Rating: PG-13, bordering on R for language and themes.
Summary: The elusive fifth Beatle's interview continued. The part takes place from the death of Brian Epstein onwards.
Disclaimer: I do not own The Beatles and this is about as AU as you can get. I have taken, many, many liberties, namely which that this involves a fictional "fifth" Beatle (who happens to be a female), so history (and certain dates) will very obviously be fudged with. This was a dream that I had for a week -- this wrote itself.
Note: This is the second to last part. I will post the last Part of this in the next two weeks! Thank you so much to those who have given this a chance!
Brian Epstein had been a constant in our lives since he’d signed us at the end of ’61. He’d taken care of us, kept us on track and though we were all confident that we were a great band, there’s no telling what would’ve come of us if Brian hadn’t intervened. The boys would have continued to have played for whatever pittance we’d be paid and all of us would have been pushed into finding a “career” – I might have ended up a secretary after all! Brian had always been a kind, almost fatherly figure to all of us, and we didn’t hold his being posh and gay against him.
When we’d decided to stop touring we’d known that it would be rough for Brian, but by then we were so fed up with things that it didn’t matter. We’d always known that he could be right temperamental at times and prone to horrid black moods, but at least I’d taken his occasional tantrums with a grain of salt and wasn’t too fussed most of the time – sort of like dealin’ with an overbearing auntie, even if this auntie was a bloke. Little had any of us known that a month after his father’s death that he’d accidentally OD on tranquilizers and leave us alone in the world.
“You were in Wales when you found out about his death?”
“We’d all gone to hear a lecture by the Maharishi when we were told the news. It fell on us like a ton of bricks!” We’d received a phone call from London and were given the news. I still remember that I’d felt like I was doused with a bathtub’s worth of ice cold water. I had been absolutely stunned, feeling every part of my body grow numb. Brian who’d watched over us, fussed over us, was dead. The finality of that had made me shake. When I had looked at George, I’d seen the same pain written on his face that I figured was on mine, and I’d crumpled into a chair. I hadn’t known what to expect when I’d started sobbing guttural wrenching sobs that made my shoulders quiver and skin prickle.
I hadn’t cried that hard in over ten years since my mother had died. I wasn’t sure how long it’d been, but George had crouched in front of me before I could teeter over the side of the chair and had pulled me to him. He’d wrapped his arms tightly around me and when I’d buried my head into the side of his face, I’d felt him press his cheek to my forehead. His moustache had been damp and a minute later, the top of my head wet with his tears, and the collar of his shirt was wet with mine.
“I love you, Georgie.” I had whispered into his ear, and he had held me tighter. We’d stayed that way for a few more minutes until I no longer felt that my legs wouldn’t be able to hold me up.
After having exchanged tight hugs with the others, we’d been asked to come see the Maharishi, who given us comforting words about being positive for Brian and telling us to keep thought of him happy because he’d get them. For all that had happened later on, I’d always been grateful to that man for giving us the smallest bit of hope during such a shity time.
“Did you have an idea that Brian depressed?”
I inhaled and exhaled deeply before I answered. “Not really, no. It wasn’t somethin’ that you’d just go up and ask, y’know?”
“Would you have approached Brian if you had suspected he was considering committing suicide?”
The question stung and I felt my skin bristle. I knew meself well enough, though I could hardly be called the inspective type, to know that I was clammin’ up and was feelin’ a wee bit like I was under attack. I knew it was ridiculous, ‘cor, she was interviewin’ me for Christ’s sake, but it stung. I coughed. “It was ruled out as a suicide, but probably not that’d been so. I didn’t ‘ave that sort of relationship with Brian; I wouldna felt it was any of me business.”
I hadn’t expected it to hurt to say those words out loud. A part of me wanted to explain meself to this reporter, to assure her that I wasn’t completely devoid of human decency, but I knew there wasna a point. I remembered the mad reverence in her voice when she asked me at the beginnin’ of this if I ever stopped to tell meself, “I’m Liz McCartney!”; I doubted she’d think of me that way ever again.
I hadn’t been givin’ her a line when I’d told her that I didn’t have the comfy softness of most women. I was a mum now, a grandmum too, but I still wouldn’t describe meself as soft-natured. I’d softened a bit over the years, but no – I wouldn’t call meself that.
“What sort of relationship did you have with him?”
I shrugged. “Same as the others, I s’ppose.” I leaned forward in the chair, chin sittin’ on the heel of my palm. “He was our manager. He was a lovely fella and all that, but he it wasn’t like he came ‘round to me house for tea or dinner. Like I said, we all knew that he was feelin’ low about his Dad dyin’; I mean, it’s understandable isn’it? But none of us were sittin’ ‘round thinkin’ to ourselves that Brian was goin’ to do what he did. There’s no way to prepare yourself for somethin’ like that.”
The silence that followed would’ve been someone’s cue to bail out of here, but I wasn’t uncomfortable with silence. I still wasn’t sure if that was the case with Nancy-the-reporter. I hadn’t quite figured her out yet.
“Who introduced the band to transcendental meditation, or told you all about the Maharishi rather?” She changed the topic quickly, but as I was becoming aware of, just ‘cos she moved on from somethin’ didn’t mean the topic was left alone. Quite adept this one.
“Some friends of ours had gone to one of his lectures and told us it might be somethin’ we’d be into. We saw him when he came to London and were invited to attend a conference he was givin’ in Wales. We were off from Euston Station within days.” To this day I remembered sprinting up the pavement towards the carriage with George ahead of me, fingers tight around mine as he’d manoeuvred us through. We’d had a time of it tryin’ to get through the throng of screamin’ birds who let it rip when they caught sight of us but had somehow managed it.
“And then you went to India.”
I nodded. “A few months later, yes.”
“What were you looking for there, Liz?”
“Are you asking about what I was lookin’ for there, or the others?”
I paused, reflectin’ for a moment on that. “I’d gone to India to find a little peace; to see if there was anythin’ like tranquility still out there for us. The entire ‘Beatles’ thing could get right overwhelmin’ at times and for a while I was questionin’ whether it was enough. You see, it’s grand and all, bein’ able to make the kind of music that you like and havin’ shitloads of kids tellin’ you how great they think your music is an’ all, but you if you aren’t careful, it’s very easy to lose sight of who you are. I never stopped bein’ Liz McCartney and then later on Liz Harrison, but I knew that I could’ve become someone I didn’t know if I let it be. At the time the appeal of India, or more specifically, what the Maharishi was tellin’ us, was that we were capable of findin’ something real even with all the madness that was goin’ on ‘round us.”
“What was that ‘something real’ that you found?”
I gave her a small smile, “It’s like that line from George’s song, ‘With our love, we could save the world’. It’s a powerful way of lookin’ at things; you’re just a part of a whole, we’re all connected to everything and each other. Very trippy that!” I laughed and helped meself to another spot of tea.
“And how was it? Going to Rishikesh to take a course with the Maharishi?”
I shifted in my chair. “It was a lovely holiday. We returned to England very well rested.”
I remembered making love before dawn with George and watching the sunrise coming over the mountains for the first time. I remembered goin’ ‘round in a floaty white salwar and sittin’ in the morning sunshine with one or all the lads and playin’ music. I remembered lying on a blanket under a shade while Paulie strummed the beginnings of Mother Nature’s Son and feelin’ a soft, serene sort of quiet happiness. I remembered laughin’ with Cyn, who bless her hadn’t looked very happy during a lot of the trip – the distance between her and John more than obvious – over hot jasmine tea, and listenin’ to Jane as she told me about plans for the wedding that as history would show hadn’t happened. I remembered giggling when I’d watched Ringo flip open his suitcase shortly after his arrival and show us the tins of baked beans and a tin opener he’d smuggled in ‘cos he didn’t want to try any of the exotic Indian fare; poor lamb, always had a delicate tum.
“Even if you left a bit wiser about the motives of the Maharishi?”
I shrugged. “No one can say with 100% certainty about what happened; it was one person’s version versus another’s. At the end of it, as I said, we returned to England well rested, and I think as John once put it, a stone or so thinner.” Living off of yoghurt and no meat will do that to you! I was reminded of Paulie’s disgusted face when we’d all gone out to dinner a few days after getting’ back to London, and I’d finished a kidney pie in two minutes. I’d told him to bugger off and ordered another.
“At this time it’s been less than a year and your manager’s died, you’ve made a film that many critics panned, you’ve gotten involved in transcendental meditation and then when to India for a few weeks where you wrote the majority of the songs that would be on what’s to be known as The White Album. Was it like John described in the interview he had with Jann Wenner? Did Paul step up around this time and take control of the band?”
I paused, knowing that this was going into very ugly territory. “Did the four of us become sidemen to Paul, you mean?” I raised a brow. “I don’t know how to answer that really. I don’t think Paul did it with bad intentions; he just did what he thought that he needed to do. It wasn’t an easy time for any of us.”
“How did you respond to it?”
“I don’t remember responding to this in any particular fashion; I just went along with it like the others. As I said, Paul must’ve felt that one of us needed to step up and make sure that we didn’t veer off the rails. It wasn’t a vendetta; Paulie Beatle sittin’ at home planning on how he’d take over!” I was reminded of that long-ago interview that John’d given the editor of this same magazine where he’d gone onto to describe what had happened with us after Brian had died.
It had been Paul’s idea of make Mystery Tour, though the rest of us hadn’t been too fussed with it – we’d been fed up with touring, but knew that the fans felt that we owed ‘em so we’d gone along with it. Crap film that it’d been in the end. We’d starting filming it two weeks after Brian had died and it was obvious our hearts weren’t in it – at least mine wasn’t.
“Do you think the band would have ever broken up if Brian hadn’t died?” The reporter looked at me evenly as she asked what I knew had been an inevitable question: Did I think that we would have split up if Brian hadn’t died? That was a question I’d asked myself many times, though the few times I’d allowed myself to really go down that path on this in those few years following the break up, I’d had a few drinks or been feeling particularly down about something.
Deciding that I needed to give myself a moment before answering, I stood and walked over to the coffee maker, immediately wrapping my fingers around the coffee pot’s warm arm. I didn’t allow her the chance to decline this time and briskly refilled her empty coffee cup, leaving enough room for milk and sugar. She gave me a small nod of thanks, never breaking eye contact but not unpleasantly.
“I think the break up was unavoidable in some ways. There’s no tellin’ when it might’ve happened, but it was bound to happen sooner or later. Those sorts of things usually are.” I said this evenly before taking another drink of tea.
“You sound very sure of that.”
“I am. Think about it lovie, bein’ with the same people day in and out, in John, George and Paul’s case, for over ten years, you’re bound to want to break loose. As musicians we were all going in separate directions, so it was just a matter of time. I think on some level, we always knew that The Beatles weren’t going to be forever, you know? It was an amazing, incredible time in all of our lives, but I think it’s pointless to sit around forever and think ‘bout what could’ve been.”
“So you can assure all of us that it wasn’t Yoko’s fault that The Beatles broke up?” There was as teasing note in her voice and I chuckled in kind.
“Yoko just happened to come into the equation when things were already pretty strained in the band. Her involvement didn’t exactly help matters, but no, she wasn’t the reason we broke up. It’s unfair to want to blame one person for what happened with five other people, y’know?”
“Can you think of anything specific that went on that made you stop and think ‘Its done, I don’t want to do this anymore’?” She asked, and I saw her remove another tape from her bag; I expected the one currently recording to end soon.
I paused, nodding at her to do whatever she needed to do and also to give me a minute to get my thoughts together. We were definitely gettin’ into murky waters here and I needed to be honest without making ‘em even murkier! She gave me a quick smile when she’d finished.
I cleared my throat. “There wasn’t a specific moment exactly, just a pilin’ up of various things. As I said, the end of ‘The Beatles’,” I was incapable of not making those silly air-quotation marks, “started when Brian died. It could’ve been that without the referee there to monitor that things weren’t gettin’ out of hand they did.
“In previous interviews, the others have said that they realized that things were going sour in the band when you started to make The White Album. Do you agree?”
I considered this for a few minutes, falling back into the silence I was so comfortable with. “I think it was more obvious when we were makin’ that LP, so yeah, I guess I can go along with that.”
“What was it about the recording of that album that made it apparent to you?”
I sighed. “It’s the obvious things isn’t it? No Brian, for one. Formin’ Apple Corps and not havin’ an ounce of ‘business acumen’ between the five of us so you know the money was just flushin’ down the shitter. All the trouble that George had gettin’ Paul or John to go along with recordin’ his stuff – that was the hardest for me, I think. Like I said, it’d always been that way, but he started resentin’ it a lot ‘round then. I think George hadn’t really raised a fuss about it before because he mayn’t have felt that all of his songs were up to line, but with Revolver onwards he began to build more confidence in his work. I’ll come out and tell you that both John and Paul could be right bastards about recordin’ some of George’s stuff. When we started recording in ’68, George had released an album of his own instrumental stuff, was gettin’ really recognised among other musicians for his abilities as a guitarist, and was gettin’ fed up with bein’ treated like one of those irritatin’ kid brothers who gets patronised by everyone. Paulie went along with it more than John, I think.”
