Monday 30 September 2013

Bolan, Burdon, a Plant and a Boot
Suddenly, I was laughing and joking with sexy Sally James in a TV studio alongside the Bay City Rollers in the days when they frolicked in the autumn mist.

Suddenly, I was sitting next to ex-Animal Eric Burdon on a coach from London to Cardiff where he was playing at Ninian Park stadium on a bill headlined by Bob Marley and the Wailers and featuring the Pretty Things and Country Joe and the Fish. I’m talking to the man who sang on the first record I ever bought. Shit.
‘Do you know, there are a lot more fucking police sirens in London than when I was last here three years ago.’
It wasn’t a question. Eric was that kinda guy. If it wasn’t for the music and, apparently, the acid, that accent and that face would’ve put the shits up anyone. It was like sitting next to a gangster from Get Carter, especially as it was pissing down outside.
'The city has gone up ten notches in violence. It’s the overspill from the States. People are into violence these days. Many Americans I’ve spoken to would rather spend a thousand dollars on arms for the IRA than on a holiday. They got better guns than the British Army, man.
‘It’s like in the movies where there’s too much violence and not enough sex. Sure you get the porn. But not the eroticism. The American sex object today is a gun.’
The rain continued to beat against the window. Fifty miles from Cardiff and Eric Burdon was talking to me and me alone.
‘And do you know the biggest weapon the Vietcong used against the US Army was dope? There are more ex-soldiers walking about in the States with pin pricks in their arms than gunshot wounds.
‘The ’67 generation tried to teach people the difference between good drugs and bad drugs. But we were put down. There was a successful movement on the streets of San Francisco in 1968 to get rid of LSD and turn kids on to speed and junk.
‘Acid has almost disappeared.’
And maybe the music didn’t turn him on either.
‘I know rock ‘n’ roll too well. For me there’s no danger zone anymore, no sense of the unknown. I’ve never regarded myself as a singer.’ But your record cost me 6s 8p, Eric! I want my fucking money back!.
‘The movies always did it for me. I’m a celluloid junkie, man. I moved to LA to be close to the business.
‘There are so many thnings I’d like to make movies about – my life on the road, the second invasion of Hamburg by the rockers in the early sixties, the ‘Day In A Life’ concept that Lennon used on Sgt Pepper, my life in America in the late sixties. That period was like an iron fist and it strangled me. I was manipulated in the rock ‘n’ roll business. I was lived off because I never cared about money.’
One of his projects involved Jimi Hendrix.
‘So much mysticism surrounds that man. Most of his concerts were diabolical. Maybe one in ten he really played. He was such a brilliant artist. He told me he was going to kill himself four years before he died. He tried to at Woodstock and even re-arranged the billing to carry it out.
‘How many great Americans have died in foreign lands rejected by their own people? From Hemingway to Hendrix, from Bessie Smith to Billie Holiday,’
What of The Animals?
‘We recorded an album together and that will come out after a few legal hassles have been sorted out. I see a lot of Chas Chandler and Hilton Valentine.
‘But nobody sees Alan Price. I don’t even think he does.’
Suddenly, a few hours after chewing the fat with my mate Eric, I was interviewing Marc Bolan in the Cardiff City players’ changing rooms at Ninian Park. Torrential rain had turned the day-long festival into a washout.  At the time, ‘I Love To Boogie’ was a huge hit. It was also his swansong. 
‘The song’s suited to the present climate,’ he said, while reclining on the player’s’ massage couch like Elizabeth Taylor on the Cleopatra poster.  ‘It’s part of the cosmos. And anyway, my stars are with me this year.’
He wore a white suit and red silk shirt and was at least four stone overweight. The cute Bolan locks were gone, replaced by a short forties-style haircut. His face was beginning to show signs of what living in the pop world was all about, if you were Marc Bolan.
