'The 1960s were the age of erotic labour. . . It was a time when your erotic energies would be central to your work; wherever your erotic instincts led you, that's where you would try to put your work.'
It was the best of times, it was the best of times.
It was some West Coast musician - several take credit for the thought, although it is probably attributable to Jack Cassady of Jefferson Airplane - who said that if you can remember the 1960s, then you weren't there. That is, we were so high all the time that there's a blackout riding on the back of that decade in our minds. Add to that possibility the reality that those of us who were young thirty-five years ago are now beginning to experience certain annoying lapses of memory, whether or not drugs were a part of our lives back then.
Or, the memories are there, but they don't quite agree with others' memories of the same events - this is the Rashomon phenomenon: there is no history, there is no memory, there is no truth. One can certainly begin to feel that way after soliciting recollections of the places and the times from perfectly intelligent, rational witnesses, who may have done a few drugs now and then but are sure of what they know; or from perfectly intelligent, rational witnesses who confess to getting things mixed up occasionally.
'Who was there? I think you were there. You weren't? You couldn't possibly have been in New York in June 1968? I could swear you were there. I remember you standing by the window of our hotel room, I remember it perfectly, I remember what you were wearing and who you were talking to. No? Well, maybe you weren't there, but I remember who else was there ..."
Still, I trust the people I talked to for this book. They were smart then, and if they're still around, they're even smarter. They may have problems with some recollections, but the picture is there, others can fill in some of the missing pieces, and the difference between two accounts of the same event is usually just one of emphasis and perception. One remembers what makes one feel good and what makes one look good, it is to be hoped, for the opposite can be very painful.
There are some things we'll never know - the witnesses are gone, and many things were never that important anyhow. But if we don't remember exactly what we were doing all the time, we remember who we were, who our friends were and why they were our friends. Besides, we taped each other's phone calls all the time, it was the thing to do, so the past is not lost, just elusive.
What is most pertinent to this story, when it comes to the telling of the past, is that Linda was a most extraordinary person, all her early life indeed, but especially after she burst into the world of international rock and roll celebrity in 1966. People usually remember Linda well, their encounters with her, their perception of her in the many roles she played, their one-to-one relationships with her (if they had any), and they also usually remember liking her and what she did and said and who she was.
Because she was fairly famous very quickly, and enormously famous within a few years and for the rest of her life. People retain memories of their moments with very famous people; it's one of the last things you ever forget. And when the person is gone, and there will be no more new memories, the old ones are dusted off, packaged well and stored away. The unfortunate and embarrassing opposite is when someone famous whom you once knew no longer remembers you - though you will never forget them, and never stop boasting of your acquaintance with celebrities. That's a fact of the pecking order of fame; you can't let it get you down.
I worked for Cream when they first came to perform in America in early 1967; Brian Epstein was a friend of mine and, in partnership with Robert Stigwood, he managed them, so they hired me as their press agent for their three weeks in New York. I couldn't get them any press, I couldn't get them arrested. Eric Clapton may have been God in London, but he was no divinity here, except to one beautiful slim blonde whose name I forget. After Brian introduced the group at a (breakfast) press conference for the band at Max's Kansas City restaurant, guaranteeing a full house of journalists, there was nothing more to be done, no further interest. So Ginger Baker and I sort of bonded, as unlikely a pair of buddies as there ever has been, but we seemed so odd to each other -and I was after all being paid to keep an eye on the band - that we were soon comfortable just hanging out, watching television, having dinner together at Max's and late-night drinks at the bar of his hotel. Ginger Baker and I were Really Friends; as weird as it sounds, we were. Plus I was with the whole group at the theatre where they were performing, always in their dressing room, and at their recording sessions with Felix Pappalardi at the Atlantic studios on West 60th Street, from which came 'Strange Brew', originally titled 'Brain Soup'. And I never forgot what it was like hanging out with Ginger, who could?