I remembered havin’ been especially angry when John had taken it upon hisself to take off with his new girlfriend Yoko the day we were set to record Long, Long, Long. I hadn’t rung him up to call him ten kinds of a bastard for doin’ that, though I’d wanted to. “It’s alright, Lizzy.” George had said softly to me with a squeeze of my knee, small smile on his face, before he’d taken his seat across from me in the studio. He’d briefly chatted with Paul who’d be on the organ, nodding when Paulie’d asked about changing the key during a section.
“Fancy a ciggie Liz?” Ringo’d asked me before I pulled on my headphones, knowing that I wasn’t above making off with a few. I’d known that I must’ve had some sort of frown on me face, so I’d nodded before headin’ over and bummin’ two.
“Ta, Rings.” He’d lit the end with his. Like meself, Ringo’d never been the kind to sit ‘round talkin’ about his feelings or whatnot, but as John would say, Ringo was a ‘good skin’ and took it on hisself to try and cheer us up if we looked down ‘bout something.
“Don’t take it to heart ‘bout your fella, Liz. You know how John is.”
“I know, Rings. I know.”And I’d smiled at him because what he was sayin’ was true.
“Ringo, you ain’t tryin’ to chat up my wife are ya?!” George had yelled at us, big grin on his face.
“It was the other way ‘round, Harry, I swears it!” And Ringo’d given me a wink.
“If I was tryin’ to chat you up lovie, neither us’d still be here!” I’d motioned towards the infamous loo to the side with my chin and laughed at both of ‘em as I headed back to my chair.
“Ya tart!” Paul had giggled – yes, me brother did do that, though it usually took a cuban sized joint to do it – and the vibe in the room lightened up considerably after that. Even though it’d just been the four of us, it had been a brilliant recording session.
A few weeks later Eric Clapton, a great friend of George and mine, came to the studio to record While My Guitar Gently Weeps and I’d been incapable of keeping a smile off me face. He’d played lead guitar while the rest of us filled in on bass, backing lead, and rhythm guitar and the playback sounded bloody brilliant. I’d cheekily asked him if I could buy his Gibson Les Paul off of ‘im and he’d looked at me askance, “You should know better than to try to get between a guitarist and his baby, Liz!”
“Come ‘ead, Eric, don’t be a drag.” And he’d laughingly kept his guitar at his side for the remainder of the session. He’d sent me a new Les Paul for Crimbo later that year
“Was there a lot of arguing, a lot of fighting between all of you?”
“We’d always bickered a bit when we were making albums; as I said earlier, it would’ve frankly been abnormal if we hadn’t had a few rows here and there along the way. I think what happened with that LP was that we were losin’ patience with each other.” I know that many of our fans were fond of the album, but it’d been the first of the last three that we made that were a trial to make. Luckily we’d written a lot of stuff in India, so that’d made things easier than they would’ve been otherwise.
“Did you have any misgivings when Yoko started coming around? When she started getting involved in the band’s business –“
“What do you mean?”
“In the documentary that was made during the recording of Let It Be we saw that she was always around. Did you or any of the others ever go up to John or the others when she started sitting in during all of the sessions and say, ‘Hey John what is she doing here’?”
“Of course we did at first, when it became apparent that she was goin’ to be there all the bloody time, but John hadn’t though her being in the studio should be a big deal. The fact that George and I were married came up a few times.”
“That was a different situation though, wouldn’t you say? You’d been in the band for a few years before you’d gotten with George.” She said, rising to my defense.
“I s’ppose so. We weren’t being compared to one another. I was a member of the group – had been there since before Brian even signed us, but George and I were able to, in the studio, separate being married from work. But that was more because me and George had made a conscious effort to keep ‘em separated as much as possible. All Yoko was able to do when she was there was give an opinion, really. It wasn’t like we had to change anything because she was suddenly around, musically I mean. She wasn’t pushin’ us to do anythin’. ”
“So she just came with the package?”
“Yea, that’s a way of puttin’ it. John wanted her there, and that had to be okay – even if it wasn’t the most desirable thing at the time, we just had to go with it.”
