Tag Archives: Paul McCartney 1980s

“McCartney: Amazed”
The Paul & Linda Story

Photo from back cover of “McCartney” album, April 1970, his first solo album. Photo of he and daughter Mary, tucked inside his coat, by Linda McCartney, shot in Scotland. Click for album.
Photo from back cover of “McCartney” album, April 1970, his first solo album. Photo of he and daughter Mary, tucked inside his coat, by Linda McCartney, shot in Scotland. Click for album.
It was a turbulent time for the famous British rock group, the Beatles – that period from around September 1969 through April 1970. The “Fab Four,” as they were once called, were having their differences.

Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr were having both creative differences over musical direction and business disagreements. In August 1967, they had lost their friend and business manager, Brian Epstein, then 32, to a drug overdose and were now navigating the business world on their own. Apple Records, their new label, was created in 1968, but a rift ensued when Allen Klein came in as manager with the support of Lennon, Harrison and Starr, while McCartney wanted his wife’s father, entertainment lawyer Lee Eastman, to be manager.

On the musical front, too, there were serious fissures in the group, some dating to early 1968 and a couple of walk outs. But as they worked on the final sessions for what would be their last album together, Let it Be, the rifts were widening and near rupture.

By then, each of the Beatles had been thinking about, or had launched, solo projects. John and Yoko Ono had already recorded. George Harrison, frustrated with Lennon-McCartney domination, had put out a solo album in January 1968. Ringo was pursuing some film interests and also had a solo album in the works. And Paul McCartney, too, had begun working on songs for a possible solo album.

But for McCartney, the period leading up to his work on that solo album had become a rough, uncertain time, borne by the prospect of the Beatles breaking up, which had set him adrift. In September 1969, John Lennon had privately announced to the group (and not the public) that he wanted to quit the Beatles, though at the time it was unclear whether he meant permanently. Still, Paul had taken John’s announcement to heart, and it left him bereft. The Beatles were practically everything Paul had ever done. So what now?

McCartney then retreated with his wife and young family to his farm in Scotland, a remote place on the Kintyre peninsula they also called the High Park farm. At the farm, however, McCartney went through a very down period of brooding, drinking, and depression over the likely demise of the Beatles and his uncertain musical future. He and his first wife, Linda – Linda Eastman, an American photographer – were married for less than a year at that point, having wed in March 1969.

“Maybe I’m Amazed”
Paul McCartney
1970

Maybe I’m amazed at the way
you love me all the time
Maybe I’m afraid of the way I love you
Maybe I’m amazed at the way
you pulled me out of time
And hung me on a line
Maybe I’m amazed at the way
I really need you

Maybe I’m a man and maybe
I’m a lonely man
Who’s in the middle of something
That he doesn’t really understand

Maybe I’m a man and maybe
you’re the only woman
Who could ever help me
Baby won’t you help me understand

Maybe I’m a man and maybe
I’m a lonely man
Who’s in the middle of something
That he doesn’t really understand

Maybe I’m a man and maybe
you’re the only woman
Who could ever help me
Baby won’t you help me understand

Maybe I’m amazed at the way
you’re with me all the time
Maybe I’m afraid of the way I leave you
Maybe I’m amazed at the way
you help me sing my song
Right me when I’m wrong
Maybe I’m amazed at the way
I really need you

Linda then had her hands full with her 7 year-old daughter Heather from an earlier marriage, plus their newborn baby, Mary. Still, Linda became the rock in helping Paul weather the Beatles’ turmoil and getting him back on track. She encouraged him musically, boosting his confidence, helping him to finish his solo album, which he had already started. Then, from late December 1969 through late March 1970 – working mostly at the McCartney London home, he set about working on that solo album, which would be titled, McCartney and would include an assortment of 13 songs, some of which had begun as earlier-composed fragments. One of the songs — “Maybe I’m Amazed,” dedicated to Linda — would become a top hit in the U.K. and America, and one of Paul’s most famous songs.

Music Player
“Maybe I’m Amazed”
Paul McCartney – 1970

McCartney recorded the album in secrecy, mostly using basic home-recording equipment – a Studer four-track tape recorder – at his house in St John’s Wood. Some of the material dated to ideas he had years earlier. One of the songs, “The Lovely Linda,” was written at the farm in Scotland. McCartney played all the musical instruments for the songs – acoustic and electric guitars, bass, keyboards, drums and various percussion instruments. Linda supplied backing vocals on some of the songs. There was also some mixing and later recording for some of the songs at two studios in London – the Abbey Road studios and the Morgan Studios, the latter to copy the four-track recordings onto eight-track tape for overdubbing (more on the album later).

But it was “Maybe I’m Amazed” that stood out on the album — an ode and love song to Linda, as the lyrics make plain. It was Paul’s tribute to his wife for bringing him out of his funk and restoring his confidence. She was his muse and inspiration; the one who steadied him through a difficult time.

The McCartney album is also noted for its photo art by Linda, one sample of which is shown at the top of this story from the album’s back cover — a photo of Paul taken at their farm in Scotland. Paul is shown in a fur-lined winter coat with baby Mary peering out from her snug position, tucked inside Paul’s coat. Additional photos by Linda used in that album included a collage of 21 family snapshots in the inner gate-fold spread – images of Paul, Linda, Heather, newborn Mary, and the family sheepdog.


1960s: Photographer, Linda Eastman.
1960s: Photographer, Linda Eastman.
Linda Eastman

Linda Louise Eastman was born in Scarsdale, an affluent community in Westchester County, New York. Her father, Lee Eastman, practiced entertainment law in New York and had well known clients such as Tommy Dorsey, songwriters Harold Arlen and Jack Lawrence, and artists Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko. Her mother, Louise Sara (Lindner) Eastman, was the daughter of Max J. Lindner, founder of the Lindner Company clothing store of Cleveland, Ohio.

Linda graduated from Scarsdale High School in 1959, attended Vermont College for an associate degree in 1961, and then to the University of Arizona to study Fine Arts, also taking up nature photography there as a hobby.

Linda’s mother had died in a plane crash in March 1962. Linda married Melville See Jr., in June 1962, whom she had met in college. Their daughter, Heather, was born that December. Linda’s mother had left Linda an inheritance to live on plus some paintings.

In June 1965, Linda and Melville divorced, and thereafter Linda took a job as a receptionist and editorial assistant for Town & Country magazine.

Linda Eastman at a 1960s photo shoot with Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones.
Linda Eastman at a 1960s photo shoot with Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones.
During a personal relationship with professional photographer David Dalton, Linda began learning about how photographic shoots were set up and organized. She soon developed a good eye and a knack for shooting rock groups in particular, setting them at ease and getting them to cooperate.

A big break for her came with a Rolling Stones shoot on a yacht where she was the only photographer. Linda’s father, however, was not impressed with her becoming a photographer, as her siblings had gone on for further education.

Nevertheless, during the 1960s, Linda Eastman became an unofficial house photographer at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East concert hall in New York, photographing a range of rock acts.

Among the artists and groups she photographed at the Fillmore and elsewhere were: Aretha Franklin, Grace Slick, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Eric Clapton, Simon & Garfunkel, the Who, Jim Morrison and the Doors, the Animals, John Lennon, and Neil Young. In May 1968 she photographed Eric Clapton for Rolling Stone magazine and became the first woman to have a photograph featured on Rolling Stone‘s front cover.


Meeting Paul

In May 1967, while on a photo assignment in London, Linda met Paul McCartney. She was then doing a photo shoot of blues and jazz performer Georgie Fame performing at the Bag O’Nails club. Paul and Linda met again four days later at the party for the launch of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s album at Brian Epstein’s house. In May 1968, they met again, this time in New York, while Paul and John Lennon were there to inaugurate Apple Records.