Well, twenty years later he was back in town, some party at the Hard Rock in his honour, and I really looked forward to a hug and a giggle and remembering those nights when I showed him around New York, where he'd never been before, when Eric and Jack had gone off somewhere and it was just me and Ginger. And guess what, he didn't remember me at all. I wasn't really surprised. Hey, what a life he's had, the people he's met along the way, the travelling he's done. I'm sure there was a 'me' in every city Cream went to, and they were a supergroup and I was me; why should he remember? If I were to forget him, I'd have handed in my credentials as a 'witness to history' a long time ago. There are people who remember me whom I don't remember: 'You heard our band in Boston and you wrote us a nice letter with good advice, and you said you really liked our music . . .', and I have no idea who this person is, and I say, 'Oh yeah, well, it's good to see you again.' Ginger Baker was past pretending such things. (I told this anecdote to Paul, who of course knew the awkward phenomenon perhaps as well as anyone on the planet: 'Oh, they come over and say, "I tuned your bass in France",' he said. '"Don't you remember? We were real mates, we used to sit around, you told me about your mother and father . . ."')
As I said, it's the Fame Pecking Order. So Linda Eastman McCartney is well remembered by anyone whose life she touched. And the 60s are well remembered too, albeit through a purple haze.
From mid-1966 until late 1968, when she moved in with Paul for good, Linda was getting around. I once read an interview with Goldie Hawn, who is of course one half of a great showbusiness couple, where she said, 'Before I settled down with Kurt, I was doing some canoodling around. Why not? But then we settled down.'
Canoodling, I like that word. It means, to me, checking things out, experimenting with relationships, seeing where they lead. And I think when you're canoodling, it's a big part of your life and a lot of energy goes into it, because after all, in modern terms among modern people, it is the search for a mate. How great when the search ends well - it must mean that the searching was conducted well, because no great romance is ever luck.
'The 1960s,' says Richard Goldstein, executive editor of the Village Voice and probably the first journalist ever to have a regular column on rock in any publication, 'were the age of erotic labour, to use a phrase out of Marcuse. It was a time when your erotic energies would be central to your work; wherever your erotic instincts led you, that's where you would try to put your work. And that's what you would try to do -integrate your sex life with your work, if you could.'
Well, if your work was photographing rock stars, if you were a beautiful girl and if you dated some of them from time to time, this Marcusian effort got you labelled a 'groupie', and let's face it, Linda got called a groupie and we have to deal with that. What is/was a groupie, and what did it mean to be one?
It is not spilling any beans to record that Linda Eastman was romantically linked with (she preferred to say 'dated') some of the most successful, handsome and talented young men in the world. Whatever you might have heard, there were probably no more than twenty such 'linkages' in the two and half years before she settled down into unblemished monogamy with Paul, the number of whose dalliances, by his own admission, is much, much higher.
The Beatles were higher in other ways too, according to photographer Bob Gruen, who became a close friend of John and Yoko Ono Lennon after they moved to New York. (Gruen took the famous picture of John, arms crossed in a New York City T-shirt, with the skyline in the background.) As Gruen recently said,
The Beatles had them lined up. Twenty-year-olds, thirty-year-olds, sixteen-year-olds, you name it. It was funny learning about it later from John, but the Beatles had access to more women than anybody knew. When their public persona was 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand', and they were clean-cut, clean hair, nice guys, they would go out to clubs and people would just put things in their pockets. 'Take this joint, take this pill, take this tinfoil' - all kinds of things. The four would go back to the hotel, they had a mortar and pestle, and they'd open up the capsules, put the pills in, open up the tinfoils, pour it in, grind the thing and put a spoonful in their coffee the next morning. And that's how they would go out and be the Beatles for another day. This was a time when everyone was on acid, but this was way beyond that. And the girls everywhere - they were fucking their brains out.
Well, our little behind-the-scenes crowd, the writers, the publicists, the photographers, me, Linda - we were virgins compared to the bands, and the other bands were virgins compared to the Beatles, and none of us were virgins.
I don't think anyone was keeping tabs on Linda, except perhaps the late Lillian Roxon, the great Australian journalist who became her confidante and closest friend. But twenty or so guys is about right, the rest of Linda's friends have figured out. Linda herself sometimes, in moments of exercising her newly found bravado, added people to the list who didn't belong there. The thing is, they weren't just guys, they were stars. There was no one in her life whom anyone we knew would ever have been embarrassed to have been seen with. One can't say that about oneself, and I wonder who can.
