An interview with Francie Schwartz

The author of "Body Count" talks about life with John, Yoko, Ringo, George and Paul

Although "Body Count" has a sexy reputation, there's a lot more to Francie Schwartz's story. She was present at the creation (and, in a few cases, contributed) to tracks that later ended up on "The White Album." In this interview, conducted via email over a couple of weeks, she talks about her life then and now and dispels some of the misconceptions surrounding her. She also talks about the reissue of her book, "Body Count," which will be available for a limited time through or by snail mail (check or money order -- please, no cash -- for $22, which includes mailing anywhere in the world) to C.O.P.O. Ltd., 360 Jean St., Cambria, Ca. 93428-4459. (She apologizes for anyone who had money orders returned from selfpub.) Autographed copies are also available from LuckyFace Collectibles. We sincerely thank her for allowing us to talk to her. (Update 7/20/99) We're told the supply of books is close to running out.)

Update: 3/17/99: Francie tells us the next issue of Beatlefan will include the Mining Company interview (linked below) and a review of "Body Count."

Notice: Absolutely no part of this interview may be reprinted anywhere...on newsgroups, in magazines, websites or mailing lists...without our express permission.

Q: With the exception of your postings on Victor Munoz's web site, we haven't heard anything from you since "Body Count" was first published. Was the E! special ("Beatles Wives: The E! True Hollywood Story," which airs 8 p.m. ET/PT Feb. 14 and 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. ET/PT Feb. 15) the reason for your reappearance, or is there another reason?

(Courtesy Francie Schwartz)
A: You haven't heard anything from me as the "Body Count" girl, but I've published a bunch of articles on non-Beatle subjects over the years, for Larry Flynt's CHIC, PLAYGIRL, GALLERY, ROLLING STONE and others. The E! Special wasn't the reason for my resurfacing in BeatleWorld, but it sure helped. Ever since I got wired up to the WWW, Victor Munoz has kindly screened inquiries from prospective publishers and other curious types. E! TV was the first contact I accepted.

There's another much larger reason for the timing. For 25 years (arrggh!) hardly anybody seemed to be much interested in what I knew about the Fabs, Paul, Apple Corps Ltd. When I submitted book proposals in the 70's I usually sent along a first edition "Body Count," hoping for a reprint deal along with publication of a new book. Being a real writer means 99% rejection, but what made it worse for me was the fact that each and every publishing house claimed to have "lost" the "Body Count" I'd sent. Liars, all. Not to mention the word-for-word ripoffs of the Paul chapter by many writers.

Fast forward to 1980. After John Lennon's assassination, official culture vulture historians began to rewrite history... and Paul McCartney started rewriting John's official biography every chance he got. I slowly smouldered and built up to a blazing rage by the early 90's. Vanity Fair misrepresented me in 1990 in an article about Linda during which she made the oft-repeated assertion that people gave John credit for things that Paul actually wrote. The writer of the piece retold the myth about Jane breaking up with Paul when she found us in bed together, and even misspelled my name (probably deliberately).

1997 brought the "Beatles Anthology" video (you can catch me at the start of Volume 8, in Abbey Road Studio with Paul during the recording of "Blackbird") and although it seemed impossible for me to be angrier, I was made crazy by Paul's distortions of the situation in 1968, vis-a-vis Yoko's effect on the group's studio performance and creative process.

Finally, just a few weeks ago, through a series of accidental miracles, I met the publisher who is producing the commemorative edition of "Body Count" and a deal was made. The book is supposed to be available through only, by February 15th, but there are still some technical glitches. Obviously, my moment to speak out, correct the myths and lies, and maybe even earn some money from "Body Count" has arrived. Thanks to assists from Victor Munoz and E! TV, not to mention the Big Boy Up There. I'm ready to rumble, and so is the 27 year old book I call my firstborn.

The cover
of "Body Count"
(Courtesy of
Francie Schwartz,
Q: Your impressions of Ringo, John and George?

A: You mean my impressions of them circa 1968? Or since? George is the only one I saw after I left London, it was just a couple years later, and I don't think he'd changed.

