'The McCartneys drinking tea on the afterdeck. The young girls playing cards, and Heather playing her punk rock album . . . We all jump overboard to swim.'
Henry Diltz, photographer
The armada docked in Watermelon Bay in the Virgin Islands for the recording sessions of London Town was a unique set-up for making an album, perhaps as elaborate, expensive and sybaritic as any that has ever been organized.
Linda, five months pregnant with James, was the only woman in the company; once again, the musicians had been told to leave their wives and girlfriends at home. A main boat, the Samala, contained living quarters for the crew and musicians, and a dining room that seated thirty. Linda, Paul and their daughters stayed aboard a big trimaran, with a large living room off the main deck and sleeping quarters downstairs. The third boat was a cabin cruiser in which a recording studio had been installed. Transportation between the vessels was provided by motorized rubber dinghies.
'No one wore shoes the whole time,' remembers photographer Henry Diltz.
They'd spend three or four hours in the morning recording, then come over to the big boat for lunch, then Linda and Paul would go back to their boat for a while, then return to the big boat for an afternoon of diving and swimming. They'd go back to shower and change, and then return for dinner, which was always great fun. Good food, lots of wine, lots of laughing.
Everybody was totally friendly, but of course the McCartneys definitely called all the shots - 'The McCartneys want to do this ..." or 'Linda needs that..." It was their show. They wanted me to document all this, that's why I was there. When I got back to Los Angeles, Linda called and said, 'Would you put together a little scrapbook for us, your favourite shots?' And I did, and it was beautiful, pictures of them with the kids, throwing the kids in the water, some recording stuff, like memories of paradise.
Diltz's notes from the London Town sessions contain the following entries. 24 May: 'Dinner is steak and kidney pie with lots of wine.' 25 May: 'Photograph morm'ng session on the Fair Carol. Paul singing and playing acoustic on "Don't Let It Bring You Down".' 26 May: 'The McCartneys drinking tea on the afterdeck. The young girls playing cards, and Heather playing her punk rock album, The Damned. We all jump overboard to swim.' 27 May: 'Linda shouts over from the Wanderlust (their boat) to invite me over. We talk, while Stella draws on our hands with a ball-point pen. I take a few pictures of the family.'
Also in 1977, Linda wrote and recorded her first song, 'Seaside Woman', performed by the fictional Suzy and Red Stripes. 'It's reggae,' she said. 'I was so in love with reggae music when I heard the Wailers that I wrote a reggae song.' Made into an animated short by artist Oscar Brill, the film won the Golden Palm for Best Short at the Cannes Film Festival in 1980. The song is on Linda's posthumous album, Wide Prairie, and the animation can be seen and heard on the promotional video that accompanied its release. Ironically, some found the cartoon racist, since its main character, the 'seaside woman', is black (of course) and sashays through the short in native Caribbean costume, which the McCartneys always found spectacular during their many visits to the islands. It has been said that she depicts a 'stereotype'. This is so crazy; Linda was the most colour-blind person I have ever known. In her view of life on earth, a beggar, a saint, a king and a frog were totally equal in ultimate worth; the idea that she judged humans by the colour of their skins, or that she had what are called 'preconceived notions' about one race or another is like saying that she loved brown puppies more than spotted ones. It is preposterous; Linda never understood what was meant by the accusation, and you would feel foolish trying to explain it to her. She was simply beyond that; it was to be left to people with visions narrower than hers to criticize her for doing something she thought, and rightly so, was as lovely as she could make it be.
Work had begun on London Town at Abbey Road back in February 1977. After the sessions in the sun, recording continued in London; the album was finished in January 1978. By most standards, this was spending a luxurious amount of time making an album.
The stated reason for forming Wings, just to be back in a real band and on the road again, was ridiculous from the outset, and increasingly, as the 70s went on, ever more distant from reality. It was, at the beginning, Paul and Linda and the musicians they hired, and although the pretence of a democratic little band of wandering minstrels was floated as an ideal, it was of course one man, surrounded by those who were, except for his wife and children, employed by him.