She indeed knew what was being said about her far and wide, she always did. Groupie? 'I don't care what I'm called, I really don't,' she told me. 'The way I define the word, I wasn't a groupie. There were girls around who were classic groupies; they were very glamorous and often pretty fabulous, I thought. But I did hang out with groups. If that makes me a groupie, so be it. If people have to pin a single word of description on me, there are certainly others I'd prefer, but still, when you know who you really are, how can you let that get to you?'
She was more succinct with the beautiful model Bebe Buell, a girl who went out with rock stars and was sought after by them. She once said to Linda, 'Oh, people are calling me a groupie, and I'm not one of those girls who hangs around hotel hallways and I don't want to be called that.'
Linda answered, 'They call me that too. I know who I am. I don't give a shit.'
Nat Weiss, Brian Epstein's American partner, said of Linda,
She certainly stood out way above all the other girls who were around the scene. Way above. She was very bright, she was a good mother, I never saw her drunk, I never had any question about the fact that she was a solid person. She had no attitude, she was always very friendly and very intelligent. She was ten cuts above any of the girls who went out with musicians. God knows, I saw thousands of them in that whole scene, and she certainly stood out, she was like no one else. And I have no doubt that from the moment she met Paul, she was in love with him, and compared to any other guy she knew, Paul stood out more and more. She was obsessed with him. And from what he said to me when they first met and became acquainted, he was convinced - but I don't know if he admitted this to himself right away, he wanted to make sure - that she was the one.
'Everybody got called a groupie,' Richard Goldstein remembers.
I guess you were a wife, or an 'old lady', or a groupie. Linda was certainly not the kind of person I would see hanging around the Who, for instance; those blank, shrieking girls who offered up lots of decadent sex with musicians, any musicians. They were truly tramps and sluts, or whatever words people use to describe those girls. But there were also very classy groupies, there were some women rock critics who were groupies, and Linda was probably the classiest of all them. And they all got called groupies; what does that mean? Linda's attitude towards men was supportive and sophisticated. She exuded a feeling of wealth and status and sophistication. Also, she had this aura of intense empathy .. . intense empathy. I still remember that quality about her.
There's a word in science fiction that people use today called 'Empath'. I would say that describes her pretty well. These are people who connect with other people in an intense way, an unusual way, and therefore are very compelling. It's a charisma; you make the other person feel that somebody with a lot of magnetism and strength is interested in you. And for rock stars, that was very unusual and something they yearned for, because it's a very nomadic life, one of tremendous tension and dislocation and craziness.
So somebody like Linda had the quality of appearing like an anchor in many ways, yet worldly, and not aggressive or brassy. She was very warm, she didn't have that kind of brittle quality that a lot of people on the scene had in those days. It was a time of intense brittleness. If you think of the Warhol crowd, you can get a sense of how brittle people aspired to be in those days, and she was not like that at all, not at all. Extremely receptive, very friendly. She worked with me a lot when I went to do interviews, and she really didn't have any reason to do that, because she was already more well known than I was. It was part of her niceness.
From my interview with Linda and Paul, 1992:
DF: Linda, you never did like the Warhol crowd, did you?
LM: That was your scene much more than mine. I never hung out with those people at Max's Kansas City. The drugs, the amphetamines made me uncomfortable. Mainly, I had a daughter, I had to be home at night, I had to be careful.
DF: You were the straightest girl in rock and roll.
PM: Straight, but funky!
Straight she may have been, but Linda's confidence in her ability to attract men grew astronomically after just a few months of photographing groups and celebrities; her pictures were attracting the attention of magazine editors all over town.
I once had an assignment to interview Warren Beatty at his hotel suite, and I told Linda to come along and get the shots. As he and I talked, she moved around the room taking pictures of him, noiseless as a panther in the night. After about half an hour, she caught my eye and made a 'Cut! Finished!' gesture, drawing her index finger across her throat, very broadcast industry, very cool. I said, 'Oh, excuse me Warren, my photographer is done, but I wonder if I can have a few more minutes with you?'
'Oh, sure,' he replied. 'I'll see her to the door, I'll be right back.'
He was right back. 'Your photographer is so professional,' he gushed. 'I hardly knew she was here.'
'Yeah, Linda is great,' I agreed. 'And the pictures will be fabulous.'
