THE WHITE ALBUM
Celebrity is a mask that eats into the face.
Five Months at Abbey Road
John Updike, 'Self-Consciousness'
THE BEATLES WERE APPLE'S GREATEST ASSET, AND THEY BEGAN recording their first album for their own label not long after the record division was set up. There had not been a proper Beatles album since Sgt. Pepper. Magical Mystery Tour had only six new tracks and didn't really count. There had also been a soundtrack album to the cartoon film Yellow Submarine, but that only had two new Beatles tracks on it Paul's 'All Together Now' and John's 'Hey Bulldog'.
'All Together Now' was a number in the music-hall tradition.
PAUL: When they were singing a song, to encourage the audience to join in they'd say 'All together now!' so I just took it and read another meaning into it, of we are all together now. So I used the dual meaning. It's really a children's song. I had a few young relatives and I would sing songs for them. I used to do a song for kids called 'Jumping Round the Room', very similar to 'All Together Now', and then it would be 'lying on your backs', all the kids would have to lie down, then it would be 'skipping round the room', 'jumping in the air'. It's a play away command song for children. It would be in G, very very simple chords, only a couple of chords, so that's what this is. There's a little subcurrent to it but it's just a sing-along really. A bit of a throwaway.
I remember 'Hey Bulldog' as being one of John's songs and I helped him finish it off in the studio, but it's mainly his vibe. There's a little rap at the end between John and I, we went into a crazy little thing at the end. We always tried to make every song different because we figured. Why write something like the last one? We've done that. We were always on a staircase to heaven, we were on a ladder so there was never any sense of stepping down a rung, or even of staying on the same rung, it was better to move one rung ahead. That's why we had strange drum sounds using tables and tops of packing cases. We'd say to Ringo, 'We heard that snare on the last song.' Whereas now, a drummer just sets up for a whole album, he keeps the same sound for his whole career! But we liked to be inventive. It seemed to us to be crucial to never do the same thing twice, in fact, as they say now, 'They never did the same thing once!'
The Beatles, or the White Album as fans usually call it, was eagerly awaited: how could they top Sgt. Pepper? The answer was to go in the other direction: from an exciting, cluttered sleeve, bursting with energy and dense imagery, to the clean serenity of a pure white cover, printed only with a number and a small embossed name. The shining blank double sleeve was a precursor of the other famous white double album, the world's first rock 'n' roll bootleg, Great White Wonder by Bob Dylan. Similarly, instead of the long, self-conscious title Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, they went for the ultimate reduction: The Beatles, an album title that, oddly enough, they had not used before. And the contents, though not as extreme a contrast as Bob Dylan's switch from the amphetamine-driven Blonde on Blonde to the austere country of John Wesley Harding, had a starkness and simplicity which showed both their maturity and experience as composers and, for about half of the songs, the calm and sober conditions under which they were composed in India. Even the experimental tracks, of which there were many, were approached with the confidence and directness of old hands at the game.
The four sides contained thirty new songs: a huge amount of material, too much for the critics to digest at once because as usual each track was treated as a separate unit and given its most suitable arrangement and instrumentation, varying from string quartet to heavy rock combo. The Beatles never just played their way through an album’s worth of new songs as a four-piece rock band in the way the Stones and most other groups did. This is part of what made them unique.
Recording began on the 30 May 1968, with John's 'Revolution I', which was then just called 'Revolution', a simple little pop tune with its political lyrics rendered unthreatening by the use of a corny doo-wop chorus and a brass section playing Beach Boys style chords. This was the first of John's three songs with 'Revolution' in the title. The ending of this slow ballad was so drawn out that John cut it off and used the last six minutes as the basic track for the notorious sound collage 'Revolution 9'. 'Revolution 9' is probably more of a Yoko Ono record than a Beatles track, though it has some similarities to the fourteen-minute 'Carnival of Light' tape that Paul had made with the Beatles eighteen months before, and uses his loop-tapes technique.
John told Playboy: 'It was somewhat under [Yoko's] influence I suppose. Once I heard her stuff - not just the screeching and howling but her sort of word pieces and talking and breathing and all this strange stuff- I thought "My God". I got intrigued, so I wanted to do one.' Yoko had performed many times with John Cage in New York and was very familiar with this type of work.
Paul was in New York when 'Revolution 9' was made and George and Ringo's only contribution was to shout a few words which are buried in the mix. Three years later, when John was in his Maoist political phase, he described his intentions, saying, 'I thought I was painting in sound a picture of revolution - but I made a mistake. The mistake was that it was anti-revolution,' He was being interviewed by the left-wing theoreticians Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn for Red Mole, so he probably tailored his explanation to what he thought they would like to hear. It is hard to see how the track related to revolution, one way or another, since it is the type of sound collage that avant-garde poets and composers had been making for the previous twenty years, combining fragments of conversations usually panned across the stereo arc, bits of symphonies, loop tapes, talking and shouting, usually with full echo. It sounds very much like a home tape and would probably have been on a John and Yoko solo album like Two Virgins had it been recorded a little later. The other Beatles and George Martin all tried their best to persuade John to leave it off the album. Thus the personality problems which were to dog this album, largely by John's insistence that Yoko be always at his side, and Yoko's unwanted comments on the songs, were endent from the very beginning of the sessions.
John's description of the making of 'Revolution 9' sounds similar to the way Paul's solo on 'Tomorrow Never Knows' was made. He told Playboy:
It has the basic rhythm of the original 'Revolution' going on with some twenty loops we put on, things from the archives of EMI. We were cutting up classical music and making different size loops, and then I got an engineer tape on which some test engineer was saying, "Number nine, number nine, number nine.' All those different bits of sound and noises are all compiled. There were about ten machines with people holding pencils on the loops - some only inches long and some a yard long. I fed them all in and mixed them live. I did a few mixes until I got one I liked. Yoko was there for the whole thing and she made decisions about which loops to use.
The song, just called 'Revolution', which was used as the B side of 'Hey Jude', was faster than the doo-wop version and recorded with maximum volume and distortion with all the VU meters jammed over in the red. It was originally planned as the A side of their first Apple Records release, but, much to John's chagrin, 'Hey Jude' was voted more likely to succeed. Both the slow and fast versions had the same set of lyrics.
PAUL: It was a great song, basically John's. He doesn't really get off the fence in it. He says you can count me out, in, so you're, not actually sure. I don't think he was sure which way he felt about it at the time, but it was an overtly political song about revolution and a great one. I think John later ascribed more political intent to it than he actually felt when he wrote it.
They were very political times, obviously, with the Vietnam war going on. Chairman Mao and the Little Red Book, and all the demonstrations with people going through the streets shouting 'Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh!' I think he wanted to say you can count me in for a revolution, but if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao 'you ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow'. By saying that I think he meant we all want to change the world Maharishi-style, because 'Across the Universe' also had the change-the-world theme. I remember John talking to Maharishi about it and Maharishi wanted more optimism, 'Meditation will change your world,' he didn't want 'nothing's going to change your world,' that sounded too negative. But we fused to do that because it sounded better the other way. But 'Revolution' was obviously a highly political song and a great one. John was just hedging his bets, covering all eventualities. The album version was a really good recording, the hottest recording we ever did. It's good that it comes right after 'Helter Skelter' because those two qualify as the most raucous Beatles songs on record.
Paul wrote 'Blackbird' at his farm in Scotland. Shortly afterwards, on a warm summer night back in London, he sat next to the open window of his top-floor music room and sang the song, accompany-ing himself on acoustic guitar. For the fans gathered in the darkness beyond his gates this unwitting free concert was the sort of magical moment that made their vigil worthwhile.
PAUL: The original inspiration was from a well-known piece by Bach, which I never know the title of, which George and I had learned to play at early age; he better than me actually. Part of its structure is a particular harmonic thing between the melody and the bass line which intrigued me. Bach was always one of our favourite composers; we felt we had a lot in common with him. For some reason we thought his music was very similar to ours and we latched on to him amazingly quickly. We also liked the stories of him being the church organist and wopping this stuff out weekly, which was rather similar to what we were doing. We were very pleased to hear that.
I developed the melody on guitar based on the Bach piece and took it somewhere else, took it to another level, then I just fitted tile words to it. I had in mind a black woman, rather than a bird. Those were the days of the civil-rights movement, which all of us cared passionately about, so this was really a song from me to a black woman, experiencing these problems in the States: 'Let me encourage you to keep trying, to keep your faith, there is hope.' As is often the case with my things, a veiling took place so, rather than say 'Black woman living in Little Rock' and be very specific, she became a bird, became symbolic, so you could apply it to your particular problem.
This is one of my themes: take a sad song and make it better, let this song help you. 'Empowerment' is a good word for it. Through the years I have had lots of wonderful letters from people saying, "That song really helped me through a terrible period.' I think that the single greatest joy of having been a musician, and been in the Beatles, is when those letters come back to you and you find that you've really helped people. That's the magic of it all, that's the wonder, because I wrote them with half an idea that they might help, but it really makes me feel very proud when I realise that they have been of actual help to people.
The blackbird itself was taken from an ornithological record in the EMI sound archives. Paul: 'He did a very good job, I thought. He sings very well on that.'
'Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey' very much reflected the early days of John and Yoko's life together at Montagu Square. It was one of John's more experimental songs, but still retained the confessional element that characterised much of his best work. When he and Yoko appeared in public together for the first time, on 15 June, the press had a feeding frenzy and more or less camped out in Montagu Square. John and Yoko spent a few days at Cavendish Avenue in order to get away from them, spending their evenings quietly watching television or, on one occasion, eating hash cookies that Yoko baked. Paul was often out in the evenings. He and John still felt a deep friendship between them, but Paul felt uncomfortable around John and Yoko because they were so focused on each other to the exclusion of everyone else. Their drug use also made communication difficult. It was around this time that 'Every-body's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey' was recorded. 'Monkey' or 'monkey on the back' was forties and fifties jazz-musician argot for heroin addiction.
PAUL: He was getting into harder drugs than we'd been into and so his songs were taking on more references to heroin. Until that point we had made rather mild, rather oblique references to pot or LSD. Now John started to be talking about fixes and monkeys and it was a harder terminology which the rest of us weren't into. We were disappointed that he was getting into heroin because we didn't really see how we could help him. We just hoped it wouldn't go too far. In actual fact, he did end up clean but this was the period when he was on it. It was a tough period for John, but often that adversity and that craziness can lead to good art, as I think it did in this case.