No group of equal partners, like the Beatles, for example, would ever record aboard a fleet anchored in tropical waters. It is such a costly project that the idea would surely be vetoed by other members of the partnership, management, the record company which as a rule fronts the money for the making of an album, and/or the accountants. But Paul could do whatever he wanted - Wings were selling records and tickets by the millions, the publishing company was booming, so he could simply think, 'Wouldn't it be nice if . . .', and 'if was brought to him to have the wish completed. And brought to Linda and the kids, who were very much part of the 'Wouldn't it be nice' syndrome; let everything be fabulous, meticulous, simple, stylish, beautiful and fun.
How do you not spoil your children, while allowing them to take for Ranted being whisked out of school at their parents' whim, having at their disposal private aeroplanes, boats, limousines, bodyguards, mansions and estates (owned or rented), and a name that's known to nearly everyone in the world? That question is at the heart of Linda's (and Paul's) story, and has been asked by everybody as though it were a great mystery which no one can figure out. Because look at them now - four strong, well-balanced, polite, affectionate, bright, talented and ambitious children. How did she do it? Nobody can ever know for sure; though I guess she did it by being strict (but not too strict), righteous (but not self-righteous), smart, loving, organized, intuitive, caring and extremely hard-working. Linda worked hard on a lot of things, but on nothing so hard as her family. That's how she did it - no list of commandments, no book and no ideal model family on a TV series will teach anyone the secret. It's built-in. Paul knew that when he met Linda and her daughter Heather; he knew she could be the mother of their children. Many people who knew Linda (some rich and famous themselves) and came to know the whole family, walked away wondering: 'How did she do it?' All I know is that it didn't just happen to happen. Linda's task as a mother involved not only giving huge amounts of love, but working against many factors that are often blamed for spoiling - if not ruining - the offspring of the privileged middle classes: fame, wealth, isolation from reality and the absence of close friends of one's own age. Linda's and Paul's children were by necessity each other's best friends because they were so often on the road with their parents, yet somehow it worked.
'The kids never got to rely on school chums being their little friends, having them to tea and all that,' says Paul's stepsister Ruth, now aged forty. 'That's why the kids are so strong together. Paul and Linda worked at it in a way that had never been done in our family. They worked at it by saying that love is reinforced by always being around your kids, taking them to dinner, taking them on holiday, taking them on tour. They had places in London, Scotland, Sussex and Long Island, then the ranch in Arizona, and they'd go to the Caribbean in the winter. They would troop en masse everywhere. They were good parents, they just wanted to take the kids wherever they went, and their attitude was, "Well, it's our marriage, it's our family, they're our kids; time will prove us right and they'll all grow up normal - which they did."'
It even evolved into something that is almost never seen except in reruns of television series from the 1950s - children and parents were absolutely, genuinely close friends. It was a domestic arrangement that caused the jaws of visitors to drop. Paul might be seen answering the phone and having a little chat with the caller, before saying to Mary, on her way out of the house carrying a tennis racket, that it was her date for that night and could he be half an hour late? 'Tell him it's OK,' Mary would answer and Paul would relay the message: 'It's OK with her. See you later!' Meanwhile, Linda was having a massage in a room down the hall, and famous comedians and songwriters toured the garden with Stella.
Still, one could be sure that Paul knew exactly who it was on the phone, and probably even if the suitor's intentions were honourable, because it was never as casual as it seemed in that household. Linda and Paul were fiercely protective parents without being smothering - it was a delicate road to walk, but the evidence is that it was done well.
Linda Stein, who rented a small house on Paul Morrissey's ocean-front estate in Montauk, near the very tip of Long Island, knew the family well and was glad to see James and his surfing friends pull up in her driveway nearly every day that the McCartney family was in residence in nearby East Hampton. Whereas the westernmost hundred miles of the Long Island coast consist of wide sandy beaches and waves that expend most of their energy on offshore sandbars before breaking, the eastern end at Montauk end is rocky, dominated by huge cliffs and battered by waves fresh out of the north Atlantic. Hence it is great for surfing, or at least much better than the beaches a few miles to the west. Unfailingly polite, James would ask Stein for her permission to use her beach for surfing, and of course she said it was fine. But unfailingly vigilant herself, and aware of the incident when James went surfing off the coast near Rye, East Sussex, and was missing for several hours before being rescued by the Dover Coastguard, while his distraught parents were near to hysteria on the beach, Linda Stein would periodically check the beach below her cottage to make sure all was well. One late summer afternoon in 1993, when the light was starting to fade, She figured the boys should have been out of the ocean long since, so she started down the steep path to the shore, where James and his buddies were in fact packing up as if to call it a day.
