Chapter 3-C
 

         After his moment to recollect himself, Paul picked up John's book again, and began to read where he had last left off:

 

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Taped Interview Transcript

 

 

John:                  Do you remember that night you went barmy in the pub and you screamed at me in front of everyone?

 

Paul:          Was there only one time?

 

John:         [Thinking back] I think so; I’m pretty sure.

 

Paul:          Then I remember it.  You told me we only had a little nothing of a band, so I shouldn’t take it seriously.  

 

John:          I said it badly.

 

Paul:          With all due respect, John, there wasn’t any way you could have said it that wouldn’t have made me angry.  It was the most hurtful thing you’d ever said to me up to then, and you said some pretty horrible things to me in those days.

 

John:          Why so hurtful?

 

Paul:          I thought we both believed in that band.  I thought we were both working for the same goal.  I thought we were on the same team.  It felt just then that it was all a joke to you.  Well, it wasn’t a joke to me. My school marks were dropping because of all the time I was putting into the band, and my father was on my case and threatening to make me quit if I didn’t pick them up.  I made a lot of sacrifices to be in that band, and I didn’t like you – of all people, the one person I thought agreed with me - belittling it.

 

John:         I really hit a nerve, didn’t I?

 

Paul:          [Laughs.] You’re quite good at that, really.

 

John:         What did you do after you stormed out of the pub? Oh – thanks for paying the tab, by the way, I didn’t get the chance to say so at the time.

 

Paul:          [Gives me a smart aleck smile.]  I went home.  I was slamming doors and drawers, and stomping around, and, you know, mumbling to myself, like “and another thing!” [We both laugh.]  My Dad came up and spoke to me very harshly.  He told me I was behaving like a 5 year-old, and was that alcohol he smelled on my breath?  I was only about 17 at the time.  He wanted to know where I had been, and why I was so upset, and who had given me alcohol. 

 

John:          Oh no!  What did you tell him?

Paul:          I lied, of course.  I told him I had an argument with a girl, after we’d raided her parents’ liquor stash.

 

John:         That was really fast thinking, Paul.  Really inspired.

 

Paul:          I know, huh?  It had a ring of verisimilitude about it, as well.  The best bit was it fed right into his lecture. “You see, son, alcohol makes you do stupid things.  You don’t want to be arguing with girls, now, do you?”  And me all sheepish-like, “Yeah, Dad, you’re right.  I won’t do that again.”  I got off pretty easy that time, considering the provocation.  Normally, Dad would have… [He stops in mid-sentence, realizing what he was about to say…]

 

John:          …beat you for it.  He would have beaten you!  You were 17, why the hell didn’t you stick up for yourself?  He was an old man, you could have fucking killedhim!  [Paul is laughing.] What’s so funny, then?

 

Paul:          Listen to you – an ‘old man’.  He must have been the grand old age of 57!  

 

John:         So when did he stop beating you, then?

 

Paul:          I wish you wouldn’t call it ‘beating’.  

 

John:         Well, he was using a belt wasn’t he?  What would you call it?

 

Paul:          [Doesn’t respond to that question, choosing to answer the first one, instead.]  Eighteen.

 

John:          What?

 

Paul:          When I turned 18 he handed me the belt he used to hit me with. He said, “Well, I’ve done what I could to teach you wrong from right.  From now on, it’s up to you.”

 

John:        Cor, that’s weird.  Were you supposed to hit yourself with it?  And what was he going to do without the belt when he wanted to hit Michael?

 

Paul:          Michael had his own belt.

 

John:         Christ Paul!  It was a house of fucking horrors!  

 

 

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         Paul didn’t show up for practice the next day, but he had called George to apologize for not showing up for the gig that night.  He said he had a “bad throat.”  He didn’t say anything to me.  

 

         “Bad throat my ass,” I yelled at the other band members.  “Unless he injured it screaming at me in public!  More like he has a fucking stick up his ass!”  George and Stu looked scared; they were afraid to go on stage without Paul.  And of course, this was a no Pete Best night, too.  I rallied them, and out we went to perform.  This was the first time I’d been on a stage without Paul in two years.  We started playing the songs that I sang, and with just George and me playing and singing, Stu’s lack of noise became painfully apparent.  I kept waiting for Paul’s steady tempo to keep us on time, for his harmonies to come in at just the right moment in just the right key, for him to jump in and sing the lyric when I momentarily forgot, and I missed the fact that he wasn’t there to do the song introductions (I found doing it a little embarrassing, and over time Paul had taken over the majority of the role.)  

