“She can’t dance/She can’t sing…but she’s got to be a part of that pop music thing.” The words of Marshall Crenshaw, who once played John Lennon in Beatlemania, came to mind this afternoon with the news of the death of Linda McCartney. For most of the 1970s, Linda was one of the most universally ridiculed figures in pop music, her shortcomings as a singer and musician all too vivid on Paul’s records and, especially, his tours. In the ‘80s, one wag got his hands on a soundboard tape of Linda’s microphone during a performance of “Hey, Jude,” and radio stations put its one flat note into heavy rotation. That, combined with the image of Linda as groupie-in-shutterbug’s-clothing conjured up by an infamous piece from the Clay Felker era at the Village Voice, established Linda as a figure of almost singular unpopularity (the “almost” courtesy of Yoko Ono, who in the public’s addled mind, bore the added stigma of breaking up the Beatles.)
Why this should be, when it wasn’t her idea to join Wings in the first place, and when by all available evidence she kept Paul McCartney wildly happy—and with him raised a flock of spirited children whose achievements are beginning to come to light? Had she been born 20 years earlier, she would have been the decorative spouse who kept the creator satisfied as she gave him a stable home; two decades later, she’d have been Baby Spice with a brain, Courtney Love on speaking terms with her biological father, Paula Abdul as a photographer instead of a choreographer.
Paul now becomes the odds-on favorite for next year’s Album of the Year Grammy, but it’s worth noting that the Big Moments in his life, John’s death in particular, have not brought out the best in him. For 30 years now, audiences hoped he’d serve up wrenching, emotional music—his version of “Mother” from “Plastic Ono Band”—and it just doesn’t seem to be in his nature. All the same, the critical re-assessment of Paul is already upon us, and Linda’s death will speed things along. That assessment will overrate Paul’s post-Beatles output—in particular, I’m guessing, the music he makes next, just as Tug of War was overrated in the wake of John’s murder—and underrate his work in the Beatles, an explosion of pop craftsmanship without precedence, overshadowed by Lennon’s mediagenic personality and subsequent martyrdom. I feel like in couple of months, it’ll be safe for me once more to admit that Paul was my favorite Beatle.
Bitch, Bitch, Bitch: I’ve always been grateful to Elizabeth Wurtzel for teaching me the meaning of the word Schadenfreude. It was a concept that came up a lot in the days immediately following Tina Brown’s installation as editor at The New Yorker, as many journalists of my acquaintance gleefully counted down the moments until Wurtzel was deposed as pop music critic. Her writing since certainly confirms that rock ’n’ roll was not her ideal subject, but the idea that the value of her provocative thoughts is somehow debased by her candor about her personal life, or by her willingness to appear topless on the cover of her book, is hilarious. In case you missed it: that battle was fought in the ‘80s, and Madonna won. So get over it … My first (and only) conversation with Wurtzel, during a sort-of job interview, placed her on my short list of Fluff & Folders, right alongside Warren Beatty and Diane Sawyer. Fluff & Folders are people so charming on first meeting that if one were to ask me, “Can you do my laundry tonight?” my only response would be, “Fluff & fold?” …
A Magazine About Nothing: There’s plenty of buckshot being sprayed at Lynn Hirschberg and Vanity Fair in the wake of l’affaire Seinfeld, in which the sitcom icon obtained a pre-publication copy of a VF story being written about him. VF says their investigation indicates the Hirschberg gave Seinfeld the piece herself. Hirschberg denies the charge. Believe whom you will, but it’s Jerry who behaved most caddishly by reading a yet-to-close story about himself, requesting corrections, firing his publicist, and afterward—his stated pleasure in the story notwithstanding—leaving both writer and magazine twisting in the wind publicly by not taking the blame for wanting to check out the piece in advance. Like he doesn’t know that’s against the rules.