You could almost be forgiven for thinking 'Good Night' was mine, because it's so soft and melodic and so un-John. I believe John wrote this as a lullaby for Julian, and it was a very beautiful song that Ringo ended up singing to the accompaniment of a big string orchestra. I think John felt it might not be good for his image for him to sing it but it was fabulous to hear him do it, he sang it great. We heard him sing it in order to teach it to Ringo and he sang it very tenderly. John rarely showed his tender side, but my key memories of John are when he was tender, that's what has remained with me; those moments where he showed himself to be a very generous, loving person. I always cite that song as an example of the John beneath the surface that we only saw occasionally. I think that was what made us love John, otherwise he could be unbearable and he could be quite cruel. Now that I'm older, I realise that his hostility was a cover-up for the vulnerability that he felt, and if you look at his family history it's easy to see why. But this is an example of that tender side. I don't think John's version was ever recorded.
George Martin's Hollywood arrangement, which uses a large string section and the Mike Sammes Singers, is perfect for this sentimental ballad. Ringo is the only Beatle on the track.
'Cry Baby Cry' was another of John's songs from India. 'Because John had divorced Cynthia and gone off with Yoko,' Paul explained, 'it meant that I'd hear some of the songs for the first time when he came to the studio, whereas in the past we checked them with each other.' This was an example of such a song. John described it as 'a piece of rubbish' and said he got the lyric from an advertisement but Paul liked it.
Paul came up with the idea for 'Helter Skelter' in Scotland after reading an interview with Pete Townshend in which he described the Who's new single, 'I Can See for Miles', as the loudest, rawest, dirtiest and most uncompromising song they had ever done.
PAUL: I was always trying to write something different, trying to not write in character, and I read this and I was inspired. Oh, wow! Yeah! Just that one little paragraph was enough to inspire me; to make me make a move. So I sat down and wrote 'Helter Skelter' to be the most raucous vocal, the loudest drums, et cetera et cetera. I was using the symbol of a helter skelter as a ride from the top to the bottom - the rise and fall of the Roman Empire - and this was the fall; the demise, the going down. You could have thought of it as a rather cute tide but it's since taken on all sorts of ominous overtones because Manson picked it up as an anthem, and since then quite a few punk bands have done it because it is a raunchy rocker.
I went into the studio and said, 'Hey, look, I've read this thing. Let's do it!' We got the engineers and George Martin to hike up the drum sound and really get it as loud and horrible as it could and we played it and said, 'No, it still sounds too safe, it's got to get louder and dirtier.' We tried everything we could to dirty it up and in the end you can hear Ringo say, 'I've got blisters on my fingers.' That wasn't a joke put-on: his hands were actually bleeding at the end of the take, he'd been drumming so ferociously. We did work very hard on that track. Unfortunately it inspired people to evil deeds.
Charles Manson, the psychopathic killer responsible for seven murders including that of the actress Sharon Tate, blamed LSD and the Beatles' White Album for the series of killings his 'Family' committed in August 1969. Manson was obsessed with the Beatles and, like many disturbed Beatles fans, thought they were directing secret messages to him via their songs. In Manson's case, he thought the messages were ordering him to kill, and that 'Helter Skelter' was the uprising in which blacks would murder a third of the world's population. It was also the name his followers used for a murder spree. In his rambling statement at the conclusion of his murder trial on 19 November 1970, he told the Judge and jury:
Like, Helter Skelter is a nightclub. Helter Skelter means confusion. Literally. It doesn't mean any war with anyone. It doesn't mean that those people are going to kill other people. It only means what it means. Helter Skelter is confusion. Confu-sion is coming down fast. If you don't see the confusion coming down fast, you can call it what you wish. It's not my conspiracy. It is not my music. I hear what it relates. It says 'Rise!' It says 'Kill!' Why blame it on me? I didn't write the music. I am not the person who projected it into your social consciousness.
There were five tracks on the White Album that Manson played more than others: 'Blackbird', 'Piggies', 'Revolution I', 'Revolution 9' and 'Helter Skelter', though for Manson virtually every one of the thirty tracks brimmed with hidden significance. Even the fact that the sleeve was white was prophetic.
Manson's interpretation of the Beatles' lyrics was a twisted affair also heavily dependent on the Book of Revelation of John 9, which he equated with John's 'Revolution 9'. In the biblical Revelation, St John says, 'So the four angels held were set loose to kill a third of mankind. They had been held ready for this moment, for this very year and month, day and hour …' To Manson the Beatles were the four angels. At the beginning of Revelation 9, John sees an angel [star] fall to earth:
and the star was given the key of me shaft of the abyss. With this It he opened the shaft of the abyss; and from the shaft smoke rose like smoke from a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke from the shaft. Then over the earth, out of the smoke, came locusts ...
Locusts, in Manson's mind, meant beetles. The fallen angel with the key was, of course, himself. He had also found an abandoned mine shaft in the desert north of Los Angeles about which he span many a fancy tale to his brainwashed followers, claiming it was the shaft in Revelation 9. Manson's exegesis of Beatles lyrics was a supreme example of obsessional interpretation and would have been hilarious had the results not been so tragic. Manson taught his followers that the White Album prophesied that the black races would rise up and murder the whites but that Manson and his Family would be saved. To him, 'Rocky Raccoon' was about a 'coon', a black man. 'Happiness Is a Warm Gun' was the Beatles telling the blacks that the time had come to fight, and the lyrics to 'Blackbird' spelled it out even more clearly. With headphones on, Manson was able to hear the command to 'Rise!' hidden in the mix of John and Yoko's sound collage urging the blacks to rise up; in fact it was John shouting 'Right' from the original 'Revolution' tape. The white enemy was identified in 'Piggies', which is why the Family scrawled the words 'Death to Pigs' in blood on the wall after killing Rosemary and Leno LaBianca with knives and forks 'in the dead of night', and 'Pig' on the door of Sharon Tate's home. The words to 'Helter Skelter' showed Manson and the Family emerging from the shaft to take over after Armageddon. Manson expected the murders to be the long-awaited signal for the blacks to begin their bloody uprising and was surprised that riots did not follow.
Vincent Bugliosi, Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles, whose book Helter Shelter is the standard work on the trial and Manson's cult, questioned Manson about his beliefs. 'We both know you ordered those murders,' he told him. 'Bugliosi,' Manson replied, 'it's the Beatles, the music they're putting out. They're talking about war. These kids listen to this music and pick up the message. It's subliminal.' It was complete madness.
PAUL: I seem to remember writing 'Mother Nature's Son' at my dad's house in Liverpool. I often used to do that if I'd gone up to see him. Visiting my family I'd feel in a good mood, so it was often a good occasion to write songs. So this was me doing my mother nature's son bit. I've always loved the song called 'Nature Boy', 'There was a boy, a very strange and gentle boy ...' He loves nature, and 'Mother Nature's Son' was inspired by that song. I'd always loved nature, and when Linda and I got together we discovered we had this deep love of nature in common. There might have been a little help from John with some of the verses.
By the third month of recording, tensions began to develop. George Martin was now working as an independent producer and was much in demand from other clients. As a consequence he was not always available and me Beatles found themselves essentially producing their own sessions. There were acrimonious exchanges with the studio staff and among themselves, and with no one in proper charge, the sessions drifted into pointless repetition of takes.
Though court proceedings to disband the Beatles did not begin until the last day of 1970, it is possible with hindsight to see that the real separation began during the recording of the White Album, at the very peak of their recording career, precipitated by the arrival of Alien Klein and by John's obsession with Yoko to the exclusion of the other three Beatles. John's insistence that Yoko accompany him every-where even when he went to the lavatory, exacerbated the hairline cracks in the group relationship, turning each one into a fissure. Beatles music was created in part by spontaneous magic: an almost telepathic sympathy for each other's musical sensibilities which enabled them to predict each other's response, gauge each other's ideas from hearing the most fragmentary musical reply as well as the usual hermetic language of signs and catch-words that musicians develop after playing with each other over a long period of time. Only Mal and Neil were allowed access to their protective Liverpool bubble; even George Martin could not penetrate without permission. The addition of Yoko to the sessions violated this space.
JOHN: When I met Yoko is when you meet your first woman and you leave the guys at the bar and you don't go play football any more and you don't go play snooker and billiards. Maybe some guys like to do it every Friday night or something and continue that relationship with the boys, but once I found the woman, the boys became of no interest whatsoever, other than they were like old friends. You know, 'Hi, how are you? How's your wife?' ... The old gang of mine was over me moment I met her. I didn't consciously know it at the time, but that's what was going on. As soon as I met her, that was the end of the boys, but it so happened that the boys were well known and weren't just the local guys at the bar.
The main problem was that the other Beatles weren't just the guys at the bar, they were his colleagues at work as well. No one objected to Yoko socially - it was none of their business whom he went out with - but to bring her to work as well, every day, was a situation that most people, not just the Beatles, would not have tolerated.
John's heroin addiction made the recording of the White Album difficult because he was on edge, either going up or coming down. The other Beatles had to walk on eggshells just to avoid one of his explosive rages. Whereas in the old days they could have tackled him about the strain that Yoko's presence put on recording and had an old-fashioned set-to about it, now it was impossible because John was to such an unpredictable state and so obviously in pain. Yoko sat right next to him while he played, ordering Mal Evans to fetch her food and drinks and, worst of all, adding her unasked-for comments and musical suggestions, thoroughly inhibiting the other Beatles. Most of John's attention was focused upon her instead of the other three Beatles. The Fab Four had become the Fab Five without the other three ever being asked if they wanted a fifth Beatle. Yoko managed to irritate the other Beatles in a myriad of small ways. Paul: 'When she referred to the Beatles, she called them "Beatles": "Beatles will do this. Beatles will do that." We said, "The Beatles, actually, love." "Beatles will do this. Beatles will do that." I mean, she even took our personal pronoun off us, you know? [laughs]' Despite what John and Yoko later told reporters, it was not racism or sexism that made the others hate her; the fact is, anyone in that position would have made the other Beatles self-conscious and inhibited their musical spontan-eity.
The reasons for John and Yoko's behaviour were obviously complex. Junkies sometimes need the close proximity of their drug partners in order to feel secure. During the latter part of recording the White Album, Yoko was pregnant, which is another reason why John wanted her by his side, but unfortunately she had a miscarriage on 21 November.
