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She’s been mocked for her kooky ways, but Linda McCartney – with a new book of photographs, and still married to Paul – is getting the last laugh
As soon as she spots the white peacock wandering across the lawn, Linda McCartney halts, dives into a crouch, and starts up with a strange, piercing cry: “Miywauu-u-uk! Miywauu-u-uk!” The peacock gazes at her sullenly and does not reply.
We are on the grounds of an old Sussex millhouse that the McCartneys have converted into a recording studio. Somewhere inside the main building, Linda’s husband, Paul McCartney, is busy doing the final mixes on his new album, to be released early next year. Linda tries again with the peacock: “Miywauu-u-uk! Miywauu-u-uk!” No dice. The bird remains silent, and presently stalks away. “Dah,” Linda says in her soft, Anglicized American. “I used to really connect with those birds – communicate with them, you know? But I started making the peacock noises onstage when I was on tour, and after I came back I couldn’t communicate with them anymore.”
Mocking stories of Linda McCartney’s kooky, hippie ways have pursued her throughout her 23-year marriage to Paul, but in truth she has always provided her satirists with generous ammunition. Communing with peacocks is the least of it. She is an evangelical vegetarian who doughtily insists that “tuna have feelings.” She is a photographer who has just published a personal photographic memoir of 1960s rock stars – “Linda McCartney’s Sixties: Portrait of an Era,” out this month – but says her preferred subjects are “empty bottles on a windowsill.” She is an anti-industrialist who advocates a return to a rural barter economy: “I like the thing where I grow carrots and you grow onions, and if I give you some of my carrots, you give me some of your onions.” She is a passionate believer in “simplicity” who, despite being married to reportedly the richest pop star in history, elected to bring up her four children in a two-bedroom cottage.
Above all, she says, she is “an innocent.” She wrote her best-selling vegetarian cookbook, Linda McCartney’s Home Cooking, and brought out her personal line of vegetarian meals, only “for the animals.” Fame and stupendous wealth – Paul McCartney has been estimated to be worth around $500 million – have not tainted her, because she has never lost the conviction that less is more. “My outlook is that little things are the trip,” she says. “I’m very happy with very little. Maybe that’s why I have so much.” In her new book, the text concludes with the following account of herself: “I’m into nature and the seasons and blossoms and snowflakes, and I’m not keen to follow the line that everyone else is following. I’m into Life.”
“Linda says things that other people would edit out,” her friend Brian Clarke, the British artist, explains. “She fires from the hip and sometimes she misses her target, but she has a strong conviction that if you feel something to be right, then you must come out with it. A lot of people claim they don’t care what the media says about them. But she genuinely doesn’t.”
She has certainly grown used to derision. These days, she can discuss gibes made against her with a languid sort of acceptance, even, on occasion, a Pollyanna empathy. “I’ve got to the point, after all these years, where I can see why people get so upset about me and say cruel things. I’ve even got to the point where I can say, ‘Hey, I would probably have been bitchy about me. I would have said, ‘What the hell is Paul McCartney doing with her?'”
Lounging on a sofa in the living room above the recording studio, she laughs and pops a cherry into her mouth. At 51, she is a striking woman, with a strong, slightly hawkish face, framed by very blond, very straight hair. It’s a face that continually transforms itself from plainness to beauty and then back again. Her eyes, though, are undeniably sexy: pellucid, blue-gray, and so heavy-hooded they often seem on the point of closing.
If others have wondered what her husband sees in her, Paul McCartney himself has never had any doubts. Aside from the 10 days in 1980 that he spent in a Tokyo jail after being busted for possession of marijuana, he has not spent a single night apart from Linda since they were married. Not a single night. Since the 1970 breakup of the Beatles, he has also kept her intimately involved with all his musical projects. Invoking shades of William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies, he refuses to be put off by what is universally acknowledged as the meagerness of her musical talent, and insists, to this day, on keeping her as a keyboard player in his band.
