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Wednesday, November 29, 1989

Interview for San Diego Union

Linda Lets Her Voice Be Heard

Interview of Linda McCartney


  • Published: Nov 29, 1989
  • Published by: San Diego Union
  • Interview by: George Varga


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Read interview on San Diego Union

LOS ANGELES — It is 2½hours before Paul McCartney’s first U.S. concert in 13 years, but Linda McCartney doesn’t appear to be suffering from any pre-performance jitters.

As she strolls through a cavernous corridor backstage at the Forum, teacup and saucer in hand, she lets out a hearty whoop worthy of a child about to enter a favorite amusement park.

One hour later, following an extensive sound check with her husband’s new band, a far more serious Linda McCartney gingerly takes a seat before a visiting reporter.

It’s a task this press-shy American photographer-turned-rock-star-wife usually regards with a pronounced lack of enthusiasm. Witness the almost complete absence of interviews with Linda in any U.S. publications.

Informed that this newspaper’s computer library contains 395 stories about her husband, the pop superstar and former Beatle, but not a single one about her, she smiles and says, “Good.”

Could it be that, inexplicably, Linda is rarely asked to do interviews?

True,” she replies with a nod. “And I request not to do many.”


“I felt I had nothing to sell or say, really. But now I have things to say, so I’m doing them.”

Clearly, this native New Yorker and happily married mother of four (ages 12 and up) also values her privacy.

Really,” she says, nodding again, “because I’m not a show-biz person. You know, I married somebody in show-biz. But I’m the voyeur, in truth … I never did interviews, and why mention me, other than that I’m the wife? And, if anything, it’s (the) ‘`She can’t sing, she can’t play’ (attitude) that you get from back in the 1970s...

“In England, it’s different. In England I do more stuff, and they know me better, because it’s a small country and I live there.”

Happily, Linda’s previous reluctance to talk to the American press was not evident during this Thanksgiving night interview.

Despite the conspicuous presence of a tour publicist who took the unusual step of taping the conversation, Linda, 48, spoke with unmistakable warmth, candor and a refreshing lack of pretense or affectation. When the interview concluded after an all-too-brief 20 minutes, she seemed eager to continue chatting.

Can this friendly, sincere woman be the same Linda McCartney who has shunned previous interviews for fear of unfairly being painted as a calculating wife eager to use her husband’s fame for her own gain?

I think Linda has gotten the short end of the stick for too long,” says Hamish Stuart, the bassist and occasional guitarist in Paul McCartney’s new band.

She’s gotten a lot of bad press; hopefully, that won’t happen anymore. She’s very positive, as far as standing by her man, and I really admire that. And she tells it like she feels it, which I think is another great quality.”

Linda’s a sweetheart,” adds McCartney band guitarist Robbie McIntosh.

She’s a great mother, she’s great fun, she has a heart of gold and she keeps a very level head about the whole thing. She’s the last person to spin any B.S.”

“I’m one of those who will say what I want to say and do what I want to do,” affirms Linda, who maintains she has no difficulty leading an ordinary life.

“For me, it’s easy, because I am ordinary. I really am down to earth. I love nature, I love animals and I love my freedom. In fact, that’s the exciting bit — being free. But (being) married to a Beatle makes it a little more `fishbowl-y.’ But I don’t actually get recognized that much, and I pretty much walk around pretty sloppy. I’m very much like I was when I married Paul.”

Linda’s marriage to Paul McCartney in 1969 directly preceded the demise of The Beatles.

History has since shown that the most famous of all rock bands was destined to break up well before Linda and Yoko Ono became Mrs. Paul McCartney and Mrs. John Lennon, respectively. Even so, some myopic Beatles’ fanatics still blame Linda and Yoko for the band’s breakup.

Linda winces when reminded of those who doggedly insisted that she was somehow culpable for The Beatles’ dissolution.

“It wasn’t hurtful, because I knew it wasn’t true,” she says. “It was going on way before I got there.”

She pauses, then smiles.

“I don’t know, it’s all part of show biz, baby,” she says, giggling.

Linda met Paul at a London nightclub — “sort of a pickup job,” she says teasingly — in 1967. She subsequently got permission to photograph the Beatles from the band’s manager, Brian Epstein, who was impressed by earlier photos she had taken of the Who’s Keith Moon and the Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones.

