- Published by:
- USA Week-end
- Interview by:
- Chrissie Hynde
- Timeline More from year 1998
- Album This interview has been made to promote the Wide Prairie Official album.
More from year 1998
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A few weeks ago, Paul McCartney broke his silence to talk with Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, a family friend, for USA WEEKEND
First he was one of the Fab Four. Then, for the next 30 years, Paul McCartney was always with his wife, Linda. Now Paul, 56, is alone for the first time, without his “mate,” as he refers to Linda. People who know McCartney would add “soul” to that. Since Linda’s death in April at 56, of breast cancer, a devastated McCartney has kept close to home and family in Sussex, England, saying little publicly. But a few weeks ago, he broke his silence to talk with Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, a family friend, for USA WEEKEND. For the first time, McCartney discusses his relationship with his American wife, how they raised their children, the agonizing two years after Linda was diagnosed, and why they made Wide Prairie, a posthumous album of Linda’s, out this week. In his London office, McCartney was upbeat for most of the conversation, until he started recalling Linda’s last days. “He started to get choked up,” Hynde says. “The legacy of Paul’s music in the Beatles is one thing, but I think his real legacy is this love story he had with Linda.”
Here is the interview edited for publication.
SPENDING EVERY NIGHT WITH LINDA
Chrissie Hynde: You and Linda were married for 30 years but you never spent one night apart — not counting the famous Japanese marijuana bust incident. Most couples, whatever their lifestyle, have to, or want to, have a little space on their own. Was that some kind of pact you made with her?
Paul McCartney: No, it just happened that way. I always think of Linda still as my girlfriend. That’s how we started out in the ’60s, just as friends. Whenever I was working late somewhere, I just never fancied it. I thought: Well, I could stay overnight in this posh hotel, or I could go home to Linda. And it was always the brighter of the two options: Yeah, go home to Linda. It was just I liked being with her, quite frankly. I think that’s the most difficult thing about losing her, just how much I enjoyed being with her.
BRINGING UP CHILDREN
CH: With your money and prestige you could have sent your children to any school in the world. And yet you’d drop them off and pick them up every day at the same local school — what the Americans would call the public school — along with the local shopkeepers, farmers, and the other people in your village. Why?
PM: We’d seen a lot of people go through the expensive schooling route with their kids, and we understood why they did it, because they wanted the best for their children — that’s normally the reason people say. But we’d seen a lot of heartache happen, when the kids would be devastated to leave, for instance, Mummy at the age of eight. Whenever we saw anything like that, Linda and I instinctively would look at each other and register the fact that that wasn’t how we were going to do it.
The other thing was nannies — and [what] put us off that was when one of our friends’ kids ran to the nanny and said, “Mummy!” The kid had forgotten who the mummy was, and it shocked us. So we decided not to go that route. The nice thing was that because Linda was from money, she knew that it wasn’t the be-all and end-all. She used to talk to me about a lot of loneliness she’d seen in a lot of these big houses and a lot of unpleasantness in families, because they weren’t close, they weren’t truthful, they weren’t honest, because they didn’t spend much time together.
So even though people would say, “You’ve got to send your son to Eton,” we just said, “No way, they’ll end up being like a different race from us, and we won’t just won’t relate to them.” We decided that even if we were going on tour we’d take them with us. People thought we were mad, they used to be after us about “dragging our children around the world.” But we said, “Well, they are close to us and if ever they get the flu, then we’re not in Australia and they’re not in England, desperately worrying.” Instead, Linda would be there, with the medicine. Or I would be there to tuck them into bed. We just decided that that was more important to us.
Neither of us had a brilliant education; I got into music and she got into photography. Even though we had good educations, we never really did the heavy university trip — so it wasn’t that important to us. We always said that as long as the kids have good hearts, that was our big emphasis.
So we didn’t send them to the paying schools, we did send them to the little local school. We’d moved out of London because London was getting a bit too much the fast lane. If the kids were going to a club, it tended to be a big London night club and it was very much the fast lane; a lot of drugs and stuff knocking around. We worried for their safety, so we moved out to the country and our kids went to the local school, with just 75 kids in the school. They really enjoyed it and the local community accepted us just as if we were the same as them, which in our minds we were.
Little things would crop up, like the school would be fundraising for a new computer, let’s say. They’d mention it to us and instead of saying, “Sure we’ll buy you ten,” which we had the capacity to do, we’d say, “Tell you what, take a collection amongst all the other parents and when you get up to about 50 pounds or something, give us a shout and we’ll put the other 100 pounds or something, but we don’t want to appear flash. We want to just be ordinary people to give our kids as near to a normal upbringing as we can do.” I must say that is one of the things that Linda and I always said: Our greatest achievement is our kids. People say that they are really good people.
CH: Well you know, you’ve been a huge inspiration to the way I look after my kids?
PM: That’s true. I remember you and Alan and you were kind of a Pretender, and moody. But then after meeting Linda a couple of weeks later you were like much more a mom, much more interesting. And that was the effect she had on people.
CH: Well you know how I met you, because Linda sent me a present for my first daughter and I opened the card and it said:’Paul and Linda and kids.’ I was just beside myself. I said, “I don’t even know the McCartneys.” I saw you walking through the studio a couple of weeks later and I walked up and said, “Thanks for the baby clothes.” You looked a little embarrassed and said, “Oh, my wife. She’s always doing stuff like that.”
Many people since have said that their introduction to her was some good will message or gift before they actually met. She first found people that she…
CH: Liked. That was very much how people seemed to get to know you both sometimes. Next, I was going to ask about the nannies.
PM: Well, we didn’t like the idea of the children relating more importantly to someone else rather than us, we never did. Similarly, most people in our position have got a cook. Linda didn’t like cleaning so we got cleaners. But cooking, she would do it all, looking after the kids. We were there every night to put them to bed, there in the mornings to wake them up. So you know, as far as they’re concerned, even though we were some famous couple, to them we’re just mom and dad. I think that’s what’s important. We made that important for us, that was our priority. And it worked.
CH: Even my kids didn’t know you were a famous couple until one day, we were coming home from your house on the train. As you always seem to do behind my back, you slipped them both a 10-pound note and said, “Go buy something for yourself.” They looked up and said, “Wouldn’t that be great if he was our dad.”
PM: I know Linda and I are both very proud of the effect she as a mother had on you because, hey that’s a huge thing.
CH: And I am glad to say that I took the opportunity many times while she was around to tell her that. It’s not something I’m just saying now.
PM: No, no, she knew that.
CH: Did you ever take a vacation together without the kids? Most couples, they want to get away and have a little second honeymoon. Did you ever go off on your own without them?
PM: No, we even took Heather [Linda’s daughter from her first marriage] on our honeymoon. People are little surprised at that. We’ve met people who say, “Oh I like children, but I only like them when they get to be about three years old, when you can talk to them.” Linda and I would look at each other and say, ‘”But don’t you like them when they’re little babies?” And they just gasp a little bit. I think it was just always such a mystery to us. I [come] from a very strong Liverpool family. And when Linda and I met, she was a single parent happening to get on with her life. So we just kind of pulled it together between us and just said, “Well you know, we’ll just do it in a certain way.” And we stuck to it. Just kept it very simple. We looked at issues and saw what seemed to be our instinctive reactions. Sometimes it can be against the grain. People will say, “No, you mustn’t do that or no you can’t do that.” We said, “Well we’re gonna do that and we hope we’re right.” And I think using our instincts like that, instead of what other people told us, was good because no one can tell you how to raise your kids. They are your kids. And this idea that babies are only good when they’re three — when James was really little I remember sitting on the sofa with him. He’s just a baby and he was sitting with me like we were grown-ups and he was just sort of gaggling and going, “Ah goo, ah goo.” So I just said, “Ah goo.” Like agreeing with him in his language. He looked at me like, “You speak this language?” We’re sitting there for hours just “ah goo.” I just mimicked him because kids mimic their parents — but its actually a lot of fun the other way around. Then I said, “Pa, Pa, Pa,” and he’d just go, “Um, hum, Pa, Pa, Pa.” They see you like using their words and it’s oddly so exciting. From the second they were born to this day, I think you learn so much off kids — if you’re willing to be open and you don’t close your mind and say, “Oh, I know how to be a parent.” I always said to Lin that being a parent is the greatest ad-lib you’re ever involved in. You make it up as you go along, you have no idea what the script is, you have no idea how these kids are going to turn out but if you’re just with them a bit and listen to them a bit and let them talk to you instead of talking to them all the time, then natural things occur a bit more easily. We don’t give them anything near the amount of credit they should have. They teach you in the end. This beautiful, innocent wisdom tends to erode as we get older, but they bring it back — which is magic.