'When he saw me,' recalls Stein, 'he knew that I had come down to tell him it was way past the time to get out of the water, and he came up to me and said, very seriously and very softly, so that his friends wouldn't overhear him, "You won't tell my mother about this, will you?" He was genuinely worried about what her reaction would be. I told him I wouldn't snitch, but that I had been concerned as well. "Oh thanks," he said. "Because she'd be furious."'
The book project that Linda, Paul and I had talked about at my apartment in 1971 didn't get going until the spring of 1974, when I was summoned to London to spend two weeks picking out photographs with Linda. There was always a reason why it had to be 'delayed for a while', all of them quite legitimate; in any case, I wasn't holding my breath until all was ready. Stella was born in 1971, as were Wings; the first tours of the new group took up most of 1972; 1973 was spent making the TV special in London and Band on the Run in Nigeria; then they had to put Wings back together because only one musician, Denny Laine, was still in the band. I was slotted in for a time period between rehearsals of the new Wings line-up and the group's trip to Nashville in June 1974.
To get my fee, $500,1 was called to the office of Linda's father, whom I had known by sight but had never met before. It was as if I were at a job interview; I stood the whole time while Lee Eastman scrutinized me and flung questions at me - 'So, what do you think you can contribute to this book?', 'How much time do you expect to be actually working in London?' and similar scary queries. I hadn't known I was expected to pass muster with the old man before getting my cheque, which he handed to me, somewhat sceptically, at the end of our meeting. In retrospect, it wasn't so much as if he doubted me, but as if he thought this whole idea was sort of nonsensical; in other words, who would want to see pictures taken by his daughter, how could these photographs of rock and roll scum deserve being put into a book, why should they have to hire people to pay for this? - and incidentally, that it's a good thing these people don't require first-class air tickets (because I certainly didn't get one).
In London, though, my reception was at least first class. My hosts, thrilled I'm sure that Band on the Run had just gone to number one in the American charts, had rented a beautifully furnished apartment for me overlooking Regents Park in a nice art deco building, which was to double as my home and our workplace. Cartons of double-size contact sheets and carousels of slides filled a small spare room, where Linda and I met every day and picked out our favourite shots. As with the work of all good photographers, the eye goes right to the best shot or shots on any contact sheet, and we almost always agreed on which ones we wanted to see blown up. After all, the routine of our early professional relationship had consisted of me meeting her at her lab, Modern Age, looking over the freshly developed rolls of film, choosing our favourites and leaving the marked-up contact sheets with the negatives to be enlarged. It was (it is) always exciting to see what came out of a photo session, and this time around in London it was great looking at the stuff from the early years again and remembering the circumstances of the shoot. Linda forgot nothing: 'It looked like it was going to rain, so we...'; 'They were so nice, I didn't expect them to be, but we really got along, only they were actually worried about going into Central Park . . .'; 'This was in San Francisco, it was the same day I met. . .'; 'You were there for this one; remember that hotel where they were staying, all the prostitutes in the lobby in pink satin hotpants . . .'; and always lingering a little longer over pictures of Jimi, Jim, Janis, Brian and the others who had died in the intervening years.
Linda had been thoughtful enough to provide some creative bachelors with whom I could socialize after hours, and two of my closest friends from New York, Craig and Allison Karpel, were in London then, so it was not all work and no play for me. With Linda, though, it was all work. There were no dinner parties or gala evenings at the theatre; the one time I saw the McCartneys after dark was when they came over to the flat where I was staying to look at slides. The book's art director was there, and in three hours we went through twenty-six boxes of slides, each holding 100 pictures. Stella and Mary amused themselves briefly by drawing with pens and markers and demanding a great deal of attention, most of which was supplied by Paul. Linda was raptly looking at the pictures and, as if by prearrangement, left the parenting up to him. Amazingly, his attention to the work at hand was not distracted by his rambunctious two- and four-year-olds, who had the run of the room. He knew every picture, and often commented on the circumstances of their creation himself. It was Paul who organized the finding of the kids' shoes as they prepared to leave. 'Get your shoes on, you too mate, get your shoes on, where's your shoes?'