 

         Worst of all, the audience was upset.  A lot of the girls were chanting “Paul! Paul! Paul!”  I finally told them he had a sore throat, and they all went “Awwww” and I thought they were going to run out of the club and straight down to Paul’s house to nurse him in his distress.  But at least they stopped chanting after that, secure in the knowledge that he wasn’t gone for good.  We got through the list in half the time, because we were singing only half the songs.  I looked at the clock in desperation, and then started all the same songs over again!  My hands were barely moving on the frets; they were frozen – white with stress.  My voice was tight, and I couldn’t hit any high or low notes properly.  George was fading on me quick.  He had a chance to step up and fill Paul’s shoes, but he didn’t.  He wouldn’t.  In truth, he couldn’t.  Who could ‘replace’ Paul?  I kept gesturing to George to help me out, sing a harmony, stand up front so I wouldn’t be so bloody alone up there, but he pretended not to see me trying to meet his eye.

 

         I came off the stage in a bloody rage.  I stormed back stage and straight out the door.  George was running after me – “John!  No!  Just let it go!  You’ll be sorry if you go over there now!”  I would not listen.  I grabbed my bicycle and literally flew over to Paul’s house.  I threw the bicycle on to the ground as I charged up the path and banged on the door.  Jim McCartney answered the door, and was surprised to see me standing there.  I didn’t have time for my usual pretending to be polite routine.  

 

         “Where the hell is he?”  I yelled as I stalked into the hallway.  Mike walked in from the front room looking surprised.  I turned to look at Jim.  He was staring at me with confusion.  “Where is he?”  I demanded again.  

 

         “Isn’t he with you?”  Michael asked.

 

         “No, you bloody idiot!  He’s not with me!  Do you see him here?  Am I talking to meself?”  

 

         Jim cleared his throat and I turned to look at him.  “First, kindly apologize to my son for calling him an idiot.  We don’t call each other names in this house.”    

 

         I was taken aback.  “I’m sorry Mike.”

 

         Michael said, “s’okay mate.”

 

         Jim said, “Now then.  Let’s start over.  Why don’t you come into the front room and tell me what this is all about.”  

 

         I looked around desperately for a way out, which Jim misinterpreted.  

 

         “He’s not here.  We obviously thought he had a performance tonight.  Was that not the case?”

 

         Numbly, I followed him into the front room, and allowed myself to be seated.  Jim sent Michael to get me a cup of tea.

 

         “Perhaps you should start from the beginning, son, and tell me what is going on.”

 

         “He didn’t show up for practice, and then he called George and told him he had a bad throat and wouldn’t be performing tonight.  I thought he was here.”  By now I was trying to calm my breathing down. The tea helped a little.

 

         “So, Paul missed the gig, is that what you’re saying?”  Jim asked me.  I nodded.  “That is very unlike him,” he mused.  I nodded again.  “Is there something you’re not telling me?”  His voice actually sounded kind.  I felt tears spring in my eyes but I fought them off.  

 

         “He never did that to me before,” I managed to croak out.  Jim thought about that for a moment.

 

         “Putting myself in Paul’s shoes, I would think he would have to be very upset to miss a gig.  Paul loves that band more than anything.”  Jim’s quiet words were a reproach to me; it was almost as if he knew there was bad blood between us.  “Did the two of you have words?”  

 

         “We had a bit of a difference of opinion about the band, but that’s never caused him to do this before.”

 

         Jim nodded thoughtfully.  “I’m sure wherever he is, he regrets what he did, and he’ll come ‘round and apologize tomorrow.  You mark my words.  I know my son.”  He walked me calmly to the door.  Michael had gone ahead of him, and picked up my bicycle.  He handed it to me, and I rode off thinking to myself – “where is he?”  As I peddled through the park on the way back to Mimi’s I saw the fence and sign for Strawberry Fields.  