John got very bored working on 'Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da', a song which he disliked intensely and which seemed to him to take too long. Even though outside musicians had been brought in to play a brass arrangement, Paul was not satisfied with the version they made and insisted on starting over again. The next day he began again from scratch but eventually decided the first remake was the best, featuring as it did John's loud blue-beat piano intro.
It has been said that this track was the cause of much acrimony but Paul has a different recollection:
PAUL: I remember being in the studio with George and Ringo, struggling with an acoustic version of the song. John was late for the session but when he arrived he bounced in, apologising, in a very good mood. He sat down at the piano and instantly played the blue-beat-style intro. We were very pleased with his fresh attitude. It turned us on and turned the whole song around. He and I worked hard on me vocals and I remember the two of us in the studio having a whale of a time.
'Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da' was completed on 15 July and the next day the balance engineer Geoff Emerick, who had worked with them for years, quit because he could not stand the tension, arguments, swearing and bickering in the studio any longer.
The atmosphere improved a bit for the next few weeks while they recorded Ringo's 'Don't Pass Me By', John's 'Sexy Sadie', 'Good Night' and 'Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey'. Matters were helped by an interlude at Trident Studios in St Anne's Court in Soho to record 'Hey Jude'. The Beatles had used this independent studio to record Apple artists like James Taylor because Trident had an eight-track facility whereas, even in the summer of 1968, EMI was still plodding along with four tracks. (They had an eight-track which they were 'testing' but they had not told the Beatles about it in case they wanted to use it, tying it up for months.)
The epic project continued and more tracks were finished.
PAUL: When John first went with Yoko I think it focused his musical tastes and put a slightly more avant-garde slant on them, so that you were getting things like 'Happiness Is a Warm Gun' and 'Yer Blues'. We all liked blues but 'Yer Blues' was John's: John's lyrics, John's whole song as far as I recall. We were always looking for a different way to record things and next to the control room in number-two studio in Abbey Road where we were working there was a little tape room. It was quite a small room, about ten feet by four feet, a poky cupboard really that normally had tapes and microphone leads and jack plugs in it. And we said, 'Can we record in there?' And George Martin said, 'What, the whole band?' We said, 'Yes! Let's try it!' We'd always liked being on stage at the Cavern and places like mat because small stages push you together as a band and you're shoulder to shoulder, instead of being spread out over a huge stadium stage where you wonder, 'Who is that playing guitar over there?' We liked being in close contact with each other, we felt it added to the power of our music, and it did.
The main worry engineers normally had was separation of instruments so that if later we wanted to hear more drums or a little less, we had control over it so we could pull it back or lift it. To do that you had to get separation from, all me other instruments, otherwise you brought up the guitars when you brought up the drums. So they were worried about separation but what we did was turn the amplifiers to the wall and put a microphone in there, so we actually got amazing separation on them. Ringo came in with his drum kit and I had the bass and everything and we just played as a band. John just stood there and sang the vocal. He did a little work afterwards on the vocal but that was it; we actually did it shoulder to shoulder in this tiny little cupboard and it worked out very well. The engineers were surprised to find out how much separation they had. It was cool; I always remember that track for that.
On 7 August, they began work on George's 'Not Guilty'. After recording 46 takes, they finally packed it in at 5.30 in the morning. The next day they reached take 101, the first time they had passed the hundred mark. After two more days' work on the track and a preliminary mix, it was abandoned and was not heard of again until George's 1979 solo George Harrison album. Shortly afterwards, George upped and left for Greece without telling the others, causing them to cancel a session at short notice and reschedule work while he was away.
At the same time, Paul and John were having words and a very frosty atmosphere developed between them, possibly over a song called 'What's the New Mary Jane', a heavily Yoko-inspired track that John said he co-wrote with Magic Alex. John and George were the only Beatles playing on it. It is a discordant meandering tune that goes nowhere but probably sounds good if you are very high. The basic song has certain similarities to 'You Know My Name, Look Up the Number' but perhaps lacks its humour and sophistication. Most of the six-minutes-plus track is taken up with a long ending, similar to 'Revolution 9', featuring Yoko's 'voice modulation' and a lot of random noodling on the piano. John tried to release it a year later as a Plastic Ono Band track 'backed by a group' but the other Beatles would not allow him. Considering Paul's opposition to the inclusion of 'Revolution 9' on a Beatles album, and the fact that he had been purposely not including similar self-indulgent pieces of his own on Beatles albums, it is likely that this would have been cause for a dispute.
Six days later, according to the engineer Ken Scott, who was recording the brass overdub session for Paul's 'Mother Nature's Son', 'Everything was going really well, and then John and Ringo walked in, and for the half-hour they were there, you could have cut the atmosphere with a knife.' Apparently the sudden tension evaporated immediately they left.
George arrived back from Greece on 21 August, but the next day, as they began to lay down the backing track for 'Back in the USSR', Paul ticked Ringo off over a fluffed tom-tom fill. They had already argued about how the drum part should be played. Ringo was unhappy with the atmosphere in the studio; he did not like Yoko being there, and Paul's criticisms finally brought matters to a head. Announcing that he couldn't take any more, Ringo quit the group. He flew down to the Mediterranean and spent a fortnight on Peter Sellers's yacht, thinking about his future.
While he was away, the remaining three members quickly cut 'Back in the USSR' with Paul playing drums, and Paul also played drums on John's 'Dear Prudence', recorded a week later. When Ringo returned on 3 September, he may have been expecting a row but instead he found his drum kit wreathed in flowers and a banner saying 'Welcome back'. The next day, working with the director Michael Lindsay-Hogg at Twickenham Film Studios, the Beatles filmed a series of promo clips for 'Hey Jude'. Everyone was on his best behaviour. A good time was had by all and much of the animosity seemed to melt away.
Sessions continued without a summer break. George brought in Eric Clapton to play lead on his 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'. After this they recorded John's 'Glass Onion'.
PAUL: He and Yoko came round to Cavendish Avenue and John and I went out into the garden for half an hour, because there were a couple of things he needed me to finish up, but it was his song, his idea, and he worked on the arrangement with George Martin. It was a particularly good arrangement, I think. It was a nice song of John's. We had a fun moment when we were working on the bit, 'I've got news for you all, the walrus was Paul.' Because, although we'd never planned it, people read into our songs and little legends grew up about every item of so-called significance, so on this occasion we decided to plant one.
What John meant was that in Magical Mystery Tour, when we came to do the costumes on 'I Am the Walrus', it happened to be me in the walrus costume. It was not significant at all, but it was a nice little twist to the legend that we threw in. But it was John's song. I'd guess I had minor input or something as we finished it up together.
It was rare for the Beatles to make up a song in the studio, but on 8 September that is what happened. Paul had been the first to arrive at the session, getting to Abbey Road shortly after 5.00 p.m., and though they probably had something in mind to record, he began jamming at the upright piano in Studio Two. It quickly turned into a bouncy rock number and by 9.00 p.m., they had already laid down twenty takes of the backing track to 'Birthday'.
PAUL: We thought, 'Why not make something up?' So we got a riff going and arranged it around this riff. We said, 'We'll go to there for a few bars, then we'll do this for a few bars.' We added some lyrics, then we got the friends who were there to join in on the chorus. So that is 50-50 John and me, made up on the spot and recorded all on the same evening. I don't recall it being anybody's birthday in particular but it might have been, but the other reason for doing it is that, if you have a song that refers to Christmas or a birthday, it adds to the life of the song, if it's a good song, because people will pull it out on birthday shows, so I think there was a little bit of that at the back of our minds.
George Martin was away so his assistant Chris Thomas produced the session. His memory is that the song was mostly Paul's: 'Paul was the first one in, and he was playing the birthday riff. Eventually the others arrived, by which time Paul had literally written the song, right there in the studio.' Everyone in the studio sang in the chorus and it was 5 a.m. by the time the final mono mix was completed.
John found an American gun magazine lying around in the studio with a picture of a smoking gun on the cover. The lead article, which John didn't read, was called 'Happiness Is a Warm Gun in Your Hand'. John: 'I thought, what a fantastic, insane thing to say. A warm gun means you've just shot something.'
Paul: 'It's very similar to "Bungalow Bill" in that it's a piss-take of all the people who really do think happiness is a warm gun. There's a great vocal on it, good lyrics, and it's a very interesting song because it changes tempo a lot, it's quite a complex piece. It's very Lennon.'
Both Paul and George were reported as saying 'Happiness Is a Warm Gun' was their favourite track on the album, and John himself liked it. John: 'I consider it one of my best. It's a beautiful song and I really like all the things that are happening in it.'
PAUL: I was thinking the other day how poignant it was that John, who was shot in such tragic circumstances, should have written this song.
Both John and I had a great love for music hall, what the Americans call vaudeville. I'd heard a lot of that kind of music growing up with the Billy Cotton Band Show and all of that on the radio. I was also an admirer of people like Fred Astaire; one of my favourites of his was 'Cheek to Cheek' from a film called Top Hat that I used to have on an old 78.1 very much liked that old crooner style, the strange fruity voice that they used, so 'Honey Pie' was me writing one of them to an imaginary woman, across the ocean, on the silver screen, who was called Honey Pie. It's another of my fantasy songs. We put a sound on my voice to make it sound like a scratchy old record. So it's not a parody, it's a nod to the vaudeville tradition that I was raised on.
For 'Wild Honey Pie', we'd very recently done John's 'Yer Blues' where we'd packed ourselves into a cupboard, so we were in an experimental mode, and so I said, 'Can I just make something up?' I started off with the guitar and did a multitracking experiment in the control room or maybe in the little room next door. It was very home-made; it wasn't a big production at all. I just made up this short piece and I multitracked a harmony to that, and a harmony to that, and a harmony to that, and built it up sculpturally with a lot of vibrato on the strings, really pulling the strings madly. Hence, 'Wild Honey Pie', which was a reference to the other song I had written called 'Honey Pie'. It was a little experimental piece.
The song 'Martha My Dear' was written entirely by Paul, and, like 'Yesterday', had none of the other Beatles playing on it. It began life as a piano exercise.