As she was going, Linda gave me my assignment: 'You're going to look at stuff tonight. I'd like to finish off the colour. So look at as much as you can tonight, and we'll meet tomorrow morning.' I remember thinking she was speaking to me as one speaks to an employee; but then again, I was an employee. I was being paid $500 to work on a book of her pictures; she was the boss - there was no need for her to hedge with, 'Oh, I wonder if you'd do me a favour and . . .' She was even faintly dictatorial; I liked that, after I got over the shock of it. It was professional and without flourishes. Linda had become very to-the-point since I'd first known her; one might expect that being in partnership with a celebrated autocrat would have made her a bit timid, but it was the other way around. She was learning from Paul how to get what you want from the people who are doing things for you; if the relationship is a friendly one, that part of it can wait until business is taken care of. By 1974, then, as I reckoned it, Linda had become one of the great, tough working women of her generation.
Linda's Pictures was published in 1976 by Alfred A. Knopf, for a list price of $25. The cover of this very heavy coffee-table book carries the famous picture of a bearded Paul with Mary, as an infant, tucked inside his jacket. It's the last plate in the book as well, and on the cover of Paul's first solo album, McCartney. About two thirds of the 150 or so shots are by Linda Eastman - those were the ones we chose together. The rest are hubby and kids and landscapes by Linda McCartney. I was mentioned in Linda's introduction as a friend who had once called her up from Elektra Records and said, 'Do you want to photograph Jackson Browne?' Ah well, I guess I didn't do that much work on it after all: about $500 worth, plus airfare and a nice apartment in London for a couple of weeks. No complaints.
Shortly after I left London, Linda and Paul were off to Nashville to record, but Linda was more excited about getting back to England later in the summer, piling the kids and Martha the sheepdog into the Rolls-Royce convertible, and driving up to the farm in Scotland for a month of isolation. But as their touring and recording schedules became more crowded (as did the Rolls-Royce with three growing children), it was not awfully convenient to drive 600 miles to be in the country, so in the summer of 1975 the McCartneys bought a cottage in Sussex, near the ancient town of Rye. The little place, named the Round House for its shape, was lovely and only a couple of hours from London by rail or car, but it was, like the Rolls, a bit cramped. It had two bedrooms, one for Linda and Paul, one for the four kids. 'It meant we were a close family, literally,' Paul told Chrissie Hynde. 'There was no getting away from each other.'
In 1978, they bought the farm next to their Sussex property, tore down the house that was there and replaced it with a substantial, although by no means palatial, house that Paul designed himself. Linda was very enthusiastic about a real house in the country at long last, and she described to me some mechanism, invented of course by Paul, that controlled a camera which took one picture a day of the building of the new home. When you flipped through the photographs, you had a time-lapse movie of the whole process.
'It's a very comfortable house that has five bedrooms,' Paul told Chrissie. 'One bedroom for each of the kids, and one for us, Linda and me. It has limited space, but that's how I wanted it, and that's how Linda wanted it too. Because we always hated stories of people living in these huge stately homes with the children rattling around in the East Wing, and you never see them. We designed something for our lifestyle and for our reasonably simple tastes compared to some other people in our position. It was specially designed to be comfortable, and it is. People come into our house and say, "Ooh, this house feels lovely," or, This is comfortable." That, to us, was what was important.'
There were stables and a saddle house where the cats lived, an old windmill twenty minutes by car where Paul installed a recording studio and his own office, another old farm building used by Heather as her pottery studio, and lanes, paths, meadows, hills and a cast of animals and birds right out of Bambi. It was very beautiful, and on a clear day you could see the coast of France beyond the Channel. Linda and I were walking from the main house to Heather's studio one day, past a stand of giant trees hundreds of years old, and I was plainly in awe at the loveliness of it all. 'I was lent all this for a little while,' she said, looking up and around, and then at me, 'and I have to take good care of it so I can give it back just the way it is.'