So what happened to the skinny idol who broke a million teenybop hearts?
‘I just got bored with playing music seven days a week and appearing on television every night.’ His voice was glitzy and giggly and so, so sweet. ‘It was time to re-evaluate. I found myself putting out virtually the same record every three months and watching it zoom to the top of the charts. I was being likened to David Cassidy and Donny Osmond – and that just ain’t me.
‘So I took a gamble. I packed my bags and went to live in New York City. I’m 28 years-old. I’m a musician. I’m a raver. New York was the place to be.’
Marc had written a film script with David Bowie and they were also recording an album together. ‘I went to Stockholm with him and we were just hanging about. I had my hair cut there. The front of it was green and the back orange.’
Marc was proud of his career. I played to the public. We were the purveyors of pubic rock. “Ride A WhiteSwan” took off in 1970 after T. Rex were four years of being an album band. “Hot Love” was number one for nine weeks. We sold millions. But I could see the end of glam rock and I was into longevity, man.
‘Look at the bands around today. Slik died after a week, the Bay City Rollers are finished. Even Donny is giving up the classics.
‘And guess what? I’m gonna get married!’
The lady in question, Gloria Jones, had been his constant companion for a few years. She was also appearing at the festival backed by Gonzalez.
‘I went along to Rod Stewart’s party the other night and it was lovbely until someone got smacked in the mouth, then people started having fights every two minutes. I met David Essex there. He hadhis haircut too and looks like a completely different person.
I figured that back in the glam days he wouldn’t have name-dropped like that. Marc was the only being in his universe when he was getting it on.
We left the dressing room together and went to the bar where his old friend, Robert Plant, was drinking a beer and wearing an ‘I Love To Boogie’ badge.
‘I haven’t heard Marc’s new song yet,’ Robert told me, ‘but it’s bound to be good.’ He looked to have completely recovered from the horrific car crash he was involved in the previous year. He and Marc both agreed to a quick exclusive pic for The Mercury with Robert’s finger planted firmly up his nose.
Marc Bolan and Robert Plant in one hit. Jesus.
Suddenly I was swamped with review albums and concert tickets and offers of interviews and backstage passes to amazing concerts, like the Who’s greatest moment at The Valley, Charlton Athletic’s  home ground, on 31 May 1976 – officially the loudest rock show in history and as wet as Woodstock.
The concert was part of a short UK Who Put The Boot In stadium tour that also featured Little Feat, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band and the Outlaws.
 I sat in the covered VIP section immediately behind the band and it pissed down. I watched sixty-thousand people dance between raindrops as laser beams bounced off mirrors high up on the floodlights and punched holes in the moon.
It was some night. 
The last and only other time I’d seen the Who was at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 when they performed the whole of Tommy at midnight and were preceded by the Doors, Emerson Lake & Palmer’s debut gig and my festival faves Ten Years After.  I got jiggy with a cute hippy under a sleeping bag during ‘Pinball Wizard’ and it was the best version I’d ever heard.
At the Valley they disembowelled the saturated night. I managed to keep dry while the crowd shook off the torrential rain like dancing dogs. On their way to the stars, the lasers (the first time I’d ever seen them) cut through the damp steam that curled and twisted from sixty thousand rapturous souls.  It was a concert I’d like to take with me six feet under.
At the end of 1976 I landed a job at Record Mirror and my first year on the paper was recalled in my book ’77 Sulphate Strip.
Fast forward to ‘78. And the five careers…
© Barry Cain 2013