May 1967. Early dating. Linda Eastman talks to Paul McCartney at launch party for Beatles album “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The couple would marry two years later, in March 1969.  Photo: John Pratt
May 1967. Early dating. Linda Eastman talks to Paul McCartney at launch party for Beatles album “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The couple would marry two years later, in March 1969. Photo: John Pratt

A few months after their May 1968 meeting in New York, and after McCartney returned to London, he invited Linda to spend some time with him there. When she arrived, they went to his home, where they spent the evening together.

March 1969. Linda & Paul McCartney at their wedding, with daughter/flower girl Heather.
March 1969. Linda & Paul McCartney at their wedding, with daughter/flower girl Heather.
McCartney, known as a free-loving bachelor with his share of ladies, did have a long-term relationship and near-marriage with British actress Jane Asher; a relationship ended by Asher when she suspected Paul’s dalliances. Yet, Paul was smitten by Linda; attracted to her good looks and her sense of independence.

McCartney would note that Linda had a rebellious streak growing up, was a “very free spirit,” considered something of a black sheep by her family, not choosing to excel in education like her father and brother. “She was an artist,” McCartney would say of her, “and was not cut out to be an academic.” They both shared a love of nature, which became one of their most important emotional links.

When Paul and Linda first began seeing one another, Paul also took readily to Linda’s daughter from her first marriage, Heather, then six years old. He insisted that Linda and Heather move to London to live with him. After they did, Paul took time with Heather, reading her stories, drawing with her, and sometimes, singing her bedtime tunes.

On March 12, 1969, Linda and Paul were married in a small civil ceremony in the Marylebone area of London. Young ladies around the globe were broken-hearted, as Paul was now a married man.

John Lennon married Yoko Ono a week later, and both women were sometimes wrongly cast by fans as the reasons why the Beatles broke up. Lennon at one point publicly criticized the press for its treatment of Linda: “She got the same kind of insults, hatred, absolute garbage thrown at her for no reason whatsoever other than she fell in love with Paul McCartney.”

November 1969. Among the photos taken by Life magazine of Paul, Linda and family in Scotland. Click for magazine copy.
November 1969. Among the photos taken by Life magazine of Paul, Linda and family in Scotland. Click for magazine copy.
During the tense times of the Beatles difficulties and pre-break up in later 1969, Paul, Linda and family had retreated to their farm in Scotland. Paul and Linda both loved the farm. Linda would say of the farm and location:

“Scotland was like nothing I’d ever lived in. It was the most beautiful land you have ever seen, way at the end of nowhere. To me it was the first feeling I’d ever had of civilization dropped away … so different from all the hotels and limousines and the music business, so it was quite a relief.”

But it was also around this time – from about September through December 1969 – when the “Paul-is-dead” hoax story was in its most heated form (see separate story here), with supposed Beatles song and album image “clues” all feeding into a mini-media frenzy.

Perpetrated mainly by college students and some disc jockeys, the story had it that McCartney was supposedly killed in a 1966 car crash and had been quietly replaced by a look-alike to spare Beatles’ fans and keep the group on track. None of it was true, of course – a big false story – which a Life magazine cover story of November 7, 1969 dispelled quite directly, finding Paul, with family, very much alive and well in Scotland.


The Solo Album

The production of the McCartney album, meanwhile, was taking form. A purposely low-tech affair, the songs on the album were mostly absent the Abbey Road studio treatment and wizardry of Beatles’s productions, since it was McCartney’s goal to produce a “getting-back-to-basics” selection of tunes.

April 1970. Front cover, “McCartney” album. Bowl with cherries photographed by Linda. Click for CD or digital.
April 1970. Front cover, “McCartney” album. Bowl with cherries photographed by Linda. Click for CD or digital.

Side one
“The Lovely Linda” – 0:43
“That Would Be Something” – 2:38
“Valentine Day” – 1:39
“Every Night” – 2:31
“Hot as Sun/Glasses” – 2:05
“Junk” – 1:54
“Man We Was Lonely” – 2:56
 
Side two
“Oo You” – 2:48
“Momma Miss America” – 4:04
“Teddy Boy” – 2:22
“Singalong Junk” – 2:34
“Maybe I’m Amazed” – 3:53
“Kreen-Akrore” – 4:15

The album cover, a photo of an emptied bowl with cherries strewn across a white strip, was taken by Linda when on vacation in Antigua.

During the release of the McCartney album, meanwhile, there had been something of an ongoing battle behind the scenes between Paul and the other Beatles, and their record label, Apple, over the timing of releasing Paul’s album (also from Apple), versus the Beatles’ Let it Be album, plus a scheduled album from Ringo. Eventually – after some unpleasantness between Paul and others – Paul’s album was set for April 17, 1970, to precede the Let it Be album, which would come out later, on May 8, 1970.

April 1970. UK news story on Paul quitting the Beatles. Lower headline also notes, "Clash Over The Running of Apple".
April 1970. UK news story on Paul quitting the Beatles. Lower headline also notes, "Clash Over The Running of Apple".
Prior to the McCartney album’s release, however, there was also a press release from Paul and Apple on the album, which included a statement about Paul’s departure from the Beatles that made front-page headlines in London on April 10th, 1970. Thus Paul was seen publicly as the prime mover in the group’s break up, when in reality, there were multiple reasons for the group’s demise (the formal break up of the Beatles would not come for months, with legal entanglements for several years thereafter).

McCartney was released in Britain on April 17, 1970, and three days later in the U.S. In the UK, the album debuted at No. 2, where it remained for three weeks behind the best-selling album of 1970, Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water.

Although McCartney’s standing among Beatles fans had plummeted as a result of his announcement that he was leaving the Beatles, news of the band’s break-up ensured that the album was highly publicized and helped it gain notice.

By May 15th, 1970, McCartney had sold over 1 million copies in the U.S., and from May 23, 1970, McCartney began a three-week stay at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart, eventually going double platinum.

Despite the album’s good sales performance, a number of music critics dismissed the work as mediocre – with the exception of “Maybe I’m Amazed.” A few praised Paul’s skills with melody on some of the tracks, or noted it’s home-made quality. Rolling Stone reviewer, Langdon Winner, found most of the songs “distinctly second rate” relative to McCartney’s best work as a Beatle.

April 30, 1970. Paul McCartney interviewed for “Rolling Stone,” in which, among other things, he spoke about his solo album and the Beatles. Click for magazine or Kindle subscription.
April 30, 1970. Paul McCartney interviewed for “Rolling Stone,” in which, among other things, he spoke about his solo album and the Beatles. Click for magazine or Kindle subscription.
Nor did his former Beatle bandmates have much to praise about it, feeling betrayed by its release at the time of the Beatles break up. Lennon, in fact, called it “rubbish” and “Engelbert Humperdinck music.”

Yet Paul had set out to make a minimalist, no-frills-just-the-basics collection of songs, and admitted to some experimentation, and that it was not on a par with the studio-engineered, George Martin-helmed Beatles albums.

Paul McCartney was interviewed for the April 30, 1970 edition of Rolling Stone, in which, among other things, he spoke about his solo album and his desire to become a broader musician.

“From very early on, when our bass player [Stuart Sutcliffe] died, I have been lumbered with the bass,” he said. “All the time, however, what I really wanted to do was play guitar and play lead, so that’s what I’ve done on this LP [i.e., McCartney].”

Paul, at the time, was also personally unwinding, taking a respite from the fast-paced music world. He was also enjoying the contentment of family life, his marriage, and being a new father.

In his Q&A released on April 10, 1970, Paul described the theme and feel of the McCartney album as, “home, family, love.” The music on McCartney, his website would offer some years later, “represented a creative rebirth, bursting with new ideas, experiments, playfulness and freedom.”

In any case, the album was no doubt buoyed by the popularity of “Maybe I’m Amazed,” as Paul did not release that song as a single. However, the song did receive a great deal of radio airplay worldwide, helping boost McCartney album sales, and making the song one of Paul’s most recognizable solo successes.