PAUL: When I taught myself piano I liked to see how far I could go, and this started life almost as a piece you'd learn as a piano lesson. It's quite hard for me to play, it's a two-handed thing, like a little set piece. In fact I remember one or two people being surprised that I'd played it because it's slightly above my level of competence really, but I wrote it as that, something a bit more complex for me to play. Then while I was blocking out words - you just mouth out sounds and some things come -I found the words 'Martha my dear'.
So I made up another fantasy song. I remember George Harrison once said to me, 'I could never write songs like that. You just make 'em up, they don't mean anything to you.' I think on a deep level they do mean something to me but on a surface level they are often fantasy like Desmond and Molly or Martha my dear. I mean, I'm not really speaking to Martha, it's a communication of some sort of affection but in a slightly abstract way - 'You silly girl, look what you've done,' all that sort of stuff. These songs grow. Whereas it would appear to anybody else to be a song to a girl called Martha, it's actually a dog, and our relationship was platonic, believe me.
The song was written in October 1968, when Martha was already three years old, and recorded at Trident Studios in Soho, using a brass band and a string section.
Towards the end of making the White Album, the Beatles were in such a hurry to meet the deadline that they often had two studios in use at once. On one day, 9 October, John and George had some ideas to improve the mix of 'The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill' and were working on it with the engineer, Ken Scott in Studio Two. Meanwhile Paul went into Studio One with another engineer, Ken Townshend, and laid down the basic track of the short rocker 'Why Don't We Do It in the Road', to which he added lead vocals, acoustic guitar and a piano overdub.
The next night, while John and George were engrossed in overdubbing strings on to 'Piggies' and 'Glass Onion', Paul and Ken Townshend again absented themselves, this time to Studio Three. Paul got Ringo to come with him to add a drum track. The bass, handclaps and electric guitar were all laid down by Paul.
PAUL: The idea behind 'Why Don't We Do It in the Road' came from something I'd seen in Rishikesh. I was up on the flat roof meditating and I'd seen a troupe of monkeys walking along in the jungle and a male just hopped on to the back of this female and gave her one, as they say in the vernacular. Within two or three seconds he hopped off again, and looked around as if to say, 'It wasn't me,' and she looked around as if there had been some mild disturbance but thought, Huh, I must have imagined it, and she wandered off. And I thought, bloody hell, that puts it all into a cocked hat, that's how simple the act of procreation is, this bloody monkey just hopping on and hopping off. There is an urge, they do it, and it's done with. And it's that simple. We have horrendous problems with it, and yet animals don't. So that was basically it. 'Why Don't We Do It in The Road' could have applied to either fucking or shitting, to put it roughly. Why don't we do either of them in the road? Well, the answer is we're civilised and we don't. But the song was just to pose that question. 'Why Don't We Do It in the Road' was a primitive statement to do with sex or to do with freedom really. I like it, it's just so outrageous that I like it.
John regarded the song as one of Paul's best and was upset that Paul had not asked him to work on it. His irritation still showed twelve years later when he complained to Playboy: 'That's Paul, he even recorded it by himself in another room ... I can't speak for George but I was always hurt when Paul knocked something off without involving us.' Paul countered this by telling Hunter Davies the next year, 'Anyway |John] did the same with "Revolution 9". He went off and made that without me. No one ever says all that.'
It was not a deliberate attempt to sidestep John. The pressure to complete the album was so great that John would not have had time to work on 'Why Don't We Do It in the Road' even if Paul had asked him. Contrary to some critical comment, the track had nothing to do with John Sinclair and the MC5's rallying cry, 'Sex and drugs and fucking in the streets!' Paul: 'The spirit of the times meant that a lot of us were thinking similar things, just doing it in different ways. It's a great track, isn't it? Good vocal, though I say it myself.'
After a marathon twenty-four hour session, utilising studios One, Two and Three as well as listening rooms 41 and 42, the huge double album was finally mixed and sequenced at 5 p.m. on Thursday, 17 October by John and Paul working with George Martin. Ringo was not present and George had already flown to Los Angeles to produce Jackie Lomax's album Is This What You Want? for Apple.
Having used Peter Blake for the Sgt. Pepper sleeve, the Beatles decided to continue the tradition and use another established artist for their double album. Again the motivating force was Robert Fraser. He suggested Richard Hamilton, the actual inventor of Pop Art, which is generally thought to have started with his collage Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing? shown at the Whitechapel Gallery's This Is Tomorrow show in 1956. Richard Hamilton had studied at the Royal Academy and the Slade School and, at forty-five, was considerably older than the Beatles. He was, however, in touch with events on the pop scene.
Paul knew Richard Hamilton's work and owned one of his multiple editions of the Frank Lloyd Wright Guggenheim Museum.
PAUL: Robert had said, 'What about Richard?' I knew his work, I knew Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing?, so I said, 'Let's see how it goes. He might hate the idea.' And Richard started to get into it so I got encouraged and thought that he would be good to do it. Because, even though I admired Robert, I couldn't just take his word for it.
Robert arranged for Richard Hamilton to meet Paul at Apple in Savile Row, where he was kept waiting in an outer office so long that he was on the point of leaving when Paul appeared. 'I tried to get him interested in the whole thing,' Paul said. 'I laid out what it was we'd got. We'd got an album coming out, we hadn't really got a title for it. "I'd like you to work on the cover. We've done Sgt. Pepper. We've worked with a fine artist before and I just had a feeling you might be right.'" Richard described the meeting in the Michael Cooper Blinds and Shutters book:
Since Sergeant Pepper was so over the top, I explained, 'I would be inclined to do a very prissy thing, almost like a limited edition.' He didn't discourage me so I went on to propose a
plain white album; if that were too clean and empty, then maybe we could print a ring of brown stain to look as if a coffee cup had been left on it - but that was thought a bit too flippant. I also suggested that they might number each copy, to create the ironic situation of a numbered edition of something like five million copies. This was agreed, but then I began to feel a bit guilty at putting their double album under plain wrappers; even the lettering is casual, almost invisible, a blind stamping. I suggested it could be jazzed up with a large edition print, an insert that would be even more glamorous than a normal sleeve.
The white cover with blind-stamped name, printed number and an art print inside did become the final design concept but the sleeve went through a number of stages to reach that. Paul: 'Richard asked, "Has there been an album called The Beatles?' so I referred back to EMI and they said, "No. There's been Meet the Beatles, introducing the Beatles in America, but there'd never been an album called The Beatles." So he said, "Let's call it that"; which is the official title of the
One early idea substituted an apple stain for the coffee ring on a
PAUL: Richard had a friend from Iceland, the artist Diter Rot, who used to send him letters smeared in chocolate, and Richard liked that a lot, so then the idea grew; he said, 'Well, maybe we could do something like that with an apple. We could bounce an apple on a bit of paper and get a smudge, a very light green smear with a little bit of pulp.' But we ended up thinking that might be hard to print, because inevitably if these things do well, there are huge printings in places like Brazil and India and anything too subtle like a little apple smear can be lost, can just look like they printed it crappy. So that idea went by the wayside.
So now he was saying, 'Let's call it The Beatles and have it white, really white.' I was saying, 'Well, I dunno. It's a great concept, but we are releasing an album here. This is not a piece of art for a rather elite gallery, this is more than that. I see the point. It's a nice idea, but for what we were to people, and still are, it doesn't quite fit, we're not quite a blank space, a white wall, the Beatles. Somebody ought to piss on it or smudge an apple on it for it to become the Beatles, because a white wall's just too German and marvellous for us.' So the idea then emerged to do the embossing. 'Maybe if we emboss the word "Beatles" out of the white, that'll be good. We'll get a shadow from the embossing but it's white on white. It's still white. That'll be nice.' But I still wanted something on the white, an idea, like the apple smudging.
Then Richard had the idea for the numbers. He said, 'Can we do it?' So I had to go and try and sell this to EMI. They said, 'Can't do it.' I said, 'Look, records must go through something to put the shrink wrap on or to staple them. Couldn't you just have a little thing at the end of that process that hits the paper and prints a number on it? Then everyone would have a numbered copy.'
I think EMI only did this on a few thousand, then just immediately gave up. They have very very strict instructions that every single album that came out, even to this day, should still be numbered. That's the whole idea: 'I've got number 1,000,000!' What a great number to have! We got the first four. I don't know where mine is, of course. Everything got lost. It's all coming up in Sotheby's I imagine. John got 00001 because he shouted loudest. He said, 'Baggsy number one!' He knew the game, you've gotta baggsy it.
It was a very radical way to package the album. Richard Hamilton saw it, not as an art statement, but as a way of competing with the lavish design treatments of most post-Sgt. Pepper sleeves. Richard:
'Most people, among them Yoko, think it was Yoko's idea. It was at the time when Yoko was really moving into the Beatle business and putting her oar in strongly. But my contact with the project was only through Paul - even EMI was held off.'
The poster insert also posed problems, some of which Richard attempted to head off in its design. His control over the image would cease at an early stage because printing would take place simultaneously all over the world. He decided to send positives from a process-engraving company in Amsterdam to all the countries where the poster would be printed. The plates would made in those countries and proofs sent to London for his approval. After that it was a matter of luck, and naturally the quality of the printing deteriorated with
each subsequent printing. But first the poster had to be designed. Richard asked Paul to collect a selection of photographs of the
PAUL: He said 'Have you got any old photos of the Beatles? They must all have family photos from when they were young, or any nice photos. Get me a lot of source material.' So I acted as the middleman. I went to the guys and said, 'Childhood photos, what have you got? Look in your cupboards. New photos if you want. Whatever you like,' and they brought in stuff from the bottom drawer that their mums had kept, along with their old rent books, all the old baby pictures. I told him, 'My wife's a photographer. She's got some pretty cool stuff. Would you like to look at that?' He said, 'Yes,' so I took that out to him as well.
Each day for the next week, Paul drove from St John's Wood to the artist's house in Highgate, where he lived with his girlfriend Christine. 'Richard was always very welcoming,' Paul thought, 'good fun, always a broad smile. You noticed his large nose and his bald head with the wisps of hair either side and the little cap he used to wear. Richard was very easy to get on with, a nice sly sense of humour, very
They would walk from the house to his modem functional studio next door, passing two sculptural steel garden chairs on the way. Unlike that of most painters, his work space was spotlessly clean: steel shelving units housing books and boxes against bare white concrete-block walls, bright concealed lighting illuminating the work space, a twenty-four hour clock flipping over the minutes. As a print-maker he needed a dust-free work space. The easily damaged prints from his project to recreate Duchamp's Great Glass were stacked against the walls, and any dust settling on wet ink would spoil a print. There was a modern plastic telephone and a Braun hi-fi; Hamilton was always at the forefront of good design. Paul: It was very clean, uncluttered, clear, everything was very precise. There wasn't lots of paint everywhere. It was what I'd think of as a very German interior to the studio, very Bauhaus, very sixties modern, but it wasn't particularly
, striking, it was clearly just a workplace.'