Friday 27 September 2013

Gypsies, tramps & thieves

I left school at eighteen with two E grade A levels in English lit and history and vague ideas of becoming a journalist. I wrote vague letters to my local papers like the Islington Gazette and the St Pancras Chronicle and I got vaguer replies declining the offer of my services. 

Then I applied for a year-long pre-entry course at Harlow College run by the National Council for the Training of Journalists. After filling in a very long application form, I was invited, along with thirty other hopefuls, to attend one of the selection days that involved several written tests to determine the extent of my literacy and an interview with five solemn-looking tutors. The tests were pretty straightforward but I knew I’d blown the interview when one of the tutors asked me if I liked music.

‘Yes. Modern music.’ I meant pop. Never knew why I said ‘modern’.

‘Oh, early twentieth century music?’ he enquired. He looked interested.

‘Er, yes.’ Never knew why I said that either. The next question was the killer.

‘Who’s your favourite composer?’

I had to think fast. I’d never heard the term ‘modern music’ in a classical context. Who did I know who might be an exponent of ‘modern music’?

It came to me in a flash – of course, the composer featured at the start of the Blood Sweat & Tears album. French − wrote, what was it? − ‘Trois Gymnopedies’! That’s it! And the composer’s name was, that’s it! Erik, Erik…

‘Erik Sartre,’ I replied confidently.

‘You mean Erik Satie,’ he said.

‘Yes. Satie. My favourite composer. Yes.’ Not only ignorant, but a liar too.

Ten days later the rejection slip eased through my letterbox. Maybe journalism wasn’t for me.

I then applied for a year-long creative-writing course at Watford College that was supposed to lead to a career as an advertising copywriter. They sent me a test paper, which involved questions like, ‘Describe a colour to a person who has been blind since birth’ and ‘Write a short play about a cat and a dustbin.’

I had a go and sent it off. That Saturday I got a call at home from the principal of the college, who told me they loved the stuff I’d written and I’d better start thinking about arranging my student grant. I just had to attend the college for a quick interview that, judging by his attitude, was a formality.

Went down three days later, screwed up the interview by not being able to string two coherent sentences together and no doubt convinced them all (five again) that the paper they’d received from me was actually written by someone else who understood plain English.

Ten days later the rejection slip eased through my letterbox. Maybe advertising wasn’t for me.

So I blamed the Applejacks and signed on. Money wasn’t really a worry. I lived at home with my mum and dad, who both worked. They liked having me around. It’s easy to be a bum in the city when you’ve gotta mum, so I became one. Bum, not mum.

And then a woman who worked at the local labour exchange where I signed on, took a shine to me in a strictly motherly way. I told her casually one signing-on day that I’d once harboured dreams of becoming a journalist. She remembered, and when a job came in for a trainee court reporter she rang me.

‘Are you interested? It’s at Great Marlborough Street Magistrates’ Court in Soho. Right next door to the London Palladium. Just pop down there tomorrow for an interview.’

Shit! What was the point? I’d only fail.

‘I don’t know if I can do tomorrow. Actually, I don’t think it’s for me. I’ll leave it for now.’

‘I thought you dreamed of becoming a journalist? Whatever it is you’re doing tomorrow at four- thirty pm, cancel it and head down there. A Mr Len Almond will be waiting to see you. He runs the Almond press agency and his office is in the courthouse. He sounds like a decent bloke. Go for it.’

She was my guardian angel.

I met Len in an empty Court Two. He was about sixty, glasses, double-breasted Dad’s Army brown suit with a white pinstripe, impressive head of wavy dark grey hair. Five foot two eyes of blue, He was all of Dickens’s nice guys rolled into one.

We sat on the deserted solicitors’ benches and after we’d chatted for five minutes, he offered me the job.

So, in the autumn of 1971, Len, four laddish reporters and I, now nineteen, covered Great Marlborough Street and Marylebone Magistrates’ Courts in the West End. The heartbeat of the agency was the tiny nineteenth-century office that backed onto the gaoler’s office in Marlborough Street courthouse. Its stained green walls housed three wooden desks and chairs, a similar number of typewriters from the roaring twenties, and a young shit-kickin’ enthusiasm that wriggled through the cigarette smoke and plucked intros from thin air.

I sat on the press bench every day from ten am until four pm with a one-hour break for lunch that I spent writing up the notes I’d taken in the morning session. I covered every case so shorthand was essential and I studied it three nights a week at Pitman’s Secretarial College in Russell Square. The reports were mailed to all the relevant local papers because the offenders’ full addresses were read out in open court.

