Paul McCartney‘s girlfriend between 1963 and 1968, Jane Asher was a major influence on his lifestyle and songwriting with The Beatles. For a time McCartney lived at the Asher family home in London, and a number of his songs were inspired by their relationship.
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. So I’d feel weird being the one to kiss and tell.
Born in London on 5 April 1946, Asher was the second of three children born to Dr Richard Asher and his wife Margaret. Dr Asher was a consultant in blood and mental disease at Central Middlesex Hospital in Acton, London, and a broadcaster and author of a number of notable medical papers; Margaret Asher was a professor of the oboe at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Coincidentally, one of her pupils had been George Martin, who studied piano and oboe at the school between 1947 and 1950.
Jane Asher was educated at Queen’s College in London’s Harley Street, and began her acting career at the age of five, playing the role of Nina in the 1952 film Mandy. She appeared in a number of notable subsequent films, including The Quatermass Xperiment (1955), The Greengage Summer (1961), The Prince And The Pauper (1962) and Alfie (1966). She also appeared in numerous television programmes, including the British series The Adventures Of Robin Hood, and appeared as a panelist on the BBC music show Juke Box Jury.
She met McCartney for the first time on on 18 April 1963, at the age of 17, prior to a performance by The Beatles at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The concert was broadcast live by the BBC on the programme Swinging Sound, and in between rehearsals the group did a photo session for the weekly listings magazine Radio Times.
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.
Asher had initially liked the look of George Harrison, and all The Beatles gathered round her after McCartney began chatting to her. They invited her back to their hotel, the Royal Court in Sloane Square, before moving on to the Kings Road apartment of Chris Hutchins, a journalist.
The others left Paul alone in the bedroom with Jane, after a lot of winking. They spent the evening talking about gravy and what was their favourite meal. ‘I realised this was the girl for me. I hadn’t tried to grab her or make her. I told her, “It appears you’re a nice girl.”‘
‘They couldn’t believe I was a virgin,’ says Jane.
After that night McCartney escorted her home, and they arranged to meet again. They went on a number of dates in London, and their romance became public when they were photographed leaving the Prince of Wales theatre after watching Neil Simon’s play Never Too Late. Thereafter they became one of the most frequently featured couples in the press.
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.
A Twist Of Lennon
By summer 1963 The Beatles had become household names, and found it difficult staying in hotels and walking around London unhampered. Although they often went to plays and clubs, McCartney and Asher often stayed in at her parents’ home at 57 Wimpole Street, a townhouse with six floors. Jane Asher suggested he regard the house as his London home, and her mother agreed to let him move into the attic room.
There were people there and food and a homey atmosphere, and Jane being my girlfriend, it was kind of perfect! Really, I suppose what solidified London for me was the house that they lived in at 57 Wimpole Street.
It was really like culture shock in the way they ran their lives, because the doctor obviously had a quite tight diary, but all of them ran it that way. They would do things that I’d never seen before, like at dinner there would be word games. Now I’m bright enough, but mine is an intuitive brightness. I could just about keep up with that and I could always say, ‘I don’t know that word.’ I was always honest. In fact, I was able to enjoy and take part fully in their thing.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
McCartney lived at the house for three years. The change of environment greatly broadened his cultural horizons; not least with the music lessons Margaret Asher informally gave him. She taught him to play the recorder – he later played the instrument on The Fool On The Hill – and gave music tuition in a music room in the basement.
We wrote a lot of stuff together, one-on-one, eyeball to eyeball. Like in I Want To Hold Your Hand, I remember when we got the chord that made the song. We were in Jane Asher’s house, downstairs in the cellar playing on the piano at the same time. And we had ‘Oh you-u-u… got that something…’ And Paul hits this chord and I turn to him and say, ‘That’s it!’ I said, ‘Do that again!’ In those days, we really used to absolutely write like that – both playing into each other’s nose.
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
Other songs written at the Ashers’ house in Wimpole Street included Yesterday, which Paul McCartney found running through his head as he awoke one morning. Margaret Asher occasionally used it as a test piece for her students, which pleased McCartney.
I eventually got a piano of my own up in the top garret. Very artistic. That was the piano that I fell out of bed and got the chords to Yesterday on. I dreamed it when I was staying there. 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.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles