More from year 1989
Other interviews of Linda McCartney
October 1992 • From Vanity Fair
Nov 29, 1989 • From San Diego Union
Feb 22, 1987 • From The Telegraph
Sep 21, 1982 • From The Guardian
Jan 12, 1980 • From New Musical Express
Mar 25, 1978 • From Record Mirror
May 15, 1976 • From Record Mirror
Apr 03, 1976 • From Sounds
Sep 27, 1975 • From Melody Maker
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It has been said that behind every great man, there is a great woman. What they don’t tell you is that most great women stand right alongside their male counterparts. They are unique, such an asset to their mate they are more valuable to them on board than left behind. Linda McCartney is such a woman.
It is appropriate that Paul McCartney, one of the Beatles (etched in history on the zenith level in the world of free thinkers) chose a true individualist as his partner. Linda McCartney is creative in her own right. A quick thumb through her eight photography books or a copy of Linda McCartney’s Home Cooking will convince you of this.
As an avid vegetarian and animal rights activist, Linda McCartney is dedicated to a preservation of the world’s ecological system. Her tireless work on behalf of animals and the planet, including some songs she has co-written about animal rights, indicates her concern for all life. Linda truly is an “earth mother,” actively engaged in raising a family, working with her husband and enchanted with the whole business of living.
The stadium at UC Berkeley has never before been used as a concert venue. Paul McCartney will play here to a packed house for the second night in a row. The press conference in a tent on campus lends an air of excitement. The media oddballs are here, people with dubious credentials try to slip McCartney a picture or guitar, a mysterious woman in white drops several pertinent names, indicating a working relationship with Macca in the past, but alas the Instamatic she carries gives away her true identity, or lack thereof. She is pushy and sits in the front row of the press tent, fluttering her eyelashes.
There are bespectacled, heavily perspiring, bookish types making hushed requests to Mika, Paul’s publicist. It appears none of these people can forget listening to the Beatles in suburban America for the first time and getting transported to some ethereal place just outside the Beatles’ bubble of magic. It is magic that never goes away, and like little apprentices, we all seek out the master magician.
Paul McCartney is looking good, perhaps a little tired. At 47, how does he keep in shape for the tour? “By singing every night.” It is your basic McCartney press conference, not as in-depth and colorful as some, but characteristically warm and grand. It’s fun to hear what the master magician says, and it reminds us what we’re here for, despite the chilly winds and the cramped confines of the tent.
The interview with Linda is in a trailer. I chat with Mika and watch an ailing Hamish Stewart led around by a doctor looking for a suitable examination room. Robbie Macintosh does a phone interview. Everyone is a little hoarse; it appears Hamish’s flu bug may be the culprit.
Soon the woman referred to as “The Lovely Linda” arrives with 12-year-old son James. He has the face of a young Paul McCartney, with red hair. “Strawberry blonde,” Linda says. He is sweet, bright-eyed and intelligent, surely the apple of his mother’s eye. Daughter Stella is with dad. Linda is definitely up for the interview, and she starts with a bang, “It’s a real obscure record I made this time,” she says about her recent co-writing project. “It’s for animals. I did it with a friend, Carla Lane, who’s into animals like I am. One tune’s called White Coated Man, another called Cow. The name of the group is I.D.E.A. – I Don’t Eat Animals.
“Suzi’s moved on,” she says, referring to Suzi and the Red Stripes with whom she was associated in the mid 70’s.
She wears a white sweatshirt and sweatpants, with two giant Day-Glo elastic hair bands around one wrist and no makeup to speak of. Her eyes are beautiful, very kind, revealing a naive vulnerability not apparent in her demeanor. You feel the animal rights obsession and vegetarianism are insular things, something she adopted to find the peace to be herself. She is a basic, simple person who has seen incredible and complex things.
Karen Fox: What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned about people in the twenty-one years you’ve been Mrs. McCartney?
McCartney: It’s that people are a bit blind. They don’t see life. Being a photographer I see life, every inch of it. I’m obsessed with nature and animals and the earth; I find concrete things that distract me. Most people are the opposite…they find life boring, squirrels or sparrows boring, whereas I find them fascinating. It has to do with the way we live. It probably started with religion which leads some people astray. To fight over whose god is better has nothing to do with love or spirituality. Perhaps it’s guilt. We are suppressed and spend our time trying to figure out who we are. The most shocking thing I’ve learned concerns abuse, child abuse, animal abuse, abuse to every living creature. There is a world of little Hitlers out there. Slaughterhouses, vivisection and experimenting on animals for no reason is sick. Luckily younger people are becoming more aware.
Karen Fox: What is the most difficult aspect of being Linda McCartney?
McCartney: When you find a mate you can’t just go in your own direction. You have to compromise. Sometimes that’s hard. Being on tour, which I enjoy because I love the band, is not something I would do by choice in my own life. The bullshit and the showbiz in this sort of life gets on my nerves. Our two younger kids are with us so I’m not as homesick as I thought might be, and we do manage to get back home. Being together, that’s the main thing.
Karen Fox: What do you think you’d be doing if you hadn’t met Paul McCartney?
McCartney: I was pretty much there when I met Paul. I was a photographer, a lover of life, making enough money to support myself. I am still the same person.
Karen Fox: Do people have misconceptions about you?
McCartney: Does it really matter? If I wasn’t married to Paul it wouldn’t matter. I think I’m the opposite of what most people think, basically a kind person. Some of the criticism I get may be jealousy.
Karen Fox: Fergie, Lady Di and other famous women are visible in their husband’s lives. Why do you think you get such a bad rap?
McCartney: I’m quite different than they are. I think I’m a much deeper person. I’m not involved with setting the record straight. The people I love, love me. I love animals and animals love me, so stuff the others.