 

         In a minute I was over the fence and striding purposefully for that particular little glen which was our secret meeting place.  At first I didn’t see him.  But he was there – sound asleep, with his arms wrapped around his guitar.  It was really very cute.  All my anger went away.  So I sat down in the grass next to him and watched him sleeping for a few minutes, and the old twinges were coming back.  So fucking beautiful.  Ought to be a law.  To avoid going there, I quickly nudged him a few times until he woke up.  I heard him ask in confusion, “John?”         

 

         “So how’s the bleeding throat, now, mate?  Has it sufficiently recovered?  Will we be seeing you tomorrow?” 

 

         Paul was silent for a few moments.  He was rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, I could tell.  

 

         “How’d the gig go?”  He asked.

 

         “’How’d the gig go?’  He asks.  The gig was a fucking disaster.  Thank you very much.”  

 

         Paul struggled to sit up, and when he finally managed this, he said, “It was a childish thing to do.  I let you and the mates down.  I’m sorry.”

 

         “Well, there’s your one chance to fuck up, son.  Don’t you be doing that again!”  

 

         Paul laughed.  “Yeah.  But the revenge was sweet.  You’re the one who thinks I take the band too seriously.  After all, John, we’re just a little clubs band.”  

 

         I plugged him in the stomach, and we wrestled a little, before we staggered to our feet.  I warned him about his father.  He looked very gloomy.  (Now I know why, having learned about the belt.)  He grimaced and said, “He’s going to kill me.”  I got on my bike and went to Mimi’s, and Paul starting walking home.  I’m betting daddy was waiting up with the belt, but I don’t want to push my luck and ask Paul.  

 

         What didn’t sink in about this episode at the time (and should have done) was Paul’s veiled warning:  he took the band dead seriously, and if I did not, he was willing to walk.

 

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         Meanwhile, back in Stu-land, I was totally wrapped up in my new cooler, older lifestyle.  Cynthia would come over, and we would have sex in the afternoon.  What a luxury that was.  Stu had a steady girlfriend at the time, and she and Cyn became friends.  But I guarded my time alone with Stu.  I drew clear boundaries for both Cyn and Stu’s girlfriend so that they would not drop by unannounced.  Only when invited.  

 

         Stu was deeply entranced by his work, and I didn’t think he noticed how obsessed with him I was.  I actually wanted to be Stu.  Before that, I had never wanted to be someone else, other than Elvis.  For some reason Stu’s particular gifts and qualities were ones I wanted for myself, but clearly did not have.  As an artist, I was poor-average material at school.  I got warnings in 2 out of 4 classes, and I was discouraged with my lack of progress.  When I complained to Paul about this one night between sets, he laughed and said, 

 

         “Well, it might help if you actually went to class, and actually did the exercises.”

 

         I was indignant.  “What makes you think that I don’t?”  He didn’t respond.  He only just looked at me with a sardonic expression and an eyebrow lift.  “Ok,” I admitted pugnaciously, “you’re right about that.  I just want it to come to me without trying, like it comes to Stu.”

 

         “What makes you say that Stu doesn’t work at it?  He has spent years learning stuff, like perspective, and how to mix and use the chemicals and materials.  He has read all about it, and has gone to tons of art shows and museums and studied the techniques.  He said he sometimes has to do five or six drafts before he can get something he likes on paper.  He told me about it that time we first met in the pub, when we were talking.”  

 

         I stared at Paul, nonplussed.  He had spent 30 minutes in a pub with Stu and knew more about the man’s artistic process than I did!

 

         “If I thought I could be as good as Stu if I worked that hard, then I would work that hard.  But I think he has something more – a spark of genius or something.  I could never be that good.”  

 

         Paul considered this opinion, and rejected it.  “Making something, it doesn’t matter what it is – it could be a song or a painting – always requires time and effort, John.  You just don’t snap your fingers and it happens.  If you want to be an artist, then be an artist.  Your work won’t be like Stu’s, because he is Stu and you’re not.  But that doesn’t mean that your work won’t be just as valid.  But it will be yours.”  Paul’s eyes seemed to be lit from within while he spoke.  I was speechless.  Finally, the only way out of this disturbing conversation was to revert to type:

 

         “You’re right, Paul.  I’m a lazy sod.  I’m going to lay around and see if I can figure out how to have my art make itself!”  

         

         Paul looked disappointed at the way I shut down the discussion, and then he gave me a neutral smile and turned back to his guitar.

