McCartney lived at the Asher family 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
McCartney and Asher often went on holiday together, when their busy schedules allowed. In September 1963 they spent two weeks in Greece, where The Beatles were still relatively unknown, with Ringo Starr and his future wife Maureen. Later on the pair tended to have weekend breaks in the countryside, to escape from the mayhem of life in the public eye.
I think we expected Paul and Jane Asher to get married. They were lovers, they were together, and it seemed a natural thing to do. I don’t know in the end what actually broke them up. We’ll have to ask him about that, or ask her – that’s probably more interesting!
Another holiday, again with Ringo and Maureen, was spent yachting in the Bahamas. There McCartney wrote ‘Things We Said Today’ about his relationship with Asher. He also wrote ‘And I Love Her’, ‘You Won’t See Me’, ‘We Can Work It Out’ and ‘Here, There And Everywhere’ about her.
Despite the heady days of life in London and beyond, Asher’s main passion was for acting. She was independent-minded and wanted to have a profession in her own right, rather than merely be a Beatle’s partner. She was opinionated and refused to sacrifice her career for McCartney, which caused some friction in their relationship.
My whole existence for so long centred round a bachelor life. I didn’t treat women as most people do. I’ve always had a lot around, even when I’ve had a steady girl. My life generally has always been very lax, and not normal.
I knew I was selfish. it caused a few rows. Jane left me once and went off to Bristol to act. I said OK then, leave, I’ll find someone else. It was shattering to be without her.
The Beatles, Hunter Davies
Asher helped him find the house in Cavendish Avenue, London, which they moved into in 1966. It has been claimed that while spring cleaning one day, she inadvertently threw away a notebook containing the handwritten lyrics to a number of early Lennon-McCartney songs.
Also in 1966 she persuaded McCartney to buy High Park Farm in Campbeltown near the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland, suggesting that they should have a place to retreat from the public eye.
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. Then it was like: ‘We are four miners who go down the pit. You don’t need women down the pit, do you? We don’t have women down the pit.’
In 1967 she embarked on a five-month tour of America with the Bristol Old Vic, appearing in Romeo And Juliet in Boston, Washington and Philadelphia. McCartney flew over to America to celebrate her 21st birthday; during the trip he is said to have had the idea for Magical Mystery Tour.
When I came back after five months, Paul had changed so much. He was on LSD, which I hadn’t shared. I was jealous of all the spiritual experiences he’d had with John. There were fifteen people dropping in all day long. The house had changed and was full of stuff I didn’t know about.
The Beatles, Hunter Davies
Still an unreconstructed chauvinist in the mid 1960s, McCartney continued womanizing throughout his relationship with Asher. His attitude was that it was allowed since they were unmarried.
He had a relationship with actress Jill Haworth during The Beatles’ February 1964 visit to America, which he took care to keep from reaching the press. He also had an affair the same year with Peggy Lipton, another American actress, and scores of groupies across the world.
The press, meanwhile, carried frequent predictions and rumours of McCartney and Asher getting married. Despite the problems in their relationship, they were engaged on Christmas Day 1967. Shortly afterwards, in February and March 1968, she accompanied The Beatles to India.