Linda a groupie? No, but she was VERY liberated about sex, writes Philip Norman in his major new biography of Paul McCartney
By PHILIP NORMAN FOR THE DAILY MAIL
PUBLISHED: 26 April 2016
In the concluding extract from his major new biography of Paul McCartney, Philip Norman reveals how Linda’s not-so-subtle seduction techniques worked on a host of stars … and led to one of the happiest and most enduring marriages in pop.
At the start, no one could have predicted that the relationship between Paul McCartney and the New York photographer Linda Eastman would be the spectacular success it became.
For one thing — as his fans cattily pointed out — Linda was hardly glamorous. Her long blonde hair always looked unkempt and her clothes were frankly dowdy.
For another, she’d recently divorced her first husband, by whom she had a daughter, and clearly had no immediate intention of settling down. Hence she was gaining a reputation not only for taking pictures of rock stars but also for sharing their beds.
Photographer Linda Eastman talks to Beatle Paul McCartney at the press launch of the Beatles' new album, Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The couple married two years later
One of a series of pictures issued on October 19, 1998, of the late Linda McCartney, taken by her husband Paul over the last 25 years
By 1967, her detractors regarded Linda as a rarefied form of groupie. Indeed, before meeting McCartney, she’d already had brief affairs or one-night stands with several icons, including Mick Jagger, Doors’ singer Jim Morrison and the Hollywood star Warren Beatty.
At press conferences thronging with photographers, it was Linda who always managed to stand out. A female photographer called Blair Sabol described what happened when they all turned up to take photos of Beatty.
‘I remember how impressed I was with her come-on talents as she sat in front of him in a mini-skirt and her legs in full wide-angle split for at least six rolls of [film],’ she said.
‘Warren ended up ushering me out of his suite within 30 minutes — and kept Linda for two days.’
The couple with their children, Heather McCartney, Mary McCartney and Stella McCartney, in 1975
The family on their way to Jamaica in 1973
But did that make Linda a groupie? With hindsight, she seems more like a genuine free spirit, whose emancipated attitude to sex was hardly uncommon in the early years of the feminist movement.
In one respect, at least, she was ultra-conventional, remaining a scrupulous and caring mother to her young daughter, Heather.
McCartney first met Linda when she turned up to photograph The Beatles in London. As usual, she was impossible to ignore — kneeling in front of him to take pictures and looking deep into his eyes.
After seeing her again at another press conference in New York, he left a message with her answering-service, inviting her to meet him in Los Angeles.
Paul holding his daughter Mary, followed by Linda, as he arrives at London airport on March 25 1971
The family sharing a moment of delight with their beloved horses. Here, Linda is pregnant with daughter Stella
Meanwhile, not knowing whether she’d turn up or not, he allowed his luxurious poolside bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel to become a meeting place for gaggles of gorgeous women who competed nightly for his favours.
As former Beatles’ aide Tony Bramwell later recalled, the day Linda arrived she was forced to join the throng waiting for Paul.
To ensure her welcome, she’d brought along a drawstring bag full of pot. ‘She was … totally spaced out,’ said Bramwell. ‘She had a joint in her hand and a beatific smile on her face.
‘As I looked across the room, I suddenly saw something happen. Right before my eyes, Paul and Linda fell in love. It was like the thunderbolt the Sicilians speak of — that once-in-a-lifetime feeling.’
Within a few months, Linda was living with McCartney at his home in St John’s Wood in London. ‘I thought she was lovely,’ Tony Bramwell says. ‘And she tidied him up a bit … No one had been looking after him … The house had turned into a bachelor dump.
‘Martha [the sheepdog] was c****ing all over the floor and nobody bothered to clear it up.’
Linda, Paul and Denny Laine in 1977. Linda was liked from the start by Paul’s employees — unlike John Lennon’s lover, Yoko Ono
Linda’s introduction into The Beatles’ inner circle caused no shockwaves. She stayed in the background and was liked from the start by Paul’s employees — unlike John Lennon’s lover, Yoko Ono.
‘She’d never send the office-boy out to buy her Tampax, like the Japanese one,’ says Bramwell.
Later that same year, McCartney accompanied Linda to her tiny flat in New York in order to bring her six-year-old daughter, Heather, back to live with them in the UK.
They spent ten days there, sleeping on a modest fold-down bed. Afterwards, McCartney said he’d been impressed by the way ‘she seriously looked after her daughter — it all seemed very organised … in a slightly dishevelled way’.
For the first time, Paul became aware of something in Linda he could define only as ‘womanliness’ — a quality far more profound than the dolly-bird prettiness that had always attracted him before.