 

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The Nerk Twins in Berkshire

 

            It was April of 1960, the school holidays, and we had a whole week without gigs.  The reason we didn’t have gigs, was that Paul had promised to work as a waiter at a pub in Berkshire called The Fox and Hounds.  This job was posed to him as a “have to” obligation, since the young couple that managed the pub (his cousin Betts and her husband Mike Robbins) had two small children, and needed assistance during the tourist week.  Since Paul was the one who ran around getting us gigs, he gave himself a few days’ vacation from the band in order to help his cousins.  I was pissed because this left me high and dry.  I whinged so much that he finally suggested I go with him, and then we could perform on the last Saturday night at the pub to make tips.  I jumped at the chance.  But Paul’s cousins had only sent him enough money for one train fare.  We solved this problem by deciding to hitchhike the some 320 miles to Caversham, near Reading in Berkshire, and use the money to eat for two. 

 

              We set out in mid April, and had a difficult time at first getting people to stop for us.  We wondered why they wouldn’t until it dawned on Paul that perhaps wearing our hipster jackets and pointy shoes were putting people off.  So, after a few fruitless hours we ducked into a public loo and changed into our most conservative clothes, and then were immediately picked up by a trucker.  He dropped us in Birmingham, and we had to find a place to sleep.  When we were hitchhiking, I deferred constantly to Paul and his Insta-Charm.  I just stood behind him trying to look harmless, and let him do his thing.  He was incredible.  That 17 year-old could talk anyone into anything.  Our first night he talked us into a B & B that we couldn’t afford by putting on his choirboy face and giving the impression we were desperate.  The 35ish woman who ran the joint immediately caved and agreed to let us stay there for half price.  Paul assuaged his conscience by washing the dinner dishes for her, and while he did so she told him her life story.   I kind of hovered in the background while they talked, and it became obvious to me that the woman was actually very sexy, and she was very lonely and very horny and also very attracted to Paul.  Paul appeared to be flirting with her.   This made me very uneasy.  Sure enough, he spent the night in her bed, and I spent the night in the guest bedroom.  Ah – the story of my life.  As we left, I asked him what it was like.  He said, “I don’t kiss and tell.”  But he did mention she refused to take our money for the night!  (The woman wrote to him for several months afterwards pleading with him to come visit her again, and this put Paul – who doesn’t like to hurt people’s feelings – in a bind.  I’m not sure how he handled this, and he doesn’t remember, but suffice to say he never visited her again.)

 

         The next day we got a ride from a middle-aged woman who melted as soon as Paul fluttered his eyelashes and winked at her.  In fact, she was so eager to pick him up that the car literally screeched to a halt in front of us.   He got in the front seat with her, and she seemed shocked that I was there too, as I jumped in the back seat.  She spoke primarily to Paul, and wanted to know about our guitars.  She took us as far as Oxford, which was her destination.  She lived there.  She invited us to stay overnight with her, although her eyes were solely on Paul when she asked (I noticed.)  Again, we had a great homemade dinner, and again, Paul offered to do the dishes.  He elbowed me and I “volunteered” to help, too.   So the woman fluttered around us, talking a mile a minute while we did the dishes.  Paul suggested she go relax, and we’d bring her a cup of tea, but she found it difficult not to hover around him.   

 

         We later sat in her sitting room and she offered us whiskey, which we quite happily accepted.  She asked Paul if he had a girlfriend.  Paul lied and said “no”, of course.  (He had a girlfriend named Bernadette at the time.)  She moved over and sat next to him on the sofa thisclose and Paul met my eyes with a twinkle in his.  I could see where this was going, so I glared at him and ran a finger across my throat to indicate that I wasn’t interested in being the odd man out again.  So, believe it or not, angel face Paul turned to this woman and asked her bluntly, apropos of nothing, “Have you ever wanted to do it with two blokes?”  She nearly fainted, but in a good way.  Now I was really glaring at Paul and he was laughing at me behind her back.   I couldn’t believe it was happening.  I’d never done a threesome before that night.  It wasn’t really much of a threesome, though, since the woman seemed primarily interested in Paul.  It was actually agony for me, because if I wanted a threesome with Paul, I would have gone about it quite differently.  In any case, the next day I asked Paul what made him suggest such a thing.  He said he’d had a threesome with two women before, but he’d never had a threesome with one woman and a bloke, and he thought it might be interesting.  So that is how I found out that he had already had a threesome with two women!  I was extremely impressed but also envious.  It began to dawn on me that 17 year-old Paul had a whole other life going on when I wasn’t around him, and this made me feel insecure and jealous.

