Sixties City presents a wide-ranging series of articles on all aspects of the Sixties, penned by the creator of the iconic 60s music paper  Mersey Beat

Jane Asher



Jane was born in London on April 5th 1946. Her father, Dr Richard Asher, was a consultant in blood and mental diseases at Central Middlesex Hospital in Acton, London, in addition to being a writer and broadcaster. Her mother, Margaret, was a Professor of Classical Music at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Jane had a brother, Peter, who was two years older and a sister, Claire, who was two years younger. All three Asher children had the distinctive Titian-red hair.

Jane Asher Jane was educated at Queen's College, Harley Street. At the age of five she made her film debut in ‘Mandy’ (1953). Her interest in acting began when her parents took their three children to a theatrical agency, thinking it would be fun for them to learn to act. Her other screen appearances over the years have included ‘Third Party Risk’ (1953); ‘Dance Little Lady’, ‘Adventure In The Hopfields’ (1954); ‘The Quatermass Xperiment’ (1955); ‘Charley Moon’, ‘The Greengage Summer’ (1956); ‘The Prince And The Pauper’ (1962) ‘Girl In The Headlines’ (1963); ‘The Masque Of The Red Death’ (1964); ‘Alfie’ (1966); ‘The Winter’s Tale’ (1967); ‘The Buttercup Chain’, ‘Deep End’ (1970); ‘Henry VIII And His Six Wives’ (1972); ‘Runners’ (1983) and ‘Success Is The Best Revenge’ (1984).

Her television appearances are numerous and a brief selection includes ‘The Cold Equations’ episode of ‘Out Of This World’ (1962); Nigel Kneale’s ‘The Stone Tape’ (1972); ‘Brideshead Revisited’ (1981); ‘A Voyage Round My Father’ (1982); ‘The Mistress’ (1987); ‘Wish Me Luck’ (1990) and ‘Murder Most Horrid’ (1991). This is in addition to appearances in various action/adventure series such as ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’, ‘The Adventurer’, ‘The Saint’ and ‘The Buccaneers’, plus prestigious parts including the characters Lisle in ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ and Maggie Tulliver in ‘The Mill on the Floss’.

At the age of 12 she made her stage debut as Alice in ‘Alice In Wonderland’ at the Oxford Playhouse. In 1960 Jane became the youngest actress to play Wendy in a West End stage version of ‘Peter Pan’. Her stage roles included the Broadway production of ‘The Philanthropist’, playing Perdita in ‘A Winter’s Tale’ and Cassandra in ‘The Trojan Women’. She also featured in various productions for the Bristol Old Vic, including the title role in ‘Cleo’ by Frank Marcus, the part of Ellen Terry in ‘Sixty Thousand Nights’ and Eliza in ‘Pygmalion’.

She was 17 years old when she first met The Beatles on Thursday 18th April 1963. They were appearing on the BBC radio broadcast ‘Swingin’ Sound’ at the Royal Albert Hall. Jane went along to pose for Radio Times photographer Tony Aspler, who pictured her screaming in the audience. The article appeared in the 2nd May 1963 edition of the Radio Times with Jane commenting; ”Now these I could scream for.” Jane and Paul McCartney started dating and the romance became public when they were snapped by a photographer as they left the Prince of Wales Theatre after attending Neil Simon’s play ‘Never Too Late’.

Paul moved into the Asher family home at 57 Wimpole Street, a five storey terraced house. It happened shortly after Paul had missed his last train home to Liverpool, following a date with Jane, and stayed the night. Margaret Asher suggested that he regard the house as his London home, thus saving on hotel bills. He moved into the top floor, where there were two rooms and a bathroom, the second room was Peter’s bedroom. Jane and Claire had the two rooms below.
Jane Asher
Jane Asher and Paul McCartney This relationship with an upper middle-class family broadened his cultural horizons. There were stimulating discussions around the Asher family dinner table and the two of them attended musicals, classical
concerts, plays and exhibitions and went on holidays together to exotic places. Paul even opened an account at Coutts, the Queen’s bankers, and ordered Jane’s birthday cake from Maxim’s in Paris, while Jane helped Paul select his new car, a midnight-blue Aston Martin DB6.

The young actress became the inspiration for a number of his songs, initially purely love songs, which changed as the relationship entered stormy patches – primarily because she refused to give up her career. ‘She Loves You’ was written in the music room at Wimpole Street. Songs inspired by Jane included ‘And I Love Her’, ‘Every Little Thing’, ‘We Can Work It Out’, ‘You Won’t See Me’, ‘I’m Looking Through You’ and ‘Here, There And Everywhere’. Rumours of the couple getting married were always denied by them, but the headline on Jack Bentley’s show business page in the Sunday Mirror of August 15th 1965 read: “Says Jane: ‘Yes, I AM Marrying Paul McCartney.’”
When Bentley visited Jane he said there were rumours that Paul and Jane were already married. “No, I’m not Paul’s wife,” she told him, “but yes, we ARE going to get married.”
Asked if her marriage to Paul would affect her career as an actress, she said, “I shan’t give up my career unless it interferes with our being together. Although I like acting, I’m not one of those dedicated actresses who would pine away if they couldn’t perform. I get as much enjoyment out of good plays and good music.”