Paul and Linda at the launch party for Mary Hopkin's debut album which was produced by Paul and launched on the Apple label
Back home in Britain, he took his new girlfriend to his remote farm on the Kintyre peninsula in Scotland, and found she was more a child of nature than she’d ever been of skyscrapers and yellow cabs.
The farm was barely habitable: it had rats, just three rooms and no hot water. Yet on that first visit, Linda said something that resolved any lingering doubts McCartney may have had about commitment and monogamy: ‘I could make a nice home here.’
They married in March 1969, with Heather as their bridesmaid.
When they returned to their home in St John’s Wood, there was a large crowd of die-hard fans outside, who greeted Linda with boos, catcalls and spittle.
Paul tried to appeal to their reason: ‘Look, girls,’ he almost pleaded, ‘I had to get married sometime.’
Paul and Linda walk to Marylebone Registry office to get married with her daughter Heather
Paul and Linda at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool, in 1973
Despite McCartney’s millions in the bank, the hallmark of his life with Linda was simplicity, and their growing family became the centre of their lives at the comfortable home in Peasmarsh, Sussex, that Paul had rashly designed himself.
It was no rock-star mansion but a bog-standard four-bedroom structure in red brick with a steeply pitched roof — like an enlarged version of the Liverpool council house in which he’d grown up.
The décor was Linda’s usual style of comfortable-verging-on-shabby: soft, neutral-coloured fabrics, stained and scuffed by the children and their innumerable, seldom-house-trained pets.
Linda became a familiar figure in Peasmarsh village, where her fashion sense caused much comment. ‘All that money, yet she still goes round in gym-shoes,’ one shopper remarked. ‘And she doesn’t even bother to do up the laces.’
The children were all sent to state schools, and any luxury was reserved for the family’s horses, who had a paddock and stable-block with under-floor heating.
Paul and Linda give a news conference in New York to announce dates for a world tour on February 12 1993
Still a regular pot-smoker, Linda remained hippie-ish and laidback — unless she sensed that anyone was being cruel to animals or trying to take advantage of her husband.
There was now little trace left of the New York feminist, who’d boldly gone to bed with some of the biggest names in the world. ‘Mother and wife is it for me,’ Linda admitted.
This wasn’t entirely true: in the 1980s, she published her own vegetarian cookbook which mainly featured meatless facsimiles of the traditional dishes her husband preferred. One of her early creations, for example, had been a ‘bird’ made of pasta so that he’d still have something to carve at Christmas.
A regular pot-smoker, Linda was hippie-ish and laidback — unless she sensed that anyone was being cruel to animals or trying to take advantage of her husband
Compiling the recipes proved a laborious process because Linda was an instinctive cook who never bothered to measure things out. Nor were the dishes she made the most shining examples of healthy eating.
‘She used tons of butter and double cream, and seemed never to have heard of cholesterol,’ says Peter Cox, who collaborated with her on the book. ‘I tried to tone it down by only putting two pints of cream into a cheese omelette where she would have used three.’
Following the runaway success of the cookbook, Linda signed a deal with a frozen food company, who agreed to use her recipes for ready-to-eat meals. Linda McCartney vegetarian frozen food was launched in 1991, and was an instant hit. Within a year, it was bringing in more money than her husband’s music.
On their 25th wedding anniversary in March 1994, the McCartneys had much to celebrate. Their marriage had been an unqualified success and their four children — their last had been a boy — were a close and united clan.
Just a few months later, Linda felt unwell and consulted her local doctor. He said she had a cold and told her to come back in two weeks.
When she did so, feeling no better, he referred her to a specialist in London, who found a malignant tumour in her left breast.
The same illness had claimed Paul’s mother at the age of 47, and he was understandably devastated. Linda was immediately admitted to the Princess Grace Hospital in London for surgery to remove the tumour.
Just a few months after their 25th wedding anniversary, Linda felt unwell and consulted her local doctor. He said she had a cold and told her to come back in two weeks. When she did so, feeling no better, he referred her to a specialist in London, who found a malignant tumour in her left breast
By the time the story broke, she was recuperating at Peasmarsh. Emerging to speak to reporters, McCartney said the operation had been ‘100 per cent successful’.
In fact, the cancer had already spread to her lymph nodes.
The family spent a miserable Christmas and New Year, and then Linda began an in-patient course of chemotherapy at the London Clinic. Paul stayed with her throughout, sleeping in her room.
She was appalled to discover that many of the drugs used in her chemotherapy had been tested on animals, but he wouldn’t hear of her refusing the treatment.
