Paul and Mary remember Linda McCartney

Mods: I realize that quotes from the first article were posted through someone else's post of the article in "People". This post has the original full text of Paul's article along with the pictures that he discusses.

If you're a member of the "tl;dr" crowd, don't even bother. If you enjoy reading about peoples' very sentimental and heartwarming memories or saying "awwww", then read on.

On Linda
by Sir Paul McCartney
April 6, 2008
The Sunday Times

So much of my life with Linda, and our family, was spent just hanging out either at home or on holiday. The picture on this page is just a simple holiday snap. It was just one of those shots, a photograph of me in Jamaica relaxing in the afternoon. As a photographer, Linda had the freedom to take great family snapshots. She had that knack: when she was taking pictures, she managed to get us all to ignore her, totally.

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Jamaica, 1972. Paul and Linda took a holiday before starting work on the Wings album that was to become Band on the Run

She could take pictures of pretty much anything and we knew that we could trust her. We knew she’d only take pictures of stuff that she thought was worthy and not too private.

We were made to feel at home. I suppose we were, after all. When I first met her, I realised that as a photographer she was very sympathetic. It’s now 10 years since she died and probably 40 years since we first met. I can still recall our first meeting. It was at a London club, the Bag O’ Nails, when Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames were playing one night. Across a crowded room, as they say, our eyes met and the violins started playing – but they were drowned out by, of all people, Georgie Fame. Another northerner.

There was an immediate attraction between us. As she was leaving – she was with the group the Animals, whom she’d been photographing – I saw an obvious opportunity. I said: “My name’s Paul. What’s yours?” I think she probably recognised me.

It was so corny, but I told the kids later that, had it not been for that moment, none of them would be here. Later that night, we went on together to another club, the Speakeasy. It was our first date and I remember I heard Procol Harum’s A Whiter Shade of Pale for the first time. It became our song.

Although Linda knew lots of top musicians – she’d worked as a photographer on the first issue of Rolling Stone – she was always very down to earth. In the 1960s we often travelled around by Tube. I took a picture of her one early afternoon. The carriage was completely empty and she wanted to shoot pictures of me.

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Jim Morrison of the Doors, one of the rock stars Linda shot for Rolling Stone

She was always very beautiful. That picture of Linda on the Tube shows her perfectly: beautiful hands, absolutely no make-up, just the structure of the face. The argyle socks that everyone used to make fun of. She had two pairs and used to wear a red one with a green one. She was a very natural girl, naturally blonde. It was a very casual look. That’s how the two of us went around in those days – down into the Tube, and I shot a couple of pictures of her and she shot a couple of me. Soon after the Tube picture was taken I broke up with the Beatles, which was a horrendous thing for me. Linda was very matter of fact, very down to earth – two of the attributes I really needed at the time. And also she was a woman. Until then I’d felt I’d been dating girls – well, except maybe one or two. Linda was genuinely a woman. She had a five-year-old child and I was genuinely impressed by the way she handled herself in life. She just knew how to do it. I found that very impressive. It’s funny, but a lot of singers and bands these days are more down to earth than you might think. I actually went to dinner one evening with my daughter Stella and Madonna, who showed up on her own. We offered her a lift home and she said: “No, I want to walk home.” You think people wouldn’t want to do that, but they do. I go shopping, I go to the cinema, I do a lot of things like that because it’s a good balance for me between that and the high-profile stuff.

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London, 1969: Linda, as captured by Paul, in an empty Tube carriage

Even at the height of the Beatles era and the screaming fans, I would still go to gigs on the Tube. There was a ring of theatres on the outskirts of London in places like Walthamstow and Finsbury Park and we used to play all of them. I would just take the Tube into the suburbs and walk into the theatre. I remember one night a group of screaming fans recognised me walking along the street on my way to the gig. I always tried to say: “Wait, calm down.” It was a kind of brotherly attitude, like I was their older brother. I’d say: “Hello, girls, what do you want?” I’d just take control. They’d reply: “We want your autograph.” I’d say: “Okay, here’s the deal. If we all walk quietly to the theatre, we’ll chat and I’ll do them. We’ll have a great experience, but if there’s any screaming I won’t.” I cut a deal with them and it worked.