“Since we are briefly mentioning the time around the last album that was released, what was the entire experience of making the documentary for Let It Be like?” She finished her question and drank more coffee.
I was thoughtful, instantly reminded of the studios at Twinkenham that we’d moved to to record the LP. I decided an honest, but still, fairly edited answer was called for. I’d been doing a lot of that during this interview. I was also reminded of exactly why I had turned down interviewer after interviewer over the past almost forty years; I didn’t like having to censor meself!
“Uh, it wasn’t ideal. I wasn’t too comfortable havin’ all those cameras ‘round while we were recording. I was actually really surprised that people were so into it. I know and am honoured that people still love our music to this day, and that people of all ages are discovering us all the time, but recording an LP can be very tedious at times and to watch an entire film about recording LP doesn’t sound that interesting. Then again, I think if a documentary had been released about the making of one of Elvis’s albums or something, then I
think I would’ve gotten really into it –“
“Elvis or Jacqueline du Prè certainly!”
“Nine hours of Elgar and Bach’s Cello Suites…you know I wouldn’t have been able to resist meself!! Actually I was able to see Jackie du Prè perform a few times during her hey-day, and let me tell you, I was green with envy. She was a wonderful cellist.” I still remembered watching her perform from a box seat that Brian had arranged for me, as the soloist with the London Symphony Orchestra. I’d felt it in my fingers as her hands had moved up and down the neck of the cello. They had itched to pluck out those chords, to feel the quiver of the bow as it was dragged over the strings.
I had known that I was probably in the most enviable position in the world: I was a Beatle. But I was jealous of her—that really dotty, possessed looking blonde who played the cello with more passion than I ever felt I was capable of. Her agent knew that I was in the audience (I had received more than my fair share of looks when I had arrived at the Royal Albert in a dress that I’d only bought that afternoon because Jane had told me that I could not show up in trousers and a suit jacket even if they were from ‘bloody-Saville-Row’) and within minutes of the end of her performance, the fella had found a way into the box and asked me to come to the back to meet Jackie.
Jacqueline du Prè had been lovely and I’d felt a rather unnecessary sense of pride when I was introduced to her and instead of me being tongue-tied around her, she was tongue-tied around me! I had become used to the mad out-of-body experience that being fucking famous was like. I knew to expect the wide-eyed looks from fans, but it was still strange when someone I admired acted that way around me, common as I could be at times. It turned out that Ringo was her favourite of the lot – according to her he looked the nicest…little did she know!
To this day I remembered the look of surprised when I’d let her know that I had played the cello since I was seven and that I thought she was fantastic! “I would’ve thought that you rock ‘n rollers wouldn’t come near classical music!” She had laughed. For someone who sounded so posh, she had come across as very good-natured and approachable.
“It’s a secret that will be the end of us. Don’t you know that we sit around reading books about musical theory during our off time?” I had added with a smile, about to lose it as I thought about my brother and John taking a course over music composition – they would probably toss their books into the nearest bin within ten minutes and head to the pub ‘round the corner for a pint and a bit of Irish stew.
When I’d returned home that night, I’d headed upstairs to my office and ran through some of my old sheet music for the next few hours. I’d been reassured then and there that making music made me happier than anything else in the entire world.
A few days later I remembered that I’d asked Paul to come ‘round with some of the new material that he was working on for what would be Revolver. He and I had never written music together, but that afternoon I’d sat across from him while he played the early stages of Eleanor Rigby on his guitar, plucking out a random chord or two on my Stradivarius and somehow along the way I started playing the beginnings of what would become the cello section. I hadn’t known how Paul would respond, but he’d told me that it was good and that we should get with George Martin to arrange both a cello and violin section for the song.
Truth be told I was feeling a bit like a nervy spaz when we were set to record it in the studio a few weeks later. It wasn’t like I hadn’t played anything other than the guitar on one of our LPs before; I’d played the violin on Yesterday,but I’d hidden among the string section of that orchestra in the studio and hadn’t had to perform alone until we’d done it on stage. Eleanor Rigby was the first time that I would play both the lead violin and the cello in an actual recording of our songs, though George Martin had arranged for a string quartet to be brought in later on to back what I’d done. Since they weren’t due to provide more than backing harmonies on this track, both John and George’d hung around, taking the mickey out of me when I’d placed my cello between both blue jean clad knees.
“You’re missing yer gloves and ball gown, Macca Jr.” John had chirped with a grin, dark sunglasses hanging off the bridge of his nose.
“When I asked to borrow one of yours Cyn said that your azure one was still at the cleaners.” I had countered, taking a drag of my ciggie and then tapped the end against an ashtray.
“You’re just jealous that I look dashing in azure.”
“I might’ve agreed to that before you challenged the fat lady down the road to a biscuit eating contest, and won.” I’d winked at him, knowin’ that he’d gained a stone and hated it. “You’re still a stunner, lovie, there’s just more of you to love then there was before!” And I’d blown him a kiss. I saw Paul laughing in the control room.
“At least they were good biscuits.” John sighed dramatically.
“Ready, Liz?” I’d heard Paul ask me through my headphones. I had nodded quickly before taking another quick drag and then set it aside.
George Martin’s voice had cut in, “Ten seconds, Liz,” from the intercom between the control room and the studio. With Ringo and Paul upstairs with George Martin, and John and George standing ‘round with tea and a bacon butty, I had laid down what would be both layers of the cello section in about sixteen takes and then the lead violin in the next two hours or so. To this day I will remember how bleeding chuffed I’d been when I heard the playback a few hours later with the boys. I had always been critical of my playing, and I had fully expected them to crack a few more jokes about trying to be posh, but I had been very happy with how things turned out.
After hearing the song once through, John had turned to me and had said, “Seems to me that Paulie shouldn’t go about telling everyone that he got all the talent the Macs had to offer.” It was after that recording that John may’ve seen yours truly as a musician and not just someone he’d try to boss ‘round – no that I’d let him mind.
“It’s like that short man syndrome, Johnny boy. Compensatin’ and all that.” Luckily I’d ducked in time to avoid gettin’ hit with the remains of Paulie’s half-eaten egg sarnie.
“Speaking of the documentary Let It Be, there’s a very famous scene of you and Paul –“
I interrupted the reporter before she finished, “Lettin’ off some steam, yeah.” I was already imagining the talk I’d be having with Paulie later on that evening. He’d ring and fuss for fifteen minutes until I told him everything that’d gone on during this interview. Despite whatever was goin’ on in his life, I could always count on either he or Mike to ring me up and fuss about whatever I got up to like a pair of old women.
“You were talking about Yoko.”
“Yeah, I was.” When I had finally gotten the nerve to watch that scene, I’d been brutally reminded of why I should watch my gob, ‘specially if there was a film crew hanging around.
During this interview I hadn’t wanted to delve too much into either the topic of Yoko or the documentary, and it was for this specific reason. In having put off reporter after reporter more times than not over the past forty years, I should have expected to have to answer almost that many years’ worth of questions about what had gone on.
“Yoko talked about it in the early ‘70s. How did what you said then affect your relationship with John after the band broke up?” I drank more tea before I responded, remembering very vividly what had happened around that time.
As the documentary had shown, we’d been recording the album for a few weeks at this point and by this time we were all getting more and more fed up with the entire Beatles thing, and there were all those business things going on as well. The only thing keeping us all together then was that we had been working together for so long and at the end of it, were a family, but as with all families, there were times that were rotten and you wanted nothing more than to get the hell away from all of ‘em. I know that you know what scene Nancy’s referring to, hell, it had been in the papers after the documentary was released.
That day hadn’t been very easy. Paul’d had us rehearsing One After 909 since nine in the fucking morning and I was tired and not in the mood to put up with anyone’s shit. I wouldn’t tell this reporter that I’d also been feeling down for the few weeks before that had taken place. George and I had made the decision after coming back from India that we wanted to have a baby – we hadn’t told any of the others in part because of our other decision to do what we could to keep being “the marrieds” separate from the band. We’d been trying for a few months for me to get pregnant and then in November of ’68 I found out that I was.
George and I had been so excited about it. Until we finally talked about it that year, I had not thought about kids too much, though I knew that George wouldn’t be a typical scouser if he didn’t in his heart of hearts want to see me barefoot and up the duff with our babe. But after India, I found meself wanting to be more than Auntie Liz, like Jules would sometimes call me when he was tryin’ to butter me ‘bout something. I wanted to be a Mum.
I still remembered that wide toothy smile that had come on George’s face when I’d told him I was expectin’. He’d tossed his guitar onto the sofa next to him and ignoring my squaw of dismay at being carried like a sack of spuds, he’d picked me up, wrapped his arms so tightly around me and started dancing me ‘round our parlor. “Liz…I love you so much, Lizzy. I can’t wait to see you when you’re the size of a ‘ouse!”