He wanders into the room now, on the first of several visits during the course of the interview. At first he does an affectionate takeoff on Linda in her earnest, interview mode. Then he wanders over to the sofa and begins touching her – stroking her arm, massaging her neck, and, at one point, sitting down and putting his arm around her shoulder. It’s as if, quite literally, he can’t keep his hands off her. “I’d had a lot of great girlfriends before I met Linda,” he says. “Basically, it was sexual attraction with all the other girls. It was with her too. But there was a little added something, which made us want to get married.”
It has often been suggested that Linda holds the power in the McCartney marriage. Like Yoko Ono, she has been painted as a sly manipulator who has had her husband eating out of the palm of her hand from the start. Paul’s touchie-feelie visits during the interview could be seen to support this theory: here, one might say, is a man properly enslaved by his wife’s charms. But this isn’t a terribly convincing interpretation. There is something about the proprietorial ease with which he strolls in and out of the room – often interrupting Linda in mid-sentence – which indicates that he is very much the one in charge. It is, after all, her interview, and yet there is no question but that his regular intrusions will be cheerfully accommodated. “You have to remember he’s a northern English male,” one of the couple’s friends, the British comedy writer Carla Lane, says. “They operate as a partnership, but [it’s Linda who] lives a lot of her life around Paul.”
Linda and Paul insist that theirs is an entirely equal relationship. “We’re like mates,” Paul says. “From the beginning, she was like this funky New York photographer – a bit of a groover, a little bit naughty – and we’ve always had a bit of mischief going on between us. We’ve always had this little escape mechanism in each other.” This is cute stuff, but insufficient to explain how the two of them have survived 23 years in each other’s pockets. Haven’t these people ever heard the one about familiarity breeding contempt?
“People ask, ‘Why are you still together?'” Paul says. “And we honestly don’t know. Why don’t I want to go off to L.A. for a couple of weeks without her? I’m really not sure – but I don’t….People say Linda won’t let me see other women, which is a lovely fallacy. It’s generally other women who say that. There’s one or two, not mentioning any names, who’ve been trying to get me over the years and they tend to say, ‘Ooh, she’s very possessive.’ But it’s not that – I’m just a married man.”
“And, hey, why don’t I want to go off on my own?” Linda says.
“Listen, I like her!” Paul continues. “She’s great, man – she’s great. I like sleeping with her. She’s very warm in bed. I’d rather be sleeping with her than in some cold Holiday Inn without her.”
“Well, what about a warm bed in, say, Beverly Hills?” Linda prods.
“What, with a little starlet?” Paul asks. “Oh, hang on, Linda. I’m warming to this idea…” He shakes his head. “Nah. Look, it’s just not what I do anymore.”
Watching the two of them banter, one is struck by how genuinely interested in each other’s responses they seem to be – how entertained by each other’s company. On each of Paul’s subsequent exits and entrances, Linda stops what she is saying in order to swap ootsie-tootsie endearments with him.
The cynic might suspect that they are hamming it up for the lady from the press, but numerous friends and colleagues attest that is standard behavior. “Yeah – holding hands, lots of private jokes, giggly little conferences – that’s them,” Paul De Noyer, editor of the British rock journal Q Magazine, confirms. “You have to concede that it’s touching.”
“If the phrase means anything anymore,” Brian Clarke says, “I think they are in love.”
In the unfair way of things, Linda has not aged as well as Paul. (At 50, he could be taken to be in his late 30s.) But this is a woman, one feels, who will face the drooping and wrinkling of future years with equanimity. She is, in fact, a perfect illustration of the French idiom “to be comfortable in one’s own skin.” Her clothes are simple and pretty – jeans, a floaty little blouse, a pair of embroidered slippers. She wears some lipstick. But her body is resolutely unaerobicized, and her legs haven’t seen a razor in a while. To prove as much, she rolls up a jean leg and displays an impressively hirsute shin.
“Linda is totally unpretentious about herself,” says her friend Chrissie Hynde, the rock ‘n’ roll singer. “One shoe unbuckled and a sock round her ankle. Her handbag is the same one she had five years ago. She just doesn’t want to know about that stuff.”
