Jane Asher was an easy muse for Paul McCartney during the mid-1960s. After moving out of The Beatles’ shared apartment in London, he shacked up with Asher and her family at Wimpole Street during the height of Beatlemania. He and Asher pursued a relationship, and although he’s somewhat hesitant to put all the inspiration on Asher in his book The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, songs like ‘And I Love Her’ and ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ had their roots in their pairing.
But by 1965, McCartney and Asher had experienced a rough patch. McCartney had a hectic tour schedule that kept him on the road and in the studio most of the year, while Asher was a successful actress in her own right. Their lack of ability to spend long periods of time together, along with their disagreements about their future together, lead McCartney to begin questioning his commitment to the relationship.
It was out of these ill feelings that McCartney first conceived the line “love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight”. McCartney was in his attic room at the Asher’s when the line came to him following another argument with Jane. What followed was an indictment that collected all of McCartney’s hurt feelings channeled into a set of lyrics filled with disillusionment which eventually became ‘I’m Looking Through You’.
“As is one’s wont in relationships, you will from time to time argue or not see eye to eye on things, and a couple of the songs around this period were that kind of thing,” McCartney explained to Barry Miles in the book Many Years From Now. “This one I remember particularly as me being disillusioned over her commitment”.
McCartney continued: “She went down to the Bristol Old Vic quite a lot around this time. Suffice to say that this one was probably related to that romantic episode and I was seeing through her façade. And realising that it wasn’t quite all that it seemed. I would write it out in a song and then I’ve got rid of the emotion. I don’t hold grudges so that gets rid of that little bit of emotional baggage. I remember specifically this one being about that, getting rid of some emotional baggage. ‘I’m looking through you, and you’re not there!’”
Although McCartney admitted that he and Asher were relatively loose as a couple, he still found the lack of commitment unsettling. “I knew it was selfish. It caused a few rows,” He admitted to Hunter Davies. “Jane left me once and went off to Bristol to act. I said ‘OK then, leave, I’ll find someone else.’ It was shattering to be without her”.
The trials and tribulations of McCartney and Asher’s relationship continued to turn well after ‘I’m Looking Through You’ was released on Rubber Soul in 1965. McCartney moved into his own house during the recording of the album, while Asher split time between her family’s home and McCartney’s.
The two announced their engagement in 1967, and Asher accompanied McCartney to India during The Beatles’ retreat with the Maharishi Mehesh Yogi in 1968. Shortly afterwards, Asher found McCartney in bed with a young New Yorker named Francie Schwartz. Despite an attempt to resume their engagement, the two officially split up during the recording of The White Album.