The second, most consistent, issue regarding Lennon’s view of Eastman involves his repeated surprise both at McCartney’s choice of her as his spouse and at the other couple’s evidently successful marriage. Lennon was not alone in this regard: According to various Beatles insiders, virtually everyone in the band’s circle, from Ringo Starr to Alistair Taylor to Ray Connolly to Peter Brown, expressed surprised about McCartney’s marriage to Eastman. Lennon publicly confessed surprise to McCabe at the seeming rapidity of the other couple’s relationship — “one minute she’s riding with us to the airport and the next minute she’s married to him.” In the same interview, Lennon also opined his own failure to understand Eastman’s appeal, describing her as “a bit tweedy.” (1)
The majority of Lennon’s comments (with one notable exception)over time indicate that overall he failed to grasp why McCartney chose and remained with Eastman. As previously noted, Lennon implied the marriage would be short lived no fewer than three times: in his undated 1971 drafted response to Eastman: in his November 1971 response to McCartney’s Melody Maker interview, where he again estimated a two-year timeline before McCartney came to his senses, and explicitly in his, Ono and Klein’s 1971 interviews with Peter McCabe. In the latter, Lennon, Ono and Klein reveal their varying predictions on how long the Eastman/McCartney marriage would endure. Klein’s original estimate of two years, given by Ono — “And so Klein thinks he’ll give Paul two years Linda-wise, you know” — was dismissed by Lennon as too short; Lennon now upped his own estimate to five years, but only because of McCartney’s role as a father: “Paul treasures things like children.” Ono, in turn, argued that Lennon’s longer timeline demonstrated his greater understanding of McCartney. We have no evidence indicating what McCartney and Eastman’s response was to these repeated predictions regarding the imminent end of their marriage. However, in his book Lennon vs. McCartney, author Adam Thomas argues that McCartney’s song “Some People Never Know,” on the album “Wild Life,” is a declaration by McCartney that Lennon failed to understand the true depth of his love for Eastman.
According to less documented sources, Lennon continued to anticipate the end of the Eastman/McCartney marriage. Journalist Ray Connolly declared that Lennon expressed surprise and even amusement at McCartney’s evident ability to remain faithful to Eastman. Additional, unverifiable sources also argue that, even in later years, Lennon seemingly resented the other couple’s apparent happiness: as McCartney later related, Lennon once dismissed McCartney as “Pizza and Fairy Tales” after a phone conversation in which McCartney had detailed his home life. Both Robert Rosen, who read Lennon’s diaries following the musician’s death, and Lennon assistant Fred Seaman, argued that Lennon and Ono were obsessed with ensuring that they promoted to the press an image of their marriage that was viewed as superior to the McCartney’s own seemingly contented marriage. John Green, their tarot reader, described doing a reading for Lennon following a dinner with the McCartney’s where Lennon evidently regarded the other couple as being insufferably happy. Green then provided Lennon with the prediction, (evidently telling the musician what he wanted to hear), that the happy image the other couple had projected was a complete façade; Eastman and McCartney were secretly miserable, and the couple would divorce within a year. Green also states that Lennon expressed incomprehension at the marriage’s longevity. Geoffrey Guiliano, not the most reputable of biographers, claims to have done a phone interview with Lennon friend and Lost Weekend confidante Harry Nilsson, in which Guiliano inquired as to whether Lennon had ever expressed to Nilsson any sexual interest in Eastman. Guiliano interpreted Nilsson’s reported response — “John didn’t want to fuck Linda: John wanted to fuck Paul” — as indicating that any sexual attraction Lennon may have felt towards Eastman was driven not by her, but by his desire to mess up McCartney’s life and assert his dominance over his old friend and rival.
However, despite these examples, Lennon’s comments also display insight into how a significant aspect of Eastman’s appeal included her willingness to provide McCartney with a stable family. Lennon noted how McCartney had always enjoyed the domesticity and family life with his father, Jim, and brother, Mike. Asher’s determination to continue with her acting career had admittedly, according to the Authorized Biography, been a point of contention between her and McCartney, who wanted her to focus more on him and their anticipated domestic life together. Eastman, already a single mother, came equipped with what Lennon described to McCabe as “a ready-made family.” (Note: Linda was not the first single mother McCartney dated: In Tune In, Lewisohn reveals that McCartney also had dated Thelma Pickles, another divorcee with a young child, (and an ex-girlfriend of Lennon’s) following the group’s return from Hamburg). In his own conversations in Many Years From Now regarding Linda’s entrance into his life, McCartney seemingly endorsed Lennon’s assessment: noting that it was Eastman’s efforts to take diligent care of her daughter, Heather, and to manage the house at Cavendish that prompted his admiration, explicitly describing her as a ‘woman,’ in contrast to the many ‘girls’ already in his life.