Linda didn’t take a lot of pictures of the Beatles, but she made the most of the opportunity when she was in the studio, usually at Abbey Road. She was very sensitive about not interrupting. She had this knack of not getting in the way. She had this great style where she would sit in the corner and just pull out her camera and take a couple of snaps and put it away. What I love about the shot of John and me is that it shows the great working relationship we had. It was a joy to work with John, particularly when we were writing and organising, as we were in this picture. I can’t recall exactly what we were doing – maybe a lyric, maybe a running order, maybe the medley on Abbey Road. At some point we had to organise what song would go where. I just love the joy of that picture – it’s beautifully composed. There were also the difficulties of the period – which show up in the film Let It Be – which I think have overshadowed the truth. It was a very heavy period. But this picture shows it wasn’t all like that. There was some light. And that’s how I remember our working relationship. Even though there were some tough moments, this was a great friendship.

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Abbey Road 1969: Linda was present at many of the sessions that signalled the end of the Beatles. Paul insists the Abbey Road sessions were not always fraught, and this image shows him and his friend John working together as a team.

Faced with the pressure of being married to a Beatle, Linda often wanted to get out of the city.

We would go on visits to places like Cliveden, where Linda photographed me with Heather, Linda’s daughter, who became our daughter. She always called me Dad. It is an interesting shot. I knew Cliveden from making the film Help! – we shot a sequence where we’d used the house, pretending it was Buckingham Palace. I’m not sure the Queen would have allowed that. I’d been out there with the Beatles and we met Lord Astor and he was on his last legs.

I remember him offering us all oxygen. He was saying: “Do you want a bit?” I think we did have a quick whiff.

I knew that Cliveden would be a nice day out for Linda, Heather and me. When we went for a drive, Linda always wanted to get lost. I had an in-built panic about being lost. I always want to know where London is. I don’t want to get to, say, Staines and not know my way back. We would go down to the most obscure places, have a great time, find a little tearoom or a riverbank. She taught me little things like that, to relax and be down to earth. It was very valuable to me then, a great part of the healing process after the Beatles broke up. She adored the country and loved taking photographs there. The picture on the opening spread was taken in Scotland on our farm, in 1982, when we were spending a lot of time there. That’s my Scottish dressing gown – it was itchy on the skin but it’s the one I wore.

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Cliveden, 1969: Soon after their wedding in London, Paul and Linda went down to Cliveden, Buckinghamshire, the stately Thames-side pile once owned by the Astor family, with Linda's daughter Heather. Paul recalls that Linda was keen on getting out of London, and loved getting lost in the car

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Campbeltown, 1982: Paul, Stella and James on the McCartney farm in Scotland, which the family still visits

My task was to walk from one end of the fence to the other and back, which I did until it got a bit rickety and it became a bit of a health hazard. What I think is fabulous about this picture is that it is one of those moments in time that someone like Cartier-Bresson specialised in. There are famous pictures that Cartier-Bresson took that showed someone jumping over a puddle in the road – it’s that “you’re there!” look. Then you have this lovely figure of Stella just crouching down in the foreground. And then you’ve got the dog perfectly pointing, a little labrador called Poppy, and then you’ve got me balancing. It’s quite amazing.

Linda was a very natural woman. She loved the fresh air and the freedom and the privacy of the countryside. During the break-up of the Beatles we spent quite a long time in Scotland – three to four months. Normally it would just be a two-week holiday. We loved it up there. It was the end of nowhere.

Our farm is in Campbeltown and I still go there with the family. The men in the picture were known by Linda and me as the Old Biddies. They were retired. They used to hang out in their macs and their Andy Capp caps and sit around and have a chat. Later I think someone put a bench there for them. We used to always see them when we went into town to get some groceries. She’d take snaps and there are quite a lot of photographs that are now quite historical. In 30 years, places change. We’ve got pictures of babies, bonny wee bairns who are now great, grown-up farmers.

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Campbeltown, 1968: Locals from the Scottish village where the McCartneys have a farm

And the Campbeltown museum has some of Linda’s pictures for that very reason – they’ve become historical. I love the raincoats. Those old guys are all just country types, retired with their sticks. There is some great atmosphere in that photograph. Linda was very fond of the Old Biddies.