CH: I think they are going to try to elect you president of the United States after that.
PM: Yeah, this is what I’m running for.
CH: No one says this, nobody talks about this stuff.
PM: This is what Linda and I were; this is why we were so close and this is why this year has been so devastating for me — because she was the only person I ever talked to like this in my whole life. I never talked like this to my mum and dad, even though I was very close to them. You don’t talk about this stuff, people just get on with it and nobody actually ever stops and thinks about it. Linda and I always used to remind each other that that was sort of what The Beatles were about, that honesty. I remember when we first came to America and all the publicists said, ‘”Don’t mention the Vietnam War.” So of course, the first question we got, we mentioned it: “We don’t think it’s a good war, it’s unfair, what are you doing over there?” Everyone was having fits about us saying that, but we couldn’t not say it. That was the great strength that people recognized in The Beatles, that these guys were telling the truth. Until then, showbiz had been, “Oh, I’m so pleased to be working this room….” With us in The Beatles, it was, “We’re so pleased to be in this life with you.”
LINDA THE PHOTOGRAPHER
CH: Linda was a successful and respected photographer — nothing to do with the Eastman-Kodak family, as was rumored at the time — before she met you. Neil Young, at the memorial service in New York, praised her work as among the best of her generation. How did marrying you affect her career?
PM: I used to joke that I ruined her career when we got married, because she became perceived as Mrs. McCartney, “the Eastman-Kodak heiress” Paul had married. A lot of newspaper stories just get changed because they are better stories when you lie a little. Of course, it still has to sacrifice the truth. So I used to make that joke. But to some degree I think it was true, because if she had a book of her photography, for instance, instead of people thinking she was worthy of a book, the thought was, “Oh, Paul probably arranged for her to have a book.”
CH: Oh, I’m sure. I don’t think it was a joke.
PM: No, no it wasn’t actually such a joke because in fact, in later years, I must admit, I was starting to talk to her about maybe she should use the Linda Eastman name for photography or at least Linda Eastman McCartney because some of these people would say, “Oh I didn’t realize that she was Linda Eastman.” But the great thing is that she kept taking photos and whether people understood it or not, the body of work is there.
CH: I never saw her without a camera.
PM: I did. In bed. But one of the many things I loved about her was the way she held a camera. To me, having been photographed so many times, you can tell by the way that the photographer holds a camera, the way they wield their instrument, you just know, “Wow, this one’s good.”
CH: You took a picture I’ve seen a few times of her, she’s sort of looking at you from the side and holding her camera, and it’s so delicate the way she has her hands, it’s very beautiful.
PM: She had these long fingers, these beautiful long fingers, and it was one of the things that first struck me when I met her. Having had my photo taken by Life magazine, and by Avedon and all these peoplea, I remember thinking: “God, she really holds that camera gracefully.” And I think that probably is one of the signs of a great photographer, because you ought to hold the instrument of your profession well. And she certainly did that. And the other thing was that she knew when to click, which is the other essence of a great photographer. I was once talking to a good friend of mine about photography and saying it’s about just a few little things — you’ve got to be in the right place at the right time. All the great photos you can think of, had the person been next door while that was going on they’d have missed it. A great photographer always knows to be there — and that was one of Linda’s great skills. The other thing, the next thing is where to point the camera. Because they can point it at your feet, upon your face or your whole body or a close-up. So I think that’s crucial. And then the final thing, in those three little steps, I think is when to click. Bringing you into a click, she’d wait and then you’d think, “I must be looking horrible.” But you weren’t. There was just nothing happening, that’s all. And she’d just wait until you said the end of your joke and you’re free to laugh and she’d go bang. She only ever got those moments. Sometimes it was a little scary because you’d think, “What is it? Is she looking at my hair falling?” But it wasn’t, she was just waiting for that moment.
The other thing — sometimes she’d take a photo of something, and most professional photographers would take the rest of the roll, just in case, and I would sometimes say to her as an amateur, “Maybe you ought to take a couple more, just to be sure.” And she’d say, “Nope, I got it.” That takes an awful lot of confidence. She just knew that the moment had happened, and she had clicked. And please God it came back from the chemist, as we say over here — what we call the developer, the chemist. But she knew as long as it came back from the printer OK that she had that moment. Again, that took huge confidence and huge belief in your ability. I probably am heavily biased, well I am definitely heavily biased, but I seriously do believe that she is one of the best photographers that I’ve ever seen. I’d put her right up there with [Henri] Cartier-Bresson and Ansel Adams and some of our favorite photographers and I think that it will be discovered more and more as time goes on, because she’ll be seen as a photographer and not just as some sort of appendage to me.
LINDA THE MUSICIAN
CH: Whose idea was it for Linda to sing and play keyboards in your band, Wings?
PM: It was kind of both of us. We used to do a lot of late-night planning in bed, we’d go to bed and sit around watching TV, take some food to bed. At that time, The Beatles had broken up, so I had to make a decision. To forget music and think, “Oh I’ve done it all with The Beatles after all, you can’t get any higher and it would be very, very difficult to top an act like The Beatles” — everyone in the world is always trying and no one really succeeds, to my mind. So suddenly, for me to be in that position of trying to follow The Beatles was, like, nerve-wracking, to say the least. The whole circumstances of life had changed. Now Linda and I were it — I was on my own now, except for Linda and our babies.
So I was sitting up in bed one night, and we were chatting about whether we would do anything, whether I would do anything, and I thought that I could form a new group. It’d be really difficult, but I always wanted The Beatles to go back to square one and just play as a band; to forget all the highfalluting stuff and just learn to be a little band together, which is what we were always the best at. But because it couldn’t happen with The Beatles, I started talking about this and then I said, “Imagine yourself behind a curtain. You’re in the band and the curtain opens, and there’s an audience there and you’re playing in this band — could you handle that? Do you think you could possibly enjoy that? Because I’d love to have you up on stage with me.” Because of the same reason I always wanted to sleep with her. We’re just friends and it seems that if that were an option all the time — to be without her or to be with her — I’d always choose to be with her. And so she said, “Yeah, I think I could get into that, that sounds quite fun.” And that was it. We just decided to form a band.