The next day, I called her to ask how she thought it had gone. 'Oh, I've got the contacts back already and I love them,' she answered. 'And Warren is terrific. We had the greatest dinner, and we talked for hours.'
'You what?' I exclaimed, naively, since I should have been able to put two and two together, or one and one together as it were, by that time.
'Well, he asked me to dinner when he walked me to the door. He's so nice, don't you think?'
'Very smart, and a perfect gentleman,' I told her, 'and he liked you too.'
'I know,' said Linda.
From Linda's Linda McCartney - Sixties: 'I used to go to a club a lot called Ondine's, which was a very small club on the Upper East Side of New York . . . the Doors [were] there for two weeks, and I had my camera and I started taking the pictures that are in my book of Jim Morrison singing . . . [it] was all just me about a foot away from him, before he had released "Light My Fire," and before they were discovered. The Doors, because we were friends, we'd go out to dinner. I'd tell them about a restaurant, or we'd walk around town and my apartment became a bit of a hang-out. It was in a residential area and I'll tell you, my neighbors would look at me like "What is this?! And she has a daughter and she's walking around with all those long-haired guys, my goodness."'
The neighbours, I certainly think, had no cause to be concerned about the quality of Linda's mothering. When any of her children were young (say, the years between Heather's birth at the end of 1962 until James was in his mid-teens in the early 1990s), being a mother was her very first priority, as anyone and everyone who knew the family will testify to.
Still, in 1966 Linda did, every once in a while, tend to her own needs, and it is not to be expected that the accounts of these episodes would turn up in a promotion for her book of photographs. For example, Jim Morrison, the object of every girl's desire during the short time he was in the public eye as a great beauty (1966-68) and before he became a pudgy drunk, was a bit more than just a friend.
'She really wanted to meet Jim,' recalls Elektra's senior vice-president at the time, Steve Harris, who was very close to the group. 'They were playing at Ondine's late in 1966, just before the release of their first album, and he was the hottest thing in town. The girls who "knew" were dropping dead at his feet.'
Linda called Steve and arranged to meet him at the club, a disco on the Upper East Side, before the show. They smoked some hash under the 59th Street Bridge, the band played, Linda took her pictures and Steve took Linda into the dressing room to meet the band. 'Jim paid her no attention that night,' says Harris. 'But we went back the next night, and after the show I saw Linda and Jim walking out of the club together. She turned to wave and smile at me, and I said to Jim, "Don't forget there's an interview at the office tomorrow." He grunted an OK, and never turned up for the interview.
'He called me the next afternoon, and all he said was, "Oh, man which took about half a minute to come out. I lectured him about missing interviews, and he said nothing more. I mean, he'd said nothing to begin with except that "Oh man."'
Morrison was more alert that night at Ondine's, and described a scene at Linda's apartment remembered with not a little amusement. There was a woman there who left as soon as Linda got home, obviously a babysitter, and Linda and Jim were getting snuggly on her living room roll-away when the door to the bedroom opened.
'Suddenly there was this little kid standing there,' Morrison told Harris. 'So the chick [he meant Linda - he was such a gentleman] looks at her and says, "You OK?" The kid says nothing, just sort of nods her head "Yeah", and the chick says, "Mommy is busy dear, go back to bed, I'll come and see you in a little bit." I dig that chick. She's smart. She was taking pictures during the show. She says she's a photographer.'
I myself went to work for Elektra Records several months later as the director of the newly invented Publicity Department; I was therefore the press agent for the Doors. Morrison and I came to loathe each other intensely over the next few years, which story is well documented elsewhere. But I must say, three of my favourite women, who were also three of the most extraordinary people I've ever known - Linda, Gloria Stavers and Nico - were all convinced that he was, at the very least, a wonderful guy. Nevertheless, Gloria and Nico had horror stories about him, although Linda never did, probably because he was in and out of her life fairly quickly, fortunately for her.
In all of Linda's photographs of people and/or animals, i.e. sentient beings, there are several things happening that make the images so good. The technical aspects - like lighting and composition - are just there, intuitively conquered from the start. When Linda and I were putting together the book Linda's Pictures in the mid-70s, I'd see, much more often than not, contact sheets without a single picture badly lit or out of focus. They weren't all wonderful, or we'd have had nervous breakdowns choosing between them, but they were all proficient, and there were usually several that were wonderful indeed. In work that comes out of a studio, it is not exceptional to see every shot well done, technically at least; lighting is controlled, the camera is on a tripod. But Linda worked with a hand-held camera when she did portraits, and with available light. So her achievement on that level was pretty unusual, most impressive.