One great thing about Linda was that she was able to mix with anyone. Her father was a well-known lawyer. He had been to Harvard and had a very successful practice and lived in an apartment in Park Avenue, a very posh address, with a stunning art collection. She could live in that world, she was very at ease there. But also she could communicate very easily with people on the street. She had a very easy manner. In the 1960s and 70s the press over here didn’t get it – simply because she’d become my girlfriend and then my wife.

She didn’t go on TV and say “This is who I am – hello” and try to ingratiate herself. We didn’t need to do that – it was our life, not theirs. We were too busy living it. When anybody came to the house and met her, they thought she was fantastic. She was just a great person to hang out with: very funny, very smart and very talented. She could just as easily talk to a local postman as a New York art dealer.

It takes time for people to get to know you, especially if you don’t work at it – and she didn’t work at it. Time is the essential factor. People would come round to dinner with us, people like Twiggy and Joanna Lumley. Linda would occasionally do interviews and people would gradually get to know her. The word just got out that she was just a really cool lady. People would say about her: “She’s nothing like the image.” Her priorities were private rather than public, and that’s why it took a bit of time.

For me, probably the saddest and most haunting photograph in this collection is the self-portrait she took in 1997, not long before she died in 1998, in Francis Bacon’s studio in South Kensington. Linda was a great art lover. She had studied art at college in Arizona and her father had a phenomenal collection. So she’d grown up with great art. She admired Francis Bacon greatly and had an opportunity through a friend to photograph his studio after he died. We knew the people who looked after his studio. It was going – the entire contents – to Dublin. She went along and took some pictures. This one is a classic. With the cracked mirror it’s particularly eerie. It is a very strange but powerful picture. I’m not sure, but that looks like somebody’s death mask on the right of the picture.

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South Kensington, 1997. One of the last published self-portraits by Linda, shot in the London studio that had belonged to Francis Bacon. At this point she had undertaken a course of chemotherapy and had lost much of her hair. She died the following year in Arizona after a lengthy battle with breast cancer

At the time, she knew she was ill, but she’d had chemo and her hair was growing back. I thought at the time it was a very chic look. She didn’t know she was dying. I’m not actually sure she ever knew she was dying. You have a decision to make as a family as to whether you tell someone and the doctors leave it to you, the immediate family.

I talked it over with the 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.” She was fighting right up to the end.

Even on the day before she died, she was out on horseback. She loved riding so much. Sometimes she’d get up on her a horse and I’d say: “You don’t want to get down, do you?” She preferred it up there than on the ground.

An exhibition of Linda McCartney’s photographs will open at the James Hyman Gallery, 5 Savile Row, London W1, on April 25. The show is the result of a three-year collaboration between Sir Paul, Mary McCartney and James Hyman. Limited-edition platinum prints are available from the gallery. Visit

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Arizona, 1991: Linda studied in Arizona, and the McCartney family has owned a ranch there for many years. This self- portrait was taken in their house

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'Lind photographed whatever appealed to her eye,' says Paul. 'In the first picture she's in the frame, then she's decided to take the image of just a cross, then she decided to intrude an arm. The three images work together. It's become a classic triptych'

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Venice, 1976: On tour with Wings. 'Linda saw the reflection in the window and realised it would make a good picture'


The McCartney family album

To mark the 10th anniversary of Linda McCartney's death, Paul and daughter Mary have selected the best of her photographs for a revealing exhibition. Here, Mary tells Sean O'Hagan why the pictures are so special to her

Sunday April 6, 2008
The Observer

When I ask Mary McCartney to describe her mother's photographic style, she thinks for a long moment and says: 'She approached photography the way she approached everything else - with quiet confidence.'

You can see that in the photographs spread out before us on the table of the west London members' club where McCartney has met me to talk about a forthcoming exhibition of her mother's work. The show, which opens at the James Hyman Gallery on 25 April, is the first major retrospective of Linda McCartney's photography, and has been timed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of her death from breast cancer. The photographs have been selected by Paul and Mary McCartney, with input from Hyman, from 4,000-odd contact sheets.

'It's an incredible archive,' says Mary, herself a respected fashion and portrait photographer. 'Mum never stopped taking photographs, though it may have seemed that way to the public. It's about 30 years' worth of work. The only gap is around the time when Stella and I were born when, as she said, she was up to her neck in nappies. Otherwise she always seemed to have a camera in her hand.'