Jane helped Paul to find the five-storey Victorian house in Cavendish Avenue, St John’s Wood, which they moved into in 1966. It was also Jane who, in June 1966, persuaded Paul to buy High Farm, a 183-acre farm in
Machrihanish, Campbeltown, suggesting it would be a good idea
for them to have a remote retreat to which they could escape from the pressures of being constantly in the public eye.

She embarked on a five-month tour of America in 1967, appearing with the Bristol Old Vic in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in Boston, Washington and Philadelphia. Paul flew over to America to celebrate her twenty-first birthday which took place during the tour. It was during this trip that he conceived the idea of ‘Magical Mystery Tour’. The two decided to get married and during an interview by the Daily Express in 1967 she said: “I love Paul. I love him very deeply, and he feels the same. I don’t think either of us has looked at anyone else since we first met.” She was to add: “I want to get married, probably this year, and have lots and lots of babies. I certainly would be surprised indeed if I married anyone but Paul.” On New Year’s Day 1968 he proposed, gave her a diamond and emerald ring and they travelled up north to Rembrandt to tell Paul’s father.

But the five-year romance came to an abrupt end, despite the fact that they obviously loved each other. Jane had been a virgin when they met and fidelity to a partner obviously meant a great deal to her. On the other hand, Paul had always been a womaniser. During her absences when touring, he had been dating other girls and began an affair with an American, Francie Schwartz. Jane arrived home unexpectedly when Paul was in bed with Schwartz. She walked out on him and sent her mother to Cavendish Avenue to collect her belongings. On the 20th July edition of the BBC Television show ‘Dee Time’, she announced officially that their engagement was off.

Jane met political cartoonist Gerald Scarfe at the tenth anniversary party of 'Private Eye'. The two fell in love and their first child, Katie, was born on 17th April 1974. Jane appeared in further acting parts, including a TV production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’. After the birth of Katie, she curtailed her acting career for a while, but appeared in the stage version of ‘Whose Life Is It Anyway?’

Jane Asher Two more children were born, both sons: Alexander in December 1981 and Rory in 1984. Jane and Gerald were eventually married in 1981 and settled in Chelsea. She returned to acting in the 1980’s with many television appearances. They included the part of Celia Rider opposite Jeremy Irons in ‘Brideshead Revisited’, with James Fox in ‘Love Is Old, Love Is New’, a drama about a couple obsessed with the 1960s which featured a lot of Beatles music; and with Laurence Olivier in John Mortimer’s ‘A Voyage Round My Father’. Other TV appearances included the costume drama ‘Hawkmoor’ and an episode of ‘Tales of the Unexpected’. She teamed up with James Fox once again for the film ‘Runners’, and in 1985 with Ian Holm and Coral Browne in ‘Dreamchild’.

Jane has written books on entertaining, fancy dress and ornate cake decoration and in 1995 launched her own national publication ‘Jane Asher’s Magazine’, at a time when she was regularly featured on television commercials. The 1990s was the most successful decade of her career. She continued with acting, appearing in the TV movies ‘Closing Numbers' in 1994 and ‘The Choir’ in 1995, in the 1998 stage play ‘The Things We Do For Love’, the cult TV show ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ and in 2000 appeared in two plays at the National Theatre, ‘House’ and ‘Garden.’ She had her various cake products sold in the supermarkets, her kitchen items in the do-it-yourself stores, a regular TV show of her own, and her own weekly column in a national newspaper, plus the publication of 14 lifestyle books. In 1998 she had her first novel ‘The Longing’ published, followed by others including ‘The Question’ and ‘Trying To Get Out.’
Entering the 21st century she appeared in the ‘Crossroads’ and ‘Doctors’ series and TV plays and series including ‘Nobody’s Child’, ‘Murder At The Vicarage’, ‘New Tricks’, ‘Tisante el Blanco’, ‘Death At A Funeral’ and ‘Holby City.’
Jane Asher

Tragically, her father died of an overdose of barbiturates and alcohol. His body was discovered on 26th April 1969. Her brother Peter went on to become Vice President of Sony USA and Claire, who’d appeared in the radio soap ‘Mrs Dale’s Diary’ and the TV series ‘The Mistress’ with Jane, gave up acting to become a school teacher.



Mersey Beat Magazine Bill Harry attended the Liverpool College of Art with Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon and made the arrangements for Brian Epstein to visit The Cavern, where he saw The Beatles for the first time. Bill was a member of 'The Dissenters' and the founder and editor of 'Mersey Beat', the iconic weekly music newspaper that documented the early Sixties music scene in the Liverpool area and is possibly best known for being the first periodical to feature a local band called 'The Beatles'. He has worked as a high powered publicist, doing PR for acts such as Suzi Quatro, Free, The Arrows and Hot Chocolate and has managed press campaigns for record labels such as CBS, EMI, Polydor. Bill is the critically acclaimed author of a large number of books about The Beatles and the 60s era including 'The Beatles Who's Who', 'The Best Years of the Beatles' and the Fab Four's 'Encyclopedia' series. He has appeared on 'Good Morning America' and has received a Gold Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.


Article Bill Harry 2017               Original Graphics SixtiesCity 2017

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