Watching an artist at work was of great interest to Paul because it
was quite different from the rock 'n' roll world where teams of people are needed for everything except the actual writing of the song.
PAUL: I enjoyed the ambience of art, it was much more laid back than ours. We were always working. We'd write a bit of music, quickly. We'd go and record it, quickly. It's done. You never sing it again. It's like premature ejaculation, it's all rather quick. But art was much more solitary so I was enjoying this very much. I went out there every morning, regular as clockwork, off to work, and this was like, 'Oooh, God, working with Richard Hamilton!' because I was a bit of an admirer of his. I'd bought one of his Guggenheim things. This is one of the great experiences of my life. It didn't seem like work. I just dossed around while he did the work. Such an easy job because I just had to respond.
The first three or four days were spent sorting the images, which he laid out on a ten-foot-long work table.
PAUL: He started laying them out, sorting them. Ones he liked, ones he didn't like, ones that worked together, darker ones, lighter ones, themes, this against that, things he thought he might be able to use. Sorting the shapes in a painterly way. And it was fascinating for me because there's nothing like just watching.
We got on very well. It was always very pleasant, he would say, 'Shall we have tea now, shall we have coffee?' We established a routine, something like twelve till four or five each day; a good three- or four-hour session. Hamilton was a meticulous worker, with every decision carefully considered.
RICHARD HAMILTON: I paint so slowly. One or two paintings a year is as much as I can get through: on occasions only one in three years. If I make a couple of marks by the end of the day I'm happy ... The only reason I make pictures is because there is some idea which can be expressed. Unless you've got an idea and seek the means of communication, there's no value in painting. Every move you make should be a conscious decision towards an objective.
Once he had selected the pictures he wanted, Hamilton had copies
made of some because they weren't necessarily all the right size; there were some he wanted to use but he required smaller prints. Then he set up an easel with a sheet of paper the actual size that the poster was going to be. As he explained in Collected Words, there were a number of technical problems to be allowed for in the poster:
Because the sheet was folded three times to bring it to the square shape for insertion into the album, the composition was interestingly complicated by the need to consider it as a series of subsidiary compositions. The top right and left hand square are front and back of the folder and had to stand independently as well as be a double spread together. The bottom four squares can be read independently and as a group of four. They all mate together when opened up and used as wall decoration. I tried to think of the print as one which would reach and please a large audience, but there were some arcane touches which only the Beatles' more intimate associates were likely to smile at. Its standards are those of a small edition print pushed, with only some technical constraints, to an edition of millions.
PAUL: Again he'd just sit there, looking at it, sorting it out, put this on, take that off. I would just sit there enjoying watching what he was doing, thinking, I see why he's done that. That's good. Wow! Not sure I agree with that, then, five minutes later, Oh, I see. With a good artist there's always a bit of that. He worked carefully, methodically, always a little joke here and little bit of this there. He cut prints up. They weren't used just as they were. If he'd have an area of black in the bottom left-hand corner of a picture that was not doing anything, he'd cut that out to let another picture show through. So they weren't all necessarily rectangular, they were often little shapes he'd scissored before he glued them on.
In the evenings sometimes we'd hang around or go into his house. Linda has a photo of him in front of the Chairman Mao picture that he had at the time. Very pleasant company, the talk would be about art and music. I'd give him my gossip, he'd give me his. Very straightforward.
By the end of the week, all the pictures were in place.
PAUL: He'd done it and it was looking really good and I said, 'Well, that's it, wow! Shall I just take it now?' But it wasn't finished yet. The great moment was when he'd done the whole thing, when he'd filled the whole space densely with images, and got his composition right, then he took pieces of white paper that he'd cut out, and placed them strategically on the poster. And my mind couldn't comprehend that, and I went, 'Wait a minute! That's going to block out a bit of picture.' And he said, 'Yes, but if you look at it, it's only blocking out that little black bit there,' he said, 'and you'll be able to see through this negative space. You'll be able to see through the poster. It'll give it depth.' And sure enough it does. If you look at the poster you'll see the final thing he put on was four or five little bits of negative space: these white shapes he'd made, a white triangle or something that just fitted the area where he didn't want to obscure that face. I remember being very impressed; it was the first time that I'd ever seen that idea. I would have never thought of that. It was beautiful. That was cool. For me that was a great lesson that I was getting from the hands of someone like Richard Hamilton, a whole week of his thoughts. No mean teacher, man! Great education.
The Beatles was released on 30 November 1968 and not only lived up to expectations but is regarded by many as their greatest album. Not only had they a follow-up to Sgt. Pepper, they had again exceeded all expectations - and with thirty new songs. Their new single, 'Hey Jude', wasn't even on the album. They had total, apparently effortless dominance of the pop-music scene. It seemed they could do no wrong - but they were already breaking up.
Sometime in New York City
Linda Eastman grew up in a wealthy New York family. She spent most of her time in Scarsdale, where she went to high school, and made occasional shopping trips to Manhattan with her mother. Linda's father Lee Eastman was a show-business lawyer and it was common for Linda and her brother John to find Hoagy Carmichael, Tommy Dorsey or Hopalong Cassidy at the dinner table. Lee's walls were hung with the work of Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Robert
Rauschenberg, Richard Lindner and other painters whom he represented.
Lee was a self-made man who got himself a scholarship to Harvard when he was sixteen years old. The son of Russian Jewish immigrants to New York, he had a tremendous drive and ambition. Instead of joining a large legal partnership, he set up his own office and built his own reputation.
PAUL: He was very patriarchal. Linda would try and avoid him on the street if she was with one of her long-haired friends because he wouldn't approve. He didn't approve when a photograph of her in Harlem with the Animals appeared in Ebony magazine because he had a lot of very high-powered white clients who might have disapproved. It was one of his clients who pointed it out to him. He wasn't prejudiced but it was a social thing. He aspired higher. I think he wanted a kind of Kennedy dynasty thing. There was a lot of thai about then. They thought it was glamorous. It was like smoking: they hadn't realised it could be bad for you. I remember when I first met John Eastman, I asked him, 'What do you want to do? What's your ambition in life?' He said, 'To be the president of the United States of America,' which fairly soon after that he didn't want to do. They were very preppy. Very aspirational.
Most of this was lost on Linda, who cared more for animals than
for position and power. By nature she is intuitive, spontaneous, a daydreamer: all good qualities for a photographer, but not for an intellectual or a business tycoon. She was close to her mother Louise, an independently wealthy woman with an income from the Linder department stores, but when Linda was eighteen years old, Louise was killed in a plane crash. This would become another bond between her and Paul.
Linda moved to Tucson, where she studied art and history. There is a myth that both Linda and Yoko Ono attended Sarah Lawrence, which was true of Yoko but not of Linda, whose brief academic career was at the University of Arizona. She was not exceptional academically and did not particularly enjoy it. It was an uncertain period of her life, she was mourning her mother and trying to find her place in the world. She married a young geology student named Mel See, with whom she had a daughter, Heather, but the marriage was a mistake and they soon split up. Linda: 'Then I grew up. My life began again with this new freedom.' She met Hazel Archer, the woman who first introduced her to photography, who remains a friend to this day. She showed Linda pictures by Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans and Ansel Adams. Linda was delighted; she had not known photography could be art. Hazel Archer's advice was simple:'Borrow a camera, get a roll of film and take pictures.'
'Photography made me a different person because it was something I loved doing and just nothing else mattered,' Linda said. 'I could just take my camera and go, probably like Diane Arbus felt when she was walking taking pictures. I had that feeling. Even though I had a child I still felt single. It's different when you're married and you've got to go cook dinner. I could just go, go anywhere.' She learned her craft entirely by trial and error, and sometimes the errors produced wonderful results. Her early pictures were of Heather and of the mountains and deserts of Arizona.
The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art was performing a season of Shakespeare in the Desert and Linda went along with a friend who was reporting on it for a local newspaper. One of the actors asked her to take some publicity shots of him, and the first photograph she ever had published appeared in Spotlight, the British directory of actors.
Though she enjoyed the dramatic beauty of the Arizona landscape, Linda missed the energy and stimulation of her hometown. She missed the Museum of Modern Art and the leisure section of the Sunday New York Times, the yellow cabs and the pot-holes. In 1965 she packed up and went back to New York. Her father had recently remarried so when she returned to the parental home with a child, he quickly informed her that it was time she got a job and her own apartment.
Finding a decent apartment in New York City, then as now, is a difficult exercise. There is no point in answering advertisements because those have all gone, the only way is through a friend or to walk the streets. She decided she wanted to live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and went out looking. One doorman thought there was an apartment coming up in his building. The woman had planned to advertise her apartment in the newspaper the next day. It was an L-shaped room and the woman, who was, like Linda, divorced with a child, had built a divider in it to make a tiny one-bedroom apartment. It was at 140 East 83rd Street on the southwest corner of Lexington Avenue, just three blocks from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Central Park, in a safe, expensive neighbourhood, ideal for a single young mother with a child. It was $180 a month, reasonable rent for a building with a doorman in that area in the mid-sixties. It was on the edge of Yorkville, which was then still a distinctly Middle European and German neighbourhood with beer halls, pastry shops and shop signs written in German.
Now that she had the apartment, it was time to get a job. On her father's insistence she had once taken a typing course so she had a skill. She tried several times to pass the Conde-Nast typing test but always failed. One day she was passing the old Hearst building on 56th and Madison, and decided to try them. Fortunately the Hearst Corporation didn't have a typing test. When she asked if they had any jobs going, they offered her a job as receptionist at Town and Country.
She earned $65 a week after tax.
First thing each day she took Heather to a nursery school on the West Side, then took a bus back to the East Side, where she had to get to Town and Country by 9.00 a.m. Her job required that she be the first one in the office. At 5.00 p.m. she made the journey in reverse. This arrangement lasted about a year. One advantage of the job was that the Hearst building was only a few blocks from the Museum of Modern Art on 52nd Street so she was able to spend her lunch breaks
in the photographic department.