In order of your question: Ringo -- salt of the earth type. My heart went out to him the night he came over to Paul's house (with his now deceased first wife Maureen, aka "Mo") and told Paul "I don't want to drum any more... it's not fun." I made a very vague reference to that incident in "Body Count". In the studio he rarely spoke or chatted between takes. He was always polite to me, but "we" were a clique within the extended group (Paul & I, John & Yoko) and Ringo was sort of the outsider. When I see him on TV nowadays, I think he's basically an older, wiser version of his young self. Steady as a rock, he is. What you need in a drummer.

John. Funny, sarcastic, emotionally accessible, artistically and musically brilliant, cute, deeply sexy, and smaller in stature than I'd imagined. An aura of mystery and unpredictability. Remember, the night I attended the second session of the "White Album," and met the Other Three, Yoko was there. So in my mind's eye, I never see them separately. It was John who inspired me to become a full-time writer, because so many times I heard him say that his work (as an artist, writer, composer) was his only justification for living -- or words to that effect. He talked the talk and walked the walk. I liked him very very much. He was a great house mate (J&Y lived with us for almost a month). Loved his Kellogg's corn flakes.

George. Adorable, funny, spiritual, kind, and full of the "love thing", the brotherly love associated with pot-smoking children of the 60's. George was very empathetic around me. When Paul's "evil twin" was running things in the studio, or just being cold to me in front of the others, George would emotionally rescue me. We connected that first night at EMI. Later he gave me a mantra, told me how to meditate in one easy lesson, hypnotized me with his love and sympathy. Favorite moments with George include the night he let me into the "box" where he laid down the tracks for "Not Guilty" (the rock version - a slow version was released on one of his solo albums). Right before the first take; he was standing in front of me, I was sitting Indian style on the floor; he said, "Wanna see me do my Elvis impression?" He gave so much of himself away, so easily. If he hadn't been married I would have made a major move toward him. He turned me on!

Francie Schwartz and Paul
(CourtesyFrancie Schwartz)
Q: How about Paul?

A: Yeah, how about Paul. I was too close for too long to remember my first impression of him, except of course what I put into "Body Count". I thought he was a wonderful Elvis impressionist, and liked his rock-scream voice best ("Oh Darling"). The balladeer voice ("Mother Nature's Son") was too sweet for my tastes. He's a decent drummer. Is there any way of describing his highly evolved folky acoustic guitar playing that hasn't already been done by professional music critics?? We (J,Y,P & F) used to have a running joke about "Best Bass in Britain." This was during the early "Clapton is God" phase in London. Again, I saw how insecure he was about not being able to write his own charts, (being so totally dependent on George Martin) when we played Linda's gift LP's, especially the debut Randy Newman LP. Paul's first reaction was "This guy can really write music!" I was shocked. I didn't say it because it seemed to me to be too obvious: "What do you think you are, chopped liver?" was what I was thinking.

Q: Unlike most books that discuss John and Yoko, you seem to have a positive impression of her. What do you think attracted John to her?

A: I was awed by Yoko the first night. She seemed to be in a world of her own, off in a corner during the session, while I plunged right in. I found her to be quite beautiful, with that tiny body all in white, and the thick curtain of black hair. When I began to know her as a person, through our talks in Paul's house, I was blown away by her feminine wisdom, her humor, and most of all by her complete focus on her work, which she never lost, even though she and John were completely in love. I admired that and it too had a major influence on my life for many years after. What do I think attracted John to Yoko? Well, he used to say it was the word "yes" written on the ceiling of the gallery where she was showing in 1967. She was positive and strong in her art and her womanhood during a time when John was surrounded by negativity and conventional Beatle wives like Cyn and Mo. I believe he was attracted to her because they were two halves of a cosmic whole. She was the prophet of unlimited possibility in his life. And he in hers.

Q: You attended some Beatle recording sessions. What songs did you witness recorded and which ones did you participate in?

A: First the latter: I sang backing with George on Revolution ("Take 2", the slow version on the "White Album") and they spent more than a week on the rhythm-and-vocal tracks. I was there almost every night at the beginning. I sang na-na's on "Hey Jude", which were first laid down at Trident the same night the brass was recorded, live, a large group. The video was done after I left, but I can still hear my own voice on the remixed backing track and remember how close I was to the mike. I played clip-clops for "Don't Pass Me By" but that track wasn't used in the final mix.