“I was in England doing photographs for a book called ‘`Rock — and Other Four Letter Words.’ So I photographed (The Beatles). It was around the time of ‘Sergeant Pepper’s’,” she recalls.

Linda’s interest in photography dates to 1961, when she was living in Arizona and getting a divorce from her first husband. At a friend’s prompting, she reluctantly attended an evening photography course at the Tucson Arts Center. It proved to be a night that profoundly changed her life, and she remembers it vividly.

“The instructor was an older woman in a wheelchair,” she says, “and there were two or three older men looking at the most fantastic photographs (by) Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams and (Henri) Cartier-Bresson. I was an art-history major, and they totally captivated me. At the end of it, the instructor said, `OK, everybody take your roll of film and I’ll see you next week.’

“I went up to her and said, `’I don’t have a camera,’ and she said, `’Well, borrow one.’ So, I did and, luckily, bought a roll of black-and-white film, instead of color. I took photos of the mountains, a horse, a kid and all that kind of stuff, and I brought a contact sheet to class. She looked at it and was really impressed. I said, `’I don’t know anything about photography,’ and she said, ‘`It doesn’t matter, you’ve got a good eye.’

“And I never went back. I just started taking pictures, and it all fell into place.”

Eight books of Linda’s photography have been published thus far. In addition, she recently co-wrote a vegetarian cookbook, “Linda McCartney’s Home Cooking — Quick, Easy and Economical Vegetarian Dishes for Today,” a best-seller in England.

Yet, while photography gave her an official entree to meet The Beatles and her future husband, it was marriage and, soon afterward, records and tours with Paul that earned her the ire of many Beatles’ fans.

Linda’s detractors claimed she elbowed her way onto Paul’s post-Beatles’ solo albums. In fact, Linda (who sang un-credited harmony vocals on The Beatles’ “Let It Be”) needed much encouragement from Paul before agreeing to collaborate with him.

“It was hard work, and he really did have to force me,” she says. “And it was very tough on me. It’s nothing I elbowed my way into; to this day I wouldn’t necessarily want to be doing this. But we want to be together — that’s why I’m doing it.”

Linda describes Paul as a stern musical taskmaster.

He still is, definitely. I can’t tell you,” she says with a laugh.

“He had me singing on (his 1971 album) ‘`Ram,’ and he’d be like, `’Come on, get it together!’ It was nerve-racking because, since I wasn’t a good student, why would I be a good, in-tune singer? He’d get me in tune, but I found it hard.”

Linda also admits to having cried before performing her 1972 debut concert with Wings, Paul’s first post-Beatles’ band.

“I was really nervous, but I was the one in the group having fun, due to my innocence. I don’t mind getting in front of an audience (now), because I’m not that involved with what people think.”

“She’s very much one of the group,” says guitarist Stuart. “She plays her keyboard parts, she sings harmonies and covers a lot of things that are needed.”

The McCartneys’ ongoing world tour is in part a vehicle for Paul and Linda to endorse Friends of the Earth, an environmental group dedicated to protecting the earth’s future.

“It’s really (to) save the world, isn’t it?” says Linda, a longtime vegetarian and self-described animal-rights activist.

“It’s an ecology thing, but I think it all starts with what we eat. Because they’re cutting down the rain forests to fatten cattle, when you think about it. So, if people stopped eating meat, they would stop chopping down rain forests, and animals would be a lot happier, too. …

“Because animals can’t speak. It’s like what Hitler did to people is what we’re doing to animals: We’re gassing them, we’re factory-farming them and we’re murdering them.”

Linda and Paul have three children, James, Stella and Mary. Linda has another daughter, Heather, from her first marriage. Together, they lead an unpretentiously normal lifestyle, whether at home or on the road.

“It was quite normal, even in Wings,” Linda says. “Because what’s normal, I ask myself? I think normal is just not getting on the treadmill of opinions and keeping up with the Joneses. You can be normal anywhere, really.

“I mean, touring is not my cup of tea; I’d rather be home. But I’m really enjoying the shows. It’s a good band and Paul is loving it, and that’s the main thing.”

Paul McCartney writing

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