 

         So the next morning the woman offered to drive us the rest of the way to Caversham, near Reading - a distance of about 30 miles - and we were quite happy to take her up on it.  Upon our arrival, we both kissed her goodbye, but I noticed she gave Paul’s bum a very generous squeeze as he turned to walk away.  I don’t know how he did that to women, but he did it all the time.  Seemingly without trying.  A few years later, when we were famous, Paul received a letter from this woman and she gushed endlessly about his lovemaking skills, and then asked, “Was that other boy with you John Lennon?  I don’t recall his looks at all.”  Ah, again, the story of my life.

 

          Under the circumstances, I was relieved to have Paul to myself again once we arrived at our destination.  We were immediately enveloped in the warmth and humor of the Robbins’ home.  They were really great people.  I felt immediately at home.  We were sharing one bedroom above the pub, which had one slightly larger than twin bed (but not quite a double).  That night, after we’d had dinner and talked a blue streak with Betts and Mike, we climbed into the bed, and Mike actually turned the light out for us and said “goodnight” as he did so.  Paul laughed and said, “He thinks we’re the same as his kids.  We’re lucky he didn’t try to tuck us in.”   Normally, when we were touring, we’d have tiny little twin beds, so we slept “tops and tails” – with one of our heads at each end of the bed.  But this bed was more generous, and since it was never very pleasant turning over to find someone’s feet in your face, we slept side by side in this bed.   This didn’t bother Paul at all.  He quickly turned on his side and fell fast asleep.  But I laid awake for what seemed like hours, afraid to move because I would brush up against Paul, and then I might get a hard on, so I felt like I couldn’t move at all.  But I wanted to.  My senses were working overtime, and I realized that I was going to have a loooonnnng three nights!  

 

         So we waited tables, washed dishes, and bartended.  (Or I should say Paul did most of the work - he was like a whirling dervish - and I pitched in a little.)  Paul turned out to be a really great waiter and bartender.  He was full of jokes, and started doing crazy flashy things with the bottles that drew a crowd and got everyone laughing.  He had a long line of small chat that kept the customers bubbling (and imbibing) along.

 

         This time in Caversham is one of my best memories from that period of my life. In the day time, after we staggered out of bed and cleared our heads, we’d go out to the local town center, where teenagers hung out, and Paul attracted beautiful girls left and right.  After a two-hour stay there, we’d have collected as many as eight of them, arrayed around us as if they were planets in Paul’s orbit.  Once in a while a girl would cotton to me, but for the most part Paul was the main attraction. Thankfully, from my perspective, Paul didn’t have sex with any of these girls.  For one thing, he couldn’t bring them to his cousins’ home (“that would be rude”).  For another, the girls’ parents were all neighbors and customers of his cousins’ (“I can’t muddy up their pond.”)  I was grateful for this, because it meant I didn’t have to sleep alone.  Still, as I mentioned earlier, ‘sleeping’ with him was a bittersweet experience.  My brain wouldn’t stop fussing until long after Paul was issuing forth a steady stream of z’s.  

 

         The second night some pub customers who were obviously gay invited Paul and me to visit the flourishing gay community in Reading after the pub closed.  There was a small district there filled with loud exuberant gay clubs, and the police apparently left them largely alone.  In fact, I’m told that the community still thrives there.  The club we were invited to was a kind of La Cage Aux Folles, complete with transvestite performers, some of whom trolled the audience for unwitting straight male dance partners.  They had a sixth sense about who was straight and who was gay, too.  It was hilarious.  As soon as we sat down one of the transvestite dancers (he was very attractive as a woman, by the way) zeroed right in on Paul.  He left me alone.  Hmm.   Paul was only too happy to oblige, and he was passed from one transvestite dancer to the next all night long.  I had to wonder at it.  When I was asked to dance I was self-conscious and stiff, but Paul was having a grand old time and had a great sense of humor about it.  At one point about four different would-be transvestite suitors swarmed him, and he was heard to shout over the fray, “Girls!  Girls!  I can only take one at a time!”   They absolutely adored him, and I could hardly believe my eyes.   We got totally smashed drinking some turquoise concoction that burned the linings out of our stomachs later that night (we took turns hanging over the toilet), and then we staggered back to the pub through the narrow streets leaning one against the other, singing sea shanties, as gay prostitutes propositioned us lewdly from the alleyways.  Paul remarked as to how they were using words “even we haven’t heard before”, and that was saying something, given our experiences with the underbelly of society in the Liverpool club districts.  I have to say that I was in awe of Paul at that point; I knew he could get along with anyone, but this was entirely unexpected!  I asked him what had gotten into him all of a sudden, and he laughed and said, “Whatever it is, let’s hope it’s gotten out again!”  