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Linda McCartney

To many people Linda McCartney was known, first and foremost, as the wife of a Beatle, and then as a vegetarian-cum-animal rights campaigner. Yet it is her career as a photographer, which waned as she embraced motherhood, music and activism, that is her lasting legacy.

'She was an instinctive photographer and always unobtrusive,' continues Mary. 'She wasn't that interested in straight portraiture or art photography - the images she caught were nearly always intimate, relaxed and oddly revealing.'

You can see that intimacy in her shot of John Lennon and Paul McCartney working on lyrics in the corner of a recording studio. Both are immersed in the task, but obviously having a good time. McCartney, his biro poised over a sheet of paper, may just have amended the lyrics. Lennon obviously approves. They seem almost conspiratorial and to have the intimacy of a long-term couple. Which, in a way, they were.

With the Beatles, Linda's access was assured. Before she met Paul, though, she had worked with many of the icons of the Sixties pop scene, including Jimi Hendrix, whom she famously captured mid-yawn. He didn't seem to mind.

'It was a different time,' says Mary, 'before PRs and image makers took over. Back then, she told me, the manager would often be a friend of the band. If you were cool and they liked you, you could simply hang out.'

Mary's younger sister Stella, now a celebrated fashion designer, is in one of the most intriguing family snapshots. It was taken at Paul McCartney's cottage in Scotland, near the Mull of Kintyre, which he famously hymned on one of Wings's more mawkish songs. Paul balances on a fence in dressing gown and slippers. He is watching with some concern his young son James, who has just leapt off the bonnet of the family Land Rover. Immune to the drama, Stella is kneeling on the grass in the foreground, immersed in some private reverie.

'That's Poppy, our family dog,' says Mary, pointing at a pooch in the background. There is also a sack of logs, or maybe potatoes, in the foreground near Stella. It is a detailed photograph but intricately composed: the dark, looming cottage on the right of the image, the fence that arcs away to the horizon, the tall figure of Paul echoed by what appears to be a ring of standing stones in the background on the left.

It is also a perfectly rendered moment, a deceptively casual portrait of a family caught up in one of the small dramas of the everyday. The image is given added resonance by the fact that it is a glimpse into the private life of the McCartney family at a time in the early Seventies when Paul had fled the media-fuelled madness that attended the Beatles, and by the fact that Linda is the invisible, guiding presence.

'I love that photograph,' says Mary. 'It's so weird - the dog, my brother jumping into the air, and Stella in a world of her own. I could look at it for ages. It's not set up at all; it's all about watching and timing. I bet she didn't even change the lens to take it, just used the same old 50mm lens she always did. That's what I mean about instinctive. There's a faith that it will be all right and it is. She just gets it.'

She stares at it some more, and the photographer in her gives way to the loving daughter. 'We uses to walk that fence all the time to see how far we could go before we fell off. So it has all those memories, too. Our lives are mapped out in our mum's photographs. I found out her and Dad's story just by looking through the contact sheets: her rock'n'roll stuff, then her photographs of the Beatles, then her meeting Dad. It's like her diary, really, a record of her life.'

Linda Louise Eastman began her career as a photographer almost by accident. While working as a receptionist for Town & Country magazine in Manhattan in the mid-Sixties, she picked up an invite for a press party on a boat on the Hudson. It was for the Rolling Stones, newly arrived in America. She charmed the bad boys of rock as she later charmed Hendrix and Jim Morrison.

Soon afterwards, she forsook the genteel concerns of Town & Country for the more earthy delights of the Fillmore East, a celebrated but grungy New York rock venue, where she became the house photographer, capturing live images of Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, the Doors and the Who. Before Annie Leibovitz became Rolling Stone magazine's favourite snapper, Linda was the first woman photographer to have her work on the cover - a portrait of Eric Clapton.

'Mum liked doing music work when it was all free and easy,' Mary says, 'but when the lawyers and the accountants took over, she lost interest. She was independent always. She did it on her own terms or not at all. Plus, she had children. Children take over your life.'

Contrary to received wisdom, Linda Eastman was not an heir to the Eastman Kodak empire, but she did come from wealthy American stock. Her father Lee was a music-business attorney, while her mother, Louise Sara Lindner, inherited the Lindner department-store fortune. She died in an aeroplane crash in 1962, when Linda was just 20, precipitating in her daughter a lifelong aversion to flying.