I sent shame through the post but Len, who completed The Times crossword every morning on the Bakerloo Line between Kilburn Park and Edgware Road, insisted it was a public duty.

If I thought the case had more than just local interest, I’d slip out of court, ring up the features’ desks of every national paper and try to sell them the story. I then had to write it up in the style of the paper ordering it, phone it over to the copy desks, then go back to court to catch some more humiliation and degradation.

I went home on the tube every night with a headful of gypsies, tramps and thieves and the odd perverted accountant thrown in for good measure. One guy, who was in his early thirties and lived with his wife and two children in stockbroker Surrey, was caught jerking off while ogling the Carnaby Street boutique babes through shop windows in broad daylight. Now that’s what I call a nineteenth nervous breakdown.

Another accountant got absolutely pissed in the West End one Friday night, met a woman in the street and was later spotted by an eagle-eyed copper shagging her under a bush near the bandstand in Hyde Park.

The next morning, when they stood together in the dock, the accountant, who was no more than twenty-four, turned and stared at the woman whose body he’d ravaged the previous night. I shall never forget to my dying day the look of horror on his face. She was a seventy-eight year-old hag in a filthy brown overcoat and bright green nylon socks that had more holes than Blackburn, Lancashire, revealing terminal varicose veins. Her thin, matted white hair fell across her grubby, wrinkled face and strands dangled on the dried snot that covered her top lip. She had barely a tooth in her head.

The night before he’d seen Julie Christie in a river of Red Barrel. The morning after he caught a vision of hell and I doubt he ever recovered.

I quit the job in the summer of ‘73.  I was well and truly armed – 120wpm shorthand, a nose for a story, a master of the intro.

But I was also in love with Dina, a Greek goddess I met at shorthand classes. When she returned to Cyprus, I quit the job and went on a 2,000 mile trek in a beaten-up Ford Consul to that island paradise of where, to this day, it’s still easy to trace the tracks of my tears. But that’s another story in another book. As you three guys know…

After that ill-fated trip – the first time I’d ever ventured abroad – life in ‘73 London at home with my mum and dad was just too mundane, too achingly trivial, too Sing Something Simple.

My tiger feet pounced out the door and into the gun-metal grey Hillman Imp I’d bought for thirty-eight quid at a car auction in dodgy South London. After my successful bid I went to check out the car and almost collapsed when, upon opening the bonnet, I discovered there was no engine. ‘The engine’s in the boot, mate,’ said one of the dealers and laughed hysterically.

The engine in the boot took me to Gloucester where I started work as a trainee reporter on the Citizen evening newspaper around the time Fred and Ginger were dancing on the corpses of teenage girls down the Cromwell Road. I lived for a while in a converted barn on a farm in the heart of the Cotswolds, just around the corner from the Woolpack in Slad, the pub in Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie.     

I spent just over two years in Gloucester, two very happy years in which I acquired the art of interviewing, the knack of living alone, the desire to get to the front of a club queue and a lifelong addiction to freebies.

In ‘74 and ‘75, Tracy’s and the much larger Mecca-owned Tiffany’s, were the only guys standing in the shadows of  the city’s magnificent cathedral after eleven pm. Outside both venues on Friday and Saturday nights the West Country cider soul boys would gather, the velocity and spirit of Wigan Casino coursing through their pill-stained veins. Tracy’s would occasionally feature a top-notch live act − we’re talking Edwin Starr, KC and the Sunshine Band, and sad sweet dreamers Sweet Sensation − because the punters just loved to groove, their huge baggies billowing on the lager-sticky dance floor where their feet spun at the speed of light.

I moved back to London at Christmas ‘75 in search of a ‘glittering career’ and blagged a job on the South-East London Mercury as the entertainment editor.

© Barry Cain 2013


Monday 23 September 2013

The McCartneys cont...

‘Five minutes to curtain call, said Mr McCartney.

