In 1967, Paul McCartney visited the Bag O’Nails, a London nightclub, to celebrate completing the recording of Sgt. Pepper’s. As photographer Linda Eastman passed his table, he stood, bumped into her and asked if she wanted to join his party.

Linda, an American single mom and the first woman to shoot a cover for Rolling Stone magazine, said yes. “The way I define the world, I wasn’t a groupie,” Linda told Lesley-Ann Jones, author of the new book Fly Away Paul. “But I did hang out with groups.”

Before long, Linda became one of several women Paul juggled, including fiancée Jane Asher and future Mod Squad star Peggy Lipton. “Anyone who believed sweet, baby-faced Paul was too clean-cut for casual sex was deluded,” writes Jones. “The wholesome innocence was an act.”

By late 1968, Paul’s engagement was off and he was hiding out in Linda’s tiny apartment in New York. He stopped shaving and wore natty clothing so he could ride the subway, enjoy meals out and spend afternoons shopping thrift stores with Linda. When she had to work, he babysat her daughter Heather. “I always used to joke that I ruined Linda’s career,” he said.

Paul had a point. Their new life together grew to take priority over photography. The couple wed in March 1969, had their first child together later that year and slipped off to rural Scotland following the Beatles’ breakup. “I started drinking,” said Paul of his long depression. “Anger, deep, deep anger sets in, with everything.”

Linda tried her best to rouse him from his funk before suggesting the obvious — Paul should start another group. “It was Linda who saved me,” said Paul. “It was all done in a sort of domestic setting.” The couple would go on to play together in Wings for a decade. “There’s a couple of times in life when you are forced into taking a risk,” said Paul. “The risk paid off.”