Interesting interview with Jane Asher, from 2004, where she gives her reasons for not wanting to talk about her time with Paul and The Beatles
I'm struck by an image that has haunted me since I first encountered it while researching her career. Her father, whom she loved dearly, committed suicide, having become seriously ill, and his body lay undiscovered for a week in the basement of the Ashers' Wimpole Street home.
"Oh well, that's overplayed too," she says, dismissively, when I tentatively raise the subject. "He was ill and it was horrible and . . . that's enough. That's really sensitive stuff, not so much for me, but to my mother. And life's much more complicated than, 'Her father kills herself, so that's why she's got deep, dark wells and she finds parts like that.' That's simplistic psychology."
True, but it does suggest why Asher might feel that even the happiest family is just one step away from catastrophe. I wonder, too, whether a similar desire to avoid pain explains the other great denial in her life: her relationship with Paul McCartney.
Asher met him on April 18, 1963, two weeks after her 17th birthday, having been sent by the Radio Times to interview the Beatles. In The Beatles Anthology, McCartney recalls: "We all fancied her - I tried pulling her, succeeded, and we were boyfriend and girlfriend for quite a long time."
Asher's mother invited McCartney to live in the family home. There, he and Lennon wrote I Want to Hold Your Hand and several more of McCartney's greatest songs, including We Can Work It Out, said to be inspired by his relationship with Jane. His fellow Beatles assumed the couple would marry, but Paul ended up with the American photographer Linda Eastman.
Asher has never said a word about the relationship, or the Beatles, since. I have no expectation whatever that she will break her silence for me. But I am curious about why, after all these years, she will not share her experience of one of the great cultural phenomena of the past century.
"I realise I'm hypersensitive and probably slightly paranoid," she says, "but clearly the major connection with all that is personal. And because I've been happily married for 30-something years, it's insulting [to her husband and family]."
I push the point: "If I met the Dark Lady, I'd be bound to ask her about Shakespeare." Asher replies, "Yes, but the Dark Lady might say, 'I'm very sorry, but I'm now married to this playwright who hasn't had a single success, and his sonnets are crap, but I love him.' "
It's not easy to see what this response says about her feelings for her husband. But I press on, objecting that I couldn't care less what her teenage sex-life was like; I'm interested in the cultural history she's witnessed.
"I know what you're interested in," Asher accepts. "It may be musical, but my connection to that is personal, so it opens up a whole thing. You have to make a blanket rule and that's the decision I made, many years ago. And because I made that decision, it's just easier to stick to it."
I draw three possible hypotheses from all this. First, that Asher quite enjoys the game of witholding something she knows people want, then watching them try to crack her resolve. Second, that she's stuck in a position from which she can't now extract herself. And third, that she's telling the truth. She can't separate the historical from the personal. And the personal still hurts...
It seems like, in this interview, that she's thinking of her husband, in not wanting to discuss Paul or The Beatles. Have to respect her for that. But it must also be difficult (as the last sentences of the quote above state) to separate her personal feelings from looking at it from a historical standpoint.