She had just had our baby Stella, and it had been a very difficult birth. There had been a thing called a placenta previa, which in the old days was life threatening. Before modern medicine, it was life threatening for the mother and the baby — both of them would have died giving birth. Anyway, so she had the operation, she had a Caesarean and it was a very difficult time. But during the recovery time from that we spent a lot of time together just sitting around chatting and stuff. And while she was in the hospital, this idea came to me for Wings. I just thought it was kind of slightly angelic and nice after The Beatles. It seemed right. It seemed like a good name for a band. So we started talking about how we might do it. Always at the beginning it was only ever going to be, “Who might join me and her on stage.” It was never like it was a band and would she join it. It was going to be me and her, and then we’ll get some other people. That was kind of how it always was, really. She and I were always the regulars, and other people kind of came and went. And then keyboard: when she was a kid — like a bunch of people — she had taken a few piano lessons, and had liked it. She had been in a local glee club in high school, and she would tell me how she’d go to the bell towers with the local girls and sing harmony. She was like that. A deep love of it, but no training whatsoever. So I kind of started her on the piano and just showed her where middle C was. I said, “This is the chord, and this is how you make a chord of C.” Showed her the three notes. And then I said, ‘”You mess around.” That was all we ever said, and she picked the rest of it up herself. People used to joke that she was sort of a “one finger player.” But that was because they were ignorant of the fact that the instrument she was playing was a Moog synthesizer, a mini Moog, which is monophonic. You cannot play more than one note at a time. Actually, they didn’t realize what they were seeing: they’re seeing her play this Moog, which was an instrument she loved. It’s on a lot of Wings records. And they’d see it and they’d go, “Oh look at her playing with one finger.” If they only had the wisdom to realize that you can’t play those instruments with more than one finger. Well, you can play with as many fingers as you like, but only one will register. So she was actually good. As time progressed, I don’t think anyone realized that she became the keyboard player on pieces like Live And Let Die, which has got really difficult stuff in the middle. She was synthesizing a whole orchestra on the tour, and that’s really difficult to do. But she learned it all, and she did it all and she took it kind of seriously. And, for me, there she was. If ever I looked around, there was a friend; it wasn’t a new face, it was my mate.
LINDA THE ANIMAL LOVER AND VEGETARIAN
CH: Most of my conversations over the years with Linda end up centering around animal issues and how we wanted to convert the whole world to vegetarians. Linda never sought public acclaim, and constantly avoided the media. She obviously disliked any intrusion into her privacy, but she was always ready to use her voice — loudly in restaurants if I recall correctly — if it meant saving animals. What were her involvements? Some Americans don’t even know, right from the bottom up, her whole intention and what she wanted.
PM: From a very early age, Linda had been a serious nature-lover. One of the great things for us was that I was too when I was young. And, when we started talking — and this was now after The Beatles when we got together — the more in depth we’d get and talk about our past; she’d tell me about going to a little vacant lot where she lived in Scarsdale, near New York, and there was a little spot she always used to go to, with a little stream that no one ever went to because it wasn’t on the social calendar. And, like, she’d go, and there’s this little stream running through it. She’d spend hours there just sitting alone, watching nature. She was always very good at that, just sitting on her own. She was one of the most complete people for that. I’m too antsy. I can do it for a little while but then I want to do something else. But Linda could just sit forever — and nature would come to her. Of course the quieter you are, the more it comes to you. So she used to tell me about lifting up rocks and finding salamanders and I’d say I used to lift up rocks and find newts, which is the British equivalent. And, I used to wander around in a little brook doing bird-spotting. Identifying birds: I loved it. So, when we compared notes later, it turned out that both of us were loners as kids, and both of us were going out into nature and that was one of our great joys. She’d always felt that way. So when we got together we’d talk about that. Then years later, we were on our farm watching some newborn lambs gambolling around outside while we were eating leg of lamb as a traditional Sunday dinner. Linda very gracefully credited me with saying — and I can’t remember actually, it could as easily have been Linda, she might have just been being nice — anyway, Linda credited me with saying, “Look at that, beautiful lambs gambolling but we’re eating one of the legs that’s gambolling; maybe we should quit eating meat and find a better way.” This was now over 25 years ago. But at that moment, we thought we’d try it. It was very difficult at first, because there’s always what you called “the hole in the plate” — where the meat would have been. That’s what you do when you eat meat, you build a meal around the meat.
I remember, my Dad would come to The Cavern in his lunch break when I was in The Beatles; he’d come with a pound of sausages and give them to me and I’d have to go home and cook them and think of something to put with them. Because that’s traditionally the way you do it. You don’t make potatoes and peas and then think of the meat. It always revolves around the meat. So it was difficult for about a year while Linda started to get ideas of what new to cook. And anyway, she did and she filled that hole in the plate amazingly, with pastas and beautiful sort of food. All sorts of stuff; as we went on through the years it just continued to develop. We ate lustily, it was never what people call rabbit food, we ate big steaming meals. That developed over the years and then she got into vegetarian food over here, which is the most successful vegetarian food line going, and ended up having her own special factory to produce it all. The animal rights thing came along with that because the more we realized that we were helping by not eating them, that brought into focus other issues of cruelty to animals. So it just came naturally. And Linda, being a mother, felt for all of that deeply. I think that the fact that women give birth gives them a better connection to the universe than men. God bless them, men are lovely and you can’t make babies without them, I’m proud to be one — but I admire women perhaps more. They’ve got a rough deal — they go through the pain of birth.
I used to joke with Linda, I’d say, “I’ve had four babies and it didn’t hurt a bit.” I’d have to duck quickly before she’d throw something at me. But that’s a bit of the male attitude: hey, we just give out cigars, it’s great! Whereas women are going through all this pain and anguish. Anyway, I think being a mother gave Linda a deep connection with animals. She could relate to a mother sheep giving birth and a lamb, just getting used to the beautiful Spring sunshine and bingo — it’s off the slaughterhouse to be spring lamb. All of these things started to make a lot of sense. So we started supporting many, many animal rights groups, like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. We became patrons of the British Vegetarian Society, and helped animals where and when we could by giving donations, or, for instance, Linda taking photographic campaigns against fur. She did a great campaign against wearing fox fur. She took a picture of a woman wearing a fox coat, and the caption was “Rich Bitch.” And then you’d see a dead female fox, and blood coming out of her, and the caption said, “Poor Bitch.” She took the photos for those and she always loved doing that. One of the great things about Linda was that everything she did, to my mind anyhow — I always say I probably exaggerate a little being the proud husband — but it was meaningful. Everything she did had to have a meaning. She’d do things for a laugh but there was always some connection with something very meaningful. All of her animal activities, all her vegetarian stuff…often her photography would be to show you how beautiful a leaf is or how beautiful mist is or how beautiful a child is. I remember when we went to Knopf, which is a big New York publisher, with her first book. The guy was leafing through her stuff going, “Tots, horses, flowers, more tots,” and I was getting angrier by the second. This guy diminishing my wife’s fantastic work to tots. What you mean is, “That’s a fine portrait of a beautiful child.” Don’t give me this “tot” nonsense. But anyway, that was it. We got very involved in the animal issues. I still am involved. When she died, I felt that many people around the world would feel that we have lost — as we have — a fantastic, strong voice for animals. But she and I were a partnership. She never did anything on her own because we were together so much. She and I would talk everything through. She did stuff on her own, of course, I’d go out to work and she’d chat to her friends, and she’d chat to you. But generally when I came home she’d tell me all about it, so I was always in on it all.
CH:I did feel when I talked to her that you were her confidante. Unlike other girlfriends who might take the opportunity while the old guy’s out of the house to really lay in, I always felt like Linda never broke rank. She would never say anything to me that she would not have said to you if you weren’t there. I had a very strong sense of that, very unique.
PM: I think that’s true except I think she would a little.
CH: Well once in a while she’d say, “Oh, Northern Men.” And that would be all.