But there are other things going on in her work that lift it to another level. One is timing - she knew just when to trip the shutter. Another is the affection she obviously felt for her subjects. She was a person full of love; I heard that from nearly everyone I spoke to who had known her (I certainly never heard the opposite, in case you're wondering why I said 'nearly': some people, a few, just never brought it up). You felt it coming from her, it was quite extraordinary. And people returned the compliment to her lens, they wanted to look their best, to show off what they liked about themselves for this person who was taking their picture; it was instinctive on both sides, which is why you see this 'personality' (what is the word? 'Soul'? No, we stick with 'personality', oxymoronic though it may be) in her pictures of animals. They knew what she felt for them, and they somehow knew how to pose for her. Is this silly, sentimental? So be it.
Sam Andrew, guitarist with Big Brother and the Holding Company, Janis Joplin's wonderful band until they were fired by her new big-time manager, Albert Grossman, in 1968 (Sam did join her new group for a while the next year), remembers her as
a wonderful person. She did real non-rock and roll things, she brought me a heater for my room at the Chelsea Hotel, and no one did things like that. It was really caring, on the creature comfort level. Jewish-mother kind of thing, although I never thought of her being Jewish back then. She was blonde and preppy. Anyhow, I didn't know what Jewish was until I read Lenny Bruce, you know, I was West Coast, father in the air force. So we became friends, and everyone thought we were having this thing. There's some book out now by Alice Eccles and she says that Linda and I went off into the night after a concert at the Fillmore East, and the band was supposed to rehearse but I just ran off, boom, missed the rehearsal and left Janis all alone, so she wound up at Ratner's, haranguing the waiters or something. This is not true, and how can you believe someone who thinks that a band is about to rehearse after a concert? No band is gonna do that, that just doesn't happen. And you know Janis was not so left-alone as in the legends. She always had to carry on about something, even if she had wall-to-wall boyfriends, which she very often did.
Asked what he thought of the g-word, Sam replies,
If anything I was more of a groupie than she was. I would not use that word about Linda. Oh, I'm not gay or anything, as far as I know, but I always put more value on looks. Linda was never trading on people's fame, or leaving the real person out of the equation, which is what real groupies did. But Linda was far away from that.
When I heard she married Paul, I thought, 'Wow! He could have any woman in the world,' and Linda was like family to me. Linda! And then I was really happy for him and for her. I thought after all that it made perfect sense, that Paul was really levelheaded. I'm not surprised they stayed together. She sent me a telegram after they got married. 'You better believe it,' she said.
Linda's incredible career, within a few months, had brought her close to most of the giants of 1960s rock and roll. She was photographing practically everyone in the pantheon of the new musical culture. And it's not only how well her instincts served her that amazes us when we look at her photographs from that time, but how good, how prescient her musical tastes were. Whether they've made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as by far most of her favourites have, or if they're merely ever more interesting as time goes by (like Blue Cheer, Jackson Browne, Tim Buckley), Linda picked the best.
Jimi Hendrix, while we're on the subject, awed Linda. She never needed to be told to listen to what he was doing because it was going to change the way musicians played and audiences listened - she'd tell you. It has always been rumoured that there was more to their relationship than mutual admiration, and great admiration it was, but that was it. 'Jimi's girls' were known to all of New York for their gaudy glamour: Linda Eastman was very much not one of them.
'She was just fascinated with his persona, his drive, his magnetism, his ability to mesmerize crowds; he was a very powerful figure, with a lot of mystery about him,' remarks Eddie Kramer, Jimi's record producer and biographer. 'She was so different from the girls Jimi was famous for dating. Linda was educated, an intellectual in comparison with the other women he found so fascinating. Completely different, completely different, but he liked Linda for who she was. I don't think he would have had her around for one second had she not been so talented, if her pictures were not that good. Linda, I always thought, was a woman obviously in charge of her own destiny to a large degree, which women in those days were not.'
