made one to her. There could have been letters and flowers and the use as a go-between of less adamant mutual friends, like me, but there were none of the above. Linda told me that she would ask Paul from time to time if he thought an overture was advisable, and although she never said that he was against it, I gathered he did not encourage it either. He is very much a once-bitten-twice-shy kind of person, and he had every reason to be shy of an old and influential friend of his wife's, who knew her before he did, who was a journalist, who was estranged from her and who had written for millions to read that Paul should give up his own career and concentrate on Linda's potential instead.
If Lillian ever had any regrets about what she'd said and written about Linda, she never told anybody about them. But I know she would have melted, eventually, if her old friend had ever really reached out to her.
Betrayals, for large amounts of money, of very famous people like Princess Diana, Prince Charles, Joan Crawford and Bill Clinton by those who loved, depended on, or served them are sensational enough, depending on what they reveal of course, but not remarkable as events. It is very rare, on the other hand, to be betrayed by someone who was an intimate friend before you married into fame; if the betrayal is done in the course of writing a weekly column, and therefore not especially lucrative, it is very odd. Lillian's review of the JPM TV special at least appeared in the form of legitimate critical opinion that fell easily within her purview as a rock writer. She had to write primarily about a show, and therefore about Paul and the music, much as her nails were sharpened for Linda. Lillian was out for revenge, but she had a professional responsibility to make her blood-letting take the form of a critique.
Blair Sabol, writing in New York's 'alternative' journal, the Village Voice, was free to do as she pleased. Sabol was ostensibly writing about 'fashion', but it was for her savage wit that people tuned in; she was always much more fun detesting something than approving of it, and there was very little she approved of. She hadn't approved of the way in which Linda Eastman abandoned her very close friends in New York in 1968, for one thing, and when Linda suddenly popped up in Blair's life seven years later in Los Angeles, Sabol wrote a merciless story that was a landmark in the history of celebrity journalism.
Trailed on the front of the Voice issue of 14 April 1975, the story filled a two-page spread and was headlined 'linda - who does she think she is? mrs paul mccartney?' 'At the time it was an incredibly famous piece,' says Sabol, now living in Arizona. 'And it unsettled me, it really unsettled me. I have been guilt-ridden from that day about that piece. In today's world, there would be no such articles. It wouldn't pass the censors, it wouldn't pass the lawyers, it wouldn't pass a lot of things.' What did Blair Sabol do that was so awful? Well, she chopped poor Linda to pieces on every level - as a photographer, as a mother, as a musician, as a friend, and only incidentally as a person expected to display some taste when it came to what she wore.
The story begins with a phone call from Linda. 'Now, you must understand,' Blair wrote, 'the last time I knew Linda was in her groping groupie days . .. [she] was into photographing stars with little or no film in her camera . . . her pictures turned out to be mediocre to poor, but we became fast friends ..." And then Sabol is off and running.
She chastises Linda for her 'disappearing act'; her 'affected Liverpudlian accent when Paul is around'; her 'nerve to get up and perform onstage with Paul'; and pitilessly for her new-found musical abilities: 'Linda then requested that I watch her [in a recording studio] as she played or dabbled at the celesta. She sat down, struck two notes, jumped up and was on to the moog. She hit four moog moans and went on to a guitar. She didn't complete one riff on one instrument. . .' Paul busies himself in the control booth, 'not paying too much attention to Linda's childish auditions. Obviously, McCartney takes his music seriously while Linda is just along for the ride .. . [she] decided to become part of his act, if only to talk to him about something ... Somehow from the tone in her voice that afternoon, I wouldn't have put it past Linda to secretly believe that she is really better than Paul.'
The entire second (and hilarious to this day) part of Sabol's story is about the party Linda and Paul gave aboard the Queen Mary, docked at Long Beach Harbor, to celebrate the end of the recording sessions for Venus and Mars. At the celebration, and skewered by Sabol's pen, were Dean Martin ('who sat at the table next to Linda and Paul and kept booze-bellowing, "Who the hell is giving this party? Do I know these people?"'), Rod Stewart, Tony Curtis, George Harrison ('with his new-artichoke haircut you really notice his lousy teeth'), Bob Dylan, Cher, the Jackson Five, Joni Mitchell, etc. The piece ends as the McCartneys are the last people to leave the ship: 'Linda was carrying a yellow and red carnation centerpiece. Which just goes to show . . . You can take the girl out of the bar mitzvah, but you can't take the bar mitzvah out of the girl.'