PM: She’d never be a good traitor. But there would be a little bit of fun. She and I liked to take the “mickey” out of each other and I liked that she was strong enough to take the “mickey” out of me. I was telling someone the other day one of the greatest things for me, strangely enough — it seems a bit perverse but it’s true — was being told off by Linda. And it didn’t happen many times, but the first year we got together, somebody had said something about her that wasn’t amazingly complementary. I can’t remember what it was, but we were walking down Park Avenue in New York and it was late, late at night, early in the morning,. We’d been to see probably her dad or something. We were strolling arm-in-arm, and I mentioned this thing; I said, “Oh so-and-so said so-and-so.” Well, she stopped in the middle of the street. Luckily, there was no traffic. She put her hands on her hips and she just colored-up, not a kind of beet root color, more a sort of light strawberry, and she just looked me right in the eye. She said:”If you ever say that again or even suggest it,” and she just tore a strip off me. I never forgot it. But you know what, I loved it. I just thought, God, this is her. She’s being herself. She’s not frightened. She’s not the intimidated woman. And I love to see her like that. Fondly enough, because I think many men would think, “Ooh, how dare you go on like that?” and we’d have a raging argument. But I just said, “OK, I know that what you just said is absolute, a thousand percent true.” And, apologize. You knew about it when she tore a strip off you. It’s actually one of my most fondest memories.
LINDA THE ENTREPRENEUR
CH: Was Linda a good businesswoman?
PM: Yeah, but she was the least likely person to ever get into business. When we first married, she would avoid any business stuff like the plague — and the only reason she ever got into business was the animals. I remember sitting chatting with her one day, in our early years of vegetarianism, and starting to realize as we did that animals are our fellow creatures, that’s how we see them. Fellow creatures that we happen to be in the same time frame, on the same planet, as. Now I’m not going to down them, they’re in my time frame.
The first move it seems might be to learn about them, then kill them if they’re a predator. So we gained more and more sympathy for this idea. We were chatting about this one day, talking about ways to help animals, and wouldn’t the world be a better place, dreaming about it. And it was if I saw a light bulb go off over her head. We were talking about vegetarian food, and how great it would be if you could get it ready-made in shops — because you couldn’t at that point — and it was like seeing a light bulb going off above her head. Ding! Linda said, “Oh, I could do that.” From that second she started thinking about it, and started to work out how to do it. She did that even though she hated business, because she hated having to do anything. She was such a free spirit — she’d much rather say, “No, sorry, I can’t be there for a meeting. I’m going to sit in the garden.” Or ride on her horse, which is all she really ever wanted to do, actually. Anyway, this light bulb went off. The next thing was that this cousin of mine, cousin Kate, was coming down from Liverpool to live in London. We were talking to her about her going vegetarian and my cousin said, ‘I wouldn’t know how.’ And another light bulb went off in Linda and she decided she should write a vegetarian cookbook, just to give it to my cousin so she could check it out how to go veggie. That was the single reason Linda wrote that book — it wasn’t for money; she certainly didn’t need the money. And it wasn’t for money why she started up her ready-made vegetarian meals. She said, “If I could save one animal then I’ll be happy.” Well, to date she must have saved millions of animals, after what she has done with her vegetarian food.
I think that single-handedly she has got to get the credit for the vegetarian revolution that has happened here in Britain. Because now, it’s a mainstream thing. It’s not a cranky thing. In America, it’s still less popular, but I think in time America will realize it. I still have a lot of faith in the young people. That’s who will change the world. Economically, I think the world has to change. Because if it’s true — as it is — that you can feed 10 times the amount of people by eating vegetarian instead of processing it through an animal and then eating the animal, which is wasteful and not economic, and really bad for the environment because we’ve got too many animals around. The fresh water tables in America have gone down severely, and it’s going to cause really severe problems. Just because of our insistence on eating meat all the time.
There’s a very good book by Jeremy Rifkin called “Beyond Beef” for people who are interested to check out. Our obsession with beef is wild, there’s no reason for us to have it. But we’ve been conned into it and it’s wild. I finally realized that over here in England, we have a thing called the Milk Marketing Board, and you better believe they market this stuff the same as the meat people do. They’re training us to want more and more. But it could cause serious problems for this planet in the future. It has already.
CH: Talking about Linda, that’s all we talked about. We would always at the end of the discussion just [sigh], “But why am I telling you?”
PM: Well because, the thing is, you need reinforcement. It’s tough to be any kind of activist. As a lot of people know. And you guys reinforced yourselves.
CH: In fact, I hadn’t spoken to her for three years, and she called me out of the blue one day to say, “hello.” … She’s the least pretentious person I’ve ever met, and I said, “You know, McCartney, when are you gonna get off your high horse and do something about this vegetarian business?” That took her by surprise; she said, “Well…” I said, “There’s a whole thing going on here, there’s a revolution.” And she said, “But no one wants to hear what I have to say, they just want me to stand next to Paul accepting awards and stuff.” I said, “Hey, you got a voice. You can use it for whatever you want.” And that’s when I saw the light bulb above her pop on.
PM: To take your point, the question was, what are you going to do and that is why she got into food. Because she said, “No use telling people to go vegetarian and there’s nothing in the shops for them to eat.” She said, “My role will be to provide something for them to eat.” That became her main role.
CH: She was like the type of person who did it and didn’t talk about it.
PM: Yeah, I always talked. She sang about it.
BEING LORD AND LADY MCCARTNEY
CH: The Americans of course probably don’t know this: You were knighted by the Queen for your contributions to the culture and your services to music. You then became Sir Paul, and I technically should be addressing you as Sir Paul.
PM: I notice you’re not, Chrissie. What is this familiarity?
CH: And as you became Sir Paul, Linda became Lady Linda. What did she feel about her new, and what most people would consider coveted, title?
PM: She was sweetly offhand about it. That kind of grandeur was nothing that she actually went for. She came from a strata of society which was really probably American aristocracy and she never really valued it. She thought it had a lot of false values, that there was a lot of social climbing and she never wanted that. She wanted honesty, she wanted reality. So she was much happier with me, just hanging out, just going to bed early with a meal, than going out to huge functions and social climbing. I think the truth of the matter is that Linda wanted the knighthood for me more than she wanted it for herself because, being British, it sort of mattered a bit more to me anyway. Once or twice we would sit around and I would joke and nudge her and say, “Eh, Lady McCartney…” and she would smile sweetly and kind of enjoy it — just as long as it was low-key like that and just between the two of us she could kind of quietly enjoy it. But somebody said to her once, “Do people call you Lady McCartney?” and Linda said, “I think someone did, once.” Now, you name me the women who can have that sort of attitude.
CH: Are you kidding? Most women would have their credit cards changed at once and get new letterheads.
PM: Actually Linda got me the new letterhead. She didn’t want it for herself but she thought I might want it. In actual fact I’ve never used it. I’ve still got it at home but it kind of embarrasses me to do that stuff because we like to be down to earth. That’s not because we want to slum it and look lower than we are in order to get some street credit, it’s a genuine love of people. I’ve met Prime Ministers and lords and ladies but I always say that the people I’m from, the ordinary working class Liverpool people, are generally more intelligent, much more fun to be with and, for sure, much more honest than most of those highfaluting people I’ve met. Linda and I always looked at things straight on and if the truth was that the people lower down the ladder were more honest and more fun to be with than that’s what we went with. In the ’60s, I had a chauffeur for a while — because, being young, you’ve got to try it — but after a while I realized that I hated being driven around and I wanted to drive myself. And Linda loved me driving.
She hated anyone else driving, but it was fun for us just to take off in the car, just the two of us, and because she was this totally lovable nutcase she’d say, “Try and get lost.” I’d say, “Darling, you know, when you’re driving you don’t try to get lost, that’s the last thing you want to do. You have to navigate.” She’d say, “No, no, try and get lost — turn off here.” I’d be saying, “But I’ve no idea where that leads to.” She’d say, “Do it.” OK, so I’d turn off and we’d be in magic land — we’d be somewhere we’d never been before, a little shop we’d never seen before, we’d see all these wonderful little villages that we didn’t know existed. So, sure enough, Linda was right — you could get lost in all this magic and, as she knew, soon enough there would be a big sign saying “West End, London, This Way.” She was right, you couldn’t get lost. It was such a beautiful idea, this idea of wanting to get lost. I loved it; she changed my way of thinking forever on that. In The Beatles, we were always trying to find the gig, getting lost was the last thing you wanted to do. But the freedom of actually not minding, or even liking getting off the beaten track, was a blessing in my life. I see it now as a great offbeat wisdom. She was so right: the things we found by going off the motorway were amazing. We found her first horse, her Appaloosa. We were in America, travelling from Dallas to Fort Worth on the motorway. Linda spotted this beautiful little Appaloosa and said, “Turn off at the next exit.” I said, “I can’t! We’re going to rehearsal.” She said, “It doesn’t matter. Fifteen minutes, what the hell, turn off.” So I turned off and we found the father of all our horses which we brought back to England — he sired all of our beautiful Appaloosas.