Lennon’s public statements on Eastman tapered off following his early 1972 détente with McCartney, and his press silence in the mid-to-late 1970s continued this pattern. Eastman and Ono’s interaction during Lennon’s lost weekend was evidently unremarkable: in her memoirs May Pang, Lennon’s girlfriend at the time, has little to say regarding Lennon’s comments on/views of Eastman, although her book does include pictures of a seemingly happy McCartney and Eastman coming up to visit Lennon and Pang when they were in New York. Its notable that his Double Fantasy era comments on her are among his most positive, in that they defend Eastman (and Ono) rather than finding fault. Whether this pattern would have continued had Lennon lived is up for debate, given how various factors in Lennon’s own personal and professional lives seemingly impacted the negativity or positivity of his interview comments.
Ultimately, it appears that, even after the breakup-era acrimony had removed the obvious point of contention between them, Lennon remained largely unimpressed with Eastman. Furthermore, her and McCartney’s evidently contented marriage reportedly provoked feelings of envy and competition from both Lennon and Ono. In You Never Give me Your Money, Doggett notes how, for Lennon, “insecurity was almost instinctive.” As Doggett describes it, Lennon and Ono together could make McCartney feel intimidated and marginalized. On the other side, Lennon’s reaction to Eastman both as an individual and as part of a couple with McCartney apparently and primarily prompted resentment.
(1) Note: the phrase “tweedy” was also used by a writer in Mojo’s 10 Years That Shook the World in order to describe Cynthia Lennon prior to her Brigitte Bardot makeover period. As the phrase seems to be a British expression, could one of our readers from across the pond translate “tweedy” for us non-Brits?
If I have overlooked other sources on the subject that readers believe could add to the discussion please, let me know.
38 thoughts on “Some Chick from New York, Part III: Pizza and Fairy Tales”
Did you get my message a few months ago regarding the varying accounts of Maharishi allegedly assaulting a woman at the ashram?
I’m sorry; I don’t recall seeing that message. Was it a response to a post?
I hadn’t heard that about the Maharishi; would you mind resending the message?
I was teaching my Beatles course in summer school, and came upon a problematic event: the allegations that the Maharishi sexually came on to or had sex with a woman at the Rishikesh compound.
Norman in Shout! says that the woman was Mia Farrow (p. 366); Spitz in The Beatles says it was “an American nurse” (p.756); Mark Paytress in Mojo’s The Beatles says that it was “an American woman in her late twenties” whom Alex Mardas had hooked up with (p. 303); Stark in Meet the Beatles says “some of the women” at Rishikesh (p. 223). Cynthia Lennon quoted in Many Years from Now refers to “a certain lady” (p.427). Etc.
The point being that although Mia Farrow is often called the victim of the sexual advances, not all sources agree who the victim was.
Mia’s sister Prudence Farrow more lately said that she knew what had happened (“I can’t speak on what went on — I sort of know, but I don’t want to speculate on things that I don’t really know.”):
I read somewhere that she questioned the appropriateness of an embrace from Maharishi, but wasn’t sure of its intent. In the Rolling Stone article, she says she was not the victim of the allegation.
Some of of the more recent writings point the finger of responsibility to Alex Mardas and doubt his credibility. Paul McCartney has been vocal in doubting Mardas.
I’m sure you’re well aware of all that!
BUT: I wasn’t aware the Harrison later apologized to Maharishi about the accusations upon the guru:
“After some time, Harrison spoke. “I came to apologise,” he said. “For what,” asked Maharishi. “You know for what,” replied Harrison.
This appears to have been published a day later:
It says that Maharishi was upset that (allegedly) some of the Beatles were taking drugs at Rishikesh). It has a quote from Deepak Chopra, who was there when Harrison apologized the Maharishi:
“What isn’t generally known is that the maharishi had got fed up with the Beatles taking drugs while they were at his ashram [spiritual home].
They were smoking ganja [cannabis] and taking LSD. He hadn’t come across anything like that before and he took a strong view.”
The article says:
“The spiritualist and author Deepak Chopra, a former maharishi disciple and a friend of the late George Harrison, has said that contrary to popular myth, the row was nothing to do with claims that the maharishi made sexual advances on Mia Farrow, the actress and friend of the band.
Instead, he said, the maharishi had objected to the group taking drugs at his home in Rishikesh, northern India. Dr Chopra told the Sunday Telegraph . . .”
It’s not established in either article that the Beatles were indeed taking drugs at the Rishikesh compound (and Maharishi doesn’t address that), but that’s what Chopra says. Possibly Chopra heard that from Maharishi.
We can see that the print sources don’t agree who the alleged victim was, and that Farrow says it wasn’t’ her.