Ram & Wings

May 1971. Paul & Linda album, “Ram.” Click for CD.
May 1971. Paul & Linda album, “Ram.” Click for CD.
In 1970, Paul taught Linda to play keyboards and the couple began working on an album together that would be titled Ram, with a Linda McCartney photo of Paul and a ram from Scotland on its cover. This album was produced with the help of a few other musicians, but was mostly a Paul and Linda project, recorded in New York city between October 1970 and Mach 1971.

Ram was released in May 1971. One of its songs, “Uncle Albert” became a hit, while others on the album stirred some Beatles controversy, construed to be musical digs aimed variously at John and Yoko (“Too Many People”) and George, John and Ringo.(“3 Legs”).

“Another Day,” a song recorded by Paul and Linda McCartney during the Ram sessions in New York, was also a Top Ten single in the U.S., UK, and elsewhere. It was later included on subsequent editions of the Ram album in 1993 and 2012.

May 1976. Linda & Paul performing at Wings concert, Madison Square Garden, New York.
May 1976. Linda & Paul performing at Wings concert, Madison Square Garden, New York.
In 1971, Paul and Linda formed the band Wings, and despite criticism of including her as a musical partner in the band, she continued to be part of Wings until the band’s breakup in 1981. Linda would also continue with McCartney’s subsequent touring band through 1993.

Although Wings had periods of changing personnel, it was anchored by its core trio of Paul, Linda, and former Moody Blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist, Denny Laine. Of the nine albums released by Wings in the 1970s, all went into the Top Ten in either the UK or the U.S., with five consecutive albums topping the U.S. charts. Wings also had 12 Top Ten singles in the UK and 14 Top Ten singles in the U.S., including six at No 1. All 23 singles released by Wings in the 1970s reached the U.S. Top 40.

Cover art for Wings live version of “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Click for digital.
Cover art for Wings live version of “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Click for digital.
Wings also produced the notable James Bond theme song and 1973 hit, “Live and Let Die.” And seven years after McCartney debuted “Maybe I’m Amazed” on his solo album, Wings released a live version of the song as a single from their Wings Over America album. In early February 1977, that single rose to No. 10 on the U.S. Billboard chart and No. 28 in the UK.

Another Wings single in 1977, “Mull of Kintyre,” a tribute to the Kintyre peninsula in Scotland where the McCartney farm is located, became one of the best-selling singles in UK history.

In some ways, Wings, especially through the 1970s, was Paul still getting over and proving himself after his separation from the Beatles, and doing so, again with Linda’s help and presence throughout. The two were practically inseparable.

During the 1970s, in fact, the whole McCartney family was involved with Wings on the road, as Paul and Linda had their children in tow as well, which was surely a challenge at times, but which Paul has reflected was an important and memorable time. Professionally, Paul has also reflected, that the Wings Over America tour of 1976 was particularly gratifying, as it had turned out Beatle-equivalent crowds and recognition at tour stops, which was especially satisfying to Paul.

June 1976. The McCartneys & crew during dinner aboard their private jet over America during Wings tour. Mary is trying to hear Paul's guitar while Linda listens on headphones across the aisle, and Stella, to Linda’s left, looks on.
June 1976. The McCartneys & crew during dinner aboard their private jet over America during Wings tour. Mary is trying to hear Paul's guitar while Linda listens on headphones across the aisle, and Stella, to Linda’s left, looks on.


Linda & Legacy

Linda, meanwhile, also became an animal rights activist and wrote and published several vegetarian cookbooks. She and Paul founded the Linda McCartney Foods company, a successful vegetarian business marketing a range of food products in the 1990s, making her a millionaire in her own right. A book of her photographs was also published in 1992: Linda McCartney’s Sixties: Portrait of an Era.

Paul, Linda & friend, possibly at farm in Scotland, early 1970s.
Paul, Linda & friend, possibly at farm in Scotland, early 1970s.
However, in 1995, Linda was diagnosed with breast cancer and died from the disease in 1998 at the McCartney family ranch in Tucson, Arizona. She was 56 year old. A memorial service was held for her at St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London, which was attended by George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Billy Joel, Elton John, David Gilmour, Peter Gabriel, and other celebrities among a gathering of 700. Linda’s ashes were scattered by Paul and immediate family at the McCartney farm in southern England.

In January 2000, Paul announced donations in excess of $2,000,000 for cancer research at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and the Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson, where Linda received treatment. Also that year, The Linda McCartney Centre, a cancer clinic, opened at The Royal Liverpool University Hospital.

Linda and Paul McCartney were married for 29 years, raised four children together. In addition to Heather, from Linda’s first marriage whom Paul adopted, the couple had three children, Mary, Stella, and James. And except for ten days Paul spent in jail in Japan on marijuana charges, the couple had never been apart. In April 1999, Paul McCartney, and others, performed at the “Concert for Linda” tribute at the Royal Albert Hall, which had been organized by two of their friends, Chrissie Hynde and Carla Lane.

Linda’s photographic work, meanwhile, has been reprinted in several books and exhibited at more than fifty galleries around the world, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Paul McCartney retains Linda’s photographic legacy, and in recent years has made selections of her photos available for public exhibits, donating some of her work to British museums. Regarding Linda’s talent as a photographer, Paul would note, “she always put people at ease, no matter who she was taking a photograph of…She just had a way of disarming you.”

A Memorable Photo
John & Paul, 1968

Linda Eastman McCartney took hundreds of photos, both during her early career as an entertainment photographer and after she was married to Paul McCartney. Some of her photos captured the Beatles at work. And one of those photos – the one shown below – is of John Lennon and Paul McCartney at work in 1968 during their Beatles career. To the right of the photo, Paul explains the context and his feeling about this photo and its importance to him, as he described the photo and context in a June 2019 interview with the London newspaper, The Guardian, discussing several of Linda’s photos for that story. Here’s Paul:

1968. Linda McCartney photo of John Lennon and Paul McCartney at work at Abbey Road studios, possibly composing a song together.
1968. Linda McCartney photo of John Lennon and Paul McCartney at work at Abbey Road studios, possibly composing a song together.
“This is me and John, in Abbey Road. It wasn’t too long before the breakup of the Beatles; this would be the end of our relationship and, at the end, when the breakup happened, it was kind of sour – very difficult to deal with. The rumour started going around that John and I didn’t get on well, we were arch-rivals, that it was very heavy and ugly. The strange thing is you sometimes get to believe something, if it’s said enough times. So I used to think: ‘Yeah, it’s a pity, you know, we didn’t get on that well.’

“So this picture is a blessing for me. It’s like, this is how we were: this is why we related, or else we couldn’t have collaborated for all that time. It sums up what our relationship was like the minute we were actually working on a song, and most of the time we were together, really. I’m just writing something out – possibly it’s a medley or something; it might be for Abbey Road – and it’s lovely, because John is very happily in on the process, and agreeing with me, and we’re laughing about something. Just seeing the joy between us here really helped me, because it reminds me that the idea we weren’t friends is rubbish. We were lifelong friends, our relationship was super-special.

“That applied to all the Beatles, even when we were pissed off with each other from time to time. People used to remind me: that’s families, that happens. Mates disagree. As soon as we started working on music, we gelled, we just enjoyed the noise we made together, we enjoyed playing with each other. We’d worked together for over 10,000 hours over the years, and that old spirit automatically kicked in. Any disputes were got over very quickly.”
______________________
Source: Alexis Petridis, “Paul McCartney on Linda’s Best Photos: ‘Seeing the Joy Between Me and John Really Helped Me’,” TheGuardian.com (London), June 26, 2019.

Paul McCartney, meanwhile, remains part of two giant musical legacies – The Beatles, and since the Beatles with Wings and numerous other projects – as he continues to this day with his solo work, various collaborations, forays into classical music, stage and video productions, and more.