CH: Probably the only Appaloosa horses in England?
PM: Well, there were others. They’re the only American bred foundation. They have them in England but they are derived from Dutch horses which are not as cool, I’m afraid. The American Indian-bred is the Appaloosa breed, and she was keen on what they call the foundation stock. She found him just by looking out on the motorway. Being a photographer, she was an incredible observer, she would see stuff that I wouldn’t even be looking at. She’d say, “Look at that,” and I’d say, “What are you looking at?” “That!” And I’d say, “Which bit of that are we supposed to be looking at?” and she would point out something that would make you go, “Oh my God, how did you spot that?” She was such an incredible observer.
SPIRITUALITY AND FAMILY VALUES
CH: Linda never talked to me about religion but she did have a very deep connection to nature which I would describe as spiritual. She went to school in Arizona, she took you and the family to Arizona a lot and she died in Arizona. Was Arizona a kind of spiritual home to her?
PM: Arizona was her favorite state in America. She went to the University of Arizona and she didn’t really get to know the place while she was at school, because she was mainly on campus and American campuses are very self-contained.
However, she stayed on there for a while and rode a lot, and she told me it was like being born again. She was able to throw off a lot of the shackles of her upbringing, the social etiquette that she never really liked. She was able to hang out with ordinary people, neighbors who would offer to babysit for Heather because she was a single parent by then.
She rode a lot. When I met her she’d come back from spending a year in Arizona and when I asked her what she’d done she said it was mainly riding; riding all day — that was her dream. She just loved it, she loved the desert. She loved the animals. She was very at home with it. And that added to what we were talking about before of how she’d go to this vacant lot as a child and look for salamanders. It was the next big kick. So, when she took me there, I as this British guy — and we had kids by then — I would say, “I’m a little bit worried about the rattlesnakes, I hear they’re deadly.” She’d say, “Yeah, but you don’t want to worry about them, you’ll never see one, you’re lucky if you see one and if you do they won’t come to you.” I’m a British bloke, and I am bringing children here. I’ve got to know what’s going on. I’m the safety man, and I’ve got to run the safety thing here. And she says, “Don’t worry about it.” We’ve seen millions of rattlers since. And I love them. I really love to see them, I’ve been honored. In fact, two days before she died we were really honored to have this huge big rattler come across our trail as we were riding. It was as a final vision of her riding. It was just waiting for us to cross the past. We were just so proud to be near what in the past would be in a Disney film or a David Attenborough movie or something. But here it was; we were seeing it live. We never got over the feel of that. Arizona really awakened something deep in her, and I used to love to see that peace it brought her.
Towards the end, when we knew it was getting serious, that was one of the things I said to her: “You know, we are in your favorite place on Earth.” She was comforted by that. Talking about her observational skills, she would notice a horned toad in the desert. They’re very hard to spot because they are very much like chameleons; they change to the color so they’re the exact color of the sand. I wouldn’t even see it. And she would pick it up. Something I would never do and many women would never do — pick up a horned toad in the desert. But she knew they were harmless. She’d pick it up and it would pee on her like all of these reptiles do. She never minded. She would actually hold it away knowing it was going to pee. She was very skillful with animals. It was like she had been handling animals in a zoo all of her life. She hadn’t. It was just this natural rapport.
Anytime you ever see pictures of her with animals, look at the animal. It’s very comfortable. She’d pick up this horny toad, and I say, “Is is alright to pick that up?” The chicken British guy. And she would say, “It’s fine, here.” And she would encourage me to hold it, and I’d hold it and it would pee on me. I gradually learned to be honored to be this close to these animals instead of, like a girl, go “eek” and jump on a chair: “Ooh, it’s an animal.” She was very much the opposite. I have a photo at home of her holding a frog to her mouth. She’s hamming it up and almost kissing the frog, like the prince in the story. But the frog, I swear to God, has got its hand on her lips. And she’s not freaking. She’s just continuing to look at the camera. She was just unbelievable in that respect. It just allowed her freedom. I think the one word would be freedom. And she loved freedom. In her songs, “Oppression won’t win, the light comes from within.” She hated oppression. That’s why she hated the slaughterhouse. That’s why she hated the fate that many animals suffer. She thought, “It’s not right. We should not be doing this to them. It’s not natural, it’s not right. There is a better way.”
CH: So that’s what you’re describing basically as Linda’s brand of spirituality?
PM: Her spirituality was nature. We used to talk about it and say, “Can you picture God?” She’d say no. I can’t either. I’ve often said that to people who are religious. I’d say, “What’s your vision?” And they’d sort of sheepishly say, “It’s an old man with a beard.” And then I’d say, “Do you really believe that?” And they’ll say,”Well, ‘I’m not sure.” You know it’s very difficult, and I sympathize with them.
But Linda was spiritual and we never called it religious, because over here in England there’s been so much trouble with religion. My mom was Catholic and my dad was Protestant, which is the Irish problem. There are so many wars created — Jew, Arab — that are still going on. It’s all still going on. It’s in the name of God and it’s still going on. We never liked that, that whole idea of “my God’s better than yours.” We thought, “Why don’t they all come together and all worship God and not bother each other?” Because all religions are the same basically, and it’s so strange that people would be warring. You know, the British go over to Beirut in crusades telling everyone, “You’ve got to be a Christian,” when they’ve got a perfectly good religion of their own. But we impose it. Let’s face it, all we’re trying to do is steal the world. It’s kind of clear now. And we did. At one point Britain owned two-thirds of the world. The word “religion” was the problem. Everything else was great. We loved what most religions say, particularly when they’re talking about good values — love, respect, peace — which most of them are, but because they are political institutions they get messed up.
Power corrupts. …
What we felt was more important was the message behind a religion, rather than the front man. Often I think what puts people off is they encounter the front man. You can encounter Jimmy Swaggert, and when you find out what he did you say, “Well, I can’t have religion,” and it ruins your faith. We never got into that. We just had and have some sort of mysterious deep faith in the sort of OK-ness of it all, we didn’t really get much more specific than that. I always said that God is the word ‘good’ with the ‘o’ taken out, and that the Devil is the word ‘evil’ with a ‘d’ added. I think in history it got personified. In other words, Linda and I were interested more in the values and the ethics of religion; but because religion caused so many wars, we didn’t ever subscribe to any particular one.
CH: This is what the Yanks want to know. They want to know all this stuff — all the family values — it’s important to them.
PM: Another thing is, unlike some people in power — we don’t really need to name — Linda and I got all of our wild oats out of the way before we met. We were very fortunate. I know a lot of girls.
CH: Linda less than you did?
PM: No. Well, maybe.
CH: You were in sort of an advantageous position.
PM: Yeah. Well, OK. I don’t mind that, because that’s probably true. But hey, look, we both played the field quite widely. The good thing is when we got married, we told each other. That was a big decision. I thought, “Should I just kind of not say anything, and she not say anything?” But, we thought, “No. We are going to really have a relationship here. We’ve got to clear this up.” I said, “I’ve got to tell you all this stuff. I hope you really can handle this.” It was good, because she told me all of her stuff. We really did tell all of the stuff. We were painfully open about it. But it got it out the way. And it’s like, “Now we can maybe have a marriage. Maybe we now don’t need to be unfaithful.” And that was the case, which is beautiful. But I think that it was that we got it out the way. So many people marry young, and wonder what it’s like the rest of their life. So they’ve almost got to have affairs just to see what it’s like. Luckily we got all of that out of the way before we got married, which I think was another great blessing.