I watched them record "Blackbird" (see video anthology question), "Good Night", "Everybody's Got Something to Hide (Except For Me and My Monkey)" and parts of "Helter Skelter". I was present at the remix of "Revolution No. 9" which was just John and Yoko, and played a duet on piano with Paul that evolved into "Why Don't We Do It in the Road" -- plus "Not Guilty" as I mentioned above.

Q: There is the persistent story that Jane Asher caught you and Paul together, leading to their breakup. True or false?

A: False. They were on the verge of breaking up when I arrived in London. Right after I met Paul he went to his farm in Scotland, and I believe Jane was with him, and that they were trying to work it out, but failed, because he came on with me as soon as he got back to London. I detail the actual events in the E! TV interview. Bottom line: She did come to the house one morning and knock on the bedroom door... but that was well after she had announced that the engagement was off, on TV. I believe that the "sound bite" psychology is what contributed to the myth that persists even today. It's a simple explanation for a very complicated and hard to condense process that was ongoing.

Q: You're in the Anthology videos. Where?

A: About a minute into Volume 8. First George has a bit (contemporary filmed interview excerpt) where he talks about the difficulties of working together in the summer of '68 with Yoko present, but he doesn't say anything about me, or if he does, it was edited out by certain persons -- how typical, to give George less than his fair share of time to contribute his own point of view -- then it goes into "Blackbird" which Paul recorded live in a few takes at EMI -- the session was filmed by an Australian BBC crew for a documentary. If you blink, you'll miss me.

Q: How do you look back on your relationship with Paul and the Beatles?

A: With love, pride, regret (that I didn't stand up for myself and for Yoko more), awe, gratitude, nostalgia, and now, with middle-aged balance in the perspective, plain happiness.

Q: You described what you heard and saw in the studio. Is there something you heard or saw that should be released that hasn't?

A: Definitely. "Not Guilty" by George should have been included. It rocked. I would have put that in before even considering "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," which is pointy, but too slow. The slow version of "NG" George released on his "Sometime in England" LP is nice, but too easy going when one knows how solid the rock version was. But I'm prejudiced; I really did love George's writing and his generous spirit and his humility. Paul could have taken a lesson from him, but that's troubled water under the bridge, isn't it.

Q: You're planning on another book to focus more on Beatle material. What will that book have that "Body Count" doesn't?

A: Thirty years of experience and twenty years of writing and evolving in my craft, for starters. John's assassination marked a serious turning point in my spiritual and emotional life, and the misinformation that has been published since his death compels me to fill in many of the blanks in "Body Count". I was too young and too green as an author to insist I be given adequate time to put it all down on paper. In addition, my publisher in 1972 asked virtually no questions about John & Yoko. He ignored all the information I would have gladly shared, about working for Apple (I worked with James Taylor, Mary Hopkin, and the late great Derek Taylor was my boss), living with John & Yoko, and watching the breakup of the greatest rock group of all time.

Nevertheless, he may have done me a favor, because I didn't have the skills I have now, and I was still quite worried about breaking the unwritten, unspoken vow of silence, in case it would upset Paul! The Beatles "inside world" was and is sort of like a Cosa Nostra. I'm the only woman who talked.

The new book is almost finished. But since "Body Count" is going to be published before the new book, I find myself adding more and more to the Beatle section. This sort of rounds it out rather nicely, since the book is my second memoir, and contains mostly non-Beatle experiences with other "household names" including Barbra Streisand, Rupert Holmes, Louis Gossett, Jr. and G. Gordon Liddy. I feel I have come full circle as a woman and as a writer. I'm a very lucky lady.

Q: After the second book comes out, what plans do you have for your career?

I've given up trying to plan my own career. Probably I'll recede back into my wonderful new private life and only "come out" through the Internet. I've always wondered if I could give away one free Beatle question to everybody, then sign people up to subscribe to a CGI-scripted service. Only trouble is, I really get tired when I spend a lot of time recalling the intensity of all the '68 emotions, thoughts, hopes, wishes, and dreams... on top of the reality, which one never completely absorbs.

Rob Fontenot's Mining Company interview with Francie.

Lynn Harvey's Q&A with Francie

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