“You’re crushin' the poor thing!” I had laughed as George continued to squeeze me tightly. It had been one of the happiest times in those early years of our marriage.
When I’d miscarried three weeks later, I had curled up into a ball on our bed for four days with the drapes drawn and refused to come out of our bedroom. Though I had only been a few weeks along, I’d loved our little baby, and hadn’t known when my heart would stop aching every time I took a breath. George had been so lovely to me, though I knew he was hurting too.
We hadn’t told the others that I was pregnant because I wanted to wait until after the first twelve weeks so I knew it was a surprise when George filled them in on why I wouldn’t go to the studio, something I’d never done before. I’d refused to speak to any of them when they’d tried to ring; I had wanted nothing more than to just lie there on our big bed and sleep and sleep some more until it didn’t hurt anymore. On the third day of my self-imposed isolation, I’d been halfway asleep when I felt the bed dip next to me.
“Let me sleep, George.” I had whispered, dragging the cover over my head. Those few days I’d felt such a mad rush of feeling whenever I was around George, caught between loving him more than I knew I could ever love anyone and hating the fact that I couldn’t bring myself to hug him back when he tried to hold me because it made my heart ache in a way I’d never thought it could when he’d tried.
“Come ‘ead, Liz. You’ve been in bed all day, luv.” Paul’s voice had said and without waiting for me to move, he’d dragged the sheet from over my head. He had been sitting next to me on the bed and looked at me with a sad smile that’d made my insides hurt.
“What’re you doing here, Paul?” I had asked with a sigh, rubbing my eyelids tiredly.
“I wanted to come and see my kid sister.” His words had been laced with fake cheerfulness, but I knew that he didn’t feel it. It had been written all over his face.
“This isn’t the best –”
“I know, Liz.” My brother wasn’t usually the sort to want to deal with these types of emotional things; it was something we had in common most of the time. “Let’s get you up, alright? Go take a shower and I’ll bring you a cuppa ok?”
“I’m not hungry. Look Paul, ta for comin’ and all, but I really don’t –“
Paul had wrapped his arms around me before I could finish and though I tried in vain to return a one-armed version, he had still held me tightly and oddly, had started to rub my back the way that our Mum used to when I was younger. Whenever I’d been feeling poorly, she would come into my room and would rub in small circles and I remember feeling like all my cares would melt away. “Paul, I can’t –“
“S’alright, Lizzy. I know. I know, luv.” I had resisted it at first, but he had continued rubbing my back in that same gentle soothing sort of way that our Mum had used to do.
My brother and I had always somehow managed to be good mates since we were wee babes. As we’d gotten older and after I’d joined the group, he’d pushed me, aggravated me, at times made me want to chunk one of my boots at the back of his head. But then it was times like those when we stopped being band mates and good mates who enjoyed taking the mickey out of one another, and I was just his kid sister and when I started crying, he let me.
I hadn’t felt like talking and he hadn’t made me. “You should see to George, Liz. He’s hurting just as bad as you are.” Paul had said softly to me, continuing to rub my back.
“I know,” I had been surprised at how small my voice sounded. My head had been buried into the side of his neck.
“He loves you, Liz. God knows what it is about you, but he does,” he’d said to me and I had heard the gentle teasing in his voice. I’d nodded because I knew this was true. Paul’s arms were comfortable and familiar around me.
I don’t remember how much longer Paulie and I had stayed like that, but eventually he said, “Liz, you reek, girl! Off you be to the shower.” He’d ignored whatever I might’ve said in response, pulled the cover from the bed and ten seconds later I was deposited in the bathroom. While standing under the full spray of the showerhead for a good ten minutes I had recognised that that had been one of the most loving things my brother had ever done for me. I shouldn’t have been surprised though; after Mum had died he, Mike and I had been the ones to hold the others’ hair back when we were tossing up our breakfast if we were feeling poorly. I had known that coming to see me like this hadn’t been any different to him, just something that either of us would’ve done for the other.
Thirty minutes later I had gone downstairs to the kitchen where George had been making tea and Paul was frying bacon a few feet away. All these years later I had remembered how tired George’d looked and how I had wanted nothing more than to just crawl up inside of his heart where I knew I would always be safe. I wasn’t sure if either of them had heard me when I’d come into the room, but when I’d come up behind George and wrapped my arms around his waist and laid my cheek against his back, his body had been tense but had relaxed into mine and then he’d laid a hand over my forearm and squeezed it. “I’m sorry, Georgie.” I had said softly.
