With the clock counting down toward the scheduled release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, today Brian Epstein hosted a media event to promote the album. Yes, he actually invited the press to his home, hard as that may be to believe.

This gathering served to reintroduce The Beatles to the public after they’d been holed up in the studio for what seemed like a lifetime. It was a different Beatles from the one people were used to: increasingly hairy, flamboyantly dressed, some of them visibly stoned (“his eyes were glazed,” said one witness of John Lennon, “his speech was slow and slurred.”) Nobody knew what to make of the music, either, except for “When I’m 64,” which everyone recognized as “rooty-tooty.” (Note: I am making that up.) This new Beatles was going to take some getting used to, but the crowd — a hand-picked group of prominent writers and photographers — was polite and attentive.

Linda Eastman, the future Mrs. McCartney, was there taking pictures. I’m pretty sure she took this one:

The focus, interestingly, is on Ringo and George; Paul and John, in the foreground, are a little blurry. Make of that what you will.

A few days ago I wrote about Paul and Linda’s first meeting, an apparently serendipitous meeting at a nightclub. But according to biographer Bob Spitz, there may have been more to it than that:

To call Linda a groupie, as the label connotes, demeaned her attractiveness in the equation – the term groupie presumes a one-sided exchange that turns on debasement and humiliation – but word of her conquests, professional and otherwise, was legendary. She photographed every major rock star, counting many among them as lovers. Still, throughout her precipitate rise, she continued to tease [U.S. Beatles lawyer] Nat Weiss that her tastes were of a more specific nature. “She always insisted that she was going to marry Paul McCartney,” he recalls, “even before she met him.”

(One can’t help but think of John David Stutts.)

Spitz goes on:

Most days [Linda] played the typical rock chick, decked out in rumpled jeans and a T-shirt, with little or no makeup and unwashed hair. But today her hair had been carefully blow-dried so that it fell perfectly forward in wing points at her chin. And she was dressed in an expensive double-breasted striped barbershop jacket arranged just so over a sheer black sweater, with a miniskirt that flattered her gorgeous legs. When she squatted down – not so subtly, in what must have been a rehearsed gesture – in front of Paul for an intimate chat, he had trouble keeping his eyes from wandering below-decks. A photo taken of Paul and Linda during this encounter…

…reveals their powerful attraction. Their heads are less than a foot apart – Linda’s tilted slightly, irresistibly, enticing; Paul’s chin balanced softly on a clenched hand, a cigarette burning between his fingers; four eyes locked in like radar, in a near-mesmeric stare.

Have I mentioned, by the way, that Spitz’s book The Beatles is really good? Having read a couple of bad rock bios lately, I appreciate it when a favorite artist is honored with both serious research and quality writing.

In his portrayal, in the midst of all this revelry, Brian Epstein broods in a corner.

Like everything else that year, the party was a painful reminder of his utter insignificance to the Beatles and further proof that he was the disposable part of their success. Nobody would miss him should something fateful come to pass. As if to test this assumption, he slipped out of the flat while the party was still in full swing.

Cue the ominous music….