It must have struck her, too, that her illness was a blow to her vegetarian crusade. The major benefit of going veggie, Linda stressed on the packaging of her frozen meals, was increased resistance to cancer.
Interestingly, Peter Cox had since become vegan, convinced that cancer could be triggered by over-consumption of dairy products. Remembering all the butter and cream he’d seen Linda load into omelettes, he couldn’t help wondering if they’d helped trigger her disease.
The family spent a miserable Christmas and New Year, and then Linda began an in-patient course of chemotherapy at the London Clinic. Paul stayed with her throughout, sleeping in her room
At the time, however, neither he nor any but Linda’s family and close friends knew what she was going through. Between treatments, she tried to live as normal a life as possible, finding happiness, as always, with her beloved horses.
‘It always struck me that there was a parallel between the way Linda dealt with her cancer and the way she dealt with the overwhelmingly hostile reaction to her marriage to Paul,’ her friend Danny Fields said later.
‘She looked very carefully at her situation, considered the indignities and possibilities, and — although there were moments when it seemed she might go under — she came out of her corner, fully expecting to win in the end.’
In other circumstances, 1997 should have been one of the couple’s best. McCartney was knighted for ‘services to music’, their daughter Stella was appointed creative director of the Parisian fashion house Chloé, and McCartney released a critically-acclaimed album, Flaming Pie, in which their son James debuted as a professional guitarist.
‘At that stage,’ a friend recalls, ‘[Paul] had the greatest confidence that [Linda] would get better.’
Christmas marked the second anniversary of Linda’s diagnosis. Along with protracted bouts of chemotherapy, she had endured a bone-marrow transplant and tried numerous homeopathic remedies and alternative therapies
Christmas marked the second anniversary of Linda’s diagnosis. Along with protracted bouts of chemotherapy, she had endured a bone-marrow transplant and tried numerous homeopathic remedies and alternative therapies.
She’d even given up pot, though it was the one thing that dulled the pain and the terror.
In March 1998, the McCartneys were in Paris to see Stella unveil her spring and summer collection for Chloé. Every journalist who asked Stella to name her greatest fashion influence got the same reply: ‘My mum.’
The McCartneys had lunch with a friend, who thought Linda seemed ‘buoyant’. It was an illusion: her latest examination showed that the cancer had become aggressive and metastasised in her liver.
Back home, Linda joined Paul in the studio to record some songs she’d written herself — including one called ‘Appaloosa’, which celebrated the breed of speckled American horse that she loved most.
Otherwise, she faced the inevitable with stoical calm. Preparing for a future she would never see, she discussed further developments for Linda McCartney Foods, chose photographs for an exhibition of her works, and even made arrangements for the first Christmas her family would have to spend without her.
At the beginning of April 1998, McCartney took her to a simple home he’d bought near Tucson, Arizona. It soon became clear she had only days to live. Pictured: Paul and Linda at High Park Farm, Scotland
At the beginning of April 1998, McCartney took her to a simple home he’d bought near Tucson, Arizona. It soon became clear she had only days to live. Clear, that is, to everyone except Linda, who continued to go out riding until April 15, when her strength finally failed.
Paul decided not to tell her she was close to the end.
‘I talked it over with her doctor and he said, “I don’t think she would want to know. She is such a strong, forward-thinking lady and such a positive girl that I don’t think it would do any good.”’
Linda died in the early hours of April 17, aged 56.
‘The kids and I were there when she crossed over,’ Paul would remember. ‘They each were able to tell her how much they loved her.
Linda died in the early hours of April 17, aged 56. ‘The kids and I were there when she crossed over,’ Paul would remember. ‘They each were able to tell her how much they loved her
‘Finally, I said to her, “You’re on your beautiful Appaloosa stallion. It’s a fine spring day and the air is a clear blue . . .” I had barely got to the end of the sentence when she closed her eyes and gently slipped away.’
Early in May, a group from the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings was given permission to visit the old mill on Paul’s Sussex estate. The visit had to be cancelled because that was the day he chose to scatter Linda’s ashes over the hillside.
He still treasures a photograph, taken a few years earlier, of the two of them at that same spot. He reclines on the ground, chewing a blade of grass; she sits on her Appaloosa in a rather formal orange dress, bareback and barefoot. Never happier.
Paul McCartney: The Biography, by Philip Norman, is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson at £25.
To buy a copy for £20, visit mailbookshop.co.uk or call 0844 571 0640. Offer until this Saturday, p&p free on orders over £12.