LINDA DIAGNOSED WITH BREAST CANCER
CH: Well, I have to ask you something now that you may not want to talk about.
PM: Try me.
CH: Your mother died of breast cancer. When Linda was diagnosed with breast cancer, how scared were you and how scared was Linda?
PM: We were totally scared. She’d had a lump under her arm, which she’d gone and seen our local doctor about, and he’d given her some antibiotics and told her, “Don’t worry about it, it’s nothing.” But she talked to a couple of women friends and they said she should get it checked out. So she did and I was out of the house one day, and she rang me.
She said, “I’ve got the results of the tests back.” And she said, “I’ve got breast cancer.” Our lives just turned round at that second. She said, “You better come home.” I said, “Don’t worry, I’m on my way.” So I just ran home. We immediately got into the car and drove up to London to try get some facts, because we were two hours away from any sort of medical help. And we then just embarked on a two-and-a-half year program of trying everything we possibly could to turn it round. As anyone who knows anything about breast cancer knows, if you’re unlucky it will travel from the breast and go to your nodes, which are like your safety valves under your arm. Depending on how many nodes are infected that’s generally the seriousness of your illness. So we didn’t really want to know. But she’d met some friends who were good supporters and who had had it; they’d sort of say, “It had gone into three of my nodes,” and stuff.
We sort of knew it was a little more than that — but to tell you the truth we’d try to block it out, trying to keep positive. But I talked to the doctor later, after Linda died, and he was saying that the amount of nodes involved was scary. He said it wasn’t just three, it was in tens. Luckily though, the medical evidence wasn’t totally conclusive and you could read it two ways, so we always took the most optimistic reading. The word you were always scared to hear was “aggressive,” that it was an aggressive cancer. But thank God we never heard that. I only heard that after she died. I was always waiting to hear that, as she was. But we thought, “Well, we haven’t heard that word yet, so we’re still OK.” So we knew it was difficult and we knew we had a battle on and so we tried everything. You know, the biggest difficulty is miracle cures coming out of the woodwork.
Everyone’s got a miracle cure. And some of them say what you really don’t want to do is to go the traditional medical route. I hate to tell you, I still don’t know the answer. For instance, when Stella was born we had to go the traditional medical route, as there were complications at the birth. If we hadn’t, both Linda and the baby would have died. So we’d learned that there were times when you needed traditional modern medical science and we opted for that route. We found really good people, who were the best, who knew the most about her condition and who knew the very best treatments. And the truth of the matter is, she tried them all. She had her first bout of treatment, and she tried that. And the sad thing is, she coped with it so well because she was such an up person, I remember somebody ringing me up once and saying, “How’s her appetite?” I said “Fine.”
She hardly ever lost her appetite, and you’re really supposed to lose your appetite on these things. But Linda was such a sort of lusty person, “Right, what are having for dinner?” She never went like an ill person. People around her would be dropping and she’d be saying, “No, don’t worry, we’re going to lick this thing.” She really stayed so positive. But then she had a second bout of it. We were in New York, having tests; they took a routine mammogram of her other breast and something was discovered there. So, holy cow, we had it all over again to deal with. And she had to lose her hair, which was the kind of thing she hated. I think women are particularly vulnerable when that happens, because you can’t ignore it. Men, OK, go bald and so it’s maybe a little less scary. But for a woman — and a beautiful woman, with the most beautiful hair, strawberry blonde; natural too, it wasn’t out of a bottle — it was terrible tragedy for her to lose that. But she was so courageous. She said, “Right, let’s cut it off.”
She had a Marine crew. It looked great actually, because she had a beautiful bone structure and a beautiful neck. She looked gorgeous. And eventually, when she realized that even her little crew cut was going to go, she shaved it all off. She looked like a Buddhist monk, very sort of holy. And then unfortunately this year, the worst news, the worst possible scenario, just when we thought we’d got it licked, actually. We’d come back off holiday and her hair was growing back — each time they said it’ll grow back dark and curly, and I must say she didn’t really fancy that, having been straight and blonde — but it grew back beautifully, it was slightly darker but still blonde. But she was so brave with all of that. And so it was almost going OK.
We got back off holiday and she didn’t feel too well. We went to see a doctor and he said, “You’ve got an enlarged liver and unfortunately with your history it’s most likely to be cancer.” We were just dumbstruck. Horrified. But, again, we said, “Is there anything we can do? Do people ever come back from this?” Yes. Sure. There’s statistics which show that people have licked this, which is true — so we always went with that side of it. Linda never said, “Oh, I’m going to be a bad statistic.” I think that’s what sustained us. She’d say to us, “You’re the best support group a girl could ever have,” and we’d say, “We couldn’t do it without you, babe.” She had such courage. We just couldn’t have done it. It’s true. We would have fallen apart. But she was just so on the ball. We could be strong because she was. I don’t even think that until the last week she even knew. I think the last week, you know, things were going so badly — but we were riding horses. I said “Tell you what, babe, I’ll get the horses ready, you don’t have to even do anything. I’ll tack them up, get them all ready, get a little bale of hay and you can hop off of it.” That was always one of our horrors, of being eighty and you can’t ride. We’d joke that we’d design a special crane and have you lifted up. Because that was the horror of her life, that she couldn’t ride. Thank God that she was able to, two days before she died. And, as I said, the crowning moment was this big rattler stretched across the track. We just looked at it and felt awed. Like it was some sort of magic sign. I bet it is in Indian folklore.
LINDA’S FINAL DAYS
So, thank the Lord, she went into a coma as they had predicted. Which wasn’t the worst of all scenarios, as it happened. She just felt tired, and I said, “Would you like to sit by the pool?” She said, “No. I don’t really fancy it today.” I thought I’d try her in about an hour’s time. I tried her in about an hour’s time, she still felt tired. I joked, “Well you just fancy a lie-in, don’t you?” She said, “Yeah.” The next day she died. She was just in a coma for one day. It was as if she was so smart that something in her said, “We can’t lick this one. Let’s get the hell out of here, quick.” And she didn’t hang about. As I say, she’d spent that day in bed, the previous day she’d got up, she spent that one day in bed, I went to bed that night with her figuring, “God, things are getting desperate but we’ll just keep hoping.” I went to bed and she got restless in the middle of the night, as they’d warned me they might. So I called the nurse about 3 in the morning and at 5 she died. She didn’t hang about. In her last sort of moments she got very peaceful. As she died something told me to just say something to her — and I said what I’d say when she’d be going into anaesthetic when she’d had a couple of operations in previous years. I’d used this sort of trick of saying, “You’re on the beach, it’s a beautiful day, the water’s laughing, we’re walking along the beach hand in hand,” or, “You’re up on your beautiful horse,” — just to give her a beautiful peaceful moment and she’d drift off into the anaesthetic beautifully and peacefully. In fact the doctors used to say, “We’ve never had such a quiet patient.” One of the doctors said that after her first operation she woke up, looked around at us all and said, “Hello.” He said, “Boy, we’ve never had that before.” So it suddenly came to me at the moment when she was just about to die. I have no idea why, I just thought, “I’ve just got to say this.” It was as if I was guided and I said, “You’re up on your beautiful Appaloosa stallion; it’s a fine spring day, we’re riding through the woods. The bluebells are all out, and the sky is clear blue.” And she just drifted off. So, a terrible tragedy. But I don’t think it could have happened in a better way in a better place.