Vintage 1962 record sleeve for first Beatles hit. Click for collector’s box set of 14 Beatles albums in vinyl or CD editions.
Vintage 1962 record sleeve for first Beatles hit. Click for collector’s box set of 14 Beatles albums in vinyl or CD editions.
The Beatles, of course, are ranked among the best-selling music acts of all time, with more than 183 million units sold in the US and estimated 600 million worldwide. They hold the record for most No. 1 albums on the UK Albums Chart, most No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and most singles sold in the UK.

The Beatles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a group in 1988, and all four were also inducted individually between 1994 and 2015.

As noted earlier, the Wings and Paul McCartney output during the 1970s was quite successful, with multiple platinum-selling No. 1 albums and more than 20 Top 40 hits.

Following the Wings era, McCartney continued writing, composing and touring. Since 1989, for example, and continuing through 2018, Paul McCartney has completed more than 15 concert tours, encompassing hundreds of shows, including 50 most recently during his Freshen Up Tour of the 2018-2020 period.

2010. Paul McCartney collecting his Gershwin Prize for popular music from President Obama at the White House.
2010. Paul McCartney collecting his Gershwin Prize for popular music from President Obama at the White House.
Paul McCartney’s 17th solo album, Egypt Station, released in September 2018, debuted at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard albums chart, and delivered a Top Ten performance throughout Europe, Japan and Australia.

Throughout his career, McCartney has accumulated a long list of honors and accolades, among them: 18 Grammy Awards; appointment to the Order of the British Empire in 1965; Academy Award winner (as a member of the Beatles) 1971; Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Music presented by Prince Charles in 1995; knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for services to music in 1997; Fellowship into the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors in 2000; Super Bowl halftime show headliner, 2005; Kennedy Center Honors and the Gershwin Prize for popular music presented by President Barack Obama in 2010; star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2012; and others. As of 2015, Paul McCartney was also ranked one of the wealthiest musicians in the world, with an estimated fortune of $730 million.

In his personal life, Paul McCartney was rocked by losing Linda to cancer, and he mourned her passing for a good long while. But today he is married to New Yorker Nancy Shevell, the vice-president of a family-owned transportation conglomerate that owns New England Motor Freight. They had known each other for about 20 years, both having homes in the Hamptons.

Paul & Linda McCartney, 1970s.
Paul & Linda McCartney, 1970s.
Meanwhile, the song Paul McCartney wrote for his first lady muse back there in the rough waters of 1969-1970, “Maybe I’m Amazed,” is still among his personal favorites. In fact, as he remarked in a 2017 interview, it’s the song he would like to be remembered for in the future.

For other Beatles stories at this website, see the “Beatles History” topics page, and for a profile of John Lennon during his post-Beatles years, see the “Watching The Wheels” story. For additional stories on music history, artist and song profiles, and the music business, see the “Annals of Music” category page.

Thanks for visiting – and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support the research, writing, and continued publication of this website. Thank you – Jack Doyle


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Date Posted: 15 March 2020
Last Update: 15 March 2020
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “McCartney: Amazed – The Paul & Linda
Story,” PopHistoryDig.com, March 15, 2020.

____________________________________




Sources, Links & Additional Information

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Danny Fields’ 2001 biography of Linda McCartney. Time Warner UK edition shown, 286pp. Click for similar US edition.
Tom Doyle’s 2014 book, “Man on The Run: Paul McCartney in the 1970s,”  Ballantine Books, 288pp. Click for copy.
Tom Doyle’s 2014 book, “Man on The Run: Paul McCartney in the 1970s,” Ballantine Books, 288pp. Click for copy.

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Dalya Alberge, “She Loved Him: Linda McCartney’s 1960s Letters About Paul Revealed. In Three Handwritten Notes, the Late Photographer Writes About Her Budding Romance With The Beatle,” TheGuardian .com, November 24, 2019.

“Ram (album),” Wikipedia.org.

“Sir Paul McCartney Donates Photographs Taken by His Late Wife Linda to V&A Museum,… McCartney Has Made a ‘Major Gift’ of More than 60 Photographs Taken by His Late Wife Linda To The Victoria & Albert Museum,” Express.co.uk, May 3, 2018.

“Paul McCartney and Wings,” Wikipedia.org.

Paul McCartney Website, PaulMcCartney .com.

Alexis Petridis, “Paul McCartney on Linda’s Best Photos: ‘Seeing the Joy Between Me and John Really Helped Me.’ Linda Eastman Was the Award-Winning Photographer Who Captured a Generation of Rock Stars Before Marrying a Beatle. He Discusses How Her Work Changed His Life,” TheGuardian.com, June 26, 2019.
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“Michael & McCartney”
1980s-2009

Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson in studio during their early 1980s’ collaboration.  Photo, Linda McCartney
Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson in studio during their early 1980s’ collaboration. Photo, Linda McCartney
     In 1970, after the Beatles broke up, each member of the group — Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison — went their separate ways musically. They each began new solo careers, making their own recordings, and sometimes working with other artists. 

After John Lennon was killed in 1980, the three remaining Beatles came together briefly for George Harrison’s song, “All Those Years Ago.” But for the most part, they each continued working solo, with occasional collaborations.

In the early 1980s, Paul McCartney and pop star Michael Jackson came together briefly to produce a few songs and videos. These projects undertaken jointly between 1981 and 1983.  McCartney by then already had a decade of success with his group Wings, releasing a number of singles and albums between 1971 and 1981. Michael Jackson at that time was just hitting his stride, having released his first solo album Off the Wall in 1979, and then his blockbuster, Thriller, in 1982. In the McCartney/Jackson collaboration of the early 1980s, the two artists produced a few singles together that were also used on each other’s albums and for music videos. However, this collaboration became a very interesting pairing given what would later transpire between McCartney and Jackson in terms of their respective business interests. More on that in moment. First the music.

Cover of 1982 single ‘The Girl is Mine,’ featuring a Paul McCartney-Michael Jackson duet.
Cover of 1982 single ‘The Girl is Mine,’ featuring a Paul McCartney-Michael Jackson duet.
 

“The Girl Is Mine”

     The first single released jointly by Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson was “The Girl is Mine,” a 1982 duet by the two artists.  The song was written by Jackson and produced by Quincy Jones for Jackson’s epic Thriller album, his sixth studio album.  “The Girl is Mine” was recorded in Los Angeles in April 1982.  It was released as a single on the Epic label in mid-October of that year with “Can’t Get Outta the Rain” on the B side.  It soon topped the R & B singles chart, peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and rising to No. 8 in the U.K.  By 1985, it had sold 1.3 million copies, and was later certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America for shipments of at least two million units.  Jackson stated at one point that the recording of the song was one of his most enjoyable moments in the studio.  “One of my favorite songs to record, of all my recordings as a solo artist, is probably ‘The Girl Is Mine,’ because working with Paul McCartney was pretty exciting and we just literally had fun.  It was like lots of kibitzing and playing, and throwing stuff at each other, and making jokes.  We actually recorded the track and the vocals pretty much live at the same time, and we do have [film] footage of it…”  The footage of the pair recording the song was later shown at The Paul McCartney World Tour.


Visit With Paul

     The second song released jointly by McCartney and Jackson was “Say, Say, Say,” which would also appear on McCartney’s fifth solo album, Pipes of Peace, released in 1983.  The history of this Jackson/McCartney collaboration actually predates “The Girl is Mine” single of 1982.  And it was during this recording visit that Jackson would be introduced to the financial value of the music publishing business.  “Say, Say, Say” was recorded at Abbey Road Studios from May to September 1981. During one of Michael’s visits to the McCartney home in 1981, Paul  pro- duced a thick booklet of  song publishing rights he owned.  “This is the way to make big money,” he told Jackson. Michael Jackson had come to the U.K. as a guest of Paul, as the two had agreed to explore joint music projects.  While there, Jackson stayed at a nearby hotel, but often had dinner at the home of Paul and Linda McCartney, a Tudor estate on hundreds of acres about an hour’s drive from London. During these visits, Jackson and the McCartneys developed a friendship, sometimes hanging out in the McCartney kitchen for informal conversation.  One night at the McCartney dinner table, Paul produced a thick booklet displaying all the song and publishing rights he owned, such as those of 1950s’ rocker Buddy Holly and others.  “This is the way to make big money,” he told Jackson.  “Every time someone records one of these songs, I get paid. Every time someone plays these songs on the radio, or in live performances, I get paid.”  McCartney was then reportedly earning about $40 million a year from other people’s songs.  Jackson became quite interested as McCartney paged through his booklet.  He wanted to know more about owning songs, and how they were acquired and put to use.  This dinner-table vignette of Paul advising Michael on the lucrative world of music publishing and song ownership, would later play out in a somewhat ironic way, as Jackson would come to own a number of Beatles songs.

Cover art for the Paul McCartney /Michael Jackson single, ‘Say, Say Say’, 1983-1984.
Cover art for the Paul McCartney /Michael Jackson single, ‘Say, Say Say’, 1983-1984.
     Meanwhile, the McCartney/Jackson recording of “Say Say Say” was completed in February 1983 with former Beatles’ producer George Martin helping with its studio production. “Say, Say, Say” proceeded to have a good run on the music charts, hitting No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and staying there for six weeks in late 1983 and early 1984. 

A fairly elaborate music video for “Say Say Say” was also produced, at a cost of $500,000, which featured Jackson and McCartney, with appearances by Linda McCartney, LaToya Jackson, and Mr. T.  Another McCartney/ Jackson song that appears on McCartney’s Pipes of Peace album is “The Man,” co-written by Paul and Michael, but not released as a single.

Paul and Michael, meanwhile, continued their friendship and musical relationship through the 1980s — that is, until some mutual musical and financial interests came between them.


Among the first catalogs Michael Jackson acquired in the mid-1980s was one with the songs of Sly & the Family Stone such as ‘Everyday People.’
Among the first catalogs Michael Jackson acquired in the mid-1980s was one with the songs of Sly & the Family Stone such as ‘Everyday People.’
Jackson Invests

     In 1983-84, having taken Paul McCartney’s advice to heart about making money with music publishing rights, Michael Jackson was soon on the hunt to buy music catalogs and song copyrights.  Within a year or two, he spent about $1 million buying up some available collections — the Sly Stone collection, which included songs such as, “Everyday People”(1968) and “Everybody Is a Star” (1970). 

Jackson also acquired Len Barry songs such as “1-2-3” (1965), the Soul Survivors’ “Expressway to Your Heart” (1967), and two 1961 songs by Dion DiMucci — “The Wanderer” and “Runaround Sue.”

Jackson continued his search for more music catalogs to buy, but only those with songs that meant something to him. He was shown dozens more catalogs, approaching 40 or so, but he only bid on a handful of these. Then came the prize he wanted badly: a catalog of Beatles songs. First, a little history.

Early Beatles’ songs -- such as those from their early 1960s albums -- became part of the ATV music catalog that Michael Jackson acquired in 1985.
Early Beatles’ songs -- such as those from their early 1960s albums -- became part of the ATV music catalog that Michael Jackson acquired in 1985.

In 1968-69, a U.K. company named ATV Music Publishing, a subsidiary of Britain’s Associated TeleVision, had become the owner of 250 or so Beatles’ songs — many of which were the most important “Lennon & McCartney” compositions from the 1960s.  How the Beatles’ songs made their way to these owners is a bit of another story which is covered at length elsewhere.  But essentially, for tax reasons, the Beatles put much of their music publishing rights into a public company, which they later lost control of.  ATV became the owner.  ATV Music Publishing had formed in the late 1950s after it acquired Pye Records, one of the major U.K. record companies at the time.  ATV and Pye were at the forefront of the 1960s music explosion in the U.K.  Among artists then on the Pye label were The Searchers, The Kinks, Donovan, The Moody Blues, and Petula Clark.  Through the 1970s, ATV remained the owner of the Beatles catalog and expanded its holdings to other songs.  By 1984, however, the ATV Music Publishing became the property of a new owner — an Australian investor and corporate raider named Robert Holmes a Court.  Holmes a Court was interested in turning quick profits on his investments and he soon let it be known that the ATV music catalog — then comprised of some 4,000 songs including those by the Beatles — was up for sale.  That’s when Michael Jackson entered the bidding.

In the mid-1980s, Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney both wanted the Beatles songs in the ATV music catalog.
In the mid-1980s, Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney both wanted the Beatles songs in the ATV music catalog.

     Paul McCartney, meanwhile, was also keenly aware of the ATV holding.  One account claims that McCartney had made it known to the owners that he would be willing to top any best offer by 10 percent.  However, McCartney is also on record saying that at one point he was offered the catalog for a price of £20 million (pounds).  But McCartney was hesitant to make that deal on his own, since it might be perceived by Beatles fans as a “Paul McCartney grab” of John Lennon’s property, and he didn’t feel comfortable with that.  So he called Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, and asked her if she wanted to split the bid at £10 million each.  That arrangement did not work out for whatever reason, and McCartney appeared to drop out of the process.  Michael Jackson, however, really wanted the catalog, and especially the Beatles’ songs, and he set about on a careful and thorough business course to acquire it.

     Jackson was first informed of the availability of the ATV catalog in September 1984 by his attorney John Branca, who put together the earlier catalog acquisitions that Jackson had already made.  That September, Branca, Jackson, and his manager, Frank Dileo, were in one of their regular business meetings during Jackson’s Victory tour with his brothers in Philadelphia.  Jackson was very excited at the news of the ATV/Beatles catalog becoming available, but Branca warned him it would be a tough fight as other investors were also interested, and Holmes a Court was a tough negotiator.  Branca also reportedly contacted an attorney for McCartney, who said McCartney was not interested in bidding for the catalog as it was “too pricey”.  Branca and his associates then set out on a careful course of “corporate due diligence” checking out their quarry and later spending $1 million over some months to verify the validity of ATV’s claims about earnings and song ownership.

Attorney John Branca became key Jackson aide.
Attorney John Branca became key Jackson aide.
     By November 20th, 1984, Jackson and Branca sent a Telex to Holmes a Court with a $46-million bid for the ATV catalog.  They were aware of another bid of $39 million, and had spent time determining the value of the ATV catalog.  They believed their $46 million was a good bid, and that it had cushion enough to be above the rest.  In addition to McCartney as a possible rival in the contest, the other investors and music industry executives competing for the ATV catlog were: Charles Koppelman and Marty Bandier’s New York-based The Entertainment Co., Virgin Records of London; New York real estate tycoon Samuel J. Lefrak, and financier Charles Knapp.  John Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, had been contacted but did not enter the bidding.

“We Are The World”
1985

     During the time Jackson’s team of lawyers and music specialists were trying to acquire the ATV/Beatles music catalog, Jackson was also involved with his music for a good cause.  He teamed up with fellow singer Lionel Ritchie to write a song for Ethiopian charity relief that became “We Are The World.”  The song was produced and conducted by Quincy Jones and became notable for the “supergroup” of 45 popular musicians who performed it — from Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and Diana Ross, to Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles — and dozens of others.  The charity single was intended to raise funds to help famine-relief efforts in Africa, which had unusual drought in 1984/1985.  The recording was produced in January 1985 and released in March 1985.  It became one of the fastest- selling singles in the modern pop era, reaching No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on April 17, 1985 and remaining there for four weeks.  The single eventually sold 7.5 million copies in the U.S. and also spawned an album and a video — all of which raised over $63 million for famine relief.  The song also inspired millions of people to help, and many lives were saved.  The song went on to win four 1985 Grammys.  Michael Jackson performed the song at the World Music Awards in November 2006.

     In the end, Jackson would win the prize — but only after a long and protracted chess game with Holmes a Court that went on for some 10 months or more, and who for a time, erroneously suspected that Jackson was a front man for a Paul McCartney purchase.  In any case, for Jackson’s camp, the process of putting the deal together, and verifying the assets, businesses, and copyrights, etc. was not a casual process, as Los Angeles Times reporter Robert Hilburn explained in 1985:

     …One team of Jackson’s lawyers was sent to the United States Copyright Office in Washington to check on the authenticity of every significant composition in the nearly 4,000-song catalogue.  Meanwhile, other teams were at work in London and at ATV offices around the world to certify legal documents in those countries.  In total, an estimated half a million to a million pages of contracts were examined.

     At the same time, the L.A.-based accounting firm of Gelfand, Rennert & Feldman was overseeing a team of 20 people who were checking ATV books in London, Los Angeles, Toronto, Sydney, Munich and Amsterdam.

     The contract for the prospective deal had gone through eight drafts.  But then, negotiations broke off for a time and the deal seemed doomed.  In June 1985, Branca and Jackson learned that Holmes a Court had signed a tentative $50-million deal with Charles Koppelman and Marty Bandier’s Entertainment Co.  Talks then resumed between the Jackson and Holmes a Court negotiating teams.  Jackson raised his bid to $47.5 million.  Holmes a Court accepted Jackson’s bid over the higher $50 million from Koppleman/Bandier presumably because Jackson’s was more liquid and could be consummated quicker.  Jackson also reportedly threw in a charity concert in Perth, Australia.  An announcement was made in mid-August 1985 that Michael Jackson had acquired the ATV music publishing catalog with the Beatles songs.  Michael Jackson was a happy camper.

Michael Jackson said ‘Yesterday’ was his favorite Beatles song.  Released as a single in the U.S. in Sept 1965, it stayed at No.1 for the month of October and sold 1 million copies in five weeks.
Michael Jackson said ‘Yesterday’ was his favorite Beatles song. Released as a single in the U.S. in Sept 1965, it stayed at No.1 for the month of October and sold 1 million copies in five weeks.
     With the deal done, Jackson spoke with Los Angels Times reporter Robert Hilburn in September 1985 at the Jackson family house in Encino, California.  He was quite excited about the Beatles’ songs he now owned. “The melodies… are so lovely…(and) structured so perfectly,” he said.  Coaxed to name some of his favorite Beatles songs, Jackson  said “Yesterday” was his favorite, though he quickly ticked off others — “Here, There and Everywhere,” “Fool on the Hill,” “Let It Be,” “Hey Jude,” “Eleanor Rigby” and “Penny Lane.”  He couldn’t name just five; he liked them all.

     Meanwhile, Paul McCartney, who had wanted the ATV Beatles’ songs, apparently was unable or unwilling to raise enough money or pay for the entire 4,000 song ATV catalog.  As noted earlier, McCartney at one point urged Yoko Ono to join him in a joint bid, but she declined.  Ono did comment upon hearing that the rights were acquired by Jackson.  “Michael Jackson is a fellow songwriter,” she said, “so I just think it’s a nice thing to happen.”  McCartney, however, did admit to feeling somewhat undercut by his one-time friend and collaborator.  “I think it’s dodgy to do things like that,” McCartney reportedly said, “– to be someone’s friend and then buy the rug they’re standing on.”

     The publisher’s rights that Jackson acquired were distinct from those of the songwriter.  McCartney still had those, of course, as royalties for “Lennon & McCartney” songwriting still flowed to McCartney and to John Lennon’s estate regardless of who held the publisher’s rights.  Still, publisher rights could be quite lucrative — as Paul had shown Michael back in 1981.  The Beatles songs, in particular, would be especially valuable resources that could be mined for years with possible uses in film, television, advertising, stage productions, video games, and more.  The prize that Jackson had won would become a very valuable asset indeed.  In fact, it would prove to be one of the best investments Michael Jackson would ever make.


Nike Ad

1980s Nike TV-ad with Beatles music & joggers. Click to view.
1980s Nike TV-ad with Beatles music & joggers. Click to view.
     The first unpleasantness between McCartney and Jackson over the use of  Beatles music came in 1987 when Nike struck a deal to use the Beatle’s song “Revolution” in one of its athletic shoe television commercials.  At the time, Nike reportedly paid $500,000 to use the song, half to EMI-Capitol Records and half to Jackson.  The three surviving Beatles, along with their record label, Apple, filed a lawsuit objecting to Nike’s use of the song.  The suit was aimed at Nike, its ad agency, and Capitol-EMI Records — not Jackson.  The Nike TV ad with the Beatles music — and there were at least three versions — ran from 1987 through early 1988, even as the litigation proceeded, with former Beatles George Harrison and Paul McCartney objecting in the press.

Michael Jackson & Paul McCartney together in 1990, reportedly to dispel rumors about their falling out over the Beatles song catalog Jackson then held.
Michael Jackson & Paul McCartney together in 1990, reportedly to dispel rumors about their falling out over the Beatles song catalog Jackson then held.
     By March 1988, although still in court, Nike decided to discontinue airing the ads as its music right for using the song expired.  In November 1989, although the case had spawned more lawsuits by then, an undisclosed out-of-court settlement was reached among all parties.  McCartney, meanwhile, had reportedly asked Jackson to increase the share of his writer royalties for the Beatles’ songs that Jackson held as publisher, but Jackson refused.  In 1990, McCartney and Jackson appeared together in a photograph to allay fears — publicly at least — that there was no bad blood between them.  Jackson was soon confronting problems of a different kind, as charges against him for molesting a 13-year-old boy were settled out of court in 1994.

     Then in early November 1995 George Harrison and Paul McCartney made comments in the U.K.’s Elle magazine about Jackson’s use of Beatles songs in advertising.  Harrison made remarks similar to those he had made during the 1988 fight over Nike’s use of “Revolution” in their TV ad.  “Unless we do something about it,” said Harrison, referring to the merchandising of their songs, “every Beatles song is going to end up advertising bras and pork pies.”  McCartney added that Jackson had “cheapened” the songs released.


Financial Problems

Michael Jackson was at the top of his game in the 1980s, on the cover of Time, March 19, 1984. By the mid-1990s, things began to slide, with mounting debt by the late 1990s.
Michael Jackson was at the top of his game in the 1980s, on the cover of Time, March 19, 1984. By the mid-1990s, things began to slide, with mounting debt by the late 1990s.
     Jackson by then was beginning his descent into serious financial difficulty as he began to leverage his assets for cash and credit.  On November 9, 1995 it was reported that Jackson had sold a 50 percent stake in the ATV/Beatles song catalog for about $100 million — money used by Jackson, according to one adviser, to help shore up his “wobbling accounts.”

     Although Jackson was a smart guy when he wanted to be, and was on top of his financial situation for a good part of his career — and actively involved with his business interests — by the mid-1990s things started to slip pretty badly. Jackson’s exorbitant and quirky life style — coupled with legal battles and lower music revenues — would soon eat away at his assets and push him into big-time indebtedness.

In the 1980s, Jackson had made a ton of money, with top-selling albums and concert tours. But he spent it as fast at it came in, and then some, often in bizarre ways, chartering jets and renting hotel suites for his entourages, or traveling with a pet chimpanzee. 

In his work, as well, Jackson spared no expense, hiring the best at premium rates. In 1987, for example, he hired noted film director Martin Scorsese for $1 million to direct a video for his album Bad.

Michael Jackson’s quirky and expensive life style in the 1980s and 1990s, helped push him into big-time debt.
Michael Jackson’s quirky and expensive life style in the 1980s and 1990s, helped push him into big-time debt.