Town and Country used most of the top photographers in ihe country and, sitting in reception, Linda got to know them all. 'I never got to go on any of the shoots or anything, I just got to sit there and open letters.' The June 1966 Town and Country was a debutante issue which featured the Rolling Stones on the cover posing with me debutante Alexandra E. Chase dressed in a yellow evening gown. (The Stones' American marketing managers played down their rebellious image in the USA and built up the English angle.) David Bailey flew over to shoot it in the studio of his friend Jerrold Schatsberg, his New York counterpart on the fashion photography scene.
Because they had given the Stones a cover, Town and Country were automatically on the mailing list for an invitation to the press launch for Aftermath, released earlier that month, which the Stones were promoting with an American tour. Unless letters were addressed to individuals, it was Linda's job to open them. She quickly hid the press pass in her drawer. The Stones had been barred by fourteen New York hotels so they were using a yacht, the SS Sea Panther, as their floating headquarters. Their new business manager Alien Klein had arranged a press conference on the yacht for 24 June 1966, the day after they flew in from London, giving the journalists time to interview the Stones individually over a working lunch as the yacht sailed up and down the Hudson. Unfortunately that left no room for the photographers on board as well. Klein's press officer Betsy Doster could not take some and not others, so she tried to leave them all behind at the West 79th Street Marina. Linda refused to take no for an answer and the Stones, particularly Mick Jagger, so enjoyed the ensuing argument that they told Betsy to let her stay, almost costing Betsy her job.
As the only photographer on board, Linda had an amazing exclusive. All the journalists approached her for photographs to accompany their interviews and gave her their cards. The pictures turned out well. Linda: 'I remember once a week someone would phone and say, "Mr Klein would like to buy those negatives," and I'd say, "He can use whatever he wants but no chance." I was so desperate to take pictures, I would have done a deal if they'd said beforehand and they would own the negatives but they didn't, it was all so quick. So due to this Rolling Stones thing I quit my job and became a photographer."
One of the journalists who wrote about the boat trip and used Linda's pictures was the Australian rock critic Lilian Roxon from the Sydney Morning Herald. She began to use Linda's pictures for her column and they became good friends. Another was the journalist Danny Fields, who worked for 16 magazine and also commissioned sleeves for Elektra Records. The Blues Project asked her for a set of publicity pictures. Linda was so keen to get into the business that she said, 'You pay for the film and I'll do it.' It was a small scene and she soon had more than enough work to live on.
This was a time when someone like Al Kooper could play with Dylan, the Blues Project and Blood, Sweat and Tears and also hold down a job at Columbia Records as an A&R man. Rock music then, unlike now, was the vehicle for social protest: lyrics were analysed in meticulous detail and the release of each new album was a major event. It was a brief, precious period when the business had not yet become an industry, the really big money was not yet being made, rock festivals had not yet been invented and the Beatles were the only group ever to play stadiums. There were no lasers, no computerised lights or dry ice, and bands like the Doors, Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead had not yet released albums.
Musicians jammed with one another and sat in on recording sessions. There was a family feeling in the music community which extended beyond the musicians and their loved ones to include the road crews, photographers, publicists and journalists. This was partly in the nature of the business - clubs, late hours, music, good times, groupies - and partly because it was a pot-smoking society at a time when it was possible to draw a ten-year sentence for possession of one joint. If you were part of the scene, it didn't take long to become a trusted member of the fraternity. Clubs like Micky Ruskin's Max's Kansas City, Steve Paul's Scene or the photographer Jerry Schatsberg's Salvation were the village pumps for the music scene, where everyone knew everyone, gossip flowed, sexual liaisons were proposed or, in the case of Max's, often consummated right there in the famous back room.
LINDA: From being a nine to five flunky at Town and Country, my life changed overnight. I didn't have to rush as much. I had no assistant, I had no studio, but it was great. I'd walk through the Metropolitan Museum on my way downtown, walking through the park to take my film in. There is nobody in Central Park from nine to five, they're all at work, just squirrels, no
people whatsoever. The park was like living in the country. I would walk around, smoking a bit of pot, having a good time, life was nice. I had calluses on my hands because I never took taxis and I always carried: I had portfolios, cameras, film to develop. And I was making money. That was the best part, because I made enough to pay the rent and put a little bit aside. When I got paid, that is, because a lot of times I didn't get paid.
Linda's pictures of Cream appeared in the first issue of Rolling Stone magazine. She photographed Simon and Garfunkel in the studio, the Mamas and Papas in their hotel and Jackson Browne on the Staten Island Ferry. She toured the Mid-West with the prototype heavy-metal band Blue Cheer. But mostly she shot pictures backstage, on stage or in Central Park. There are few rock photographers with such a complete portfolio of sixties stars, in most cases taken at the very beginning of their career, playing the New York clubs or the Fillmore East. Her portraits of Jim Morrison were done before The Doors was released. She photographed Zappa when he was living in Greenwich Village for a summer season at the Garrick Theater with the original Mothers of Invention. Linda always used natural light, never flash, which partially accounts for the intimate feeling of her portraits.
Rock 'n' roll was rapidly becoming big business. Wave after wave of British groups arrived in New York in the wake of the Beatles: first the Stones, followed by the Kinks, the Who, the Dave Clark Five, the Animals, Jeff Beck, the Yardbirds, Herman's Hermits, Peter and Gordon, Donovan and a host of others. In January 1965, British artists held twenty-seven positions in the US top 100, a percentage which remained roughly the same for most of the sixties.
LINDA: A new generation was moving into the business and it turned into big business; even me as a photographer turned into big business. I was getting noticed so I was making big bucks, for me. I was getting $1,000 a page from Life magazine! I was doing editorial work for Mademoiselle, but at the point where I was getting big work, it was all becoming horrible. It was getting to be a real pressure on me because I didn't have an agent. I had just started interviewing agents around the time I started going out with Paul.
The fun had gone out of the business. Management began to take over. Groups everywhere were being exploited by the money men, the 'suits', as they were known. Linda was close to Jimi Hendrix and remembers how distraught he was because his manager would drag him out of a recording session to do an interview or attend to business, interrupting his creative work. Business was starting to come first and the music a poor second. Linda: 'I really hated the music industry but I thought, What will I photograph then to make money? Athletes and wildlife? Somebody said, "Athletes? That's worse than the music business." So I'm glad I didn't do that.'
She found herself once more in an untenable situation.
LINDA: Right after I'd interviewed an agent, I decided 'No way.' As soon as I got my apartment it was like my world, I could just close the door and I thought, If I get agents, there's too much going on. I used to just lie there, smoke a joint and watch TV. I had a kid, and I'd done so much stuff. I was just fed up with the rock world, it just started getting really boring for me. Heather was just about to start at Dalton, and I was thinking, What am I doing? It was then, in late September, that Paul called and said, 'Come over.'
Linda arrived in London in time to catch the recording of the last ten or so tracks for the White Album, though mostly she just went to the studio to watch the mixing. Unlike Yoko, she didn't offer her opinion. 'The Beatles were obviously going through a bad time,' Linda observed. 'Everybody was obviously growing up and growing away a bit. The Beatles was Paul's job; he and John were a creative team, but John was with Yoko. Paul never had any time alone with John. It was John and Yoko and the other Beatles.' After a few weeks living together at Cavendish Avenue, things were still going well between Paul and Linda, so the obvious next move was to go to New York and fetch Heather.
PAUL: I remember ringing Heather from the bedroom in Cavendish Avenue. Because of the time difference we were in bed and it was early evening there, and Linda talked to her. Heather had no idea it was Paul in the Beatles or anything, it was just 'this guy who I really like and who I've been with. Would you like to say hello to him?' So I got on the phone thinking, Oh, my God, if she hates me, this could be very very difficult, so I was slightly overfriendly probably. I said, 'Will you marry me?' She said, 'I can't, you're too old!' like kids do, but that broke the ice and I said, 'Oh yes, of course. I forgot that. Well, maybe I should marry your mummy. That'd be good.' It was this kind of conversation and we seemed to get on quite well and she was nice and I handed her back to Linda.
They new to New York in the middle of October, as soon as the white Album was complete, and stayed for about ten days at Linda's apartment. New York in 1968 was Rock 'n' Roll City. Most of the record companies were still headquartered there; the drift to the West Coast began a little later. The club scene was a major source of new talent. The Fillmore East showcased all the best West Coast groups as well as the visiting British groups like the Who and Cream and blues singers like B. B. King and Muddy Waters, whose careers had been boosted by the so-called blues revival. Though Linda had just about overdosed on the rock 'n' roll business, it still played a big part in the energy and excitement of New York towards the end of the sixties.
Paul had only been to New York as a Beatle, riding in a limousine trapped in a luxury hotel suite; he had never had time to explore the city. Now he walked the streets from Harlem to Battery Park, took the subway and buses and got to know neighbourhood bars. They went to movies and clubs, explored Chinatown and Lime Italy. For a couple of weeks he lived Linda's life in New York.
PAUL: I had a full beard at that time so I wasn't very recognisable as Beatle Paul, inverted commas, 'I am a Beatle!' Linda would take me to thrift shops, and there was a big army and navy store that we went to on 125th Street where I picked up an old uniform with a couple of stripes so I looked a bit like a Vietnam vet. I looked like the guy who would mug you rather than the guy you'd want to mug, so I was really quite safe on the streets with that disguise. Nobody was going to see me as me and nobody really knew Linda. She wore very casual jeans and a beige jacket, like a photographer, so it wasn't a couple of very rich people walking round New York, it was more the kind of people you'd want to avoid, you'd let them go on the pavement. So it was good, we were very free consequently.
LINDA: On the subway he did get noticed and a few people started following us a bit, but then we'd just get on a train and lose them. Usually if anyone recognised Paul on the subway it was all 'Hey, man, groovy, peace' - they loved him. Black guys too, because we used to go up to Harlem a lot. I remember walking around Harlem and some guy asking Paul about 'Revolution', 'Did you guys really mean that song, how did you mean that? Were you being aggressive, were you not being aggressive?' I did not change my lifestyle one bit and Paul dressed down to my way of life. He was definitely funking out a bit. I remember he got this great old herringbone coat at a thrift shop on 3rd Avenue for $10. It was brilliant.