“False glamour doesn’t appeal to me,” Linda says. “When I look at models with all that over-the-top makeup, I think, What happens when you take your face off, when they see you in the morning? I’ve always felt, I’m going to let them know exactly what they’re getting right now.”
By all accounts, this honesty has served her well. The journalist Danny Fields, who worked with her in the pre-Paul days, when she was freelancing in New York as a photographer for the music press, remembers the powerful effect she had on men. “She was not an exquisite thing – she wore pants, and no jewelry. She was natural. But when she was put in a one-on-one situation with a man…well, there was an impact she had, a kind of magnetism. She had that knack of making a man feel that he was the only person in the room. Men loved her. And she was very much a man’s woman.”
One gets some sense of this from the photographs that she took during the period. Linda McCartney’s Sixties is very much a book about the men of that era – women hardly get a look-in. When they do, Linda’s commentary takes on an elliptical, disengaged tone that is in contrast with the affectionate style of the rest of the text. Beneath pictures of a spotty and very miserable-looking Janis Joplin, she notes, “Janis and I became friends but we were never close….The chemistry wasn’t there. I was much more friendly with the guys in the band….I felt sorry for her. She would probably have liked a man to take her out to dinner.”
Linda happily acknowledges this male bias. “Oh, yeah, I always connected with men more than with women,” she says. “Definitely. No question about it. I’ve made more female friends since I’ve been married, but back then I was a man’s woman, sure.”
Linda grew up in Scarsdale, New York, the second child of four. Her father, Lee Eastman (who had changed his name from Epstein after the Second World War), was an eminent entertainment lawyer with a pretty snazzy client list. Linda grew up with artists such as Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, and Franz Kline.
Paul McCartney, who took on the Eastman firm as his business managers after he married Linda, is fond of comparing his wife’s “posh,” cultivated upbringing with his own working-class roots. But Linda points out that for most of her childhood her father was still on his way up the social and professional ladder. So she experienced the typical tensions of an aspirational household. Her mother, Louise, was “very keen on keeping up with the Joneses,” and through much of her teens Linda accepted what she now calls “these false values.”
“I had so much envy when I was a kid. I used to go past big houses and be just full of envy. I even thought of marrying dirty old men, or at least clean old men. And then I’d think, Oh, no, I’d have to sleep with them – yuck!”
In a family of academic achievers, Linda was the dunce. She was a poor student at Scarsdale High School. Her interests were “boys and horses and rhythmn and blues.” To this day, she says, she finds it hard to concentrate on the printed word and even harder to write: “I’m not a words person.”
“I always say that if Linda had lived in Egyptian times she would have been something special,” her husband observes. “She’s not clever, not academic….But she has a sort of native wit and a great sense of humor.”
She managed to graduate from high school. (Her yearbook entry for her senior year summed her up as “Shetlandish” and “strawberry blonde” with a “yen for men.”) And for a brief period she attended Sarah Lawrence College, Yoko Ono’s alma mater. She quickly moved on to the University of Arizona, where she met a handsome young geology student named Bob See. And then her mother was killed in a plane crash.
“I had never really connected with my mother,” she says, “but for my father it was a disaster when she died. My parents had been very much in love. When de Kooning wrote to my father after the death, he described the relationship as a 25-year love affair.” Home for the funeral, Linda heard her father crying at night. She returned to Arizona and married her geology-student beau almost immediately. “It was a kind of escapism. I was 19 and very immature. Instead of staying back East and helping my family, which is what I should have done, I just escaped. I’m the biggest escaper there is.”
This capacity for simply dismissing that which upsets her or with which she cannot “connect” partly explains the extremism of her vegetarian politics. Linda uses vegetarianism as a moral guide – “Ask them what they ate for lunch” is her personal motto. “Linda’s like me on this issue,” Chrissie Hynde says. “She doesn’t like meat eaters. To us, if you kill animals for your pleasure – you’re my enemy. I don’t want you around my children and my home.”