LINDA’S MEMORIAL SERVICES: NO YOKO, NO KENNEDY
CH: Linda disliked high society types and any kind of social climbing and was the least pretentious person I’d ever met. But she had a great many close friends and indeed her memorial services were packed with them. She kept up regular correspondences, remembered birthdays and Christmas cards and was as thoughtful and generous a friend as I’ve ever had. Was Yoko Ono a friend of hers?
PM: No, not really.
CH: So would there have been any reason for Yoko to have attended Linda’s memorial service?
PM: The thing we decided on the memorial services was instead of inviting people who we maybe ought to have invited out of duty, that we would stay true to Linda’s spirit and only invite her nearest and dearest friends. Seeing as Yoko wasn’t one of those, we didn’t invite her.
CH: I only asked because there was a lot of publicity about the fact that she wasn’t invited in America. Many people were curious about it.
PM: No that’s true. As you know she had many friends who she was quite tuned into and whom she kept close contact with. In fact, there were quite a number of other people who weren’t invited. People would say to me, “Oh this person knew Linda before you knew her.” I’d say, “You mean from thirty years ago?” They’d say, “Yeah.” I’d say, “Well, OK, but I’ll tell you something — that person hasn’t sent us a postcard or phoned us in 30 years, so how well did they like each other?” So we kept it to real friends who we knew that Linda loved. And that meant that people who were maybe doing it out of duty weren’t asked.
CH: So there was no intentional snub of Yoko Ono?
PM: No. It’s funny, we had helicopter pilots who’d helped us in New York when Linda was travelling a lot for treatments. They became good friends and I said to one of them that I’d like them to come to the memorial, and he was shocked. He said, “Oh, I don’t want to get in the way of all the various dignitaries.” I said, “Don’t worry, there won’t be any, this isn’t that kind of thing. This is for people who Linda genuinely loved and who genuinely loved Linda.” Those were the only people invited. I’m really glad that we did do it like that because everyone who went remarked that there were so many friends there and it was such a warm atmosphere and everyone who spoke spoke from the heart, genuinely. Linda would have hated anything else. There were some very nice people. For instance, Senator Ted Kennedy sent a really nice condolence letter to me. It was very thoughtful of him. But I knew that she wasn’t a friend of his so he didn’t get invited, either.
COPING AFTER LINDA’S DEATH
CH: How have you dealt with your bereavement?
PM: The main answer is my kids. I don’t know what I would have done without them. Being such a close family, it hit us pretty much equally. They lost their best friend as well as their mum. It hit us all hard, but they have been very strong and very helpful. We’ve cried a lot together. None of us has held that back. We pretty much still cry, daily. Because Linda was so important, so much the center of everything in our lives. So it was mainly the kids. But I did get a counselor, realizing that I would need some sort of help. And although it’s not much of a British tradition to do that, I was married to an American so I know quite a lot of people who have no problem with psychiatrists and counselors. Funnily enough, Linda used to know psychiatrists when when was young; she’d say, ‘”I used to sort out all their problems for them.” And you know that’s true. So I knew a particular one, who I talked to. He was a good help. It was mainly to get rid of some of my guilt. When anyone you love this much dies, one of the first things is that you wish you could have been perfect — every minute of every day. But nobody’s like that. I would say to Linda if we were arguing, “Look, I’m not Jesus Christ. I’m not a saint. I’m just some normal man. I’ll try to do something about it but that’s who I am, that’s who you’re married to.” So I had quite a bit of guilt and probably still have. You remember arguments. When you’re married you don’t remember them so much, you just get on the next day and as long as you don’t have too many and they’re not too bad you figure it evens itself out. But when someone dies, you remember only the arguments in the first couple of weeks and the moments when I wasn’t as nice as I would have wanted to be. So I need counseling with that. I found that really helpful.
Friends have been very supportive, we’ve got a lot of lovely sincere friends who, because of the nature of Linda and I, unless they’re sincere they’re not our friends anyway, and they’ve been very helpful. And funnily enough, and something that I didn’t expect, the public at large have been a huge help. I thought that if you didn’t know Linda, you might not get it. But I was wrong. So many of the thousands of letters that I got said, “Although we never met Linda, you could tell that she was a great woman.” For some of them, it was because of her attitude to animals. A lot of others said it was because of the way that she brought up our kids. Yet they wouldn’t even know that we had kids, you hardly ever saw their pictures in the paper, we guarded their privacy in case when they grew up they wanted it. We figured you couldn’t rob them of that. The public said, a lot of them said, “It was just the way that she brought the family up,” and I realized that so many people did get what Linda was about. From one little fragment, you could tell. It still shone through. The public sent very uplifting quotes and prayers. A lot of them had been through a similar grief. They’d write and say how they’d lost their wife and this little poem they’d enclose had sustained them. A lot of people sent me a lot of good stuff that helped me. But it was mainly the kids.
Now, when I get sad, I do pretty often; like if I go for a ride she’s not with me — I find myself going down, I let myself go down for a moment, just because I have to. And then I try to counterbalance it and think that Linda’s life was very upbeat. She wasn’t a downbeat kind of person, so she wouldn’t like it now if I went downbeat. She was always the one for the joke. If you spat inadvertently while you were talking to her, she’d say, “Do you serve towels with your showers?” She just had a line for everything. If you looked a little inattentive while she’s talking she’d say, “What, am I boring you?” She was a really funny lady, very witty. A delicious sense of humour. She was happy. So I use that now. I balance every sad moment with a happy moment. That kind of helps day to day. It helps me get through.
LINDA’S POSTHUMOUS ALBUM, “WIDE PRAIRIE”
CH: How did this new solo album of Linda’s, Wide Prairie, come about?
PM: A couple of years ago, Linda got a letter from a girl who said she had really liked hearing one of Linda’s songs, “Seaside Woman,” and she asked if she had any other songs. Well through the years, from the early ’70s, Linda had been writing and recording her own songs. But because of being in the shadow of The Beatles or of me and being so much in the public eye, she always felt very nervous — because it wasn’t her main career she was reluctant; like she was on a hiding to nothing and people would be bound to criticize her. So she was shy to release it all. But this letter from this fan made her think that maybe she should put an album together. So the last couple of years we spent finding all the old tapes, looking at songs that didn’t have lyrics and — because we often had to make these two-hour trips up to London for her treatment — we’d use that time. We’d get a cassette of one of the melodies she’d written, and we’d write the words on these trips to London. On such journeys we wrote the words to “Appaloosa,” “I Got Up” and “The Light Comes From Within” — three of the 16 tracks on this album. And that was good, writing like that, we’d have a good laugh and forget that she was going up for treatment. It kept us both positive. Before we went out to Arizona, about a month before she died, we were putting the finishing touches to the album, making a couple of tracks and doing the backing vocals.
CH: I was there, I walked in.
PM: Yeah, that’s right.
CH: She did my album cover.
PM: Which, of course, is a beautiful album cover.
CH: I kind of saw it as a going away present, to be honest. I didn’t ask her initially, because I thought, “I don’t know if I want to go with this idea.” I called [your daughter] Mary and I said, “You live around the corner, you’ve been taking some snaps. I just want to see if this will look like anything.” She said, “You ought to call my mom.” And I said, “Well what if I change my mind, and then she’s gone through the trouble.” The next day my office called and said, “Did you set up a photo shoot with Linda McCartney?” I called Linda and she said, “I have turned down so much work, nothing excites me. But this is strong and I love strong.” Because it was going to be “Viva L’Amour,” you know, long live love. And she wanted to do it. Then of course, we were chasing the picture up and saying, “Where’s our picture, where’s our picture?” Then Yasmine walked downstairs and said, “Linda died.” She had been watching television. And the last thing I thought about was the picture, obviously.
PM: I am so glad she did. She loved doing it. She enjoyed it.