'I think Mum and Dad were close because they both lost their mothers when they were young,' says Mary. 'It was one of the things that bonded them. You could glimpse it when certain songs came on the radio, and they'd both be suddenly sad at the same time. I also think it's what made them so family-oriented.'

Family life, one suspects, is also what grounded Paul McCartney after the craziness of the Beatles years - though blissful domesticity also seemed to soften his musical brain. For a long time Linda stopped being a professional photographer to become a musician of sorts with Wings, and had to contend with the wrath of Beatles fans who blamed her and Yoko Ono - but mostly Yoko - for the fall in quality in both Paul and John's solo work. She later admitted that she sometimes sang out of tune on early Wings songs.

Paul met Linda in the famed Bag O'Nails club in London in May 1967, where the new rock aristocracy hung out, and where she was taking shots of Georgie Fame for a feature on Swinging London. That same week, they met again when the Beatles unveiled their Sergeant Pepper album at a party in their manager Brian Epstein's Belgravia pad. In September 1968 Paul asked Linda to fly to London for a date. They married six months later. Mary was born in August 1969. On the back of her father's first solo album, McCartney, she is the curious infant peeking out of her father's jacket straight at her mother's lens.

'It's a beautiful moment, isn't it?' Mary says. Does she remember much about her childhood in Scotland? 'Oh God, yeah! I remember we'd go off exploring a lot, Stella and me, and we didn't have to be watched all the time.' It's a revealing memory, a reminder that they were still the children of one of the most famous pop stars in the world and had to be protected accordingly.

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Paul and baby Mary McCartney

How big an influence is her mother on her own photographic style? 'I'm not sure. It was more her attitude I admired. She was feisty in her own way, but not in a big, in-your-face way. I suppose she was quietly persuasive. It took me a long time even to get to that point. I used to be so green when I started, almost apologetic. I'm more like her in the way I approach my personal projects: just me and the camera and a few rolls of film. She gave me loads of advice all the time and I really miss that, chatting and arguing over the contact sheets. I remember when I used to moan about missing a great moment, a great photograph, she'd say: "Oh, don't worry, it's in your soul camera." I think she really believed that.'

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Paul McCartney, as photographed by Mary

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Paul, standing in the doorway of his London home, as photographed by Mary

Was it hard to be the child not just of famous parents, but of parents who were seen as alternative types - hippies, vegetarians, animal rights activists? 'Well, my friend Josie used to call us hippy convoy kids,' she laughs. 'We were tomboys, that was down to Mum. She was a bit anti-authority, a bit rebellious. At the local comprehensive in Rye I tried to blend in but Mum and Dad would turn up in the Land Rover with the rainbow-stripe fabric on the seats. The rock hippy parents! I did the whole thing of being embarrassed as a teenager. I'd look at her odd stripy socks and go: "You're not going out dressed like that, Mum!" Now I think it's beautiful. Like the way she cut her own hair. It's quite cool, really.'

There is a powerful self-portrait of Linda towards the end of her life in Francis Bacon's studio. I ask Mary if this was the last image taken of her mother before she died. 'No,' she says haltingly. 'I think I took the last photographs of her. I was working on the press pictures for her cookbook. I think the very last one was a close-up where she is looking deep into the lens. Really intimate and poignant. The thing is,' she says, tears welling up, 'I don't think she ever saw it.'

As she composes herself, she sorts through the images. 'That's the thing about photographs,' she says. 'They are wonderful reminders of things, but they also carry memories, sadness.'

It must have been an emotional experience to sort through her mother's archive for the show. 'In one way it was, but in another it was satisfying. Me and Dad have a proper grown-up relationship now. I feel I was a kid for so long, but now we have both been through a lot. We're both divorcés, for a start,' she says, laughing mischievously.

Though I had been warned that the words Heather Mills were not to be even mentioned, it seemed an opportune moment to utter them. Did you, I ask, gritting my teeth, ever do a portrait of her? 'No,' she says, looking perplexed at the very thought. 'No. Not really. I didn't.'

Funny that, I say, but she does not respond. The silence, though, says enough. In more ways than one, she is her mother's daughter.

Linda McCartney's photographs will be at the James Hyman Gallery, 5 Savile Row, London W1 (020 7494 3857) from 25 April to 19 July

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Stella, Paul and Mary McCartney

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