Linda and Paul have bought various pieces of land in recent years, to prevent them from being used for hunting. (Last year they purchased 87 acres of woodland in Exmoor to turn into a deer sanctuary.) But, according to Carla Lane, Linda is reluctant to buy land with buildings on it: “She’ll ask if there are houses on the land. If there are, she won’t buy it. She’ll say to me, ‘Houses equal people; people equal meat eaters. Forget it.'”
Back in Arizona, Linda and Bob had a baby together – a girl named Heather – but the marriage did not last for long. “It was fine and he was a very nice guy,” Linda says. “He was good-looking, a Hemingway type…but I guess I just grew.” When her young husband suggested after a year that they move to Africa together, she told him to go alone. “And that,” she says, “is when my life really began – when there was no father or husband watching over me. That was when I picked up the photography thing. It was like, wow, there is life after death. It was 1963. I became a really free spirit.”
The “photography thing” began when she attended an evening class in photography and was shown the work of Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans. She never went back after the second class, but she had been inspired. She has not stopped since. Opinions vary on the quality of her work. Linda McCartney’s Sixties is the fourth book of photographs she has published. In recent years she has exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and at the Royal Photographic Society in Bath (her second exhibition there opens October 8). But there are those who feel that her celebrity status renders such accolades suspect. Would she be celebrated as a photographer is she weren’t who she is?
“I think she has been wildly underestimated because of being married to Paul,” Brian Clarke says. “I’ve been photographed by almost all the so-called great portrait photographers, but Linda took a picture of me quite recently and I was knocked out. The picture looks so profoundly how I feel. And she got it without any of the usual fuss. There was no big tripod and lights – no bravado. She was just very gentle and soft and she got a picture that lays me bare.”
Linda’s big break in photography came when she left Arizona and returned to New York. She got a job as a receptionist at Town & Country, and one day she intercepted an invitation to a Rolling Stones press reception aboard a yacht. Linda turned out to be the only freelance photographer allowed on board when the boat set off for a cruise on the Hudson River. She didn’t know much about a camera at this point beyond how to focus and click, but the pictures she took got used by all the journalists who had had to leave their own photographers waiting on the pier. Soon afterward, she started receiving commissions from magazine editors.
Thus she entered the supercool world of 1960s rock journalism. And one way or another, in the course of the next three years, she came into contact with most of the music legends of that decade.
She did cultivate some hip friends. Jimi Hendrix was a regular visitor at her apartment on East 83rd Street. She and Jim Morrison were confidants. Jackson Browne was a buddy. And of course she ended up marrying a Beatle. Her book draws a veil over her romantic involvements prior to meeting Paul, and her friends from the period are scrupulously vague. Linda says, “I had a lot of fun things but no big love thing before I met Paul. Once I had my photography, I felt I had everything going for me except for love.”
Critics, referring to this period in her life, have often described Linda as a “groupie.” Danny Fields hotly contests the epithet. “She was a working professional. She was certainly attracted by the celebrity scene, but she never had that undiscriminating, I’ll-be-with-anyone-as-long-as-they’re-f
amous thing….She had access to the Warhol scene, but she simply wasn’t interested by their brand of amphetamine brilliance.”
But this does not discount a certain shrewdness in Linda’s approach to her social life. On the contrary, her choosiness suggests a woman with some confidence in her game plan. Though friends are now apt to describe Linda as “sentimental,” and even “a softy,” her New York years – bringing up a child on her own, becoming a successful freelance photographer, and getting in with the happening crowd – indicate a rather tougher creature. Richard Ogden, who has managed her and Paul for the last six years, acknowledges the presence of something harder beneath the marshmallow. “She can be tough…[her] father was a tough New York businessman,” he says. “She’s got a bit of steel in her.”
Danny Fields also stops short of describing her as entirely ingenuous. “Obviously she was ambitious,” he says. “She didn’t accidentally marry the most famous eligible man in the world. When it came to thinking about suitable husband material, Linda was very old-family [in her ideas].”
