Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lennon and Linda McCartney

It’s forty years ago today that Paul McCartney married Linda Eastman, and it was, by all accounts, a happy and successful marriage that only ended when Linda died. However, rumours, partly said to be based on the diaries of John Lennon, suggest that he and Linda had sex on one occasion.

Paul McCartney, one of the famous Beatles group, married Linda Eastman, an American photographer, at a civil ceremony in London on 12 March 1969 - exactly four decades ago. Paul adopted Linda’s daughter from her first marriage, Heather, and the couple had three more children. Most observers say the marriage was happy and successful. Paul himself claimed that he and Linda spent less than a week apart during their entire marriage. Linda died in 1998.

However, a contributor (calling himself 18th candidate) to Everything2 (which says it is ‘a collection of user-submitted writings about, well, pretty much everything’) suggests Linda might have been unfaithful to Paul on one occasion.

18th Candidate writes: ‘It’s been said that the Beatle to whom Linda was initially attracted was John Lennon, but John showed no interest in her and Linda subsequently set her sights on Paul. According to John’s diaries, however, years later in the 1970s, when Linda was married to Paul and John was married to Yoko Ono, Linda and John reportedly had a brief affair. According to the story, after an argument with Yoko, John went to Paul’s home where he found Linda alone. She had also had an argument with Paul and he had stormed out. After a bottle of wine and some marijuana, the diaries claim that John and Linda ended up in bed for a short encounter. Whether or not that story is true is actually largely speculation, but it’s the only report that Linda was ever unfaithful to Paul during their marriage.’

The source claimed for this unlikely scenario is ‘John’s diaries’, but information on these is hard to come by, on the internet at least. There is, though, some hard information about the involved story of the diaries in an article by Brian Murphy called Let Me Take You Down - In a Cyn Sandwich, The Profoundly Paradoxical Mind of John Lennon (Cyn being short for Cynthia, Lennon’s first wife). This is freely available on the Oakland University Journal website.

Certainly, Lennon kept some diaries in the last years of his life which, immediately after his death, were stolen by Fred Seaman, Lennon’s assistant in New York. He was convicted of this theft in 1983, and sentenced to five years’ probation. The diaries, which were returned to Yoko Ono (though who knows what photocopies exist), have never been published nor made public. Seaman did, though, author The Last Days of John Lennon: A Personal Memoir published by Birch Lane Press in 1991.

However, there have been two books which specifically claim to be based on Lennon’s diaries. One is Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon written by Robert Rosen and published by Fusion Press in 2000. Rosen, in his introduction to the book (available on john-lennon.com) explains how he came to use Lennon’s diaries as ‘a road map to the truth’.

‘Twenty-four hours after John Lennon was murdered on December 8, 1980, his personal assistant Fred Seaman, a close friend of mine came to my apartment. He was visibly shaken, his eyes blood shot, tears streaming down his face. There was work to be done he said. The previous summer, during an extended stay in Bermuda, John had told him should anything happen to him, it was Seaman’s job to write the true story of his final years. It would not be the official tale of a happy, eccentric household raising Sean and baking bread while Yoko ran the family business. Instead it would be the story of a tormented superstar, a prisoner of his fame locked in his bedroom, raving about Jesus Christ while a retinue of servants tended to his every need. Still it was not until Wednesday October 21, (1981) that I began the process of transcribing Lennon’s diaries. It was exhausting work that continued unabated until the end of November. No matter how much I transcribed there was always more; the task seemed endless. . .’

‘. . . Then on January 4, 1982 Ono fired Seaman. He assured me the project would continue; he’d given John Lennon his word that he’d tell his true story. Yoko, he said would not object. On February 9, 1982 I flew to Jamaica. When I returned to New York on February 27, my apartment had been ransacked. Everything I’d been working on - the diaries, the photocopies of the diaries, the transcripts, the manuscripts, the tapes, the photos - had all been taken. There was no sign of forced entry. It was Seaman. He had the keys. It was only then that I realized that virtually everything Seaman had told me about why we were doing the project was a lie. I sank into a state of near paralysis but managed to file a complaint with the police. Lennon’s diaries haunted me. I’d wake up in the morning and details would come flooding back. I began taking notes on everything I could remember. By mid-April I’d put together a manuscript that included the information from the diaries and everything that had happened since the day Lennon was murdered. Nowhere Man is a work of both investigative journalism and imagination. I have used the memory of Lennon’s diaries as a road map to the truth.’