We can also see that Harrison believed the charges to be false, and that in a meeting with Harrison, Maharishi and Chopra, the falseness of the allegation seems to be tacitly acknowledged by all present.
First, let me say sorry for missing this earlier. It’s a great post, and I geeked out on the variety of sources you cited offering different versions.
I did know that the Beatles had apologized to the Maharishi, but the quotes by Chopra about drugs were new to me; not that the Beatles were taking them there — I think the evidence that they brought marijuana to India, despite the Maharishi’s ban, was pretty well established (I believe Paul mentions something about it in MYFN) — although the LSD is a surprise, as standard wisdom has seemingly always accepted that they left the acid at home. But that the actual schism occurred over drugs is a new idea. Unfortunately, Chopra’s account is a second hand account that can’t appear to be proven, so I’m not clear on how it would be verifiable.
As for the issue of the sexual pass purportedly made by the Maharishi, I believe Mark Lewisohn spoke on the issue at his recent Beatlefest interview in Chicago.
Sorry, I don’t have a timestamp for it, (I can’t recall what part of the interview it comes in, and its a 3 part video) but I recall watching it, and I believe Lewisohn argues that the evidence he’s come across regarding India indicates that there was no sexual pass by the Maharishi: according to him, Magic Alex seemingly fabricated the accusation in order to get John, in particular, away from the Maharishi and out of India. And obviously, if there was no sexual pass, than that would explain why the identity of the woman has been so debated over the decades. Perhaps both versions have some truth to them; John and George may have become defensive if the Maharishi criticized them for bringing drugs, and then Magic Alex arrived accusing the Maharishi of making an unwanted pass right at the moment that neither John nor George was feeling very fond of the Maharishi.
Both George and Paul defended the Maharishi at varying times: Paul (who was gone from India when the alleged incident occurred) defends him in a 1968 NY press conference with John — it’s a quick moment, and subtle, but its there. And George, as you mentioned, apologized to him later.
Yes, I think it’s kind of comical that various women have been reported–as fact–as being hit on, but there was likely no incident. I thought Harrison’s apology was touching. Do you have the power to amend my post to make clear which part referred to Prudence, not Mia? If it’s a hassle, don’t worry.
How’s your new baby??? I’m very excited!
The post is edited, so no problems there.
The new baby is lovely. She’s healthy (almost 15 pounds at two months) and good-natured, well-behaved and agreeable … until evening rolls around. Then she morphs from Claire Jekyll into Baby Hyde, and keeps me busy and on my toes until she drops off to sleep around 10.
Speak of the devil; someone is letting me know they need to eat. Time to run.
Cambridge English Dictionary:
Tweedy: used to describe the life of rich people with homes in the countryside and an interest in horses, dogs, etc.
If Mark’s gun had misfired (or better yet, if he had been unable to obtain a gun) and Lennon had lived into the swinging 1980s, I wonder if the John&Yoko saga would have eventually become less believable. The press was changing in that decade; less interested in promoting celebrities’ official stories and more obsessed with digging dirt.
“The press was changing in that decade; less interested in promoting celebrities’ official stories and more obsessed with digging dirt.”
That’s a really provocative comment, Sam; could you elaborate more on that? As a child of the 80s, (I was born in ’81) I didn’t witness that transition in approach, but it brings up some really interesting elements. You do have the John Lennon” cover story from Esquire in … late 1978? that already was questioning or casting doubt on the image projected by John and Yoko.
I don’t have any formal documentation or links to share, just my own personal recollections.
I was born in ’58. I recall the late ’60s and ’70s as a time when things were “left unspoken” although sometimes mentioned obliquely; things like alcoholism or sexuality or marital problems. For example, Rex Reed could camp it up on the Merv Griffin show and no one would say, at least on-air, “So, are you gay?” Authors and artists were referred to as “hard drinking” rather than suffering from alcoholism. Disturbing things were mentioned in passing, but not really explored.
I grew up in NY and so had access to the tabloids and The Daily News, NY Post, Village Voice, local NY TV stations, etc. What happened in the late ’70s with the Esquire article seemed to become an industry standard by the mid to late 1980s.
It might be a post-Watergate thing. Entertainment reporters who previously felt lower in status than the hard news journalists like Woodward & Bernstein seemed to take themselves more seriously, and were less willing to be stenographers for celebrities’ publicists.
Perhaps encouraged by their managing editors, they began to see themselves more as Truth Seekers, even if their subjects were relatively trivial compared to government, war and crime. If John and Yoko’s marriage was a sham, then by God they were going to report it!
That’s all I got.
I don’t think we need citations for something like this; your general impression seems pretty spot-on. I’ve seen your conclusion before — I think it was in Time — that there was a definite post-Watergate shift in the media, and your argument that that would have expanded into entertainment journalists as well makes sense.
