Published On: Mon, Apr 5th, 2021

The Beatles: Jane Asher at 75 – Paul McCartney’s first love was ‘unlike all the others’ | Music | Entertainment


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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. She had already caught Paul’s eye.

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.”

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Jane Asher: Paul McCartney's first love at 75

Jane Asher: Paul McCartney’s first love at 75 (Image: GETTY)

Jane Asher: Paul McCartney's first love at home in 1964

Jane Asher: Paul McCartney’s first love at home in 1964 (Image: GETTY)

Not only was Jane one of the beauties of the time, she was elegant and poised, raised in privilege in Central London.

She introduced Paul to a refined world of arts and culture. Her 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.”

Paul McCartney and Jane Asher with dog Margot in 1967

Paul McCartney and Jane Asher with dog Margot in 1967 (Image: GETTY)

Within a few months, the relationship was serious and 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.

Paul said: “There were people there and food and a homey atmosphere, and Jane being my girlfriend, it was kind of perfect!”

He 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.”

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JANE ASHER WITH THE BEATLES AT TEH MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR FILM LAUNCH IN 1967

JANE ASHER WITH THE BEATLES AT TEH MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR FILM LAUNCH IN 1967 (Image: GETTY)

In the 1997 McCartney biography Many Years from Now by Barry Miles, the star 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 turbulent time with Jane which he admitted “might have been personal.”

Jane Asher The Beatles and their wives at the Rishikesh in India with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, March 1968

Jane Asher The Beatles and their wives at the Rishikesh in India with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi 1968 (Image: GETTY)

Incredibly, the house didn’t just create hits for The Beatles. Jane’s brother Peter was also a musician and in 1964 had a UK and US number one smash with A World Without Love, with his group Peter and Gordon, followed by two more top twenty hits. 

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.

WATCH PETER ASHER TALKING ABOUT THE BEATLES DAYS BELOW

Unfortunately, despite announcing their engagement on Christmas Day 1967, there was less harmony in the relationship itself. Paul had a new home on Cavendish Avenue and was constantly travelling with the band and Jane wanted to focus on her own career, starring in the iconic movie Alfie with Michael Caine in 1966.

Accounts of why Paul and Jane split vary.

One claims she accidentally destroyed a book of lyrics but more likely is the account of her returning early from an acting job to find him in bed with American Francie Schwartz.

She left immediately and Margaret came around to collect all her belongings.

Jane Asher with Michael Caine in Alfie

Jane Asher with Michael Caine in Alfie (Image: GETTY)

On July 20, 1968, Jane broke the news on television during a BBC interview: “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.”

Although Paul was having an affair with Schwartz, some accounts claim he was surprised and that they hadn’t formally discussed the split themselves.

However, he has always spoken extremely highly of Jane and accepted responsibility for what happened.

Jane Asher with husband Gerald Scarfe in 2016

Jane Asher with husband Gerald Scarfe in 2016 (Image: GETTY)

Jane Asher built a hugely successful cake business

Jane Asher built a hugely successful cake business (Image: GETTY)

Paul said in Many Years From Now: “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 starred in An American In Paris in 2017

Jane Asher starred in An American In Paris in 2017 (Image: GETTY)

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.



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