With increasing success (i.e. big record sales, and the thriving publishing business, which was masterminded by Linda's father and brother in New York), the showbusiness team of Linda and Paul McCartney was seen as having truly pulled it off. The rest of the world, even the other members of Wings, were reluctant, in various degrees, to admit that it had worked as Paul had wanted it to, but he knew it had, and she knew he knew. The recovery from the disastrous Beatles dissolution was complete. Linda had told him, wanting and willing it to be true, that the future was all there and theirs, and was all that mattered; Paul had believed her to the extent of metaphorically grabbing her hand and saying, 'Let's go then.' And off they had gone.
The huge Wings world tour that began with smaller dates in the UK late in 1975 and finished at Wembley at the end of 1976, was one of the most extensive and expensive tours in the history of live concerts, playing to well over two million people. It was a mammoth (for its time) production, featuring one of the first laser shows (to 'Live and Let Die') audiences had ever seen, and encompassed the 'Wings over America' segment which began in May 1976.
I had not seen Paul McCartney live in concert in twenty years. In 1964 I had gone to Carnegie Hall in February for the night of delirious screaming that came with the arrival of Beatlemania in New York, as a rich friend had bought four box seats through his scalper at $150 per ticket - about $900 each today, not so bad for such an historic event. My friend had also taken his entourage to the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium show that summer. As events, the two concerts were most memorable, I although one could not hear a single note. In any case, I was more a fan of the Beatles' hair-dos than of their music, so both shows were a visual treat and I got to be there at the Birth Of It All, in New York, at least.
When I went to Madison Square Garden in 1976, I did not expect to be rocked by Paul McCartney. I was wrong about that; it was one of the strongest shows I have ever seen. Also, I was terrified for poor Linda. I could not imagine her whooping it up in front of 20,000 people, and I was right for that, partly. She could not (did not even try to) whoop it up very much, but neither was she hideously out of place. A bit out of place, but not hideously. My friend was a one-to-one kind of person, not a one-to-20,000, and she just never looked to me as if she were born to frolic in a spotlight. But it was not embarrassing. I had her in my binoculars for long enough to ascertain that she wasn't going to make a fool of herself; her eyes were on Paul and her fingers on the keyboard, and her voice blended in ever so nicely.
He travels fastest who travels alone, they say, so I had asked for one backstage pass, and at the end of the show I dumped my companion and headed for the dressing rooms. 'Backstage' at the Garden has many levels of accessibility, as does any large venue. The first thing you see when you get there is hundreds of people milling around one big area, all trying to figure out how to get to a more exclusive spot. Hallways leading off the central holding-pen are blocked by security guards, and then the individual dressing rooms are protected by another set of large, powerful-looking men, of whom it will do you no good to ask any favours (or even information).They are under strict orders to respond only to their own bosses. At a concert starring a celebrity as big as, well, as big as anyone big enough to headline an arena, the innermost sanctums are reachable, as a rule, only with the OK of the innermost aides of the star. No laminated pass, even if marked 'Performer' or 'All Access', the two most desirable of all laminates, will get you into the star's dressing room, especially not Paul and Linda McCartneys'.
If you really are expected, and/or welcome into the Presence, the thing is to stand there looking as if there is nothing that you want, and someone will find you. After all, that's one of the things the closest and most trusted staff members are paid to do - find those who 'belong' and bring them swiftly inside. The trusted ones will have mastered the process of whisking VIP guests past the security guards without saying, ‘He s OK', which is very tacky. The guard is expected to stand aside and let the staff member walk right past with anyone they might be escorting; body language tells the guard, 'I have this person (or these people) with me, and they are my responsibility.' Of course, if you're a groupie kind of guy, you will probably recognize the man at the door and smile warmly; there are very few security companies in the rock and roll universe (in America, anyway), and their top people will be in the most important places. It's good to be known by them as someone who might frequently and legitimately appear in the tightest security areas; they can be helpful at times, and they also tend to be among the nicest and least attitudinal of all the people who serve the music industry. Thus I was eventually delivered into the innermost dressing room, a large enclosure with cinder-block walls, benches and a vast showering chamber at one end - obviously, when the occasion demanded, the locker room of hockey jocks or basketball players.