‘Hey Paul, we’re just having a really good chat,’ said Linda.

‘Right, but we’ve really got to go. Have you finished your interview?’

‘Well, no,’ I said, feeling short-changed. I’d been promised over thirty minutes, plus I’d been hanging around for days waiting to do this. Just because I got a bit lost didn’t mean I should be penalised. This ain’t on son, this ain’t on at all.

‘Could I ask just a couple more things?’ I said gingerly. Shit, I was alone in a room with Paul and Linda McCartney and they were talking about me.

Okay, but if you could wrap it up as soon as you can,’ said Paul

Linda looked at me and smiled.

Right, er, if you weren't married now, what would…

‘I'd be living out in Arizona just taking pictures.’ Lovely Linda. 

‘Anyway,’ said Paul, ‘we are married and that's the way we intend to stay.’

The spell had been broken. Paul paced up and down and occasionally interrupted to hurry things along.  I really wanted him to piss off. I’d just scratched the surface with Linda and this could have been the best ever.

Then Linda said something so magical it took my breath away.

‘Maybe we could continue the interview back at the house.’

The house!

Yes! The three of us would pile into his Mini, the one with the black windows, and drive over to St- John’s Wood to the house I’d been reading about all my life. The one just around the corner from Abbey Road Studios, the one where he wrote ‘Paperback Writer’ and ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Lady Madonna’. Where he slept with Jane Asher and entertained Mick Jagger.

Paul McCartney’s house.

And Linda would maybe knock up a meal in the kitchen, something healthy like alfalfa beans, and we’d open a bottle of wine and talk late into the night and Paul would tell me his secrets and fears and dreams and finally explain to me the true meaning of life.

‘No,’ said Paul. ‘That’s out of the question.’

What are the worst words you’ve ever heard? ‘I’m sorry but I don’t love you anymore’? ‘You’ve failed every exam’? ‘The dog’s dead’? ‘Oh − have you come already?’

Sorry, they aren’t even close to what I felt when Paul said, ‘No. That’s out of the question.’

At that moment I would have traded my mum’s life for the opportunity of going to Paul McCartney’s house. ‘No. That’s out of the question’.

Didn’t he realise what he meant to me? What he did for me? How I could never thank him enough for simply existing?

I wish I could’ve said something glib − ‘Don’t beat about the bush Paul − do you want me to come or not?’ But all I could muster was a feeble, ‘Okay, I think I’m just about finished. I’m sorry I was so late and I’m really sorry about the Coke.’

‘Don’t worry,’ said Paul.    

‘No, it was my fault.’

As we walked down the stairs I was overcome by shyness. He said something to me but I didn’t know what. 

The three of us went out of the building together. I tried to talk to him, tried to penetrate that force field I’d erected between us. I crazily expected Paul to know me like I knew him and the fact that he didn’t was, I concluded, totally his fault.

A polite goodbye and I watched them climb into the Mini with the black windows. Linda waved.

I tried to imagine their conversation.

‘Paul, how could you be such a bastard? That guy was about the best journalist I’d ever met and I sensed he was gonna write a great article about me. And you went and ruined it.’

‘I’m sorry Linda, I didn’t know. Shall we turn back?’

‘Oh, it’s too late now.’

But it was probably more along the lines of:

‘He didn’t seem like a bad guy. A bit stupid though. How could someone get lost like that?’

‘Right. And fancy you asking him back. He’d have knocked over the Ming vase and then got lost on his way to the toilet.’ And then they’d have laughed and driven back into the dreamland.

I was angry because I felt cheated. Meeting Paul McCartney should’ve been deeply significant. But, like making love for the first time, it was a complete disaster. And, of course, in my eyes he alone was to blame.

My Record Mirror article ended:

‘You've got enough, haven't you?’ says Paul, obviously anxious to be rid of me once and for all.
Yes,’ I reply − meekly I'm ashamed to say. And they left. The interview lasted twenty minutes.
I always liked John Lennon better anyway.
Wonder if Yoko fancies a chat?