 

         It was during this time in Caversham that I realized that outside of the band and Liverpool I was just an appendage in Paul’s life.  He was clearly able to function and thrive on his own.  Why this had never occurred to me before, I don’t know, but it was an extremely unpleasant realization.  I hadn’t felt so insecure about my friendship with Paul before this.  I had assumed I had the upper hand in it, and had treated it cavalierly as I had pursued a new friendship with Stu; this trip made me see that to the contrary, Paul was the one who had the upper hand.  Whereas I longed for his company and fantasized about him sexually, he was able to enjoy his cousins’ company, their kids’ company (he played with them in the tiny backyard of the pub incessantly, with all the girls he’d collected flapping around him like seagulls, squawking), the customers’ company, transvestites’ company, and the girls’ company.  I was indeed alone in one of his compartments, but he had a whole lot of compartments.  I found this disorienting and worrisome.  

 

         Still, I did manage to get a reasonable amount of time alone with him, especially during the long hours when we were hitchhiking and waiting for someone to pick us up, and we talked of everything under the sun.  We were freed from our daily grind of rehearsals, gigs, and songwriting, so we talked about subjects we’d never really focused on before, like our dreams for the future, and our feelings about our friends, families and girlfriends.  Paul told me he was too young to commit to one person.  He said it scared him – the thought of commitment to one person.  He wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to do it, and couldn’t picture himself married for that reason.  I argued that he didn’t have to be faithful just because he was married, and he looked at me as if I were crazy.  “Of course you have to be faithful after you get married,” he declared, “otherwise, what’s the point?”  

 

         Let’s call this - again - foreshadowing of the future.

 

         Although I longed to push our friendship into a physical relationship, I didn’t dare.  I was too intimidated by his seemingly overflowing heterosexuality.  I had come to believe by then that he probably wouldn’t hate me if he knew the truth of how I felt about him, but I didn’t want to be an object of pity, either.  If I had sensed the slightest interest coming from him, I probably would not have been able to stop myself from forging ahead, but I never even received an inkling that he might be interested in experimenting sexually with me, and the truth clearly was this would never have occurred to him.   So instead, I would get these enormous arousals, and then sneak down the hall to the bathroom and relieve myself there, and then sneak back to bed.  He never even noticed I’d been gone.  I was terrified that he would see me with a hard on, and on one occasion he did.  But he assumed I was like him, and the arousal was about girls.  He was very unself-conscious about it.  “Looks like you need to find yourself a girl,” he’d joke.  “Which one do you fancy?”  He then ran down the possibilities, and I joined in and “joked” about it, too, although it was very painful for me to engage in this subterfuge. 

 

        On the last night of our stay, we were both restless and stayed awake in the dark talking in bed.  Paul opened up a bit, and told me how much he loved being a musician, and was worried that he would have to eventually go to college and get a real job.  But he couldn’t imagine not being a musician, and he told me it scared him to think too much about the future, so he just tried not to do so.  Over the years we had grown into the habit of only really opening up to each other when we were in bed with the lights out and no one else was around.  Paul, especially, didn’t “open up” very often.  I told him I believed we were going straight to the top, and he would always be able to be a musician, “so long as we stick together.”  He heard me out and opined that he agreed with me – that “we” weren’t going anywhere unless we went together – as partners.  Why we both understood this phenomenon of our talents combined being greater than the sum of our individual parts – I don’t know.  But as early as April 1960 Paul and I understood this at a very deep level.  Other band mates may come and go, but as long as we had each other nothing could stop us.  The hard part – given our high-strung personalities and our larger-than-life egos – would be finding a way to stick together.  There would be so many opportunities along the way to break up.