The story was a sensation, the ultimate in Linda-bashing, the ultimate in fame-bashing. It was a watershed; things had gone too far. Celebrities and their press agents and managers were very careful after that appeared; so were editors and writers. 'You write/print anything we don't like, and you'll never get near my client again. You'll never get near any of my clients. And I'll warn everybody else to stay away from you and every paper and magazine you write for.' If you think about it, there are very few stories about famous people that are truly mean; by far most of them are 'puff pieces', designed to make everybody look good - or else. That is one legacy of Blair Sabol's article about her former close friend. 'Now it's all blow-job,' says Sabol.
Her thoughts about Linda today are far more measured, and she admits that she was getting even for the dumping of the New York crowd and striking a blow for Lillian, who had died two years earlier, still suffering from Linda's rejection. 'The form of journalism that I did in that piece is kharmically hideous,' Sabol says now. 'There was, more recently, another woman who was a good friend of mine who was a very public figure, and someone close to me keeps saying, "You knew her! Why don't you speak up?" And I thought, "Oh, there's that piece, that famous piece that haunts me, it haunts me." Even though, when it came out, so many people said, "Oh! That was so true."'
It wasn't true, not most of it, not by any means. It was, as Blair says today, chock-full of daggers disguised as facts. If you were prepared to hate Linda, because you had once loved her and she had left you in the dust, there is no doubt that Linda herself gave you enough rope with which to hang her. She did get that accent down, but so what? When you relocate, you start talking like 'them', whether it's speaking another language or a different version of your own. Big deal. And Linda was learning to play those keyboards, and we know she wasn't all that good, but she was trying, and probably trying to give her old friend living examples of 'Look! This is what I've been doing!', even if only to cover the awkwardness of the reunion. As for her clothes, my God, we always knew she was not a Friend of Fashion - and Blair knew it better than anyone.
But did she think herself more talented than her husband? Never -that was gratuitous. Did she decide to 'become part of his act'? We know better by now that it was Paul's idea; as Pete Townshend said to me, 'What was going on there was bigger than some girl sitting on a stage playing a keyboard, because you know Paul made her do it; he's admitted that to me, he made her do it.'
Now, the basic fault-finding premise of the Voice story was that an old friend with a history of star-struck dizziness married an extremely famous and talented musician and tried to pretend she was his partner in art as well as life; but that premise is a leap that was not justifiable then, and certainly is not now. A leap to 'Who-does-she-think-she-is?' In fact, Linda knew very well who she was, but she had some trouble communicating it, to friends, to audiences, to the press, to the world, in a manner that would not invite scorn and derision. It is, after all, a tragic situation when love and total giving - even sacrifice - invite scepticism and laughter, and you are not equipped to deflect the oncoming arrows in mid-air, because it is just not a thing you do very well. Intellectually, verbally, Linda was no match for Lillian Roxon and Blair Sabol; she could not respond in kind, nor would it have been appropriate for her even to attempt it. Of course, neither of them would have been among Linda's closest friends if she had been deficient in IQ points; her intelligence shone in places other than in the acid-green glow of vitriol.
A moderately contrite Blair Sabol, like so many others, regrets that she took the Linda she knew rather too lightly.
You know, I certainly would have loved to have connected with her in my old age and to have seen where she went. I watched Linda through the press and wondered, definitely wondered, how she did this one and that one. How difficult it really must have been for her. People don't know that. I see it now, but I didn't then. Forget celebrity, it's incredible what she did. What's more, she and Paul did have this amazing thing about privacy, and they accomplished it. You have to work at it, but you can do it.