In fact, the book’s index offers less than a handful of references to the diaries, and those references lead to little of substance in the book itself.

The other book - Lennon in America: 1971-1980 - was written by Geoffrey Giuliano and published by Cooper Square Press in 2000. This even has the subtitle: Based on the Lost Lennon Diaries. Wikipedia’s article on Giuliano gives some detail. The author claimed he was given transcripts of Lennon’s journal by the singer Harry Nilsson, who died in 1994. The claim, however, was made after Nilsson’s death, and several people close to Nilsson do not believe he ever had such transcripts. Moreover, Steven Gutstein, a lawyer who read the diaries in connection with the legal case against Fred Seaman, remarked that Giulano’s book was ‘a Mad magazine version of the diaries’. Gutstein described his own memory of the diaries as being ‘a lot of philosophical musings combined with mundane details of everyday life’.

But, presumably, this book must be the source of 18th Candidate’s rumour-mongering. Giuliano says (or imagines) that Linda was alone nursing a headache in the aftermath of a heated argument with Paul. John and Yoko were going through a rough patch, and John regularly went over to Paul’s house in St John’s wood (incidentally only two doors down from where I myself lived for a short while in the 70s). On this occasion, Paul was out and Linda was making a bed, so Paul helped. In the course of spreading the sheets, Giuliano says, their hands touched briefly. Linda paid the contact no mind, but as Lennon reached to tuck in the top sheet (the detail is banally brilliant!), Lennon caught her arm and kissed her. Giuliano’s words: ‘A gentle, awkward embrace evolved into caresses and a quick interlude of sexual intimacy.’ Linda deeply regretted the indiscretion, Giuliano suggests, and never told a soul, while Lennon found it amusing.

So where did this rumour come from? Giuliano claims that George Speerin, a former Lennon aide, revealed the story in 1983; and that he himself (Giuliano) had seen a handwritten note by Lennon ‘which was probably intended for inclusion in his diaries’ which ‘referred’ to the same incident.

Giuliano admits in the introduction that his book does not contain any quotes from Lennon’s diaries. He says they were often incomplete thoughts and snippets - the exact meaning of which was dificult to discern. Instead, he says, he used the diaries as ‘collaborating source material’. The book’s index does have 20 or more references to Lennon’s diaries for where Giuliano has used them as source material. Here are two, one about the McCartneys and one about sex.

- ‘John ended up at dinner listening to the McCartney’s endless bragging about how wonderfully they were doing. In his [Lennon’s] diaries, he termed them obnoxious, smug and even downright stupid.’

‘So important were these pleasurable [sexual] episodes to the former Beatle than he kept a daily record of them all - in handwritten and taped diaries he assiduously maintained to the end of his life.’

1 comment:

Robert Rosen said...

Dear Mr. Lyons,

Thank you for posting the piece about John Lennon’s diaries and my book “Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon.” That writers continue to discuss and deconstruct the book nine years after its publication seems miraculous to me, and a testament to the fascination that people have with Lennon’s inner life.

You say that “the book’s index offers less than a handful of references to the diaries, and those references lead to little of substance in the book itself.” If by this you mean that I don’t quote directly from the diaries, you’re correct. To do so would have been a infringement of the Lennon estate’s copyright.

What I attempted to do with “Nowhere Man” is to show how the world looked to John Lennon based on what I’d learned from reading his diaries. Or, as I said in the excerpt that you quoted, “I have used my memory of Lennon’s diaries as a road map to the truth.”

Until Lennon’s diaries are published—an event that’s unlikely to occur in our lifetime—“Nowhere Man” will remain the most accurate representation of what Lennon wrote about in his final years. And I can say unequivocally that there was nothing in the diaries about Lennon having an affair with Linda McCartney.

Robert Rosen
New York City