The four Liverpool lads – Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Star and George Harrison – had already led the British invasion of the American pop market.
They had made hit films such as A Hard Day’s Night and earned the nickname “The Fab Four” after their manager, Brian Epstein, moulded them into global superstars. Hit singles included Love Me Do, I Want to Hold Your Hand, Twist and Shout and many more.
Beatlemania gripped the nation, with iconic albums including Help, Revolver, A Hard Day’s Night, Please Please Me and a string of other hits attracting hordes of screaming girls, chasing them wherever they went. Concerts whipped up the audience into a state of mass hysteria!
For 24-year-old singer and guitarist Paul McCartney, it was just another night out when he was invited to Epstein’s London dinner party to celebrate recording the Beatles’ album, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The 15th May 1967 had a monumental effect on McCartney’s life.
After Epstein’s party, he went on to the popular Bag O’Nails club in Soho, where, as a regular, he had his own table. Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames were playing live. In the crowd was a young American photographer, 26-year-old Linda Eastman, who was an acquaintance of pop and rock “royalty” after doing a photoshoot with the Rolling Stones.
Born and brought up in New York, where she had photographed many music legends such as The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin, Linda was in London to work on her book, Rock and Other Four-Letter Words. She arrived at the club a little before McCartney, as she was taking photographs for an assignment.
It was the height of the Swinging Sixties and London was alive with pop and rock stars, their managers, models, artists, dancers, actors and music industry royalty. As Georgie Fame began his set, McCartney remembered seeing an attractive young woman in the crowd and was mesmerised by her beautiful smile.
He managed to catch her eye and after the band had finished, he saw her get up and walk across the club. McCartney knew he had to meet the beautiful stranger, so as she walked past his table, he stood up and “accidentally” blocked her exit. When Paul met Linda, his first words were, “Oh, sorry!” He added quickly, “How are you? How are you doing?” and then introduced himself.
In an interview, many years later, McCartney revealed how he invited her to go to another club after the Bag O’Nails. He asked simply, “Would you like to join us?” He joked it was his “big pulling line”, but one that he had never used before. “It was a fairly slim chance, but it worked!” he said. They went on to the Speakeasy, where they began getting to know each other.
Eastman remembered the special night, not only because she met her future husband, but also because it was the first time she heard the classic Procul Harum song, A Whiter Shade of Pale. “The minute that record came out, you just loved it,” she said later. “That’s when we actually met.”
She ended up taking photos of The Beatles for her book and was invited to the press party for the launch of the Sgt Pepper album on 19th May. As well as taking plenty of pictures herself, a photo was taken of Paul and Linda – the first photo of the future Mrs McCartney and her husband-to-be.
However, the path of true love doesn’t always run smoothly and it was to be a year before the couple met again. Eastman had to return to America after meeting McCartney, as she had a young daughter, Heather. Her career also kept her in the States, although she always declared she had remained in love with McCartney during the whole time.
In May 1968, McCartney was in New York, where he saw Eastman again and invited her and Heather to go to London with him. Their romance blossomed and they married in March 1969. They always said A Whiter Shade of Pale was “their song” as it had played on the night they met and brought back wonderful memories.
After the Beatles broke up, Paul and Linda went on to form the rock band Wings, while enjoying a very happy marriage. Paul legally adopted Linda’s daughter Heather and the couple had three more children – Mary, Stella and James.
Linda was a keen animal rights supporter and launched a successful range of vegetarian foods. Paul also became a vegetarian and the couple publicly supported animal welfare issues and campaigned against animal cruelty.
They were married until Linda’s tragic death from breast cancer in 1998, at the age of 56. Paul received counselling following her death. Some years later, he said in an interview that the “beautiful thing” about their marriage was that they were always “just a boyfriend and girlfriend” having a family and the romance had always remained.
Linda’s legacy lived on when Paul announced donations of more than $2 million for the Arizona Cancer Centre in Tucson and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York in January 2000. The Linda McCartney Kintyre Memorial Trust opened a memorial garden in November 2002, in Campbeltown, Kintyre, Scotland, featuring a bronze statue made by sculptor Jane Robbins – Linda’s cousin.
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