When it comes to the Beatles … how uncomplimentary was general coverage of Paul, George and Ringo in the 80s? Were they talking about Ringo’s drinking, for example? I know the 80s is when we got uncomplimentary portrayals of Paul from Angie McCartney, among others. And was this appearing in more legitimate publications, or rags like The Daily Mail?
Quite an old fashioned English expression for folks from upper-class, aritocratic, noble background.
Check the Oxford Dictionary:
– a tweedy biology professor who’s found himself at the center of one of the year’s most ferocious debates.
– chatting to some other tweedy academic type.’
– ‘He was the picture of the tweedy, eccentric professor, bookish and reclusive.’
– young associates all have the scrubbed and tweedy Harvard look about them.’
– he is tweedy and bearlike, with curly brown hair and a salt-and-pepper beard.’
I’m sorry it took so long to post this: for whatever reason, it wound up in the trash folder, and I didn’t see it until this morning. Thanks for the definition, and the examples.
“Tweedy” would be seen in England as someone upper class (or purporting to be) and more interested in the Country than the City; someone up-hip. The Queen (and Camilla) is “tweedy,” while Kate Middleton (or Diana) is not. Linda’s privileged upbringing (Scarsdale, Lee Eastman) would not necessarily make her “tweedy,” but even her yearbook description says she’s “Shetland-ish” — i.e., wears dowdy Shetland sweaters like someone on a farm or hanging around horse barns rather than a debutante or hipster girl. That’s the antithesis of someone John would find attractive. I remember at the time Linda and Paul were first dating a number of horrified comments in the press (and general gossip) about the fact that she didn’t shave her legs! That’s as “tweedy” as you can get.
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Thanks, Gael and Sam, for the explanation of Tweedy. And for the examples, Gael; how it applies to Camilla, but not Diana, for example.
“I remember at the time Linda and Paul were first dating a number of horrified comments in the press (and general gossip) about the fact that she didn’t shave her legs! That’s as “tweedy” as you can get.”
For my next bit of research, I’m hoping to dig up some old British newspapers and periodicals to see their depiction of Linda and Yoko as it was happening in that time period. If you wouldn’t mind, could you share what other memories you have of the coverage/perception of Linda in that time period? Everything I’ve read indicates it was pretty negative, and catty.
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Please edit my earlier post to change:
“Farrow more lately said that she knew what had happened”
“Mia’s sister Prudence Farrow more lately said that she knew what had happened”
The one that specifically comes to mind is one of “hip” mags (maybe Rolling Stone, but it could have been the Village Voice) printing a “blind” item: “Which Beatle married the star-fucker?” I remember being furious at that. Linda literally got no respect from anyone. And who could forget the brain-trust who isolated her vocal during a live Wings show and sent it to various FM radio stations to mock her.
“Which Beatle married the star-fucker?”
Unsurprising, but still disappointing. I believe it was RS that, in this time period, thought a newsworthy article was a graphic revolving solely around Carly Simon’s sexual partners. Because actually talking about her as an artist would be too … well-rounded? Intelligent? I suppose the headline “Which Beatle married the award-winning 1967 American female photographer of the year” — you know, something that didn’t define a woman solely on the basis of her sexual history — wouldn’t have grabbed as many readers.
Doggett’s “There’s a Riot Going On” does an excellent job of examining not only the double-standards applied to women in the rock and roll world, but also the Catch-22 they faced in this time period: if a woman had multiple partners, she was criticized for it. However, if a countercultural woman chose note to have sex, for whatever reason, she was also criticized for it, because refusing to have sex meant she was embracing bourgeoise ideas on sexuality. There’s a very disturbing account in “There’s a Riot Going On” of this exact scenario where a woman winds up having sex with someone she did not want to have sex with because he kept telling her that her refusals meant she was really propping up the establishment.
“Linda literally got no respect from anyone.”
When do you think you saw this perception of Linda shift, Gael? Was it not until her death?
I just stumbled upon this blog a few days ago, and during the COVID quarantine I’ve had ample time to go through it. Like a captivating book, I just can’t put it down — I’m a sucker for thoughtful, intelligent commentary on the Beatles, and this site has it in spades. I wasn’t going to respond to any posts until I’d gone through the whole thing, but this one entry inspired me to share something I’ve had in my mind for a long time, though it’s not Beatles-related.
The turn-of-the-sixties New York singer Dion was a big star of the pre-Beatles era, and two of his biggest hits were “The Wanderer” and “Runaround Sue”. In the former song, he brags about being a Lothario with a conquest in every city he visits; in the latter song, he condemns a woman who pretty much acts the same way. I don’t think anybody noticed the sexism and the irony at the time, and to this day I’ve never seen it commented upon. It was just accepted as normal — it was natural, almost expected, for guys to sow their wild oats, but if a woman slept around she was just slutty. It’s an attitude that has never quite vanished from American society to this day.