In California, Jackson’s Santa Barbara County estate, “Neverland” — purchased in 1987 for $19.5 million — was a continuing and considerable expense. Neverland, named for the island of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys who never age, soon encompassed some 2,600 acres. Jackson spent $35 million making it a wonderland complete with amusement park, small-car race track, miniature railroad, a pet zoo, ornate landscaping and flower beds, a 50-seat cinema, and two helicopter landing pads. At its peak, Neverland had a staff of 150, and cost $10 million a year to maintain.

People magazine cover story on Michael Jackson in Feb 1994 asked if his settlement with a young accuser might cost the pop star his credibility – and his future.
People magazine cover story on Michael Jackson in Feb 1994 asked if his settlement with a young accuser might cost the pop star his credibility – and his future.
     In 1993, Jackson was accused of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy.  An out-of-court settlement was reached in 1994, reportedly in the neighborhood of $20 million.  However, Jackson’s reputation — and some say his earning power as well — began taking big hits in the media and the tabloids.  Headlines such as, “Peter Pan or Pervert?”, run by the New York Post in August 1993, hit Jackson hard.  Some close to Jackson say the incident marked beginning of a downward spiral for him — emotionally, financially, and legally.  In the mid-1990s, Jackson undertook to answer his critics in part with feisty song lyrics and a $30 million publicity and promotion campaign for his 1995 HIStory album, part of which included the use of nine giant Michael Jackson statues, one of which was floated down the Thames River through London.  In the 1990s Jackson was also married twice and divorced twice, with costly settlements — first to Elvis Presley’s daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, and then his dermatologist’s secretary, Debbie Rowe, who bore two of his children.  Meanwhile, music sales for Jackson in the 1990s, although still formidable, were not at the level they were in the 1980s.

     By the late 1990s he had taken out hundreds of millions of dollars worth of loans.  He used some of the loan money to invest in risky ventures.  “The leading drain on Mr. Jackson’s ample resources may have been monumentally unwise investments that apparently produced equally colossal losses,” wrote New York Times reporters Jeff Leeds and Andrew Ross Sorkin in a later story on the evolution of Jackson’s financial troubles.  Among the unwise investments was $50 million or so for deals that never panned out — amusement-park ideas and global-scale entertainments featuring giant Marvel comic-book type characters.  Jackson was getting bad advice.  By early 2000, Jackson’s biggest burden began shifting to his enormous monthly interest payments on his debt.  At one point in 2000, Jackson’s finances were so shaky that one of his financial advisers warned that Jackson’s control of the rights to his own music catalog and that of the Beatles was at risk.


Sell The Beatles?

     In early 2001, there had been rumors that Jackson was putting the ATV/Beatles catalog up for sale to cover the maintenance of his Neverland ranch in California as well as legal bills relating to cancelled concert tours.  Jackson then made a statement to the press in May 2001 about the status of the Sony/ATV/Beatles catalog.  “I want to clarify a silly rumor,” he said in a May 9, 2001 statement, “the Beatles catalogue is not for sale, has not been for sale and will never be for sale.”  Still, the catalog was becoming less and less his to control as he diminished his share to hold off his creditors.

Comeback In 2001?

      In the fall of 2001, it appeared there might be a re-emergence of Michael Jackson.  In September he made a surprise appearance at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards, as he joined ‘N Sync on stage near the end of their act and performed some of his dance moves.  At the end of October 2001, Jackson’s new album, Invincible was released, rising to the top of the charts.

     In November 2001, Michael Jackson appeared on the cover of TV Guide.  The Guide touted his upcoming TV special on its cover — “Michael Jackson: The Star Studded TV Special, The New Album (at last), The Famous Friends, The “Wacko Jacko” Image — Does it Add Up to Comeback?” 

     In 2002, however, Jackson had some legal troubles.  His longtime concert promoter Marcel Avram, sued Jackson for $21.2 million for canceling two Millennium concerts.  A court ordered Jackson to pay Avram $5.3 million in damages.

     Meanwhile, there appeared to be little change in Jackson’s spending habits.  In September 2001, he paid a $1 million fee to Marlon Brando to appear at a Madison Square Garden event and in a video honoring Jackson.  In the spring of 2002, he racked up a $100,000 hotel bill on a brief trip to New York.  And he could still drop $1 million at a time on any number of shopping expeditions, for antiques, automobiles, paintings, or other luxuries.  Forbes scored him as owing a Beverly Hills jeweler $2 million for a watch, and once on a whim he spent $10,000 on a bottle of perfume for his friend Elizabeth Taylor.

     By November 2003, it didn’t appear that Jackson was in imminent danger of going broke, as Forbes magazine placed his net worth at $350 million. But he then had heavy liens against his property and his spending was characterized as “out of control”.

Forbes also noted of Jackson: “for the first time in four decades, he finds himself without a record contract.” The magazine described him as “a franchise in decline.” Number Ones, a Jackson greatest-hits album, released in 2003, would sell about 1 million copies, considerably less that other Jackson albums.

     By 2005, a turn for the worse occurred, especially with Jackson’s very public trial on charges of molesting a young boy.  Although acquitted, more of Jackson’s financial turmoil surfaced in the trial.  An accountant testified that Jackson spent up to $30 million per year more than he earned. His loans were soon becoming his major liability, with crushing interest payments.

By 2005, Jackson was reportedly making monthly payments of about $4.5 million on $270 million in debt, which works out to an annual interest rate of about 20 percent, a rate that usually signals high risk.

     Jackson’s partner in the ATV/Beatles catalog, Sony, was now concerned about the prospect of a Jackson bankruptcy. They also wondered who they might have to negotiate with as their partner, especially since Jackson by then had established that his share would be represented by a trust. For Sony, that added to the uncertainty, and they remained attentive to Jackson’s situation.


Sony Steps In

Logo for Sony/ATV Music Publishing.
Logo for Sony/ATV Music Publishing.
     By April 2006, Jackson was living temporarily in Bahrain after his child molestation trial.  Needing money, Jackson again turned to the Sony/ATV/Beatles catalog to help with creditors.  It appeared he would have to sell some portion of his share in the catalog to raise funds.  Instead, Sony came to the rescue and sent two executives to Bahrain.  The Sony executives negotiated a deal for Jackson that resulted in Jackson getting a lower interest rate on his $300 million debt through a refinancing arrangement.  In return, Sony gained more authority to operate Sony/ATV/Beatles catalog, and also retained an option to buy a further half of Jackson’s share.  This meant, if the option was exercised, Jackson would then only retain a 25 percent share of the Sony/ATV/Beatles catalog.

Michael Jackson in more recent years.
Michael Jackson in more recent years.
     There were also a few wealthy patrons who came to Jackson’s aide during his financial troubles, each also looking for a piece of business from Jackson or his related assets.  Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the second son of the king of Bahrain, who took Jackson and his family in for a time following his trial, also helped Jackson keep the lights on at Neverland and paid some of his legal bills in 2005.  Al Khalifa thought he had made a business deal with Jackson to do an album and write an autobiography; Jackson claimed the $7 million he received was a gift.  Al Khalifa sued.  Thomas Barrack, chairman and CEO of Los Angeles-based real estate investment firm Colony Capital set up a joint venture with Jackson to take ownership of Neverland, yielding a $23 million loan.  Barrack believed a spruced-up Neverland could fetch as much as $80 million.  Colony and Barrack — also involved in Las Vegas nightclubs and casinos — had been talking with Jackson about repackaging his image and beginning a comeback, with the prospect of  multiple-year, Céline Dion- type performances in Vegas ( she had grossed $400 million in 4 years), and/or a Cirque du Soleil- type musical production like the Beatles Love production.  Then there was Philip Anschutz, whose concert promotion company, AEG Live, had started work with Jackson, planning to do 50 shows featuring him in London beginning in July 2009.  AEG also hoped to generate a further $400 million in business with Jackson through tours and merchandizing over the next few years.