That woman had an awful lot to do, she really did. And she had to 'create' a world for herself that had little to do with people like Lillian who had been really supportive of her. Linda did something to all of us, and I don't know what it was that made us take the high road like that. Something. I can't remember to this day what it was, but it was something. I don't know. When she called, the call that triggered that story, I asked her what the hell happened. And she was very, 'La-dee-dah, you know, shit happens,' and people said to me, 'You're just jealous!', and it wasn't that. Maybe it was because we felt like poor relatives. I kept saying, 'She'll call.' When I heard it was you that she called, I said, 'Good! Now she'll break that thing.' But she didn't, she couldn't.
Now, I can't imagine Linda coming back to us after she married him. Once you've crossed that river, into that level of fame, it is levelling. It is not what people think it is, and the only thing you can do, and I have respected Linda for this, is go off on your own and make a new world. What is amazing is that the two of them were each other's best friend. How that happened is certainly to be commended.
It is a story of development. It's not as if she started off fabulous and ended up a crone. It's the opposite. We were sort of left shocked by her, it seemed like a bad state of affairs in terms of etiquette. But my sadness is I didn't know her in the end. I came to respect her from a great distance. She was so tough, I thought. She had really grown into something other than the person I'd known.
Linda grew even faster, in some respects, than Blair probably realized - by the time Wings were on their first American tour, in 1976, Linda had come a very long way from the frightened weeping amateur she'd been on the eve of the group's first European concerts. Ben Fong-Torres, one of Rolling Stone's most respected writers, was sent to cover the show in Detroit, and after referring several times to the slagging she'd been taking ('McCartney and his wife and band have weathered six years of criticism and misunderstanding . . .; Paul says he ignores criticism . . .; Linda has long been abused, written off. . .'), the writer approaches her ('she is, you can understand, very defensive') at a sound check and asks her about 'the criticism that has already built over her celebration of her place in the kitchen [as in the song "Cook of the House"]'.
Linda replies: 'My answer is always, "Fuck off." . . . People don't have to buy it, don't have to listen to it. It's like having parents on your back, this criticizing.' Very telling - Linda has put the current situation into a context she can equate with her life before her marriage to Paul. 'You have criticism in school,' she continues. 'When you get out of school, you want to be free. This is a great band, and this is great fun, and that's all we care about.'
Denny Laine offers: 'We're pretty good critics of ourselves. We don't need all these bums coming along and telling us, "Hey, man .. ."'
The writer's back is up. He accuses them of being insular, 'with no room for sounding boards and outside opinions'. Of course that's his position; he's a rock journalist and he expects to have input. He wants, as we have all done, to have the world think that performers tremble at the words of the critics and reporters, and indeed many do. But the artists believe, for some odd reason, that it is they who are making the music. It is a never-ending battle.
'We always know what's wrong,' Linda tells Ben. Spoken like a true musician. Defensive, yes, as he has pointed out earlier in the story. But she's now strong enough to defend herself and her band, in effect telling the critical community exactly how she feels about them, at long last: 'Fuck off.'
Our heroine is now so much more confident than she had been when Paul first insisted that she become part of his new band. Even if she's not, she's acting that way. She's talking back to Rolling Stone; her first photograph used on a Rolling Stone cover, by the way, was of Eric Clapton. It is said that Clapton was extremely shaken when he read a bad review of his work by Jon Landau, in guess which publication?
Life in the visible spectrum, as Linda learned in the first half of the 1970s, involved not just a rehashing, so to speak, of private scores for all the world to see, but the playing out of political retributions, directed at Paul and simmering since 1967, and now affecting her most directly.
When the Beatles discovered minor and major psychedelic drugs, they were eager to share with the world their enthusiasm for what seemed to them spiritually and aesthetically enhancing substances that were harmless as well. In newspaper ads and interviews and, many thought, in their music, they 'came out' for drugs. For many fans and for many more of their fans' parents, they stopped being adorable at that point; for police and government organizations, who took the menace of marijuana much more seriously than they ever did the dangers of guns, disease, nationalism, starvation and warfare, the Beatles were now a big problem. Here were the world's most adored arbiters of everything groovy and cool now loudly advocating the Main Menace to the Rule of God's Law and the Governance of Men on Earth - pot. People are still going to jail for addling their own minds with drugs, and this was over thirty years ago. The authorities were not amused. John and Yoko, George and Patti had already been busted, in their homes or in the homes of friends in England, of all places, and now it was Paul's and Linda's turn, except they got popped in Sweden in the summer of 1972. These advanced cultures still have some archaic laws on the books, after all.