As for Linda, I was five years old when the Beatles broke up so I never experienced firsthand the negative media coverage she got. I never understood what the big problem was with her — I thought her background vocals were fine (and provided a nice feature to the Wings sound that helped distinguish the band from the Beatles), and her keyboard work was competent enough, and sometimes inspired (“Let Me Roll It”).
I know this blog is on semi-hiatus, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it nonetheless. BTW, I’m a guy.
What a great reply, Endicott. I hope your quarantine is going as well as possible.
I’m familiar with, and very fond of, both songs you mention, although I enjoy “Runaround Sue” far more; it’s irresistibly catchy. I never noticed the hypocrisy in the contrast between both songs until you mentioned it in your post, but your observation is spot on: when a man behaves that way, its AOK: when a woman does it, she’s cruel and heartless and loose. And you’re 100% correct in noting how this is an idea that certainly hasn’t vanished from American society (or British, for that matter) to this day. Another song promoting a male as a player who toys with women would be Ricky Nelson’s “Traveling Man”: “And in every port I own the heart of at least one lovely girl”: he then proceeds to list his notches in his belt. I have no knowledge of a female-sung song from the same period which covers the same territory from a woman’s perspective.
Feel free to comment on this and any other threads; even on hiatus, we should find time to reply, even if our response is a little delayed. (With four kids at home, and two of them doing home schooling online, my computer time is pretty limited).
It seems to have shifted in the late Eighties/Nineties, perhaps after she was no longer in the band with Paul and “horning in” somewhere she had “no right to be” — i.e., on stage. When her role was “only” as “wife” they seemed to back off. And then after her death is when the canonization began, which was so hypocritical it made me ill. But note that Rolling Stone, probably the worst offender, had no problem using her photos whenever it suited them, most recently after Aretha died. Why? Because Linda’s pictures are wonderful and that can’t be denied.
“When her role was “only” as “wife” they seemed to back off. And then after her death is when the canonization began, which was so hypocritical it made me ill.”
I think that’s crucial. One of the books I read on women in historiography discusses the attributes commonly associated with/acceptable in females, as opposed to when women exhibit traits typically associated with masculinity. The conclusion is that the more a female exhibits typical feminine attributes, the more favorable her depiction. I don’t have the list with me — its at my office — but I do remember reading it and thinking that, by the time of her death, many of the key descriptors — maternal, domestic, etc. — were/are applied to Linda in her latter years.
“Because Linda’s pictures are wonderful and that can’t be denied.”
Ah, but according to Shout!, her “skill as a photographer was not highly esteemed.” See, I even cited a source with a once sterling reputation to reinforce my counterargument! (This is why I try to drill historical methods in to my students. Yes, it matters which books you get your quotes from. Sorry for the mini-rant, which was not directed at you; I’ve been grading papers which have been utilizing some rather suspect sources.)
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But even Philip Norman now admits that in “Shout!” he was writing a book with an agenda — to canonize John and discount Paul. And his assessment of Linda’s photographs not being highly regarded is just his slanted opinion. Her books of photographs, especially “Linda’s Pictures” were well received and I went to the exhibition at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, albeit after her death, but nothing appears in that building without Jann Wenner’s sanction!
I’m not an expert on photography, but I use a lot of visual imagery in my writing classes and I know a little bit about how photos are judged. Unlike someone like David Bailey or Annie Leibovitz who take portraits that are very carefully staged, Linda took photos on the fly. You can see that in her pictures of rock stars like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin and especially The Beatles, which are intimate and in the moment. A photographer explained to me that she shot “in the frame” which means that she rarely if ever cropped her pictures. And that’s really hard to do (because I’ve tried it!) when the subject is on stage or even backstage and not “posing.” Look at her pictures of Aretha, for example. Aretha apparently did not pose for pictures — you had to get them at your best opportunity, but Linda’s are iconic.
I love Linda’s photos. I love the spontaneous realness of them, always have. She never got her just due for her skill, IMO.
Annie Leibovitz and other photographers construct images to present to a viewer. There is nothing wrong with that – it is just as much art, but Linda was an intimate photographer who used her camera actively, which lends her photographs a sometimes startling feeling of voyeurism. When her subjects are reacting in Linda’s photos, they are most likely reacting to Linda herself (as a friend/mother/lover/mother) not a potential audience.