A few members of Linda's New York-based family were leaving, and I was alone with her and Paul. I stayed about half an hour, telling them how great it was (it is nice not to have to lie to performers after a show; then again, it's easy to lie when people really don't want to hear the truth), answering the usual questions like, 'How did it sound from where you were sitting?'; 'Where were you sitting?'; 'Did the lighting effects work?'; 'What did you think of the new songs?' (always a scary question, because it implies you're familiar with all the performer's material, which I rarely am). Then there are their stories, like how they changed the order of the songs at the last minute, all kinds of musical-technical stuff that I have to pretend to understand and always, of course, always, Paul asking, 'Isn't Lin great? Do you believe our Lin? Did you ever think you'd see her doing that? And doing it so well? She's a born performer, our Linda is!' It was by far the most enthusiastic I had ever seen one performer being of another who had shared a stage with him. It looks faintly patronising in print; in real life, it is nothing but supportive, and totally heartfelt.
What surprised me was that I was alone with them the whole time, and that when I left them, they were alone together. It was not that they gave orders to seal the room after I entered - it was simply that outside of Linda's family, they had no friends. This was New York City, the 'tour of the year', Linda's home town, and there was no one back there but me. I may boast from time to time, but this is not one of those times. I was their only friend in New York. (Well, there were John and Yoko, but that is a whole other story. I don't think they were there that night.) I'm sure there were lots of friends in London (I'm guessing who might have been backstage in London), like Paul's contemporaries in other bands; there probably were more friends in Los Angeles, because the McCartneys had lived there the year before while making Venus and Mars; but Paul had never spent much time in New York, except, since 1969, with Linda's relatives, and poor Linda's old friends were her friends no longer. It was kind of sad.
(By the time they toured in the 80s and 90s, there was indeed a 'New York circle' with backstage entree - mainly people they knew from summers in East Hampton; rich, self-made businessmen, for the most part, like Ralph Lauren, Lome Michaels, Jann Wenner, Ron Delsener, and performers like Paul Simon and Chevy Chase - but in 76 no one except me, or so it seemed.)
For a moment, Paul was called away and there were just the two of us. I got to ask Linda how she really liked doing this, and she said it was getting easier. Not that she liked it, but that it was getting easier and that it was what Paul wanted. Then she lowered her voice (I don't know why; there was no one to hear her) and told me Paul's father had died earlier in the year, but they couldn't go to the funeral because it would have 'caused problems' and the European leg of the tour was just beginning that day; she wanted to know if, to my knowledge, they were being slammed for it. I told her no, not all that much that I knew of, but they had taken a bit of heat; then Paul came back and, as usual, set the agenda for the remainder of the conversation.
Paul's father, Jim, had died at the age of seventy-three in March, after suffering long and painfully from arthritis, leaving behind, besides Paul and his brother Michael, his second wife, Angie (twenty-seven years younger than Jim), and Angie's daughter from her first marriage, Ruth, then seventeen. Paul subsequently became estranged from Angie and Ruth McCartney, and mother and daughter are now based in the Los Angeles area, where they operate a successful multimedia company. It seems that at one point Paul felt that they were making money from the sale of memorabilia from his father's house in Liverpool; they say they have tried unsuccessfully to re-establish contact, and I am inclined not to judge either side in this very complex business. What matters to me is that Angie and Ruth, who'd known Linda since she married Paul in 1969, both adored her for the right reasons. It bolsters my theory that only people who didn't know Linda didn't like her, and that anybody who did know her saw her fine qualities at once and became an admirer.
'Linda and Paul and Heather came up to visit us just after they got married,' says Angie McCartney.
They stayed for a couple of days, and then I took them to Manchester airport and they flew out to the States. I was a little bit in awe of her, because when you're English working-class, all things American seem to be very exotic, but she was very warm and very friendly. Heather and my little girl got on like gangbusters, playing with their toys and racing around the back yard.