Linda had been enjoying her smoke since she began to hang out with musicians in 1966; she and Paul discovered it to be one of their great shared pleasures when they were first courting each other, and there was no reason to stop just because they were working and raising a family and on the road, all at the same time. It was just something they did, discreetly, never in front of strangers and absolutely with no guilt. Linda did no other drugs; Paul had dabbled in wilder pastures, but came safely home to grass and a wee bit of Scotch whisky every now and then.
Paul and Linda's first drug arrest was in Sweden late in July (and again back at the farm in Scotland in September, and again at the farm the following March). The bright idea the McCartneys had of receiving their daily allotment of pot via mail from England went awry when someone at their Swedish hotel thought a particular envelope addressed to Denny Seiwell was carrying seven ounces of some peculiarly crunchy stuff that didn't smell like cornflakes. The police waited at the theatre where Wings were playing in the city of Goteborg and, when the band were finished, invited them to the local police station, where they spent a few hours in a holding cell and then agreed to pay a fine of a few thousand dollars to have the charges dropped.
The press in England went wild with the story - 'mccartney fine after police raid concert' - but the McCartneys sought to turn it to some sort of dubious advantage. They continued to tour in Sweden, Paul calling the incident a 'big bother almost about nothing', but Linda felt inclined to tell the News of the World that the affair would be 'good publicity for the group'.
In another interview, in the Daily Mail, Paul took the offensive. This story was headlined 'WHY I SMOKE POT - BY PAUL' and was accompanied by a photograph of the couple, looking rather haggard, leaving the police headquarters in Goteborg. 'You can tell everyone,' ran Paul's lead quote, 'that we're not changing our lives for anyone . . . We told the police in Sweden the truth. We smoke grass and we like it... At the end of the day, most people go home and have a stiff whisky. They feel they need it. Well, we play a gig and we're exhausted and we're elated and Linda and I prefer to put our kids to bed, sit down together and smoke a joint.'
McCartney went on to explain that neither he nor Linda 'have gone further than grass' and, rather too ingenuously, compared the general disapproval of their recreational drug of choice to his father's reaction to the 'drainpipe trousers' he wore as a kid in Liverpool. 'In time things will change,' he predicted, ingenuously again, 'and all this will seem a fuss about nothing.'
But Linda was in a proselytizing mood when she picked up the chat with the Mail's Anthea Disney:
Every time we appear in public and people see that we are smoking hash or pot it'll make things just a bit easier for an ordinary person next time. I'd love to be one of the reasons for people changing their minds about soft drugs.
Paul always says that a man who drinks beer doesn't necessarily become an alcoholic. Right. I'll say that weed does not lead to heroin, necessarily.
If I found one of my kids on heroin I wouldn't be shocked. I would say to her that I think it's damaging and stupid and likely to kill her. And I'd try to persuade her to come off it. But people must lead their own lives. They must make up their own minds. And I know that Paul and I like weed. To us it's just like nothing, and when other people share that point of view, I'll be happy.
The interview ended with Paul expressing regret that they would now most likely be watched very closely on the rest of their European tour, so they would do without it, and without, he implied, experiencing severe withdrawal. 'We're just easy people who like to smoke if we can, but now that's out of the question, and I'm sorry.'
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Not entirely out of the question. There would be several more busts during the 70s, and Paul's farm in Scotland was raided by a local posse who found marijuana plants growing in his greenhouse. There was a capture coming into Heathrow airport, a raid and bust in Barbados, and in 1975 the police stopped Paul's and Linda's car in Los Angeles and found two joints in her bag. She told Blair Sabol, 'it happens to everybody and it's time-consuming with the lawyers, but we'll get it taken care of.