Linda recalled that Hendrix would visit her at home, and together they'd scrutinize and mark up the black and white contact sheets of the pictures she took of him. 'With the colour slides,' she said, 'we'd sit on the floor and hold them up to the window, because I didn't have a light-board. The ones he liked he'd chuck into his briefcase - he carried a briefcase with him like a businessman. So Jimi had all my great colour shots of him in that briefcase, and I don't know what happened to them, because I never saw them again after he died. They must have gone with him, and that was sort of sad for me.'
'When you think of the historical perspective,' adds Kramer, 'it's interesting, isn't it, that it was Paul McCartney who got Jimi on the bill at the Monterey Pop Festival?' (Although Hendrix had performed in America, especially in clubs in New York, as Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, it was in England, with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, that he first astonished crowds and fellow musicians; the Experience made its American debut at the historic Monterey Festival in northern California, in June 1967.) Kramer notes, 'That was a very important deal. Paul called the promoters and said, "You have to put this guy in the show." Paul was a huge Hendrix fan. I have no way of knowing if Linda was directly talking to Paul about Jimi at that time, but it's a fascinating connection.'
Each of these relationships - friendship, fling, or not-quite-definable -retained its own resonance with Linda, I think, for the rest of her life. Not so much as men-I-have-been-with, but much more as a sentimental evocation of a few years that she had loved, cherished the memory of and abandoned with a fond farewell when the time came. It wasn't required, for Linda to romanticize the memories of these guys, that they had actually 'dated' - it would have been enough to have been a friend, to have loved someone's music, to have been at a fantastic concert or recording session, or to have captured the beauty of these people with her camera.
Tim Buckley, the brilliant singer/songwriter who died of a heroin overdose at the age of twenty-eight in 1975, was a boy with whom she had a very brief fling, but whose memory she cherished, almost inordinately, long after the short time they spent together in 1967. I was his publicist at Elektra Records, a close friend and a great fan, and I set up a Central Park photo shoot with Linda and Timmy. Linda loved to work in Central Park, and took many of her best pictures in New York's huge, famous mid-town oasis. The subject(s) could be isolated from the noise and action of the city, obviously, and the backgrounds were beautiful and almost infinite in number. This shoot resulted in dozens of exquisite, fantastically composed photographs, with Timmy looking his most fragile and angelic (he was, at the same time, a tough little devil), and the afternoon ended with Timmy and Linda going back to her apartment for ham sandwiches and an iceberg lettuce salad. Whatever. They were together only a very few more times; his budding drug habit scared Linda, and she preferred to remember the innocent Timmy rather than the one who was getting himself into a lot of trouble.
After he died, she often brought up his name when the two of us talked about the people we had known together, frequently when Paul was there, rather enjoying our reminiscences. 'Oh, Tim Buckley! He was wonderful! It's so terrible what happened to him. He was so sweet. What a beautiful voice. Paul, you always liked his music. I wish I could find his records.'
Me: 'But Linda, I sent you the CD re-releases a couple of months ago, I sent them to your office in London.'
'Oh dear, well, I must have them somewhere then. But you could send them again, and make sure you write that they're to be sent right to me.'
Me: 'I did, darling, but I'll do it again.'
'He was very special, wasn't he?'
'Yes, Linda, he was.'
On a Saturday afternoon in 1978, Paul and Linda McCartney walked into a cheesy (so to speak) pizzeria on Christopher Street around the corner from my apartment, where Paul handed a dollar bill to the boy behind the counter and asked him for change for the telephone. 'I suppose you want to call Danny Fields,' said the pizza boy to the superstar.
'How the hell did you know that?' a clearly taken aback Paul asked.
'Oh, I live with him,' answered the handsome strapping youth, the late Vance Buck (to whom Elton John's 1992 album The One was dedicated). 'Come on, he's not home, but I'll take you up to the apartment and you can wait for him.'
I got back only after they'd left, to find a note from them: 'Your friend let us in, we waited, we'll talk to you later', and propped up next to the stereo turntable were Tim Buckley's first and second albums. That's what they listened to while they waited. Myself, I can never find what I'm looking for among my vinyl or CD albums - there are thousands of them, they're not in any order and I don't particularly care. How they (no doubt Linda, not they) located those two records, I will never be able to figure out.