Not surprisingly, Paul took exception to my piece and the following week, while doing an interview for Melody Maker, he apparently referred to me as a complete bastard and admitted he would’ve liked nothing more than to smack me in the face.

It was like losing a lover, a brother, a mum, a dad, a son, a daughter. The Record Mirror article was written by someone I didn’t know. Someone still clawing his way out of bombsite ‘77, covered with the dust of fallen stars. Someone who felt a little cheated because ‘78 was just another ‘76 without Barry Biggs. Someone who still sneered behind his beard at the ugly-bug ball. Someone jealous of an NME writer because they got all the glory. Someone jealous of Paul McCartney for being rich and talented. Someone with a grudge against everyone. Someone. But not me.

Of all the graffiti splashed on the whitewashed walls of my soul by vindictive ghosts, ‘Barry Cain is a complete bastard, PM’ hurts the most.

But it was the demon inside guv.

It wasn’t cool to dig Wings and I went along with the cool cats. I couldn’t be arsed to write nice when it was easier and more fun to write bad. I lied to myself by distorting my dreams.

I quit Record Mirror soon afterwards.

I never met Paul again and I shed a tear when Linda died. She was a sweetheart and would no doubt still have been married to Paul to this day.     

The Beatles inspired me like nobody else before or since, but I lost them when they split. George was only good for one album, his debut triple epic All Things Must Pass. John produced two classic albums – John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band and Imagine. Mind Games was an intense disappointment and, apart from the Rock ’n’ roll album he did nothing else of real note. The last, Double Fantasy, was awful. Ringo? Ringo joked about with photographs, sixteen year-olds with lips like strawberry wine and sentimental journeys. 

Paul released two truly great albums and three or four good ones. Maybe he still does. I stopped listening to his music fifteen years ago. Mind you, I haven’t listened to much else in fifteen years so who am I to judge? I’ve taken an extended vacation from my house of music, returning, now and again, to collect the post and make sure the pipes haven’t burst.

I always regarded Paul as the most beautiful Beatle, which was why I went for John with his hook nose and pounding hips. Paul sang the prettiest Beatles songs and yet ‘I’m Down’, ‘She’s A Woman’ and ‘Oh Darlin’’ revealed an achy-breaky vocal that gave my heart a hard-on.

So, I take my hat off to you Sir Paul. You came in through the bathroom window and stole the show. I’d like to have written that back in March 1978 when the world was not enough.

Now back to the future − or, rather, forward to the past where the Intro still lurks.

© Barry Cain 2013

Sunday 22 September 2013

The McCartneys


I mean, I've admired Paul McCartney since he stood awkwardly on a round pedestal during a 'Please Please Me' session in Brian Matthews's Thank Your Lucky Stars.

He had charisma. He had a flimsy leg style. He had a cosy puddin' face more appropriate in an Ovaltine ad than a pop show. More importantly, he had me.

But when I met him for the first time this week I would dearly have loved to shove the cherubic smile right down his throat and maybe follow that up with a swift right to his rubicund cheek.

There's a very good reason for this sudden urge to indulge in unmitigated violence as I will now endeavour to explain…

So began my epitaph, my final interview for Record Mirror on 22 March, 1978 (at least, that’s what I thought at the time) which I’d joined at the tail end of 1976. 

An interview with Linda McCartney, with the chance of a few words from Paul. It was the one I’d been waiting for all my life. I always knew, deep down, the moment I heard ‘Love Me Do’, that I’d meet a Beatle. It was my destiny.

This was my chance to proclaim to the world my undying love for Paul McCartney and the purity of his voice, the bittersweet songs, the arrogance, the tenderness, the heart full of soul. 

So why the fuck did I write that?

Nobody knew if Paul would show but my stomach still floated like a butterfly on the off-chance that he would as I sat on the train heading south to Twickenham, where Wings were filming a video for the song London Town’. I looked at the other passengers and secretly gloated − I might be meeting a Beatle in half an hour, what will you be doing?