PAUL: We had a lot of fun together, getting together the first time. We were exploring each other and our surroundings and there was a lot of fun attached to that, just the nature of how we are our favourite thing really is to just to hang, to have fun. And Linda's very big on just following the moment. We used to spend a lot of time just wandering around, going into bars, literally just exploring New York. New York has this great literary ambience. You could imagine Jack Kerouac or Norman Jailer or Dylan Thomas or William Burroughs hanging out in these little places rather than at the Carlyle. We never went to the Carlyle, it would more likely be Flanagan's Bar.
They did all the tourist things that Paul could never do as a Beatle. They went on the Staten Island Ferry and walked around Greenwich Village. If they saw an interesting church they would look inside. Any art gallery or museum they happened to pass they went in.
Linda did not cook much in those days except to feed Heather, so they ate out a lot, not at fashionable restaurants but home cooking in Little Italy, Chinatown or the German restaurants in Yorkville.
PAUL: There was a lovely little German restaurant nearby on 86th Street called the Forester's Arms where there were alcoves and it was very private. You could have a meal and be totally on your own. There was a bar just out of eyesight and you could hear all the tinkling and the fat old German lady would come and serve you. The food was very good, and we would just sit and chat, just with each other most of the time.
It was a very warm period for me in New York. I got to see a lot of art, got to hang out a lot, be myself a lot rather than having to do anything for anyone or be anywhere for someone. It was a very free period, just wake up in the morning, go for a cup of coffee, a walk through Central Park, look at the listings, see if anyone was playing jazz or if a good band was in the clubs.
They saw Joe Pass at the Guitar, but most of the time they went to Brad Pierce's club Ondine near the 59th Street Bridge, which featured live music and had the advantage of being within walking distance. There was a corny nautical motif and the club was nothing much to look at, but by the time the last set began at 2.15 a.m. the booths were crowded with everyone from Warren Beatty to Andy Warhol, Edie Sedgwick and the Factory crowd. It was the hippest club in Manhattan at the time. 'I've always loved New York from the
time I first went there,' Paul said, 'but this really gave me a deep love of it. I'm quite at home in New York, and I know it very well by now.'
Linda's apartment was small. The living room doubled as a bedroom when the sofa-bed was extended, and there was a partition to give Heather a room of her own. The kitchen was tiny, like a hotel kitchenette. Linda's prints were not filed away but were stacked everywhere in untidy piles where people had looked through them. The apartment was on the tenth floor with a view out over the corner of 83rd Street. Paul: 'There was a liquor store opposite. Every morning we used to see the guy opening up, pulling back the criss-cross iron shutters. Heather used to spend a lot of time looking out the window at the street life.'
Paul has always loved children. He grew up surrounded by an extended Liverpool family of cousins, nieces and nephews so there was little danger of his not hitting it off with five-year-old Heather.
PAUL: When we did meet we got on quite well. She had a little tiger costume she used to crawl around in all the time, she was animal mad. I think in New York, your fantasy starts to take over, you've no space. So she was that tiger. Sometimes Linda would leave me with her when she had to go off and do something. I cooked her something one time and it was horrible! She still remembers it. A dreadful omelette apparently with everything in it. She was not impressed with my omelette. But we got on very well and I was able to sit on my own in the apartment playing guitar and she would just wander around being a tiger till Linda got back. We didn't have any major traumas, and she hadn't thrown a wobbler or anything, so that gave us the feeling that it might work.
Over the years Heather had had a very distinguished line-up of baby-sitters, including Al Keeper, Stephen Stills and Mike Bloomfield, but Paul was the most celebrated.
Though they could walk the streets with little trouble, the people in Linda's building soon noticed that a Beatle was living there. Linda: 'Heather used to go down in the lift to wait to go to school and there was an older woman and her husband in the building who used to stop and give her sweets. Her job was to decide whether people could adopt children or not but she'd never had kids. She was a weirdo, she was very Southern, and she didn't like the fact that Paul was living there. She used to give me a real tough time.'
They would shop at the A&P across the street, buy organic apple juice from the local health-food store, and, at Mimi's Pizza, Paul discovered the New York tradition of a slice to go. He looked up a few friends such as Bob Dylan, who was living in Greenwich Village, and Linda took a roll of pictures of Dylan and Sara with baby Jessie sitting on her lap, but mostly the two of them just hung out together. Paul had always been concerned that being a Beatle had cut him off from normal life and ordinary people, but in New York he was able to walk around and go to clubs with the minimum amount of interference.
Of all the Beatles he was the only one who would still try to take buses or walk to Apple. He missed ordinary life. The two weeks in New York with Linda and Heather were a wonderful break from the pressures of London and all the problems of the group. Suddenly he had a normal life and a ready-made family.
PAUL: I remember being on the subway once and Linda said, 'Look, I've got to go to the dentist. You just take Heather up to the apartment, she knows the way from the subway.' So I was led up from the 83rd Street exit from the subway, and then Heather walked me along past a lime shoe shop where we got her shoes, and then past the doorman, up in the lift. We had fun. I remember I was singing, 'Out of college, money spent, see no future, pay no rent, but oh, that lovely feeling, nowhere to go!' This was how it was then, it still is our favourite thing.
Linda was often doing something, she had her own life to lead, and I had much more time on my hands. She would have to take Heather to school, pick Heather up from school, cook the meal, certain things as a mother she had to do. And her womanliness impressed me, I'd never actually known anyone who was quite so much a woman. Linda was a very good mother. It was one of the things that impressed me about her was that she had the woman thing down, she seriously looked after her daughter. It seemed very organised to me, in a slightly dishevelled way. She was very kind-hearted too, so that finished it all off. And there was this slight rebelliousness. And I didn't have to hide the fact I was smoking pot, I didn't have to pretend. Because I couldn't be open with a lot of people I met. I could be pretty open. I've been pretty open with most of my relation-ships, but with her I could be completely open. Our relationship has always been like that, painfully open sometimes. Sometimes you don't want the truth, but it's always a good idea.
One day they were walking down Mott Street in Chinatown when they saw a Buddhist temple with a sign which read, 'Buddhist weddings'. Paul grabbed Linda's arm and said, 'C'mon, let's go and get married.' Linda: 'I really didn't want to get married again. I was so newly not married again so I went, "No, no, no!' And we kept walking and it was like it was never said.' But the idea had been implanted. It was becoming obvious to Paul that here was a woman who could give him the love, the support and the family he wanted; an island of calm in the madness of the disintegrating Beatles.
PAUL: I remember saying to her, 'Can we go to the Apollo? Is that okay yet?' Because I'd always been in New York with the Beatles, and we'd been warned off Harlem. 'You can't go up there, man, it's just too tough for white people.' So she said, 'Sure, yes.' She'd be taking photos as well, so this wasn't just wasted time; wherever she went at that time she would just sling her camera, so she would always be taking pictures. So we took the train up to 125th Street. It was my first introduction to Harlem. I was still looking like a Vietnam vet, and we walked along 125th Street all the way over to the Apollo. Quite a way over. I just stood looking - 'Wow, this is the Apollo! Wow!' - just thinking about it. It was quite an empty street, it wasn't crowded, it must have been a weekday, midday, so most people were at work.
We went to the Apollo a number of times. The black guy at the box office said, 'Are you sure you want to go in?' I said, 'Yeah, it's okay.' He gave us a little warning. I think we were the only two lime whiteys there.
They went to Harlem many times on this and subsequent trips to New York. On one visit they had their photograph taken at a little photo booth located right next door to the Apollo. Paul: 'The guy had no idea it was me, even though by this time I was clean-shaven. The guy just took the picture: "Watch the birdy. Come on, smile a little." It's a real goofy photo against a backdrop of a little house. Very nice, slightly distorted, the lens maybe had to get twenty people in sometimes so there's a slight fisheye quality. We did things like that.'
The cashier gave them a timely warning. This was a period of high racial tension: there had been riots in nearby Newark and the Black Panthers had a strong Harlem chapter. Paul and Linda strolled right by the Panther headquarters on 125th Street past all the guys in berets hanging out on the street corner.
PAUL: The nearest I came to grief was waiting for Linda one day in 1970. She was going to take the train up and we were going to meet at the station. I was killing time before meeting her, just exploring Harlem, because the way I was dressing did afford me some kind of privacy, some invisibility. I didn't stick out, I just
looked like a poor white guy.
I was watching a playground full of little kids through the railings. They were skipping rope and playing all their games and whereas we would have done 'Salt, vinegar, mustard, pepper ...', theirs were all like rhythm and blues: they sounded y just like lyrics to me! I was beguiled. I was watching it for just a, few minutes, really loving it, but this black guy just happened to be walking past and he said, 'You a teacher?' I said, 'No.' He said, 'What're you watching those children for?' I said, 'I'm from England, this is fascinating for me.' He said, 'If you ain't off this block in a quarter-hour I'm going to put you off.'
So now I'm walking alongside him like Ratso out of Midnight Cowboy, trying to keep up with him, and he was walking stronger and I was walking, trying to keep his attention, saying, 'Look, this is what gives you guys a bad name.' I said, 'I'm a tourist, I've come here, I love this whole place, I love the Apollo, I love these kids. I'm not a pervert, don't you try making me out as a pervert, don't go jumping to conclusions, I'm going to try and -' He said, 'Just get off the block, man, just get off the block.' And he peeled off.
He did a left, which left me on a corner with some little black kids who were playing. And I said, 'Did you see that? Did you see that? This guy's warned me off the block.' I said, 'That's really not good enough!' And I went into a record shop and this guy calmed me down, a black guy there, he says, 'Hey, man, we're not all like that. You know, it's okay. C'mon now. Hey, ain't you the guy that did "Let It Be"?' So he cooled me out, and then when Linda came I said, 'Look, let's not stay today. Let's go somewhere else.' Looking back on it it was quite a hairy thing to do but we were just in love and she wanted to show me Harlem.