She met Paul in 1967 at a London nightclub. She was in England on a mission to photograph the Beatles, so this encounter was something of a gift, even though, as she laughingly recalls, it was John Lennon whom she’d been really interested in meeting. “I thought John would be very confident and strong. I’d always thought that if I did find a mate, it’d be someone who felt as strongly as I did about things. But when I did eventually meet John, he was nothing like that. He seemed so insecure, when everybody had said he was so outspoken. People have it so wrong about Paul and John – that Lennon was the artistic one and McCartney was just the melodies. I tell you, so much of what John got the credit for was really Paul’s.”
She and Paul were instantly attracted to each other. “It was an ‘Our eyes met’ sort of situation,” she says. After that first night in London, they saw each other only sporadically when one of them happened to be in the other’s country, but Paul was keen. “I was impressed by her womanliness,” he says. “A lot of the girls I had met were just…girls. She was a real woman, bringing up a child and everything.” He had been living with the British actress Jane Asher for a couple of years, and they were generally expected to get married. But Jane walked out on him when she found him in bed with a woman named Francie Schwartz. (He was playing the field very assiduously in those days.) And by then, in any case, he was beginning to think that Linda was the one. “I always did like people who had a mind of their own,” he says. “Jane had that, but Linda was just more womanly.”
One time in the New York subway, Paul remembers, Linda left him with Heather, telling him to take the child home and look after her while she ran some errands. Asking Mr. In Demand to baby-sit was a smart move on Linda’s part. Paul was thrilled. “I’d normally been with girls for just one night or whatever,” he says, “but this was day-to-day living.”
In September of ’68, Paul asked Linda to come to London, where the Beatles were recording The White Album. “I was in L.A. on an assignment,” Danny Fields recalls, “and Linda said, ‘I really like Paul McCartney. He wants me to go to London – do you think he’s serious about me?’ I said, ‘Go.’ Once she got to London I would occasionally receive postcards with one-word messages like ‘WHOOPS’ or ‘DUCKY’ on them, but that was it, until I opened the paper in March of 1969 and discovered she’d married him.”
Linda was three months pregnant when the wedding took place, at the registry office in Marylebone, London. But the night before the ceremony, she and Paul had quarreled, so they were both unsure, up until the last minute, whether they would go through with it. “It was all fairly hectic and crazy,” Paul says. “I went out to pick up a ring in the morning and it was like ‘Come on, Lin, we won’t row – we’ll get married, eh?'”
In this chaotic, shall-we-shan’t-we rush, Linda had not really prepared herself, she says, for the mean-spirited scrutiny of the press and fans. “I leaped and never thought about what I was getting into….I was a voyeur, and voyeurs don’t expect to be analyzed. So when the lens turned on me, I just felt like ‘What are you doing? Why are you following us around?’…It was just like ‘Oh, I like this guy – let’s go off together.’ It never occurred to me that some people regarded Paul as public property.”
For the millions of teenyboppers who spent their waking moments fantasizing about Paul McCartney, the appearance of a Mrs. McCartney was always going to be a tragedy. It was felt that demure Jane Asher would at least have made a fitting match for Paul. But that the interloper should turn out to be Linda Eastman, a peaky-looking single mother from New York with a rather snotty manner and unshaven legs, was too much to bear. “I’ve always had the capacity to rub people the wrong way,” Linda says.
Some of the more devoted fans, the ones who hung around Paul’s town house, expressed their upset by breaking in and vandalizing Linda’s things. “Oh, they were vile, really vile to me,” she says. “But I guess, looking back on it, I could have handled it better. Paul was always more tolerant – he would go out and try to reason. But with me, it was like ‘This is my house, do you mind? I’m living here, you know?'”
Even Paul, the supposedly diplomatic one, began to dig in his heels. “What we should have done was gone on a TV chat show, and I should have said, ‘Hello, Britain, this is my little bride. She’s a lovely woman, a photographer from America.’ But I thought, What the fuck for? Why should we have to go on the telly and justify our marriage?”
In his public statements about his wife, Paul has often adopted this embattled, indignant tone. “You shouldn’t have to justify yourself,” he tells Linda at one point as she is talking about her own unhappy experiences with the British press. “You don’t have to [justify yourself] to me or the kids.” Never is he more defensive than when responding to questions about her musicianship.
