BBC archive interview with Paul McCartney and girlfriend Jane Asher
On July 21, 1968, popular young actress and model Jane went on the hugely popular BBC chat show Dee Time. The early evening light entertainment series attracted up to 18 million viewers. Jane was well-known in her own right as well as being the girlfriend of one of the most famous men in the world, so when she told host Simon Dee that her five-year relationship with Paul was over, it created a huge stir. Jane cryptically said: “I haven’t broken it off, but it’s finished.” Had Paul’s latest blatant infidelity been the last straw?
Jane Asher met the Beatles on April 18, 1963, at the Royal Albert Hall. The band had exploded onto the scene after their second single, Please Please Me, topped the charts that January, followed by three more singles and the album of the same name.
Jane was only 17 but she was already famous herself as a child star and young actress in films like The Prince and the Pauper and television’s Robin Hood series. She was also a panelist on the BBC’s hugely popular and influential Juke Box Jury, which rated new music releases.
Paul McCartney and Jane Asher
Jane Asher at home in 1964
Paul later said: “I met Jane Asher when she was sent by the Radio Times to cover a concert we were in at the Royal Albert Hall – we had a photo taken with her for the magazine and we all fancied her. We’d thought she was blonde, because we had only ever seen her on black-and-white telly doing Juke Box Jury, but she turned out to be a redhead. So it was: ‘Wow, you’re a redhead!’
“I tried pulling her, succeeded, and we were boyfriend and girlfriend for quite a long time.”
Not only was Jane one of the beauties of the time, she had been raised in privilege in Central London and introduced Paul to a new refined world of arts and culture which would influence his own songwriting and musicianship.
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Paul McCartney and Jane Asher in 1968
Jane’s father was a consultant at Central Middlesex Hospital and her mother Margaret was a professor of the oboe at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
John Lennon’s partner Cynthia wrote: “Paul fell like a ton of bricks for Jane.
“The first time I was introduced to her was at her home and she was sitting on Paul’s knee. My first impression of Jane was how beautiful and finely featured she was. Her mass of Titian-coloured hair cascaded around her face and shoulders, her pale complexion contrasting strongly with her dark clothes and shining hair.
“Paul was obviously as proud as a peacock with his new lady. For Paul, Jane Asher was a great prize.”
Within a few months, the relationship was serious and when Paul’s fame made staying in hotels increasingly difficult, Jane’s family gave Paul the attic at their six-story townhouse on Wimpole Street. He composed many of the Beatles’ early hits alone or with John Lennon in his room and the basement.
WATCH JANE ASHER’S BROTHER PETER TALKING ABOUT THE BEATLES YEARS BELOW
Jane Asher with Paul McCartney and their dog Martha in 1967
Paul wrote And I Love Her there in February 1964, saying: “It was the first ballad I impressed myself with… Having the title start in mid-sentence, I thought that was clever…it was a nice tune, that one. I still like it. I can actually see Margaret Asher’s upstairs drawing-room. I remember playing it there.”
In the 1997 Paul said: “I eventually got a piano of my own up in the top garret. Very artistic. I wrote quite a lot of stuff up in that room actually. I’m Looking Through You I seem to remember after an argument with Jane. There were a few of those moments.”
The same year, 1965, he wrote We Can Work It out during a particularly turbulent time with Jane.
WATCH JANE’S BROTHER PETER ASHER TALKING ABOUT THE BEATLES DAYS BELOW
Paul’s time with her family expanded his artistic horizons and he also took music lessons with Margaret, learning the recorder, which would feature on The Fool On The Hill.
His growing fascination with classical arrangements on Beatles songs like Yesterday or Eleanor Rigby has been directly linked to his time on Wimpole Street and would extend far beyond that into elaborate experimental orchestrations on later Beatles albums.
Paul and Jane announced their engagement at Christmas 1967 but the relationship was actually soon to end, with the couple already spending less and less time together.
Jane Asher with Michael Caine in Alfie
Paul had finally set himself up in a new London home of his own on Cavendish Avenue and was constantly travelling with the band. Meanwhile, Jane wanted to focus on her own career, which was flying after starring in the iconic movie Alfie with Michael Caine in 1966.
In 1968 the Beatle was having an affair with American Francie Schwartz. Jane had come home unexpectedly early from an acting job and found them in bed together. She turned around and left, sending her mother to collect all her belongings.
Jane went on Dee Time and told the nation: “I haven’t broken it off, but it is broken off, finished.
“I know it sounds corny, but we still see each other and love each other, but it hasn’t worked out. Perhaps we’ll be childhood sweethearts and meet again and get married when we’re about 70.”
Paul McCartney and Jane Asher with The Beatles and their wives at the Rishikesh in India with the Ma
Paul later said: “We had a good relationship. Even with touring, there were enough occasions to keep a reasonable relationship going. To tell the truth, the women at that time got sidelined. Now it would be seen as very chauvinist of us…
“Once or twice we talked about getting married, and plans were afoot but I don’t know, something really made me nervous about the whole thing. It just never settled with me, and as that’s very important for me, things must feel comfortable for me, I think it’s a pretty good gauge if you’re lucky enough. You’re not always lucky enough, but if they can feel comfortable then there’s something very special about that feeling. I hadn’t quite managed to be able to get it with Jane.”
Jane Asher and Prince Charles
Paul also praised her continuing discretion: “I always feel very wary including Jane in The Beatles’ history. She’s never gone into print about our relationship, whilst everyone on earth has sold their story.”
Jane found love in 1971 with famous illustrator Gerald Scarfe. They married in 1981 and have three children, Katie, Alexander and Rory.
As well as continuing with her acting career to this day, Jane, of course, found new fame with her cake business Jane Asher Cakes which she launched in 1990.