Jackson’s Neverland faced foreclosure in 2008. Click for book, 'Conversations in Neverland'.
Jackson’s Neverland faced foreclosure in 2008. Click for book, 'Conversations in Neverland'.
     Jackson, meanwhile, had laid off workers at Neverland by 2006.  In 2008, he defaulted on a $24.5 million loan and narrowly escaped foreclosure there.  By early 2009 an auction had been scheduled to sell off some of Jackson’s personal property to raise funds.  Nearly 1,400 items from his Neverland Ranch were assembled by Julien’s Auction house and set for a sale in April 2009, but the auction was cancelled.  A five-volume, 900-page catalog of items had been prepared by Julien’s and was posted at their website for a time.

     Through all of Jackson’s difficulties and financial woes, however, his music publishing interests were a key asset, anchored by the 251 Beatles songs.  He was personally involved with that business, and the idea of doing more with it in the future appealed to him.  In addition to his share of the Sony/ATV/Beatles catalog, he also held his own publishing catalog, called Mijac.  That catalog is estimated to be worth $50 million to $100 million, but it too has an unknown amount of debt attached.


Catalog Grows

     The Sony/ATV/Beatles catalog, meanwhile, had grown significantly in size and value since Jackson first acquired it in 1985, especially in recent years.  Between November 2001 and May 2007, Sony/ATV had made at least four acquisitions of other music catalogs.  There were now more than 500,000 songs in the Sony/ATV catalog — including tunes by Elvis Presley, the Drifters, Little Richard, Hank Williams, Roy Orbison, Taylor Swift, and the Jonas Brothers.  At Jackson’s death, the Sony/ATV/ Beatles catalog was said to be worth $1 billion and held more than 500,000 songs.  Among songs now found in this catalog, for example, are “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan, “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond, “E-Pro” by Beck, “Crazy” by Willie Nelson, and “No Such Thing” by John Mayer.  The works of a number of songwriters are also included, among them: Stevie Nicks, Sarah McLachlan, Destiny’s Child, Garth Brooks, and Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi.  Still, in terms of earning power, the 251 Beatles songs are the most significant group, whether in terms of generating regular or “mechanical” royalties from CD sales, or future use in advertising and other commercial ventures.  Bachman Turner Overdrive’s “Takin’ Care of Business,” is one example of a Sony/ATV song licenced for a major advertising campaign, in this case, for Office Depot.

     At Jackson’s death in June 2009, the Sony/ATV/Beatles catalog was said to be worth $1 billion.  How much of that would accrue to the Jackson estate, however, was unclear given his indebtedness and other possible liabilities.


Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney, at premiere of the show 'Love' by Cirque du Soleil, Las Vegas, June 2006.
Paul McCartney, at premiere of the show 'Love' by Cirque du Soleil, Las Vegas, June 2006.
     Paul McCartney, of course, had not forgotten about his old friend’s ownership of the Beatles tunes.  In recent years, it still bothered McCartney that someone else held the publishing rights to the Beatles’ songs, and he said as much in 2006.  “You know what doesn’t feel very good, is going on tour and paying to sing all my songs,” he said.  “Every time I sing ‘Hey Jude,’ I’ve got to pay someone.”  That someone, of course, was Michael Jackson/Sony/ATV.

     After Jackson’s passing in June 2009, McCartney publicly offered his respects and condolences, commenting on his time working with Jackson.  “I feel privileged to have hung out and worked with Michael,” McCartney said, calling him “massively talented” and a person with a gentle soul.  “His music will be remembered forever and my memories of our time together will be happy ones,” he said.  With Jackson’s passing, there had come rumors that Jackson had planned to give the rights back to the Beatles.  In fact, it was rumored that Jackson had intended to do so in his will, in order to make amends with Paul McCartney.  But when the will surfaced, there was no mention of such a transfer.  And Sony stepped in to say that the Beatles portion of the Sony/ATV catalog was going nowhere and would remain in their custody.  McCartney, for his part, seemed to be mellowing somewhat on the whole matter, explaining that with time, certain rights would revert to him anyway.

Logo for McCartney Productions, Ltd., Paul McCartney’s music business.
Logo for McCartney Productions, Ltd., Paul McCartney’s music business.
     McCartney, in any case, was doing pretty well for himself without the Beatles tunes that Jackson had acquired.  Since the Beatles broke up in 1970, McCartney had become a major music publisher himself, going well beyond what he showed Jackson at the McCartney dinner table back in 1981.  McCartney’s music publishing business uses the name MPL Communications and has bought or secured publishing rights to hundreds of songs, including a few early Beatles songs issued as singles that were separate from the others — such as “Love Me Do,” “P.S. I Love You,” “Please Please Me,” and “Ask Me Why.”  He also holds other rock ‘n roll songs such as those by Buddy Holly.

     MPL stands for “McCartney Productions Limited,” the company that operates out of London and New York.  MPL has grown over the years and is now comprised of 25 subsidiary companies, some with names such as Desilu Music Corp, ARKO Music Corp., and others.  MPL owns a wide range of copyrighted material stretching over 100 years, including songs such as, “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody” made famous by Al Jolson, to show tunes, pop music, and rock ‘n roll songs such as 1960s classics from the Four Seasons, “Sherry” & “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”  There are also standards in the MPL collection such as “Autumn Leaves,” “Sentimental Journey,” and “Stormy Weather.”  MPL also represents musicals and their songs such as: “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” by Frank Loesser, and “A Chorus Line” by composer/arranger Marvin Hamlisch and lyricist Edward Kleban.


The Jackson Legacy

Promo for Michael Jackson concerts that had been planned for London in July 2009.
Promo for Michael Jackson concerts that had been planned for London in July 2009.
     Michael Jackson’s own music catalog, meanwhile — including previously unreleased material — is likely to become one of the all-time most valuable music catalogs in modern music history.  Given the popular reaction to his music since his death, with his past albums dominating the charts in June and July 2009  — plus the prospect of all kinds of uses for his music in the years ahead — it is expected that a music business legacy equivalent to, or exceeding that, of Elvis Presley, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, and other famous music names will be quite possible.  Only time will tell, of course, with history as the final judge.

For another Michael Jackson story at this website see, “The Jackson Statues, 1995,” a story of nine giant Michael Jackson statues used to promote Jackson’s 1995 HIStory album and world tour. For additional Beatles and Paul McCartney stories at this website see, “Beatles History,” a topics page with links to 12 Beatles stories. Thanks for visiting – and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support the research and writing at this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle


Addendum/Update: In 2012, Sony/ATV Music Publishing and other investors acquired EMI Music Publishing for approximately $2.2 billion. In doing so, Sony/ATV, as principal administrator, became the world’s largest music publisher with a library of over 2 million songs. As of March 15th, 2016, Sony acquired the Michael Jackson share of the Sony/ATV Music Publishing catalog for $750 million, which included classic Beatles material. Meanwhile, Paul McCartney has begun a legal process to regain his portion of that Beatles catalog using a provision of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 which allows original songwriters to regain their U.S. publishing rights after a certain time period, which for McCartney would begin in 2018.

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Date Posted:  7 July 2009
Last Update:  27 February 2019
Comments to:  jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Michael & McCartney, 1990s-2009,”
PopHistoryDig.com, July 7, 2009.

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A former YouTube video (since taken down), “Michael Jackson  …How He Came to Own The Beatles Songs,” included a Paul McCartney press conference in 1990 in which he discussed how Michael Jackson came to own the lion’s share of The Beatles’ Lennon & McCartney song catalog.  That press conference was held during a Paul McCartney tour, April 14, 1990, at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miramar, Florida.  See related audio clip and transcript of McCartney’s remarks at: MJJinfo.Blogspot.

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