Linda’s work reminds me most of Sally Mann, whose photography also focused (sometimes controversially) on life with her husband and children in their remote, back to basics Virginia farm. In a piercingly honest article from the New York Times a few years ago, Mann explored the motivations and consequences of having her family serve as the nucleus of her art. In regards to her husband (her most constant subject) Mann was very insightful, and I think it also strikes at a reason why Linda’s photography is not as appreciated either:
“In taking these pictures, I joined the thinly populated group of women who have looked unflinchingly at men, and who frequently have been punished for doing so. Remember poor Psyche, chastised by the gods for daring to lift the lantern that illuminated her sleeping lover. I can think of numberless male artists, from Bonnard to Weston to Stieglitz, who have photographed their lovers and spouses, but I have trouble finding parallel examples among my sister photographers. The act of looking appraisingly at a man, studying his body and asking to photograph him, is a brazen venture for a woman; for a male photographer, these acts are commonplace, even expected.”
Mann continues to praise her husband’s courage as a subject, “Rhetorically circumnavigate it any way you will, but the act of taking those pictures of him was ethically complex, freighted with issues of honesty, responsibility, power and complicity. He knew that, because he is a practiced model, and he also knew that many of the pictures would come at the expense of his vanity.”
It reminded me so much of Paul and Linda, and it made me realize that no one has ever taken a critical look at Paul as the subject of Linda’s art – though we hear a lot about her as the man’s muse. There is also a tragic lack of any author/biographer using Linda’s documentation of thirty years of Paul’s life. What do those photos reveal about Paul as a man, husband, father and subject? What does it say about their relationship? How do the photos change over time and what does that say about Linda’s artistry as well as what was going on in Paul’s life? Linda was not taking photos just to document personal memories – she selected ones to publish publicly they were HER ART for a reason. They captured a mood or statement that she wanted to convey just as much as, say, Yoko’s songs.
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Rose, thank you for such an awesome, informative comment. My knowledge of photography as an art form is basically non-existent, but your post really piqued my interest, both in general and in Linda’s artistry in particular. Any time you want to write a guest post on any of the subjects you brought up: Paul (and or their family) serving as Linda’s primary subject; Linda’s artistry as a photographer; why she selected the photos she did — you’re welcome to; I’d love to read your take on it. And the absence of such an evaluation is, as you say, glaring now that I think about it; do you think its primarily due to Linda’s overall photographic reputation being underestimated?
“Lennon now upped his own estimate to five years, but only because of McCartney’s role as a father: “Paul treasures things like children.”
In 5 little words describing McCartney, Lennon reveals so much about himself: “Paul treasures things like children.” To John, children are “things.” And that Paul would waste his time treasuring them is beyond John’s capacity to understand. Until of course we get to 1980, and Lennon is singing a different tune in the press about how wonderful his own family life is now with Sean (poor Julian is not part of this blissful picture). I wonder: By 1980, did Lennon ever publicly say something like, “I get now why Paul treasures his children.” In Lennon’s own rush to portray himself as a househusband and happy father, did he ever admit that McCartney had got there first? I don’t recall ever seeing any quotes from John admiring Paul as a father or praising Linda as a mother?
You’d think that John’s devotion to Sean would have inspired him to better understand Linda and her devotion to being a good mother. Parenting is something they could have had in common.
“In Lennon’s own rush to portray himself as a househusband and happy father, did he ever admit that McCartney had got there first?”
If he did, it wasn’t done publicly. As George commented, none of the Beatles were ever very good at apologies/mea culpas. And if the Rosen/Green/Seaman version is correct, than John may have admitted it to himself, but it only spurred his own resentment.
John’s comments on/behavior regarding family life and children — and how Paul fit into that — from asking Paul to teach him how to play with Julian, to his devastating Lost Weekend comment that Julian would probably rather have Paul as a father instead of him, to refusing to let Paul hold Sean, to his statement that Paul would only stay with Linda that long because of their kids — would probably take someone with more of a background in psychology than I have to untangle.
“Parenting is something they could have had in common.”
I’ve seen excerpts from Klaus Voorman’s memoir where a moment like that — bonding over being parents — is exactly what occurs between the two of them during the Dakota days. My guess is that John’s insecurity was so tuned to being provoked merely by Paul’s presence that they couldn’t have had a moment like that, because John would have always seen himself as the inferior father. But that’s my speculation.
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Al Goldstein’s Screw Magazine published the first article (that I know of) on Linda’s pre-Paul dalliances. The article (circa 1971) was a bit shocking, in that it named a lot of names and had quotes from members of the Animals and others. I waited for the blowback from the McCartneys, but I don’t recall if anything was ever said.
Thanks, George, for the information and the reference.
