The Story Behind “For No One” by The Beatles and Paul McCartney’s Not-So-“Perfect Beatle Wife”

When Paul McCartney wrote “For No One” in the spring of 1966, he was 23 years old and undergoing many changes.

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Unknown to him then, The Beatles were on the eve of creating their masterpiece Revolver, an album considered one of the greatest recordings of all time. However, romantic relationships are indifferent to songwriting genius, and McCartney’s ego at the time had met its match with his then-girlfriend, Jane Asher.

“For No One” is less than two minutes long, but the song marks a pivotal period in McCartney’s life and career. The following year, he’d meet his future wife.

Why Did It Die?

McCartney wrote “For No One” at a ski resort in the Swiss Alps where he was vacationing with English actress and author Jane Asher. According to Barry Miles’ biography Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now (1998), McCartney said the song resulted from an argument with Asher.

And in her eyes, you see nothing
No sign of love behind the tears
Cried for no one
A love that should have lasted years

He hoped Asher would follow The Beatles’ busy schedule and tour with him. Many speculated McCartney wanted the “perfect Beatle wife.” However, Asher had a successful career of her own, and she wasn’t interested in following a Beatle around. Though their relationship lasted beyond 1966, the song’s working title, “Why Did It Die?” suggests things were already rocky between the two.

You want her, you need her
And yet you don’t believe her
When she says her love is dead
You think she needs you

In an appearance on BBC, Asher told TV host Simon Dee her engagement to McCartney had ended. She said, “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.”

Dating a Beatle Is Complicated

Asher skipped the world premiere of Yellow Submarine in 1968. Writing in The Beatles Anthology, McCartney said, “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. So I’d feel weird being the one to kiss and tell.”

He explained the difficulty of keeping relationships amidst the group’s success: “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. Then it was like: ‘We are four miners who go down the pit. You don’t need women down the pit, do you? We won’t have women down the pit.’ A lot of what we, The Beatles, did was very much in an enclosed scene. Other people found it difficult—even John’s wife, Cynthia, found it very difficult—to penetrate the screen that we had around us. As a kind of safety barrier we had a lot of ‘in’ jokes, little signs, references to music; we had a common bond in that and it was very difficult for any ‘outsider’ to penetrate. That possibly wasn’t good for relationships back then.”

No Sign of Love Behind the Tears

The couple met at the Royal Albert Hall in 1963, and their relationship lasted for five years. Meanwhile, there were other girls, and one day, Asher found McCartney with another woman at his home in London.

She left McCartney, and her mother arrived later to collect her things. McCartney said of the relationship, “I realized that she and I weren’t really going to be the thing we’d always thought we might be. 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.” 

For Someone

“For No One” has only two Beatles on the recording: Paul McCartney on vocals, bass, piano, and clavichord, with Ringo Star on drums and percussion.

By 1966, The Beatles were changing, and Revolver marked the beginning of the Fab Four’s experimental period. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band arrived the following year.

Meanwhile, McCartney met Linda Eastman, an American photographer, at a Georgie Fame concert in London in 1967. He invited Eastman out to another club that night, and they were married in 1969.

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Photo by George Stroud/Daily Express/Getty Images

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