There is a tape pirated from a 1989 performance at a charity concert in Knebworth that has been played on several radio stations. The band is playing “Hey Jude,” but a mischievous sound engineer has blocked out all the rest of the band, leaving Linda’s backing vocal – in all its glorious tunelessness – on its own. The only other sound on the tape is the engineer and his colleagues howling with laughter as Linda’s ululations travel further and further away from the appropriate key. In certain circles in the British music industry, listening to this tape has become standard parlor entertainment – a good standby for flagging dinner parties. One sees why Paul is sensitive.
Linda began working with Paul on songs from the beginning of their marriage. The notion that she was to replace John Lennon in the role of Paul’s collaborator was greeted with some disbelief by the music press. But when his first two post-Beatles albums appeared, the critical spite was reserved largely for Paul himself, who seemed to be confirming British critic Cyril Connolly’s diction: “There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall.”
Linda didn’t really start coming under fire until the early 1970s, when Paul formed a new band, Wings, and she was made the keyboard player. This ignored the fact that she could neither play the piano nor stomach the thought of piano lessons. “I never said I was a great talent,” she says. “But I figured Paul wouldn’t ask me if he didn’t think I could do it. So I just jumped in. I love piano – but not in the conventionial way.”
She was catcalled onstage; she became the butt of a thousand jokes. In the end, she herself asked to be spared the humiliation. But Paul would not hear of replacing her. “There was a lot of macho stuff that went on….I got that even from people like Mick Jagger. ‘What are you doing, putting your wife on the stage?’ I never bothered answering, but my answer to myself was ‘Fuck off. If I want her on the stage, I’ll have her onstage.’ If you start a group, you’re allowed to have who you want in it. You can have your cat onstage if you want. I don’t take the view that everyone onstage has got to be supergood musicians. The Stones weren’t good musicians when they started. Mick wasn’t that good a singer – he was just a blues rip-off, you know. But they had a raw edge. Linda is the innocence of our group. It’s a vibe that she contributes.”
Linda’s comments on her continued role in Paul’s band are an uneasy mix of defiance and regret: “There have been times when I thought, Why am I putting myself through this? And Paul would say, ‘Because we want to be together.’ So, you know, ultimately my attitude was: Stuff them….Looking back on it, I would have done things differently. When Paul first asked me I would have said, ‘Hey, look, Paul, I’m not a musician.'”
Linda’s final defense against media jeering is to disown all aspiratons beyond being a good mother. Even her photography trails far behind family in her list of priorities, she says. And she is perfectly content knowing that hers will always be a curious, second-hand sort of fame. “I guess I’ll be in history because I married a Beatle. It’s funny, that. When we were looking for a name for my cookbook, we had this joke that we were going to call it ‘I Fed a Beatle.'”
For both her and Paul, building a cozy, studiously “normal” family life has been the big theme of their marriage. At the beginning, they dealt with Linda’s unpopularity, the death throes of the Beatles, and the increasingly embittered relations between Paul and John Lennon by simply retreating to a remote Scottish farmhouse and burrowing in. Linda’s family snaps from this period could be portraits of British working-class life circa 1950: clogged-up bottles of ketchup on kitchen tables; smiling but filthy kids; Paul, bearded and in a tank top, looking like a guy who runs the amusement-park Dodg’ems.
Paul was not yet half as rich as he would become under the astute business guidance of Linda’s father, but he was rich enough to make this deliberately basic life-style seem a little eccentric. Later on, the family lived for several years in a two-bedroom cottage in Sussex. They had four children by this point – Mary was born in 1969, Stella in 1971, and James in 1977. But they liked the hugger-mugger atmosphere of the two-bedroom setup. “You’d think it was stupid and illogical for a famous pop star and his wife to live like that,” Paul says. “But, honestly, it was the greatest. It made us very close as a family. If one of us was upset or unhappy, we all knew about it. I liken it to a litter of kittens – that’s how we raised the kids.”