I’d been waiting days for this interview through endless postponements.   Okay, so it wasn’t Paul, but Linda was loved by a Beatle, and not just any old Beatle. It was the next best thing.

But I wasn’t going to give her an easy ride. I’d loved Wings for as long as I could but I’d been hanging out in Cynic City for nearly two years. If it wasn’t cool, slag it. Wings weren’t cool. Me, Mr- long-hair-and-shaggy-beard-living-at-home-with-his mum-and-dad-at-twenty-five Dude, what the hell did I know about cool?

Linda McCartney ruined Wings − that was the general feeling among those who considered Paul McCartney to belong exclusively to them −− fools like me. There were a few highs − he was a Beatle after all − but, according to us, the minute she walked into his life he died.

I’d compiled an impressive list of questions. Did you stifle a dream? Do you consider yourself a professional musician? Have you ever felt you were a burden to Paul? Were you a groupie? Did past members of the band leave because of you? Are you a hippie? A mover? A shaker? A manipulator?

When I reached the huge studio in Twickenham I was greeted by Paul’s PR, Tony Brainsby, one very smooth operator. He wore glasses, had shoulder length, straggly red hair and when he spoke you could hear the laugh in his words. He was one of the most cynical men I’d ever met with the confidence to be a complete bastard if the situation demanded. I once stood in his office waiting to interview Iron Maiden when he called his bank manager a ‘total cunt’ over the phone. Never mind the bollocks, here’s Tony Brainsby.     

‘Paul’s here,’ said Tony, matter-of-factly.  ‘Would you like to meet him?’

Would I like to meet him? I didn’t say, couldn’t say, anything.  I was about to shake hands with a living legend who had left his imprint on my soul.

Tony showed me to a table where two other journalists, veterans from NME and Melody Maker, sat drinking Coke. Denny Laine strolled in and we were introduced. ‘You’ve always been in my ears and in my eyes,’ I said to him in a lame attempt at a joke. I think he may have heard it before.

Tony handed me a Coke and I took a seat next to the vets who said they’d met Paul on numerous occasions. I already envied them.

‘I’ll go and find Paul,’ said Tony and my heart skipped a beat.

I could think of nothing else during the idle, Coke-infused conversation that lasted for five minutes. Then...

‘Paul, this is Barry.’ He smiled. He raised his hand. I reached out to touch the fingers that had shaped my thoughts, that had lifted me higher and higher with their heavenly power. I reached out to hear that

universal voice which, for the very first time, would say, ‘Hello Barry.’‘Hello Paul.’ I thrust out my hand and knocked an entire glass of Coke across the table, some of which ended up on his trousers.

‘Oh, shit!’ said Paul, and laughed

‘Oh shit!’ I said and didn’t.  

‘Linda is ready to see you now,’ said Tony who had realised I was in desperate need of rescuing. He gave me directions to her dressing room.

I left the bar as quickly as I could and turned right out of the door.

That was my first mistake.

It should’ve been left. Megan. Megan. Megan.

I got hopelessly, completely, depressingly lost. There wasn’t a soul around to ask the way and I walked up and down a maze of sterile corridors feeling like Arthur Clennam trying to negotiate the Circumlocution Office in ‘Little Dorrit’.  I should’ve reached Linda McCartney’s dressing room in absolutely no more than two minutes. It took me twenty-five.

‘Where the fuck have you been?’ Tony stood outside Linda's dressing room. He wasn't a happy man. ‘I got a bit lost.’

‘A bit lost? We’ve been looking for you for ages. You do know you only had an hour with her? You’re the last interview of the day, which means you’ve got precisely thirty-five minutes starting from now...’

He opened the door and pushed me inside.

‘Here he is! The man got lost would you believe?’

‘Lost?’ I loved the way Linda said it, like she was really concerned. ‘Lost? My God what happened?’

