50 Years Ago: Paul McCartney Marries Linda Eastman
March 12, 1969, will go down in history as a tragic day for love-struck Beatles fans.
On a soggy morning in London, 26-year-old Paul McCartney became the last of the Beatles to abandon bachelorhood when he married 27-year-old Linda Eastman. "It rained, and this was appropriate," The Guardian reported. "The pavements outside Marylebone register office would have been wet in any case with the tears of fans thrown by the sudden reality of having failed to become Mrs. McCartney."
Though planned as a secret ceremony, the steps of the registry were crowded with hundreds of fans and reporters. The wedding was delayed an hour. McCartney's brother Mike McGear, the best man, was late arriving when his train traveling from Birmingham to London broke down. McGear and Beatles' assistant Mal Evans were witnesses.
The couple met in May 1967, when Eastman, a New York photographer, was in London on assignment. When she passed his table at the Bag O'Nails club one night, McCartney struck up a conversation that would lead to their marriage of 29 years. But McCartney told Barry Miles in Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now that the wedding was almost derailed.
"We were crazy," he recalled. "We had a big argument the night before we got married and it was nearly called off. We were very up and down, quite funky compared to the eventual image of '25 years of married bliss! Aren't they lucky for people in showbiz?' But we are. You get this picture of us swanning along in a little rowboat managing to avoid the white water, but we were right in the middle of that white water, man, so it's even more miraculous that we made it. But we did."
The couple was joined by Heather, Eastman's six-year-old daughter by a previous marriage, who was the bridesmaid. Conspicuous in their absence were the other three Beatles.
"I really don't remember whether or not I invited any of the band to the wedding," said McCartney. "Why not? I'm a total bastard, I suppose — I don't know, really. Maybe it was because the group was breaking up. We were all pissed off with each other. We certainly weren't a gang any more. That was the thing. Once a group's broken up like that, that's it."
Watch Video From Paul McCartney and Linda Eastman's Marriage
Four hours after they arrived, the couple needed police to usher them to their limousine through the crowd of weeping fans. Girls tried to block the car's doors while singing Beatles songs. Ultimately, police moved them away and the McCartneys traveled to their local parish for a church ceremony.
"Fans flung themselves in front of the car," The Guardian noted in its report. "One of them was guided into the building by the police in a dazed state. One arms-linked group fell down in the mud, got up again and wandered backwards and forwards across the Marylebone Road, chased by the police and television cameramen saying, 'Cry into this microphone.'"
"When I married Paul, I knew I'd never had these problems," Linda told Playboy in 1984. "But God knows, people got on my back, and for things I wasn't really doing. But I'm just not the type who'll get up and explain herself. It'll just go down that I'm that woman."
The couple's love affair would be immortalized by McCartney in songs like "The Lovely Linda," "Man We Was Lonely" and "Maybe I'm Amazed." But Linda said the first love song she inspired was the Beatles' "Two of Us."
Listen to the Beatles' 'Two of Us'
"As a kid I loved getting lost," Linda told Steve Turner in A Hard Day's Write. "I would say to my father – let’s get lost. But you could never seem to be able to get really lost. All signs would eventually lead back to New York or wherever we were staying! Then, when I moved to England to be with Paul, we would put [Paul's sheepdog] Martha in the back of the car and drive out of London. As soon as we were on the open road I’d say, 'Let’s get lost' and we’d keep driving without looking at any signs. Hence the line in the song, 'Two of us going nowhere.'
"Paul wrote 'Two of Us' on one of those days out. It’s about us. We just pulled off in a wood somewhere and parked the car. I went off walking while Paul sat in the car and started writing. He also mentions the postcards because we used to send a lot of postcards to each other."
The couple eventually formed the band Wings and recorded a slew of hits in the '70s and had three children, Mary, Stella and James. Linda continued her career as a photographer and became an animal-rights activist and vegetarian. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1995 and died on April 17, 1998, at age 56.