Linda was very down to earth, she was sort of, 'Let's go straight into the kitchen, let's make soup, let's make tea'; she made herself very much at home. They were only there for a couple of days, and Jim's health was very bad, so I was preoccupied with him. I must say, Paul and Linda seemed to meld together very quickly, and that was a time in his life when he needed comfort and strength; there was the acrimonious breakup of the Beatles and all that. And Linda was always totally behind him, totally supportive. Even then, just after they were married, it seemed as if she was providing him with something to lean on. I know it was hard for her, we'd heard that people were hanging around outside the house in Cavendish Avenue and throwing things at the car when she drove out, stuff like that.
I started asking Angie about an anecdote in one biography of Paul, which quotes an interview with George Harrison's mother, who claimed that she saw Linda being almost abusive to Heather, and punishing her by withholding food. Angie interrupted me with a decisive, 'No! I never heard such bullshit in my life! Abusive to Heather? That doesn't sound one bit like the Linda I knew. Unfortunately, once people have said these nasty things and they go into print, there they remain, don't they? Linda is the one who took abuse. Everything you read in a review of the band, there would be some snide crack about Linda.'
What did Angie who had known Paul since 1964, when she married his father, think of all that?
It was on his insistence that she was in the band. She didn't want to do it, she wasn't confident enough. It was a transitional stage in his life, forming Wings, going off to play universities unannounced, 'Can we play in your community hall tonight?' Things like that, just for the band to get their chops. And Paul wanted Linda beside him in the band, he loved her so much and wanted her support; that bond between them was growing, and that was to be a part of it. Linda was so strong - she had the capability to be not just a wife to Paul, but a mother, a lover, a pal, a buddy and even a member of his band.
To us in Liverpool, it was clear that she was breaking the mould of that traditional working-class marriage, where the wife stayed in the kitchen. She became the epitome of the true American woman, with freedom and choices and everything else. But it didn't detract from her being the Mum, the wife and the lady in the kitchen. She was able to manage those roles and so many more, and wonderfully, I think. Extraordinary woman. A gem.
Was she snobbish? What about the stories of her ordering gourmet food from Fortnum and Mason in London when she stayed with you, and embarrassing you?
Again: 'No! Not at all. When she'd come and stay with Jim and Ruth and me, she was very, very flexible, very generous, very good-natured.'
I read to Angie from the book I'd mentioned before: 'On a few occasions, Jim and Angie went to stay at the McCartneys' farm. They were forced to sleep on dirty mattresses. In addition, says Angie, the whole place was so dirty and unkempt, flies and other insects continually fell off the ceiling into people's dinners.'
'I've read that,' Angie replied. 'I never used the word "unkempt" in my life. I had told an interviewer that we'd gone up there and they were living a tough-guy kind of life. Paul got us brand-new mattresses and laid them down on the floor of the garage, which he'd just washed - there were only two bedrooms in that house. Ruth slept in Heather's room. And I had said there were flies in the house and Jim wanted to get a fly-swatter and kill them all, but Linda said, "Oh, leave them alone, they have a perfect right to live, like the rest of us." Jim said, "Oh, OK" - and that turns into a story of flies falling into the food! That does piss one off.' When Jim died, on 18 March 1976, Angie called Paul and reached him at a London hotel where he was holding a press conference, on the eve of the European part of the world tour.
I called Rose, his housekeeper, first, and she told me where they were. I'm sure it was the Royal Garden Hotel. And Paul's PR person came to the phone and I told him that I must speak to Paul, I can't tell anybody else what I have to talk to him about. He came to the phone and I said, 'I'm sorry, son, it just happened.' He sounded so shocked, he sort of yelled, 'Are you sure?' and I said I was, and I'd call him later. He was absolutely and totally in shock. We'd all expected it, but it's always a shock, you know.
We talked later about the funeral and about him coming to Liverpool. They were going to Paris to start the tour and he asked me what I thought. I said, 'If you throw everything away and come up here for the funeral, it would just be a circus. It won't bring your Dad back, and he was always so proud of you and your music, you go on with what it is you're born to do.'