One night in the spring of 1991, record producer Hal Lindner was putting together a (long overdue) tribute to Tim Buckley at a church in Brooklyn Heights renowned for its rather avant-garde events. Scheduled to appear in New York for the first time, singing two of his father's songs, was Jeff Scott Buckley, Tim's son. Tim had bolted from Los Angeles to New York while his wife was pregnant with Jeff; father and son had been together only twice in Jeff's lifetime, and only once when Jeff was old enough to know that this was indeed his father. I had never met Jeff, nor to my knowledge had anyone who had hung out with Tim Buckley in his New York days. Linda and Paul were in town, and I asked her if she wanted to come to this tribute to her beloved Tim and meet his son.
'I can't make it,' she replied, 'but I'd love to send him a note. I don't know if he knows Tim and I were friends, but I'd just like to tell him how great I thought his father was.' A few hours later a messenger delivered an envelope to me; in it was a note from Linda to Jeff. I dashed backstage after the show (if indeed it's called 'backstage' at a church; I never know) and introduced myself to young Jeff - an astonishingly beautiful and talented replica of his late father, by the way.
'Linda McCartney asked me to give you this note. She was a friend of your father's, and has always been a huge fan of his music'
'I know that they knew each other, I know it very well,' he said. 'My favourite picture of my father is one that she took, and I keep it with me all the time. It's the one where he's sitting on a step with his feet like this, all pigeon-toed. Please tell her that I can't ever thank her enough for that picture.'
Jeffs own career started to take off soon after that. Linda followed it closely in the press, and would ask me about him whenever we spoke. Then she called to say that she and Paul would be in New York to do Saturday Night Live, and could I bring Jeff up to their dressing room, as they were both so eager to meet him?
I relayed this summons to him (it was always more in the nature of a summons than an invitation when one was invited into the actual Presence), and he was terrified. 'What will I talk about? I'm just not ready to meet them, I don't know if I'll ever be ready, what should I wear?' etc.
Jeff and I were whisked into the McCartney dressing room at 30 Rockefeller Plaza; they both stood up to meet him - Paul greeted Jeff with the famous charm that outshines anyone else's that I have ever known, and Linda hugged him. 'We're so happy that you're doing so well,' she began, and they continued to make such a loving fuss over him that I soon began to feel de trop. One is not supposed to leave until one is signalled to do so (which indeed I have been, from time to time), but I never thought of myself as one of those ones, so I said, 'Well, Jeff, I'm going to be off, I'm sure you'll be OK.'
He looked at me as if he weren't so sure at all, but Linda saw that and intervened. 'Of course he will. You take care of yourself.' Bye guys!
Months later, it was reliably reported to me that Paul and one of his children (probably Stella, but I won't put my arm in the fire on that) actually went to the Roseland Ballroom to see Jeff Buckley perform. Paul almost never goes to concerts, it's like the President taking a scheduled airlines flight. And to see Linda's friend's son? Even though he was one of the shining talents of the 1990s - this still blows my mind. Only a 60s cliche will do.
Alone at the house I take on Fire Island each spring and summer, fifty miles and a world away from New York City, pottering in my garden on a dreary Friday afternoon, I had a call from Linda, who was home in England. As always, she didn't bother saying 'Hello' or identifying herself, she just started talking.
'I heard that Jeff Buckley drowned in the Mississippi River,' she said at once. 'What do you know?'
'Nothing, of course I would have heard something, it's a ridiculous rumour.' I was getting upset and angry - I mean, friends have died in weird ways - and I kind of barked at her: 'Anyhow, how could you know? You're sitting there on your hilltop in the middle of nowhere, how could you know? I'm sure it's not true.'
'Check on it, will you?' Linda insisted. 'And get back to me right away.'
Of course it was true; it had happened the day before. A slightly inebriated Jeff Buckley, aged thirty-one, went swimming with a friend on a river beach, fully clothed, and a wave took him away. His body was recovered on the Memphis waterfront a few days later. And Linda knew about it before any of Jeffs own friends in New York, where he had lived.
