50 Years Ago: Paul McCartney Meets Linda Eastman
It was just another night out in London for Paul McCartney. After attending Brian Epstein’s dinner party to celebrate the completion of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Beatles' bassist hit the town with some buddies. McCartney headed to Soho’s Bag O’Nails club, where he was a regular with his own table. That night, May 15, 1967, Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames were playing.
A little before McCartney showed up, a young photographer by the name of Linda Eastman had been taken to the Bag O’Nails by some of her friends, members of British rockers the Animals. She had become acquainted with rock royalty, such as the Animals, through her work as a shutterbug. What could be loosely designed as a career began when she shot the Rolling Stones, followed by her role as the unofficial photographer at New York’s Fillmore East. She would capture rock icons including Jimi Hendrix, the Who, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin and many others.
But in May 1967, Eastman was in the U.K. because of an assignment to shoot photos for a book titled Rock and Other Four-Letter Words. The American was also there to enjoy the height of swinging London, with its mind-bending substances and free love. As one of the London scene’s pillars, McCartney was enjoying himself too.
During Georgie Fame’s set that night, McCartney remembers that he caught Eastman’s eye. He’s said that he was attracted to her smile.
“The band had finished and [Linda and the Animals] got up to either leave or go for a drink or a pee or something, and she passed our table,” McCartney told Barry Miles in Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now. “I was near the edge and stood up just as she was passing, blocking her exit. And so I said, ‘Oh, sorry. Hi. How are you? How’re you doing?’ I introduced myself, and said, ‘We’re going on to another club after this, would you like to join us?’ That was my big pulling line! Well, I’d never used it before, of course, but it worked this time! It was a fairly slim chance but it worked.”
Down the road, after becoming a family man, McCartney would often make fun of his corniness when telling the story. Apparently being a Beatle in 1967 didn’t require one to be too slick with pickup lines. As McCartney said, his line worked and they moved on to the next location, the Speakeasy. Eastman remembered the night not just for meeting her future husband, but for hearing a certain song for the first time.
“I remember everybody at the table heard ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ that night for the first time and we all thought, ‘Who is that? Stevie Winwood?’ We all said Stevie,” she told Miles. “The minute that record came out, you just knew you loved it. That’s when we actually met.”
Years later, the McCartneys would consider Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” to be their song, because of their musical memory. But the night didn’t end at the Speakeasy. McCartney, soon to be 25, welcomed Eastman, soon to turn 26, back to his place under the auspices of showing the photographer his original paintings by the surrealist Rene Magritte. The Beatle was impressed that Eastman was also a fan of the Belgian painter. Memories are hazy as to if the pair impressed each other in any other ways that evening.
McCartney and Eastman would meet again a few days later at Epstein’s house in London. Eastman sought to shoot photos of the Beatles for her book and the Beatles manager agreed for her to come to a press party for Sgt. Pepper on May 19. She took more than a few famous shots of the boys, but also had her photo taken – the first picture of the future Mr. and Mrs. McCartney.
But, after that, McCartney and Eastman went their separate ways for a year, with Eastman returning to America, raising her daughter Heather and becoming involved in other romances (even if she declared that McCartney remained whom she was in love with). McCartney even got engaged to longtime girlfriend Jane Asher later in 1967, although many thought it was a desperate attempt to save their romance.
Eastman and McCartney met up again in May 1968 in New York, after which the Beatle invited Eastman and her daughter to come to London. A relationship blossomed at the couple married in March 1969.
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