None of this was mere affectation, they say: it was self-preservation – a rejection of rock-star decadence in favor of “ordinary” values. “I’ve never wanted to be Mr. J. Paul Getty,” Paul says. “That idea of being perceived as Mr. Moneybags…is very alien to me. Linda came from money, but I’m from Ardwick Road in Speke – a poor terrace in a council estate – and I liked what I was then….You can become a Robert Maxwell or an Ivana Trump just because you go to the same premiere as they go to, and we’re very anti all that.”
Perhaps Linda wasn’t always as dedicated to the simple life as her husband suggests. (“Linda doesn’t really like housework,” Paul once admitted.) But she has adapted with gusto, and now she proselytizes on the subject of normalcy and humbleness just as passionately as her husband. “What do people really need? A roof over their head, food, proudness for their family, a yard where their kids can run around. They need simple things – not big, gaudy things.”
In fact, the McCartneys have something rather grander than a yard for their kids these days – a vast farm estate in Sussex. But they continue to eschew many of the standard trappings of wealth. They use public transportation regularly. They have never had servants or nannies. Perhaps most impressively, all four of their children have been educated at local state schools. “They should be freaks,” Paul says of his brood. “But they really have turned out pretty well-adjusted. Linda often says they’re our best friends, and there’s a lot of truth in that. That’s really a kind of a groove.”
Heather, 28, is a potter. Mary, 23, works in a music-publishing company. Stella, 21, is at art school training to be a fashion designer, and James, 15, plays a lot of cricket. The children do appear to have grown up remarkably unspoiled. Apart from some swanky Caribbean holidays, the only rock-biz abnormality in their lives has been the frequency with which their parents have been busted for drugs.
Both Paul and Linda have kept up their marijuana use from the 60s. And since the beginning of the 70s, they have been busted for it several times, sometimes individually and sometimes together. They remain indignant about the illegality of their favorite relaxant. “More people die from the legal stuff, sleeping tablets and drink,” Paul says. “When was the last time you heard of a guy dying from pot?”
Naturally, they have found it hard to be heavy-handed with their children about the drug. “We’ve told them it’s not something we’re crazily against,” Paul says. “In fact, we’ve said it’s not high on the list of dangers. Heroin, cocaine, booze [come further up]….I wish people would do more research into pot. It’s like an ancient Indian cure, this shit.”
Paul and Linda often assume a rather pious tone when discussing their right-on, down-to-earth, tuna-have-feelings lifestyle: Linda will hand you a copy of her cookbook with the signed inscription “Go veggie now!” Paul will express dismay at the sexist way in which some of his friends treat their wives; Linda will speak to a friend on the phone and return, crying, “It’s fantastic! The beluga whale has been saved!”
They can also, quite understandably, sound a little smug on the subject of their marriage. “It’s very organic,” Paul says. “It changes all the time. One day Linda will be very sort of wifey. Then on other days, she’ll say, ‘Sod this, let’s groove.’ And we’ll be off in the woods doing things together that you might not expect from a middle-aged couple.”
(He rolls his eyes suggestively.)
But in fact they are not half as self-congratulatory as they might be about their 23-year marathon. Perhaps out of superstition, both insist on recognizing that their gingerbread house could fall apart yet. “If you’d seen our marriage at any point throughout the last 23 years,” Paul says, “you would always have said, ‘It might not last.’ I mean, [it] has always been quite a fragile thing.”
“It still might not last,” Linda says.
When Paul leaves the room to return to the studio, she continues. “People have said I’m possessive of him, but actually my attitude is ‘Hey, fuck off, do what you want to do, I’m not your jailer.’ I mean, I read these letters in the women’s magazines: ‘My husband left me for his lover, but now he’s come back. What shall I do?’ And the woman’s writing back, saying, ‘Why don’t you sit down and discuss your problems.’ I think, Talk to him? I’d just say fuck off. None of this ‘Oh please, dear.’ If Paul were to go, O.K., I’d move on to something else. If we want to be together, then let’s be together, but if either of us doesn’t, then all the heart pain isn’t going to stop it.”
She stretches and smiles a wide smile. “The relationship isn’t the whole world. Hey, even at my old age, I’d still be able to have some fun.”