My impression is that, particularly in that time period, Paul and Linda didn’t directly respond to the press attention either one was receiving. They certainly didn’t call out the press for it, and claim they were being unfairly criticized, the way John and Yoko did. MacDonald says as much, regarding Paul and Linda’s press silence, and Frontani, and so does McCabe, who certainly doesn’t appear to have been a big fan of Linda. Linda herself claimed in the 1984 Playboy Interview that directly countering the comments about her wasn’t really her style, and I’m trying to rack my memory for an instance of Linda and/or Paul directly commenting on the Linda criticism, and the only things coming to mind, except the Playboy interview, are Linda’s comments on Peter Brown’s depiction of her in The Love You Make. IIRC, the main criticism from Linda there was more of the element of a betrayal of trust, rather than rebutting the claims Brown made regarding her. And again, Brown’s not all negative: while he certainly depicts Linda as initially little better than a simpering groupie, he also credits both Paul and Linda as responsible, loving, involved parents. He also seems to agree with John’s assessment that a big part of Linda’s attraction was her ability and willingness to give Paul a family: something to the effect of “At the bottom of his Irish, Roman Catholic heart, all Paul McCartney wanted was a woman to take care of him.”
Danny Fields mentions two examples where Linda evidently kept whatever response she had under the radar: there was a story on Linda, published around the same time period, which was actually written by an old friend of Linda’s from her New York days who felt jilted when Linda left for London and broke off contact for a time. It was absolutely scathing — even finishing with a snide little comment about how Linda’s Jewishness was evident with her taking a centerpiece from a party she had attended. I can’t recall the author’s name or publication, (Fields gives it in the book, though) but Fields gives the impression that it was harsh enough that other celebrities were very clear that they would not stand for similar portrayals. (He also talks to the author about it, decades later, and she was evidently very contrite about it). Its reasonable to assume Paul and Linda were aware of it, but there doesn’t seem to have been any public response. Then there was Lillian Roxon’s harsh criticism of the Paul McCartney TV special, but Fields says that Linda’s comments on that, following Roxon’s unexpected death, were entirely to do with Roxon’s criticisms of Paul: she said nothing to say to Fields about Roxon’s criticisms of her in the same article. That seems to fit a pattern: Linda could publicly and privately defend Paul, but we have little from her, that I can recall, defending her own depiction in the press.
This touches directly on something that I really believe is at the heart of much of the criticism of Linda (and her family), especially in England — anti-semitism. I’ve lived there in the Sixties (as a child), the Seventies (as a student), and the Eighties (as a professor) and although it seemed “better” later, it also seemed ingrained into the culture. Casual comments about “Jews” (as a pejorative term) never failed to take me aback, even coming from well-educated people. Things that would never fly in the US were commonly stated — and people and colleagues seemed surprised whenever I would call them out on them (probably chalked up to the nutty/overly sensitive Yank). That John was anti-semitic, re things he said about Brian and his coterie and later about Allen Klein and the Eastmans, is not in doubt (to be fair, Jim Mac, along with many of his generation, was as well, based on comments he made about Brian when he became their manager). That Linda was a Jew, even an extremely secular Jew, was something that seems to underlie so much of the British attitude to her, even when it wasn’t in any way true. Loud, pushy, money-obsessed, even unattractive and dirty — all were used to describe her at various times although they could not be further from the truth. That she was a Jew who did not know her “place” — as well as a woman and an American and a divorcee (hard to believe that term was still used into the Seventies to describe someone more than a little outside the norm!) — means that she never really had a chance to be treated fairly. And how could she have addressed that? The answer is that she really could not.
Gael, I typed up a long, thorough, half a page post in response to your post, which I found very thought provoking and important — and then the internet ate my response. Ugh. So here’s the bullet points: I apologize for the bluntness of the format:
Given that Nancy is also an American of Jewish background, do you have any observations regarding her depiction in the British press?
I think its myopic to assume that Linda’s Jewish background didn’t contribute to her depiction in the press, and/or the overwhelming sense in the press and among fans that she was simply unworthy of Paul McCartney.
Your experience with observing the more common use of anti-Semitic tropes and slang in England is both unsettling and thought provoking. Do we have any other Brits or American expatriates wanting to discuss the issue/offer their thoughts?
Do you have any examples or references to these articles using coded anti-Semitic language in their descriptions of Linda? I think they could add a lot to the understanding of the press depiction of her. Or any ideas of where to start, with particular publications?
While Yoko was also disliked for being regarded as unworthy of the Beatle she married, she was also viewed as exotic: Said’s “exotic other.” Linda was not exotic: she was simply, for a number of reasons (including, presumably, her religion) unworthy.