 

         Our hitchhiking back to Liverpool from Reading was almost as eventful as our ride down.  This time we had five different chauffeurs over a period of two days, and all of them were blokes.  The first night a trucker offered us the opportunity to sleep in his truck rather than have to rent a room.  Innocently, we agreed.  He suggested I take the tiny cot in the truck compartment, and Paul could sleep in the cab.  “Where are you going to sleep?”  Paul asked the trucker.  “Oh, I’ll just stretch out on the seat here” he responded.   Not an hour later, someone was pounding on the door to the truck compartment.  I opened it and there was Paul looking extremely pissed.  “I’m bunking with you, mate,” he growled.  And we snuggled in, tops and tails, on the cot.  Paul wasn’t interested in discussing why there had been this sudden change of plans.  The next morning, Paul bolted out of there with his suitcase and guitar and said, “we’re finding another ride before this bloke wakes up.” So we went and found another trucker willing to take us the next 50 miles or so.  When I was able to get Paul safely aside I asked him what was going on. 

 

         “That bloke jumped on top of me after I fell asleep.  I had to fight him off.  He was trying to fuck me!  I gave him a black eye for sure.”  He was furious.  I was quietly thinking to myself, “good thing I never tried anything on him myself.”  I’d never seen Paul that angry.  I tried to get more out of him about it, but he clammed up, and beyond saying the man was a “disgusting fat pig”, he wasn’t talking.  (The man wasn’t particularly fat or disgusting; but I’m sure that is how he looked to Paul after being assaulted like that.)   

 

         The next (and our last) night we couldn’t find a comfortable place to land, so we snuck into some farmer’s barn, and nestled in amongst the hay.  We were finding bits of hay in our clothes and hair for the rest of the day, and I had been eaten alive by fleas.  For some reason the fleas left Paul alone.  But we finally got home, no worse for the wear.  

 

         As we walked into the Forthlin Road house, Jim McCartney asked, “how was your trip?”  Paul shrugged his shoulder and said in a bored tone, “Fine.”  Then he turned to me and winked, and we both had to fight off the giggles.  If Jim McCartney had any idea of the adventures and misadventures his precious son had experienced on that trip, well…! 

 

 

*****

 

         This section of John’s story surprised Paul.  He had read it in the manuscript a few times before publication, but somehow reading it at a time when anyone in the world could read it too caused Paul to concentrate more fully on the story as it unfolded.  Until this moment, Paul hadn’t fully realized that John had been missing him even while he was dallying with Stu.  And there was also a whiff there of... what?  That maybe the reason why John had cut him off was that he didn’t want to have to feel those unreciprocated sexual longings?  This was food for thought, because Paul had always feared that he disappeared completely from John’s radar when he was off with one of his new love interests.  But was it possible that Paul was still there in John’s mind, just bubbling under the surface, even as he pursued his new loves?  And, well, could it be that these new lovers were actually ‘distractions’ for John, just as Paul’s many ‘compartments’ were ‘distractions’ for him?  This last conjecture might be a thought too far, Paul thought, correcting himself.  He was trying too hard to see himself as John’s one-and-only, when expecting that from John was not fair as well as unrealistic.  He, Paul, had loved others (albeit they had all been women), so why couldn’t he accept that John had loved others as well?  He chuckled at the thought.  All these years he’d been thinking of John as the jealous and possessive one.  But maybe he should start looking at the whole thing from a new angle, where he too was jealous and possessive.  If he could make himself see it through the eyes of a mature adult, then maybe he could banish these teenaged injuries from his heart forever.

 

         He turned to his right and saw that John had fallen asleep.  They had both been reading in bed.  Smiling, Paul saved his space in the book, and put it down on the bedside table.  He leaned over John and just managed to reach the chain and then turned off John’s bedside lamp.  He then turned his own lamp off, and snuggled down into the warmth of the bed until he was spooning John in his arms.  What did it really matter that he had been so hurt by John’s intense forays into other people’s lives if he had always come back to Paul in the end?  Paul would have to consider that for a while, and try to integrate it into what he believed.  He gave John an extra squeeze and elicited a soft, appreciative “umm” sound from the sleeping John as a reward.  In the long run, Paul decided he was grateful to be John’s ‘last’ love if being his ‘only’ love weren’t an option.