Karen Fox: Have you ever felt inclined to set the record straight?
McCartney: No, it’s always fingers up to the press. Most of them are not very spiritual people. If I had that job I would make it a better world. If I had the ear of the people, I would certainly try to change things, whereas they just seem to want turmoil and sensationalism and money. We do get bad press sometimes. I can’t figure it out, but then again my teachers in school didn’t like me much either. I wasn’t a good student, they said, “She’s always looking out the window daydreaming.” I didn’t read books because I was more interested in what was going on around me than words in a book. So they though I was a bit of a wise apple. I think the press feel the same way with the exception of the younger ones; they’re pretty cool. I’m not a showbiz person. I married someone famous, so what can I tell you? I’m not into people liking me, if I don’t know them.
Karen Fox: Do you still find it difficult to get on stage?
McCartney: No, not at all. I was a nervous wreck at first. I cried the first night in Sweden, many moons ago. It was very scary. Now it’s easier than life. You know what’s happening. It’s a good tour, and it’s going great. We have good people and they’re all eating vegetarian. Nobody seems to miss the flesh. People wonder where they’ll eat when the tour’s over. I’m just glad there aren’t any arms and legs and ribs. It’s a silent Hitler (eating meat); animals can’t scream.
Karen Fox: Where does Paul’s inner strength come from? Why don’t we see any craziness?
McCartney: Paul has an artistic side that isn’t level-headed, and I like that. Most of his down-to-earthiness comes from living with a good family. He was taught good values. His inner talent is just there. He also has his mad side, but he saves it for home. His mind is amazing. Although his roots are earthy, he’s up in the sky on other things. My values have certainly influenced him. I’ve influenced him. We influence each other.
Karen Fox: Does he need mothering?
McCartney: Yeah, I think all men are total babies even when they grow up whereas woman grow in a different way. Men need mothering, sometimes I just want to say, “Get on with it, kid.”
Karen Fox: How do you and Paul complement each other?
McCartney: My down-to-earthiness complements his ambition and talent. He drives me. I don’t think I’d leave the house if it weren’t for him. I’m content. We’re the opposite in that respect.
Karen Fox: What is your secret to a happy marriage?
McCartney: When you love one another you have a happy marriage because you care enough to work out the problems. If one of you is in a bad mood one day you put up with it because you love the person. It isn’t easy. Men in marriage, and I don’t mean this in my marriage, get a much better deal. They get a live-in-cook and all that. “There’s a bit of dirt on my shirt, honey.” Women are often suppressed in a marriage. Their fathers still dominate them; then they go into a marriage and let their husbands dominate them. It’s frightening. So many women say, “I’d like to be a vegetarian but my husband would never let me,” and you think God, that’s so sad, men are still thumping women. But back to marriage, I believe in a loose rein. Being a rider, I also believe in tightening it and giving it some slack. I’ve captured that art, being so horse-oriented.
Karen Fox: Is there a famous woman with whom you feel a kinship?
McCartney: Georgia O’Keefe, the painter. She’s special. I love her paintings and the fact that she married a photographer and went out to a ghost ranch in New Mexico. It changed her life the same way the southwest changed my life. She went there and followed her own destiny, living very much by herself in the desert, painting these unbelievable paintings. I find that attractive. I’m fascinated with the American Indian, especially the plains Indians, like the Hopi, the Zumi, and the Navajo, and their harmony with nature. I love that simple living.
Karen Fox: Why do you think people love to knock Paul?
McCartney: Paul makes it look too easy. Real fans, or people who buy his records, think he’s wonderful, and I hear them say, “You know, I was at the lowest depths until I heard Somebody Who Cares. I was depressed, thinking of committing suicide until I heard that song.” Real people were going to die, and his songs saved them. But the press are a clever bunch, not an emotional bunch; maybe because they don’t have talent, they’re jealous of his. He does make it look easy, but they don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. Princess Di makes it look easy, too, but it’s hard bloody work.
Karen Fox: How does he deal with the stress?
McCartney: He just deals with it. He’s done this since he was young, whereas for me it’s new. But even I rise above it. He knows it now; he knows what the story is. But I’m with you, I don’t understand it. Think of the impressionist painters who weren’t allowed to show their paintings in the salon; they’re all quite famous now but the people who were allowed in, you don’t hear about. Now we know about Monet, and Van Gogh, who never sold a painting. A lot of it has to do with the fact that people are a bit slow; it takes them years to appreciate good work. I don’t need a critic; I know when I’m bad, so maybe it helps him. Paul is critiqued so far off, so wrong. Everybody’s so into “Lennon was this, McCartney was that.” People can’t think they’re both great. That’s too easy.
At nightfall, we take our seats. The hillside residents have a bird’s eye view of the show. They sit on their balconies sipping wine; this is a party: a Beatle is in their backyards. Lasers and sound waves bounce off the mountains, the clouds, the houses, the people. During Hey Jude, an approving fog rolls in, and as Paul McCartney fills in the finale with his now matured “na na na na’s,” undertaking the twinkling stars the entire stadium comes alive with waving arms.
The 47-year old McCartney has performed 34 songs, including a never heard before hybrid version of P.S. I Love You and Love Me Do, a medley turning the two songs into one. On the six-foot video screens the face of the Englishmen experiences nirvana. He takes us through Richard-esque screams to a perfect acoustic version of Yesterday. Somewhere near the end Paul McCartney is obviously doing the thing he loves best in the world, and just behind him, her breath coming out in little gusts of steam in the backup vocals, is Linda, the Magician’s Apprentice. And you wonder where he’d be, what he’d be doing without her.