first met Linda McCartney at the Scene on West 46th
Street. A hip little grotto in a cellar, it was
run by the cool Steve Paul. In the fall of 1965
everybody from Slim Harpo to Jimi Hendrix played
there. Brit Invasion bands came to jam after their
gigs. In a small windowless room in the back, Tiny
Tim held court. Actually, there weren't any windows
in the whole damn place.
particular evening I was engaged in a common piece
of corporate surrealism: photographing a number
of overweight middle‑aged men in bad suits
holding a gold record—or was it an enlarged
photostat of a check? Whatever. It was the record
industry's version of an Assyrian bas‑relief.
The only unusual feature this evening was the dapper
and inscrutable presence of Ahmet Ertegun, president
of Atlantic Records.
order to make the shoot look more professional,
I'd enlisted Al the Beatnik Painter from the loft
above mine to act as my assistant. Real photographers
always had assistants. But our professional cover
was blown as soon as Al started hustling nickel
bags to the Atlantic salesmen. He was doing a brisk
did, however, impress somebody. After I'd finished
shooting the picture, a tall girl with long blonde
hair began asking me a lot of questions. Did I do
this for a living? How does one get into this? Is
it hard to learn? What kind of camera do you use?
Is that a strobe light? All asked with anthropological
zeal—as if she had discovered some strange
subterranean stroboscopic ritual. The odd thing
about her was that while she looked stunningly straight,
on her this had the appearance of some sort of disguise.
She seemed to be looking for that chink in the wall—a
memory I hear myself—in modified Austin Powers—saying,
"Why don't you drop round the studio tomorrow.
I'll give you some pointers—we can smoke some
dynamite weed and shag, beh‑beh."
was dressed in a striped long sleeved T‑shirt
and an A‑line skirt down to the knees. This
in the very heart of the sixties, when Pop fashion
was exploding on the street like a super nova. Mini
skirts! Silver foil sheaths! Op‑art dresses!
looked every inch a WASP (even though she wasn't),
and she dressed with the studied bad taste elite
WASPs aspire to. They had whole stores devoted to
this strange phenomenon: Peck & Peck, B. Altman,
Best & Co. It was a bizarre cult of exclusive
dowdiness. Vassar girls dressed like this.
was educated, smart, and hungry. And had the wonderful
name of Linda See. See was the name of her ex‑husband,
an anthropologist from whom she'd been recently
divorced. She also had the most amazing child named
Heather who would say things like "My mind
is speaking, but my mouth can't find the shapes,"
leaving us all with our jaws hanging open.
Linda had gone through a bad patch. She slept a
lot, snacked on Ritz crackers and hors d'oeuvres
from the deli, and existed in a fog of low‑level
depression and listlessness so acute it was sultry.
She bemoaned the pointlessness of her life. But
she did it with such tremendous energy that it belied
her apathetic state.
is to become of me?" she would ask as plaintively
as the Lady of Shalott. It's true that for the life
she had been brought up to lead, the prospects didn't
look too thrilling. Marriage to the stockbroker
who'd been captain of the Harvard sculling team.
Or the ad executive who still planned to write that
novel. Maybe a Scarsdale house that would resemble
a Middle‑Kingdom tomb. All the dreadful certainties
and banalities of mid‑century middle‑class
life. She reminded me of a suburban Sleeping Beauty.
Ah, but just around the corner the blazing path
of Pop life awaited!
had a job. She worked at Town & Country
magazine, the very stronghold of the bizarre twin‑set
and pearls cult. Her parents were wealthy and she
probably didn't need to work, but that's what you
did. Another of those peculiar customs of the upper
my part, I had long ago resigned myself to a life
of scuffling. Al the Beatnik Taschist was my guru.
His paintings were abysmal kitsch, but the philosophy
was impeccable. Al's golden rule was that one should
never, under any circumstances whatever, be gainfully
employed. To have a job was considered a serious
breach of existential etiquette.
the other hand, anything that involved hanging out
was cool. And wasn't this just what a photographer
did? At the time, there were only four acceptable
occupations: rock star, dope dealer, photographer
or working in a boutique. I chose photographer.
I hovered nightly in dingy rock bôites awaiting
the decisive moment. Although this was alien to
the way Linda had been brought up, she caught on
specialty was the rock tableau. For the Shangri‑Las'
"Leader of the Pack" I got Mary Weiss
to stand in the foreground looking racked with teen
angst. (She was the only one in the group without
skin problems. Besides, she was seriously cute.)
In the background I positioned her sister Betty
and the twins, Mary Ann and Marge Ganser, whispering
conspiratorially, "Is she really going out
had set up a shoot the next day with the Animals,
and I thought it might be a good idea to ask Linda
along. She would see me in my David Bailey/Blow
Up mode. This was seriously stupid. Like taking
your girlfriend along to photograph the Italian
Animals' current single was "We Gotta Get Out
of This Place" and I'd decided to shoot them
down at the piers. I found a very thick length of
rope used for tying up ocean liners, and made a
knot at one end. I had the Animals straining to
burst through this circle of rope. Not a profound
metaphor, but graphic.
image was just okay, but as I looked through the
lens it looked fantastic! I mean the way those zen
Cockney masters like David Bailey and Michael Cooper
did it. Then I figured it out. It was Linda. She
had literally magnetized the group and it had done
wonders for the composition. Streams of energy poured
back and forth between the feral Animals and Princess
I'd shot the picture, Linda asked if she could use
the camera to take some informal pictures of Eric
Burdon and the boys. While she was snapping some
very tightly framed shots of Eric, he confided a
passionate interest in photography. Funny that he'd
never mentioned it to me.
know, love, I always thought if the rock 'n' roll
thing don't work oot I'd go into the photography
dodge. Do you think you could give me lessons?"
that little Tyneside creep!
is that right, Eric?" I said bitchily. "And
I always thought your ambition was to open a fish
and chip shop."
well, photography and fish are my favorite pastimes."
was a quick and eager student of photography. There
wasn't that much to learn! By the mid‑sixties,
photography had divested itself of its gothic complexities.