So Paul and Linda went off to Paris. It was so much more sensible. Can you imagine what mob scenes there would have been if he'd come? There would have been thousands of fans and hundreds of reporters and all kinds of pushing and shoving and unpleasantness added on to the reason we were all there. So then the papers didn't get their pictures, but instead they got revenge by criticizing them for not going to Jim's funeral. People will always criticize. You can't win, you know?
So it seemed for Linda. Reviewing the album Wings at the Speed of Sound for Rolling Stone in May 1976, Stephen Holden finds nice things to say about Paul's musical gifts, and even about Paul and Linda's love for each other in 'Silly Love Songs'. But when Linda steps out, she gets a non-home-made pie in the face: writing about 'Cook of the House', which is proud, ironic and funny, Holden, after dissing Linda's singing ('colorless, amateurish'), finds that she is politically incorrect as well. 'Those with feminist sympathies will also detest this celebration of scatterbrained wife-in-kitchen coziness.'
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Sometimes you see something and think, 'That says it all.' Well, in any context, that says it all; that says what an easy, open and waiting target Linda McCartney was in the mid-1970s. So that recalling that quote here would not embarrass the author of it, I called Stephen Holden, now a powerful, brilliant music and movie critic for the New York Times, and asked him what he thought today of what he had written then.
'Oh, I was being bitchy,' he said. 'The review is what I thought of the McCartneys then. It was the prevailing opinion.'
Did he mind it being rehashed? 'No, it's what I thought then. They were seen as so insular. Unconnected.' Then he referred me to a recent interview with the intellectual trouble-maker Camille Paglia, which compared the recently killed (along with husband John F. Kennedy Jr. and sister Lauren) Carolyn Bessette Kennedy to 'the very annoying Linda Eastman in the Paul McCartney saga. In both cases, you have an outgoing, warm, pretty boy who takes into his life an often petulant, very Private woman who is introverted to the point of neurosis.'
And so it goes on. Dear reader, do we still, after all this time, all these pages, believe that, for women, Linda set a poor example? Scatterbrained? Petulant? Introverted to the point of neurosis? (If we are to believe Linda on the subject, and why not, she told the BBC for the bio-documentary that she had indeed been 'a bit shy and introverted' until she began taking pictures.) On the other hand, was it wicked to be 'in the kitchen' or 'very private', or to embrace 'cosiness'? Was feminism about hating those aspects of another woman? Is it still about that? Was there a deep fear that women would abandon the struggle to be fire-fighters and CEOs and fly back to the pudding bowl? Was Linda going to lead that counter-rebellion?
What the hell was she doing wrong? We still ask that. She gobbled up Paul - it all comes back to that.
And, golly, who is not in awe of Paul McCartney, for mostly the right reasons, but if we thought he was perceived as 'outgoing, warm, pretty' all those years ago, do we think that was or is an accurate portrait? I would think the man himself would find it patronising, or be amused that Camille Paglia thinks of him, to this day, as a Beatles-doll.
'Warm' is a key concept here. Paul was not warm, is not warm - wonderful, perhaps - but warm not. Charming, radiant, smart, gifted, good, a fabulous husband and father, but warm is problematic. Again, the irony of public-private, of what is seen, of what you are meant to think and of what is really going on. Linda was the warm one, Paul the clever one. If you knew them, you knew that. But from a distance, Paul was everything and Linda was, as the shotgun-mouthed Ms Paglia says, cold and 'introverted to the point of neurosis'.
'Linda was very, very pro-active in their social life,' recalls Pete Townshend, who was a close friend. 'When they were driving through this town, she was the one who used to get him to come and visit, even made a couple of surprise visits. She was the one who would call me and then put him on the phone, and we would talk. Then he would be open and entirely accessible, but it was Linda who was always reminding him that he really had friends, that he was likeable as a person, that he could reach and be reached . . . she was constantly there with the idea that there is love between people when the tape stops running and the curtain is down. She was so centred - I think self-possession was her main character attribute, wasn't it? Maybe this marriage was more about Paul than about her, but you know, I don't think so.'
Ah, surprise visits! That brings us to one of the most extraordinary surprise visits of all - the night Paul and Linda dropped in on John and Yoko, with whom things were, at the time, on a very rocky footing.