Refusing to believe that Linda was actually psychic, I tried to trace the source of her information. When I asked her how she knew that Jeff had drowned, she said she had heard it from 'a friend at MTV in New York'. More probing revealed that she had heard the story either from a high-profile record producer, or from his girlfriend, who worked at MTV. The news was so devastating that Linda couldn't quite recall; the 'girlfriend at MTV", it turned out, was an old friend of mine, and so I told her I hadn't realized that her guy was close to Linda McCartney, close enough to transmit death rumours to. 'He's not,' she replied. 'But I'll ask him.' She called back: 'He knows nothing about this, he promises. It must be someone else.'
But it wasn't 'someone else'. Linda had given me the producer's name. Now, she'd be evasive from time to time, but never did she lie. This whole episode remains an unsolved mystery; I'll attribute it to ... I don't know, the power of love, perhaps instinct. And maybe I was wrong to think that Linda wasn't psychic, however that gift might manifest itself. Those Buckley men were strange angels, father and son, after all.
I think one of the most charming stories about Linda's 'gorgeous guys' comes from Bob Weir, in 1968 a drop-dead beauty and lead guitarist of San Francisco's still struggling Grateful Dead. In a recent conversation, he told me,
First of all, I remember her face. Just her face. I remember her, yes. She pinned me right away, she wouldn't avert her gaze. I was the one who met her at the door at the Ashbury Street house when she came to photograph the band. Our manager had told us that Linda Eastman was coming by, that she was the Eastman Kodak heiress and a big-time photographer, a really good photographer.
The word was that she was so pretty and so rich that someone was going to make a play for her eventually and take the prize. She took a lot of pictures of me that day, and then we were going to come back the next day, because some guys couldn't be there. But that night I was getting all kinds of heat from the band, they were convinced that she was the Linda Eastman of Eastman Kodak, and that since she took all these pictures of me she must have liked me, so the guys were pressuring me to hook up with her. 'Do it for your fellow band members,' they were saying. She was rich and we weren't; I suppose they wanted the band to marry into all this money. We were really broke.
Their reasoning was, here was this attractive young single lady and we sort of had the same background, my family was well-to-do, so the guys thought it was a perfect match. They weren't kidding. I'd just left home the year before to go be a starving artist and I was pleased with what was happening, but the other guys had been starving for a little longer and it wasn't so much fun. They were actually trying to force-feed me to her, and it got a little uncomfortable for me and for her, you know how guys can be when they've got this plan. So I just went up into the attic and hid. It was getting a little embarrassing, and I guess she was kind of feeling it too. As if she were going to buy us equipment or something. The guys hammered each other all the time, and it was my turn. We couldn't afford a TV, so if we weren't on each other's cases we had nothing else to do. It was a way to keep ourselves amused.
There was nothing romantic going on between me and Linda that day she was first there. I was nineteen, and maybe there was a little flirtation going on, but that's all. We talked about the quality of light - I'd never had a substantial conversation with a photographer before, and she was obviously way into it. I found it interesting to hear her talk about light and shadows and colours, and then we walked around the Panhandle [of Golden Gate Park] and just looked around. It was a whole new experience for me, to start looking at things through a visually oriented person's eyes.
But there was definitely something that she had about her. She was maybe the only photographer that the guys could ever sit still for, for more than two or three minutes. When she was looking at you, it seemed as if she was staring into the window of your soul, she was looking around in there. I'm not sure about the other guys, but I certainly felt it. She was an old friend, even though we'd just met. There's probably less than half a dozen people like that in your whole lifetime. I'm a total believer in reincarnation, and I would be real surprised if Linda and I hadn't put in some time together in the past. There was that little flash of recognition. An old friend that you've just met, you know?
Shortly after the Grateful Dead photo shoot Linda went to London to be with Paul, and when Bob Weir heard the news of their marriage in March 1969 his first reaction was, 'Atta girl!'
They never met again.
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I guess that's what Paul was ready for, after six years of candy being thrown at him. Obviously, they had to have had a very strong relationship to weather everything they must have gone through, being so famous, the object of every girl's fantasies, it's gotta put a strain on things. But they did it.
After she died Paul said he loved her completely from the moment they met. And I understood how he could have felt that way. I had the feeling that if she'd been sowing her wild oats, she was done with that by that time she came to San Francisco. I talked about this with Jerry [Garcia], and we had both heard that bomb ticking. She was ready for something real, something big. And it doesn't get bigger than what actually happened after that.