With the single‑ lens reflex camera all you
had to do was frame the image through the lens,
keep the light‑meter needle steady in the
middle, and click. Well, there was the mildly arcane
business of the F‑stops but even this could
be explained in under 40 seconds.
technical aspects weren't that demanding. The problem
was photographing obnoxious, excruciatingly self‑conscious
teenage yobs. It was a bloody pain in the neck.
There was always someone with his eyes closed or
fly unzipped or giving you the finger. Or you'd
get a really great shot of the group only to discover
someone hadn't shown up.
Chas couldn't make the shoot, innit? Uvverwise it
woulda made a bloody great album cover."
with the lovely Linda all this changed. Photographing
a yobby group like Tommy James and the Shondells
was usually problematic. Now their eyes were pinned
then the Stones came to town. I thought I'd learned
my lesson when I introduced Linda to the Animals,
but once again I couldn't resist. After all, the
Stones were going to cruise around Manhattan on
a yacht—the "Sea Panther"—with
various members of the press.
Stavers, editor of Sixteen, was the
doyenne of teen fan mags and she was somehow in
charge of invitations. I worked for rival Hullabaloo
so there was no hope of my being invited. But Linda
was a different matter. I told her to call up Gloria
and "tell her you're from Town & Country—she'll
cream in her jeans." Linda got on the "Sea
Panther" and she shot some great pictures,
which is how the Rolling Stones ended up on the
cover of Town & Country.
pictures perfectly captured the frisson of the afternoon.
The inimitable elite bohemians insolently lounging
in outfits of razorblade hipness.
night, Jerry Schatzberg was giving a party for the
Stones. In those days, hip photographers were seen
as epic figures. Schatzberg had taken the cover
photo of the Stones in drag for their single, "Have
You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadows?"
The party was in his studio. Andy Warhol, Baby Jane
Holzer, Tom Wolfe—le tout New
York was there.
took Linda to the party and watched as she stepped
through the looking glass. She was reborn. The rock
life had claimed another victim. Rock itself was
a drug—once involved in this life, one wanted
camera that night, of course. This would have been
like the girl with the graphex camera at the Copacabana.
Around midnight Linda came over to me and said,
"Mick just asked me for my phone number—what
should I do?"
rhetorical question, clearly.
the Stones, Linda had finally met rock royalty.
The Animals and the Dave Clark Five would now be
cast in the supporting role of peasants clamoring
at the gate. She would never take their picture
following spring she went to England and came back
raving about all the new groups she had met. Traffic,
the Who, the Soft Machine. Oh, and Paul.
he like?" we asked. She wouldn't say.
fall I was married on acid at the Scene by Art Kreps,
Boo Hoo of the Neo American Church and publisher
of Divine Toad Sweat magazine. The
Doors were playing that night and Linda was there
to photograph them. Afterwards in the dressing room,
Lord Jim sat as impassive as the Maya while Linda
snapped pictures of him. Her leonine gawkiness,
that incredible smile. She didn't look like anybody
else in the room—all leathers and tatterdemalion
finery. She didn't look like anyone on the scene
for that matter. One thing about Linda, she stayed
in her own movie.
cosmos is communing with itself," said Lord
Jim. He'd obviously done a bit of the sacrament
himself. We all thought about that for a while.
I was having a hard time catching a cab. My arm
stretched right across 8th Avenue but none of the
cabs seemed to notice. Finally I said to Linda,
"I'm having a hard time catching the little
wait for the light," said Linda. "Then
the cab'll catch you." She was utterly unfazed—always!
following year I was in London. Linda and Paul were
a couple. They would show up early at the Let
It Be sessions and bemoan Yoko's "interfering."
One got the impression that John thought of the
Beatles as some sort of cosmic battering ram with
which to wipe out the last pockets of intolerance
and unhipness. But for Paul and Linda, the Beatles
were like the Firm. Sort of a family business, which
must be protected at all costs. Yoko's antics were
endangering the Empire!
saw Linda again at the end of 1969, shortly after
she married Paul. She was walking in Kew Gardens
in London with Mary Hopkin. We talked for a few
minutes underneath the Chinese pagoda. Have you
seen this one lately? How is that one doing? Did
he ever go to Bali? Did they get married? Light
gossip and the social weather. Even though she herself
was the subject of so much gossip—having stolen
Paul from the thousands of women who thought he
was meant for them!—Linda did not have a bad
word to say about anyone. She never did.
was the end of an era. A terrible vortex was forming
that would lead on the one hand to self‑destruction
(Jimi, Janis, Morrison) and on the other to fanaticism
Chapman). Not all the heroes of the sixties survived.
But music had given Linda's life meaning, and she
in turn provided the secret door through which Paul
escaped the fire storm that was about to envelop
rock 'n' roll.