Paul and Linda would have had no recourse to address the anti-Semitic tropes and criticisms in the depiction of Linda. Calling the press out would have only seemed to reinforce the tropes — pushy, demanding, spoiled — associated with the Jewish American Princess label the press had already labeled her as. And going to the countercultural press, as John and Yoko had, wasn’t an option, because they were already aligned with John/Yoko/Klein in the Beatles split, and the main concern of the countercultural press was the establishment/vs. the bourgeoise, and certainly not antisemitism.
Again, sorry: the first post, which vanished into the ether, was much more thoughtful. But that’s the gist of it.
I remember Linda and Yoko both being reviled in the seventies. Yoko herself said that people hated her for being Japanese, and that John’s fans wanted him to marry an English girl. I don’t remember anyone liking her for being exotic. Sorry, no source other than my memory!
I’m not living in England anymore, so I’m not sure of how Nancy is being portrayed. But, especially compared to Linda — or Heather! — she’s so self-effacing that I think it’s difficult to get a read on what she’s actually like in powder to criticize her. She doesn’t give interviews as far as I know and I don’t think I’ve ever even heard her voice! I know that when they were first married there was some comment about her family business, which had some vague (?) connections to organized crime — or at least that was the implication. I have no idea how true it is, but if you’re working in trucking/transport in New York/New Jersey, then it’s not that much of a stretch to make that connection (too many seasons of “The Sopranos”?). But that doesn’t seem particularly connected to Jewishness, just, perhaps, Americanness!
But one thing that has struck me is that she’s certainly more in touch with her Jewish faith than Linda. I don’t remember Linda or Paul particularly mentioning her Jewishness (or that of the kids). Linda took a lot of pictures of Christmas celebrations, but I never remember anything about Jewish holidays, etc. (Just as an aside, Linda’s sister Laura Malcolm was a born-again Christian — I don’t know if she still is. Christian singer/songwriter Phil Keaggy played at their wedding in 1991.) Paul and Linda also had a C of E blessing at a church after the wedding. With Nancy Paul has been very open about attending Passover services with Nancy and her son, tweeting out Passover greetings (along with Easter greetings) and talking about the kids being Jewish through Linda, although I never heard of any of them participating in Jewish holidays or anything like that.
Here’s an article from “The Jewish World” from 2014:
There are a number of other articles from Jewish publications, including “Lilith” and “The Forward,” that discuss this.
“Guiliano interpreted Nilsson’s reported response — “John didn’t want to fuck Linda: John wanted to fuck Paul” — as indicating that any sexual attraction Lennon may have felt towards Eastman was driven not by her, but by his desire to mess up McCartney’s life and assert his dominance over his old friend and rival.”
Does he really?? Wow. So he interprets “fuck” first to mean have sex with and then to screw over? Seems to me the more likely meaning (from what I know about Nilsson, which admittedly isn’t all that much), and just from my overall hunch given how John treated Paul’s other love interests or flings when he saw them as threats (explaining, perhaps, part of why he didn’t seem to target Dot or Maggie—for whatever reason, he might not have seen them as threats that would take Paul from him), “fuck” is being used the same way both times here. John had a sexual jealousy of Paul that’s not normal between two male friends: the incident where he cuts up that girl’s clothes in a rage comes to mind. Paul mentioned once coming across John having sex with a woman in their room in Hamburg and just muttering apologies and leaving. His resentment of Linda is really very simple in nature, I think. Of course he wants to declare, possibly trying to convince himself as well as everyone else, that Paul doesn’t really want to be with her.
Some day I’m just going to have to grit my teeth and read Guiliano. I’ve avoided him primarily due to his poor reputation and sour depiction of, well, everyone, but eventually I need to read his evaluation and see what his methodology and interpretations consist of, and if he has discernible patterns of omission/illogic/predetermined conclusions in his interpretations. There are really only two ways you can interpret this comment, so far as I know — again, assuming Nillson actually said it, since we don’t have any documentation — and Guiliano certainly doesn’t ascribe to the Occam’s Razor interpretation on this one.
I’ve been digging trying to find the root of the “John didn’t want to fuck Linda: John wanted to fuck Paul” statement, and so far I have found no reference to this. I can’t seem to find a reference to John’s desire to to mess up Paul’s life/assert his dominance either. Can anyone point me in the right direction?
I scoured through Lennon in America by Geoffrey Giuliano and also Lives of John Lennon by Albert Goldman (as some people attribute this quote to a interview between Harry & Albert Goldman). I see no mention in either and I’m confused about where it got started from.
The quote is definitely from Giuliano, although I can’t remember which book. Giuliano, as you probably know, was notorious for his leaps of logic, his refusal to document, use of unsubstantiated quotes, etc. I have only seen the quote online — with the page number, and can remember the reference of it being a conversation between Guiliano and Harry Nillson — but can’t recall which volume of Guiliano’s it is. If anyone else wants to jump in and offer that, feel free.
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