CH: And you know what? A few days later my office called and said, “You know Linda’s photo agent called and said that they had a picture, they had a package to hand deliver to you.”‘ That she wanted hand delivered. And there was the picture.
PM: She came through. She always did.
CH: So anyway, her record?
PM: Yeah, you were there for that. We put the finishing touches to the vocals. There was nothing left to be done. We were going to come back from Arizona, I was going to mix the album. We were going to work on promotion now, this time of the year, and instead of me doing this interview, she was going to be doing it and we were going to release the album for this Christmas. So when she died, I thought: I’ve just got to fulfill that plan.
I thought that some people might think that it’s a tribute album that we’d rushed out — but I wanted to make it clear that it is something we were planning anyway. Releasing this album was something that very much Linda wanted. She was very proud of it. We decided the title would be “Wide Prairie.” Anyway, after a couple of months after she died I managed to get into the studio. We called those studio sessions Tears & Laughter because the engineer — my old friend Geoff Emerick, who I’ve known since Beatle days, he did “Sgt. Pepper,” “Band On The Run” and a lot of good work with me — he lost his wife to cancer, too. So the pair of us were just crying on the console.
But then we’d listen to Linda’s spirit and we’d laugh and remember her. So it was The Tears & Laughter sessions. It was very moving to do it, but it was very uplifting to do it and when we finally got the whole album together we thought she’d be damn proud of this. And she should be too, because her personality comes over. You see that she’s a very strong singer, a strong writer. And she got a lot of flack over the years: “Oh, she only plays keyboard with one finger,” or, “She can’t sing.” And people would isolate microphones very cruelly, which devastated her, she hated that stuff as anyone would. I used to say, “If I ever catch up with those DJ’s I’ll give them a word.” And, believe me, that is really difficult.
Many people were cruel to Linda. But you know, after time you forgive. She didn’t hold grudges. She’d just say, “No, let it go. Don’t dwell on it.” So anyway, we finished up the album and I am really proud of it. There are some really cool songs. A fact that she was delighted about. She said, “If we do an album there are three videos already” — which were like animated pieces that she’d done to three other tracks — which is good. So that means that that’s all there. And a friend of ours was always going to make a trilogy of the third animation piece, so he’s currently making “The Light Comes from Within,” where Linda rather shockingly swears on it.
It’s quite funny because some people view of Linda as the sort of dutiful wife. But she really wasn’t. I mean she was plenty dutiful but she was something else besides. But there were these words, and it was basically this song, The Light Comes from Within, which is basically her getting back at her critics and the people who had been cruel to her. And even though she didn’t hold a grudge, she figured it’s a pretty good subject for a song where she could vent her emotions — you know get it out and let it go. So I looked at the second verse and there’s swearing, and I said, “Well, I don’t know about this.” And she said, “What’s wrong with it?” And I said, “Well, it’s pretty forthright. You’re singing this?” And, she said, “Watch me.” She grabbed on the microphone and bang, one take. She sang it beautifully. You know she just had guts, nerves. She just had the nerve to carry that kind of thing off completely. So she did it. It’s a beautiful vocal take, very strong. She got all of the work done, got the whole thing done. And she said, “Now I’ve put the whole thing together, with some sleeve notes giving my recollections of each song.” We’re releasing it at the end of October. I think it will surprise a lot of people. I think it’s a really good album to have. That was her concern: that if you went into a record shop 20 years from now and said could you have a Linda McCartney record they’d have to guide you one of my records, or a Wings record. We thought it would be a bit sad that there wouldn’t be a Linda McCartney record — well now there is. And I’m very proud of it and I know she would have been. I think it shows that there’s a lot more to this lady than a lot of people knew.
LIFE AT THE MCCARTNEYS
CH: In your day-to-day life, you’ve adopted a very modest lifestyle. You have a large farm [in Sussex, England], horses, and lot of land but your house can hardly be called opulent. Threadbare sofas, put your feet up, which is the first thing Linda said when I told my kids to put their feet down. She said, “No, no, put your feet up it’s fine.” And, even I was a bit taken aback. When Linda first took me around your room, you weren’t there, and I thought that the two of you shared less closet space than the average working girl would insist on having. You designed and built that house. Why is it like that?
PM: The closet space is probably the design fault of the house. Being British, we don’t really have closets. We don’t have anything; you’re lucky if you’ve got a wardrobe and a couple of coat hangers. But obviously Americans are used to good closet space. I think that’s probably the biggest design flaw. When I started off designing the house, I would quiz Linda all the time over what sort of place she wanted. I started off drawing a pyramid and thought, “Would we want to live in that?” No. Then I did a dome. Would we want to live in that? No. Pencil and paper are cheap so I just went through millions of options to get them out the way. Eventually we went for quite a traditional house for the area we live in, with some additions because the house we’d moved from was a round house and we liked the curves. So I added a few sort of curves that weren’t entirely traditional. One of the key questions was, are we talking a big house or a stately home or just a comfortable family house?
CH: And your room was right next to the kid’s room, as opposed to down the hall or on another floor?
PM: It’s a very comfortable house that has five bedrooms; one bedroom each for each of the kids [Heather, 35, Mary, 29, Stella, 27 and James, 21] and one for us, Linda and I. It has limited space but that’s how she wanted it and that’s how I wanted it too. Because we always hated these stories of people living in these huge stately homes with the children rattling around in the East Wing, and you never see them. You wouldn’t believe it but the house we moved from, where we brought the kids up for about seven years, had two bedrooms — one for four children and one for us — so we couldn’t stay there. That was even more modest. It meant that we were a close family, literally. It meant that there was no getting away from each other, except that I had a little den and Linda had a den, too. They weren’t big, none of the rooms in the house are big or opulent, as you say. We didn’t like the high-living lifestyle. We are much more comfortable. When friends came around, we’d have tea in the kitchen, mainly sit in the kitchen all the time. We designed something for our lifestyle and for our reasonably simple tastes compared to some other people in our position. It was specially designed to be comfortable — and it is, people come into our house and say, “Ooh, this house feels lovely,” or “This is comfortable.” That, to us, was what was important. We’d have some nice things, but there was no point in having them if the kids can’t play on them. We really tried to be comfortable, and brought the kids up and tried to give them a comfortable living space — for us and them.
CH: How do you sleep at night?
PM: I was really worried after Linda died that I would not be able to sleep at all. I have had the feeling ever since that she’s seen to it that I’m sleeping. That’s my theory. I don’t know how correct it is. But somehow I manage to sleep OK, and it’s really a blessing because I need to. The rest of the day can be pretty traumatic with the memorials and all the stuff you have to do, and just missing her. It’s great, I feel like she’s blessed me with the ability to get some sleep. It’s a blessing.
CH: You’re not taking pills or anything?
PM: No. Nothing. So, I was very surprised to find that I am sleeping. I expected sort of sleepless nights on top of all my other problems. But it’s a blessing that it didn’t happen that way. She has seen to it.
CH: Did Linda smoke pot to alleviate what she was going through?
PM: Being ’60s people we had smoked pot for a long time, and certain of the medical people did suggest that it was a good thing to combat the effects of chemotherapy. And she did for a little while. But then she just gave up completely, just in case it wasn’t helping.
CH: She was actually advised at one point to smoke pot?
PM: She was advised by the doctors, and they said it kind of sheepishly, “If you’ve got any of that stuff left over from the ’60s, you might smoke a bit.” You can get it officially in America for things like glaucoma and things like this. And there are a lot of lobbies here to legalize it for medical treatment. And the doctors certainly thought that it would help. She tried it for a little while, but she decided to give it up in case it was going to be a bad thing generally for her.
CH: She won’t be there when you’re 64. How do you see your future?
PM: Without her…it won’t be as much fun as it would have been, that’s for sure. I don’t need to say anything more than that.