The other McCartney

The other McCartney

By Neil McCormick Photography Last updated: June 21st, 2010

When Linda McCartney passed away in 1998, her death was discussed on the evening television news. A young child of my acquaintance became very upset. “I loved her veggie sausages,” she cried. “Who’s going to make her sausages now?”

There was more to Linda than a vegetarian food guru, obviously. She was the inseparable partner of one of the greatest singer-songwriters of our times, his creative muse and collaborator, a member of his Seventies band Wings. Sometimes her musical credentials are called into question, although it is worth noting that she is co-credited on many of Paul McCartney’s best songs of that period. And there was one area of her creative life where her artistry cannot be doubted (aside from her sausages, of course). Linda McCartney was a fine rock photographer, which is how she met Paul in the first place.

What she had as a photographer was a casual, easy, candid style. People were obviously relaxed around her, and allowed her access to their inner worlds. This is obvious even in her pictures of the Swinging Sixties rock set before she became the wife of a Beatle. Linda’s photos aren’t mythmaking, iconic images. She doesn’t seem to look at her subjects as either a starry-eyed fan or a visionary stylist, so these are not the kind of images that add veils of illusion to our rock Gods. But that’s what makes them ultimately so fascinating, and so valuable. They tend to show the real people behind the myths. And when we are talking about such mythic characters as The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Ray Charles, Janis Joplin and Neil Young, that is really something.

Paul McCartney plays Hyde Park this Sunday, and there is going to be an exhibition of Linda’s photographs in the Hard Rock cafĂ©’s VIP area. Which, of course, is not much use to regular music fans without those special passes. But I got a sneak preview, and snaffled up these shots above and below. What I like about this picture of Lennon and McCartney at a writing session on Abbey Road, is that it really is just two guys, working together, a little uncertain and thoughtful. Who knows what they are making notes about? A lyric change on ‘Let It Be’? Mostly, this period is thought of as The Beatles divorce, when the songwriters fell out of love with each other. But here, they look like mates and colleagues, still connected by their work.

And I love this smiling shot of Jimi Hendrix, because it is so uncool. Usually when we see Hendrix, he looks beyond mortal, a rock star headed for the heavens in all his flaming glory. But here he is just a young man thinking about something that amuses him, barely aware of being photographed.

As the wife of a great songwriter, Linda is, of course, also commemorated in song. Talking about his favourite songs recently, McCartney named ‘Here, There And Everywhere’ and ‘Blackbird’, both of which pre-date meeting Linda.

But in his post Beatles catalogue, ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ certainly ranks right up there with his best ever, a song of utterly dazzled and bewildered love, of which Linda was the subject. And in belated celebration of Macca’s 68th birthday last Friday, follow this link to a great remix version of ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ that he made with DJ and producer Freelance Hellraiser in 2005.

If you haven’t got tickets to Glastonbury this weekend, you could always join me singing along with a Beatle in Hyde park. Just so long as he doesn’t expect us to join in on that other Linda song, ‘Golden Earth Girl’. All together now: “Golden earth girl, female animal, as she falls asleep she’s counting fish in a sunbeam, in egg shell seas”.

Hey, even geniuses can have an off day.

The Telegraph

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