The Japanese detention of nine days in 1980 was not quite so casual. 'I was so frightened for Paul I can't even describe it,' Linda told Playboy in 1984. 'Your imagination takes off. I didn't know what they would be doing to him. And for what? A bit of nothing. I don't think pot is a sin, but I didn't want us to be a martyr for it.' In the same interview, Paul made a 'most-dangerous' drug list and placed pot very near the bottom, below Librium, Valium and Scotch. 'That doesn't mean I've turned around and advocated marijuana. I haven't. I'm really only saying this is true for me. I can take pot or leave it. I was nine days without it and there wasn't a hint of withdrawal, nothing.'
Backtracking on the advocacy front since 1972? Perhaps, but only to be expected. If the police forces of the world got their jollies from busting Paul and Linda time and time and time again, simply because they could, then something is very nasty. Here, if I may get political, is a new definition of the concept of 'victimless crime', which surely the McCartneys believed applied to the consumption of pot. Yes, it was naive to think, as they did, that being among the most famous people in the world was an inconsequential condition; it is not - if you are a billionaire and you boast of paying no taxes, then some jerk will think he can get away with it too, and if you believe cheating on taxes is a crime (albeit a trivial one), then the billionaire has encouraged the jerk to behave like a criminal. Although for every jerk that gets caught cheating, thousands won't. And there are tens of millions of people who smoke pot, who have never been arrested and never will be; there will also be those who do get busted and can't just phone their lawyers and get on the Concorde, but, for now, that's too bad.
Still, the McCartneys were victims. Not that they are exempt from moral judgment, or aesthetic judgment. But pot-smoking judgment? It was like that guy in Les Miserables who keeps chasing poor Jean Valjean for years and years for stealing a loaf of bread.
'We couldn't say publicly how really stupid we thought it was, we found that out,' Linda said to me a few years before she died. 'When you say that, it makes things worse. They want to show you they're not stupid, and so it starts all over again. We had to say it was just a nuisance, but it was worse than that. We were being targeted all the time. Maybe we were asking for it. Maybe we were a bit stupid. But we're not criminals.'
When the grand spectrum of the McCartneys' legal problems vis-a-vis cannabis is considered, it seems as if they were being treated not so much as 'criminals' (with the big exceptions of the denial to Paul of a US visa for two years, and the Japanese experience), but as almost-crimi-nals, or would-be criminals, which allowed the authorities to flex some muscle and show who's boss without looking completely ridiculous - a doomed effort. In Los Angeles, after the 'time-consuming' 1975 vehicle bust, Linda (since the joints were in her bag) was sentenced to attend six sessions of drug counselling, which must have been hilarious. 'You should have brought a tape recorder,' I told her backstage at Madison Square Garden in 1976. 'I leave it to you to think of things like that,' she answered, on the edge of being amused, but not quite.
In 1977, while recording London Town with Wings on a flotilla of boats docked in Watermelon Bay, a remote lagoon in the US Virgin Islands, the McCartneys threw a noisy little night-time party for their entourage; well into the festivities, the revellers were amazed and amused to see their floating soiree invaded by a boat full of park rangers, who obviously knew whose vessels they were boarding. After explaining that they were there just to ask the crowd to 'keep it down', they went on a little snooping expedition and gathered, horrified, near an ashtray which held a few tiny, nearly consumed marijuana cigarettes.
The next day, a letter was delivered to Mr and Mrs McCartney, on National Park Service stationery, stating that the agents had noticed 'illegal' material on the premises, advising that laws were apparently being broken and warning that if the rangers were to come back and find more such substances, the people in charge of the boating party would be subject to arrest,
Paul and Linda arranged a little tableau featuring the letter, some rolling paper and some unsmoked joints, and had the still life photographed by Henry Diltz, who'd been hired to document the recording sessions. 'Musicians all smoke grass,' remarks Diltz, remembering the carefully laid-out shot. 'It goes with the territory. I can't believe those people were surprised to find that out - they probably just wanted a story to tell the folks at home.'