He hadn’t said anything; he’d switched the kettle off and then turned into my arms. His eyes had looked tired and sad and it looked like he hadn’t slept in days. I had rubbed my cheek against his own which was covered with a scratchy few days’ worth of beard.
“I know, Liz.” He had leaned down until his thick brown hair hung around my face and he had kissed my forehead. It had been months before I’d stopped hurting about our little baby, but knowing that the we’d have one when it was meant to be (George’s words), had made it more bearable.
Giving myself a quick shake of the head, I was brought back to the present and to the interview that I was still in the middle of. I was reminded of what the reporter had asked: How did what you said about Yoko affect your relationship with John? “He was understandably not too pleased with me. What I’d said wasn’t very kind.”
“Do you think you would have said that about Yoko if John had been around?”
I looked at her impatiently before I went on. “You saw the documentary didn’t you? It wasn’t the easiest time, and like any human being I reacted to the amount of tension and stress in the studio. I’m not proud of what I said, but it can’t be changed.”
As I said, it hadn’t been an easy time. Other than dealing with my miscarriage in my usual ‘Get on with it’ attitude, the recording of Let It Be had been filled with shitloads of tension that had carried over from when we were making The White Album. George was still havin’ problems with both John and Paulie about puttin’ his songs on the album, so finally in January he’d had enough for a while and had quit the band for almost two weeks.
A few weeks after that had taken place, I’d let loose a bit of vitriol that still haunted me a bit to this day. As mentioned, I was gettin’ fed up with coming into the studio to rehearse at what may’ve been the crack of dawn for all I cared. I was gettin’ frustrated of having all our moves filmed by a pack of cameramen and I didn’t like being at Twikenham. I was especially getting fed up of the mad-haired woman who stuck to John’s side like glue and immediately started whispering into his ear whenever we stopped. True, it wasn’t as if she had any sway over the decisions we made as a group, but it was still fuckin’ annoying.
During a tea break, I’d been sitting off on me own when Paul’d come to join me at the piano. “How much longer do you reckon he’ll have her here?” I’d asked Paul, mistakenly assuming that since it was a break that that included a break in filming.
“Christ, I wish I knew.” He’d said, rubbing his face with the palm of his hand.
“She’s always ‘round. Isn’t there a light fixture she can go off and decoupage or somethin’?” I had asked before reaching for his pack of ciggies. Paul had chuckled.
“Now, now, be nice.” He’d leaned forward to offer me a light, his bass sitting on his lap.
“I don’t want to bloody play nice,” The almost twenty-six year old me had snapped tiredly. “Fuckin’ hell, Paulie, I am sick and bloody tired of rehearsin’ at nine in the bloody morning in this fuckin’ damp studio while that Jap bint sits next to John all superior-like just staring at us. She’s not in the fuckin’ band now is she? There’s no reason she should be here day in and out, Paul.”
I knew that I’d been tired when I said that. I could be a terrible bitch at times, but I wasn’t nasty.
“I was able to watch the documentary a few weeks before it was released. I wasn’t too happy about it, but by that point the band had split up and there wasn’t anything else for me to do but go ‘round to see John.” I looked at the reporter Nancy evenly and in that moment wished that I hadn’t given up smoking years ago.
The conversation I’d had with John had been one of the hardest I’d ever had. In all our years or working together and being mates, we’d had minor rows, but most of the time we got along famously. We had pissed around in the studio in the early days, telling each other off when necessary but had long ago settled into a comfortable friendship.
“Did you know that Abbey Road was going to be the last album the band would ever make?” She asked, momentarily veering from a topic I knew we’d be comin’ back to.
“Yeah, somethin’ like that. You can’t fix what’s already been broken, ‘specially if no one wants to do the fixin’.”
George Martin had wanted us to make one last album, the way we used to, before all the crap with management had come ‘round and we were barely functioning. We’d wanted to leave on a high note after the piece of crap that we’d thought what would become Let It Be had been, and the few song set that made up our ‘infamous’ rooftop concert on top of our Saville Row offices. When the end came, we’d been expectin’ it and that had been that. I remembered giving Ringo a big hug before we’d headed out of Studio Two at Abbey Road that last time ‘cos I’d known that that was it.
To be Continued
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