Linda showed Paul her New York: the corner bars and diners, pizza joints and luncheonettes. Even now, if he is staying in a hotel, he will always take everyone out for a proper New York breakfast of waffles, pancakes, coffee or freshly squeezed orange juice. He learned to take Checker cabs - 'they're just groovier' - instead of the usual beaten-up Fords. She showed him where Andy Warhol's Factory was; she had visited a few times but found the crowd too drug-oriented for her liking. They visited Max's Kansas City and the Fillmore East, where she had spent so much time that she was virtually regarded as the house photographer. The Fillmore was a run-down theatre on 2nd Avenue in the Lower East Side. The owner Bill Graham's attitude was best summed up by the huge banner hanging outside which spelled 'Fillmore Esat'.
PAUL: I loved that. Nobody even checks to see whether it's spelled right or not. I can imagine Bill Graham probably saw it too late and said, 'Fuck it. The kids'll never notice.'
We would dip into all the facilities of New York. One night we went to Lincoln Center for a performance of La Boheme and didn't reckon it, just did not reckon it. The opening was all right. I just got bored. I thought, Bloody hell! Are we kidding ourselves? I said, 'Are you loving this?' She said, 'No, are you?' And because we were doing what we wanted, we walked out halfway through. It was quite difficult to do! I said, 'Shall we go then?' 'Oh, my God!' I said, 'Just walk out. We bought tickets, we can walk out. Just keep your head down and try not to let the people on stage see.' That was my main worry. There were a lot of students outside hoping for tickets, so we gave our stubs to a couple of students and they were able to get our seats. We also went to the famous Peter Brook Midsummer Night's Dream, all very white with people coming down little ropes. We walked out of that too. It just didn't grab us by the balls. It's hard to sit through a play that you're hating and your bum's got sore.
We should have stayed there longer because it was great living how I lived in New York,' Linda said. 'We came back to London and I lived Paul's life. I'm not half as restrained in New York as I am in England.'
The first two weeks in New York were a turning point in the relationship. It was then that they made the decision to be together and raise a family.
PAUL: So we wandered round New York, getting tighter and tighter. We've always been very close and that was the beginning of it all. It was a great change in my life. I've always had quite serious relationships, I didn't have that many women. I had girlfriends and one-night stands a lot, the swinging sixties, sexual revolution. But this was the start of this new kind of relationship for me. I found it very liberating. I found it very good for me as a person. There was a newspaper headline, 'Linda and Paul, 9000 Nights of Love', because apart from when I was busted in Tokyo, we have pretty much spent every night together. Personally I never saw any reason to be somewhere that she wasn't.
After two weeks of exploring New York, Paul, Linda and Heather took a yellow cab to Kennedy Airport, bound for London. Paul had his guitar with him; in the early days in Liverpool he took his guitar with him everywhere and now that Beatlemania had subsided, he resumed the habit. (Later, when he was making Ram, he substituted a ukulele tuned like a guitar which was more convenient to carry around.) Paul was working on the song 'She Came in through the Bathroom Window' at the time, but still needed a final verse. He looked at the police identification panel mounted on the dashboard of the cab. There was a mug shot of the driver and his name; stencilled in large black letters: 'Eugene Quits'; beneath that was written 'New York Police Dept'. Paul: 'So I got "So I quit the police department", which are part of the lyrics to that. This was the great thing about the randomness of it all. If I hadn't been in this guy's cab, or if it had been someone else driving, the song would have been different. Also I had a guitar there so I could solidify it into something straight away.'
Paul, Linda and Heather arrived in London on 31 October 1968, and five days later drove to Scotland for a long stay at High Park Farm, the remote retreat Paul had bought some years before to escape Beatlemania. The farmhouse was virtually derelict: three rooms desperate for a lick of paint and some falling-down wooden outbuildings riddled with rat-holes. Paul: 'Linda said, "We could do this place up!" And I'd never thought of that, I thought it just stayed how you bought it. I just wasn't enterprising enough to actually think, We could clean this place up! Linda really turned me on to it. I quite liked it before, I liked its isolation and I liked the privacy and the end-of-the-world remoteness compared to a city.'
Some years before, Paul had had bought some second-hand furniture from Campbeltown, including an electric stove. He had made a couch by nailing together some wooden potato boxes and folding an old mattress over the top. The settee was named Sharp's Express after the variety of potato the boxes once contained. Now he installed concrete floors, pouring the concrete himself, and began to fix the place up properly.
The farm, as its name suggested, was high on a slope, near a small loch with a cairn beyond. It looked out from its hill to the distant white sand dunes of Machrihanish Bay, two or three miles to the west. Fourteen miles to the south was the rocky headland of the Mull of Kintyre, which Paul later popularised in the biggest-selling pop single in British history.
'Scotland was like nothing I'd ever lived in,' Linda said. 'It was the most beautiful land you have ever seen, it was way at the end of nowhere. To me it was the first feeling I'd ever had of civilisation dropped away. I felt like it was in another era. It was so beautiful up there, clean, so different from all the hotels and limousines and the music business, so it was quite a relief, but it was very derelict.'
Paul's relationship with Linda was finally discovered by the newspapers, who immediately invented one of the most enduring myths about Linda of all: that she was in some way related to the Eastman Kodak family. This was presumably concocted by Fleet Street tabloids connecting her surname with the fact that she was a photographer. Paul: 'We were once in a Los Angeles disco and this bloke crept up, kneeling in front of us, and he said, "Are you Eastman Kodak?" She said no and he said, "I'm glad you said that, because I am."' No matter how many times Linda denied it, it became part of McCartney mythology that he had married an heiress.
For eighteen months throughout 1967-68, the British journalist Hunter Davies had been working closely with the group on an authorised biography. Paul got on very well with him and gave him all the help he could. When he finished the book, Davies rented a villa in Praia da Luz in the Algarve and took his family off for a winter holiday. He sent Paul a postcard, casually inviting him to come and stay. Late at night on II December he was woken up by shouts and pebbles on his window and was surprised to find Paul, Linda and Heather standing there together with a puzzled cab driver waiting to be paid. That evening Paul had decided on the spur of the moment to take up Hunter's invitation. As there were no more planes that day, Neil Aspinall hired a private executive jet to fly to tiny Faro airport. Paul arrived with no Portugese escudos on him so Hunter had to pay the cab driver. The Davies family's tranquillity was shattered as they found themselves unexpectedly engulfed in the media circus that followed the Beatles everywhere they went. So many journalists arrived the next day from Lisbon, alerted by the airport, that Paul had to give a press conference on the beach, but after that their request for privacy was more or less respected except for the mound of gifts and invitations which piled up at the villa, sent by fans and local traders - another permanent feature of Paul's life as a Beatle.
It was in Portugal that Paul proposed marriage to Linda, around the time Linda first discovered she was pregnant with Mary.
PAUL: As our relationship solidified and we really started to feel very confident with each other, it was a question of 'Well, shall I get off the pill then?' and we talked about that, and I said, 'Yeah!' I don't know why. It wasn't like planning a family, it was more 'If you like. We could see what happened. If anything happened. That would be all right.' Then Mary was on the way, it was definitely not planned. And we decided, round about that point, to get married.
I asked Lee for her hand in marriage: 'I'd like to marry your daughter.' He gave me a bit of a hard time, he tried to test me out: 'I hear Britain's sinking' and stuff. I said, 'I hear America's not doing too well either,' so there was a bit of that. He was rather strict. But I had a different attitude, being a self-made man I didn't have to kowtow to him. So if he would say something or come on a bit strong at dinner, I'd be able to say, 'I don't agree with that at all.' I remember once, after we were married, he told Linda off at dinner, and I said, 'I'd prefer you didn't do that.' And he looked at me like, 'Who are you?' I said, 'I'm her husband and I'd really prefer it if you didn't do that. I don't think she needs that.' It was just like throwing a grenade into the middle of me table! I just took her hand and said, 'Right. Good night, everyone. Pleasant evening. Thank you very much,' and we left. We got outside and she giggled and said, 'I don't believe you just did that!' I said, 'I'm under no obligation to this man at all. You are, it's your dad. But I have no links with him except through marrying you. And I'm self-made and so is he. He's just a guy to me.' I think eventually he respected me for that. We had one or two sticky moments but I liked him a lot.
LINDA: 'So instead of getting an agent I met Paul instead and got married. Or I was going through a transition then and didn't know quite what I was doing and he obviously didn't know quite what he was doing so we ended up marrying instead.'
Heather was enrolled in Robinsfield, a small private school in St John's Wood, very close to Cavendish Avenue. They could walk her to school in the morning provided there were not too many fans camped outside the front gate, more than three or four meant they had to drive.
PAUL: It was a pleasant little school. She didn't have an easy time settling in because she was American and the kids made fun of her. She had a very poignant little story. I said to her, 'Don't try and make friends with everyone, just sit around in a corner, reading a book, and they'll eventually come up to you.' She said, 'They never did. Dad.' She did that, and it didn't work. Gulp! I don't mink she made too many friends there. She wasn't desperate or anything, she was just a little sad because she's an American kid and she's a very friendly person.
Heather was still very young so Paul and Linda felt her studies would not be disrupted too much by taking her on a winter holiday. Peter Brown had a friend with a house in Ramatuelle, a fortified medieval village in the south of France not far from the famous Pampelonne beach where Brigitte Bardot made And God Created Woman. They explored the tiny village with its winding lanes and two or three shops and ventured into nearby swinging St Tropez.
Paul and Linda got married at Marylebone Registry Office on 12 March 1969 amid the usual press hysteria even though it was supposed to be a secret. Paul had been best man at his brother Michael's wedding, and Michael was to be Paul's best man. Unfortunately his train broke down on the way from Birmingham and he arrived an hour late. Though he assumed it was all over, he nonetheless asked the chauffeur of the Rolls-Royce that had been sent to meet him to go to the registry office anyway. TV crews and huge crowds of weeping fans indicated that Paul and Linda were still waiting for him. None of the other Beatles was there, though George and Patti Harrison attended the wedding lunch at the Ritz afterwards, arriving very late after being delayed by Sergeant Pilcher of the Drug Squad, who tried to ruin the day by raiding George's Esher residence.
A week later Paul, Linda and Heather flew to New York to spend three weeks with Paul's new in-laws. Paul's life had entered a new phase.
PAUL: We were crazy. We had a big argument the night before we got married and it was nearly called off. We were very up and down, quite funky compared to the eventual image of 'Twenty-five years of married bliss! Aren't they lucky for people in showbiz?' But we are. You get this picture of us swanning along in a little rowboat managing to avoid the white water, but we were right in the middle of that white water, man, so it's even more miraculous that we made it. But we did.
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