The first question was sublime. The second made me feel ashamed of myself.

‘Are you all right?’

‘I’m fine. I feel a bit stupid.’ A bit stupid? I’d just knocked a glass of Coke over Paul McCartney and then get lost on my way to interview his wife. That gives stupid a bad name.

‘Hey, Barry, don’t worry about it. Sit down. Would you like a drink?’

‘You probably think I’ve had too many already.’

She laughed. She looked nervous. She was lovely. She had to be. She was married to Paul McCartney. She wore multi-coloured socks, denim culottes, waistcoat and T-shirt, topped with a dollop of hair that looked like it had been squeezed out of a Mr-Softee machine. I guess you couldn't really call her stunning. She was, well . . . nice. A nice person. A person you feel at home with, like a newsreader. Nice Linda.

‘I’m really sorry about all this. It’s not exactly been my day. Did you hear about the −’

‘Yes.’ She laughed again. ‘I’m sorry but you do sound a little, uh, accident prone.’

‘I’m known as the Norman Wisdom of the music press.’

‘Norman Wisdom?’

‘Er, yeah. He was the poor man’s Charlie Chaplin. Very English.’

‘So was Charlie Chaplin, but I get your drift. Now what would you like?’

‘A Coke will be fine.’ I could have murdered a beer but it didn’t seem prudent in the circumstances.

‘Only if you promise not to spill it over me.’

She laughed as she got up to fix the drinks. This woman who had given birth to Paul McCartney’s babies was fixing a drink for me.

No interview had affected me quite like this.

‘I’ll leave you two alone now,’ said Tony. I’d forgotten he was there. ‘I’m afraid you’ve only got about thirty minutes.’

Just then a nanny came in carrying Linda’s six-month-old son, James. Linda took the baby and sat down, holding him like a bouquet of fresh roses. The nanny and Tony left together so now it was just her and me and sweet baby James in a dressing room with the name Sacha Distel smacked like a French kiss on the door. It's the good life.

Do you like being interviewed Linda?

‘I guess I'm not a great person to interview. I'm really ordinary, y'know. Ordinary and relaxed. I didn't do very well at school . . .

−−‘I'm not a showbiz person at all. I find it difficult to write about myself so it must be nearly impossible for anyone else to do so.’

But if you were writing about yourself what would you say?

‘Oh, that I'm very easy-going, nice ...’ See? Told ya, ‘’…and like life.’

Did Paul groom you musically?

‘Oh, no. More than anything he wanted a friend near him.

−−‘I do have an instinctive feel for music. I've always been a fan. I was a real New York fifties gal. I'd go and see Alan Freed's rock ’n’ roll shows and listen to Buddy Holly. That's where I got my musical training. To me the fifties was the best period ever for music.’

Linda refused to read the music press. ‘So much of it is untrue. When they slag off Paul it makes me sick.’

Aren't you a little biased?

‘Sure. But I'm biased for anyone I love. Paul is an artist, make no mistake.’

You once said, ‘John was my Beatle hero. But when I met him the fascination faded fast and I found it was Paul I liked.’

She smiled. ‘Well, John comes over on stage or record much heavier than he really is. He just isn't like what you think. In truth he's just a nice guy, not Mr-Cool.''

You've been married nine years. Don’t seem a day too long?

‘I feel newly married because it's all gone so quickly. There are some things I would’ve liked to change, like getting rid of all the pressures which drastically affect your home life. When you're famous, people need things from you. I've no regrets. I think in a marriage the essential thing is to be good friends − only then you can have a life. I take things less seriously now.’

It was like the perfect first date. My preconceptions were hideously wrong and when she said, ‘Hey, Barry, I get the feeling you like me and I think this is gonna be a great interview,’ the stars fell from the sky. But I needed to get to the nitty-gritty. We were fifteen minutes in already, which meant I only had another fifteen. 

There was a loud knock on the door and Paul came in…

To be continued.

© Barry Cain 2013



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