On Mar. 12, 1969, Paul McCartney married American rock photographer Linda Eastman at London’s Marylebone Registry Office. As the ceremony unfolded inside the building, dejected female fans famously gathered together in the rain and sang a dirge-like medley of Beatles tunes. But as history tells us, the marriage very nearly didn’t come off.
Paul and Linda first met in May 1967 at the Bag O’Nails Club as Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames finished their set. Paul, who was 25 at the time, later recalled standing up from his table, and, “just as she was passing, blocking her exit. And so I said, ‘Oh, sorry. Hi. How are you? How’re you doing?’ I introduced myself, and said, ‘We’re going on to another club after this, would you like to join us?’ That was my big pulling line! Well, I’d never used it before, of course, but it worked this time! It was a fairly slim chance, but it worked.”
For her part, Linda later remembered that “we flirted a bit” before heading out to yet another club [The Speakeasy] and then concluding the evening at Paul’s Cavendish Avenue home, where Linda recalled being “impressed” to see her future husband’s prized trio of Magritte paintings. That same evening, they heard “A Whiter Shade of Pale” for the first time. Years later, the couple would adopt the Procol Harum tune as their song.
A few days after their fateful meeting at the Bag O’Nails Club, the couple caught up with each other yet again at Brian Epstein’s launch party for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. But as it happened, Paul and Linda’s budding romance would be on hold for more than a year, during which the Beatle was briefly engaged to longtime girlfriend Jane Asher.
Fate would intervene in May 1968, when Paul and John Lennon traveled to the United States to announce the formation of Apple Corps. By September, Linda had joined Paul back in England. With the exception of a few scant days — most notably, Paul’s brief incarceration in a Tokyo jail in January 1980 — they were together until Linda’s untimely death at age 56 in April 1998.
But as Paul later admitted, his marriage to Linda very nearly didn’t happen at all. “We were crazy,” he remembered. “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.”
When they finally made it to the Marylebone Registry Office for their nuptials, Paul and Linda were joined by her daughter Heather and Beatles roadie Mal Evans. But the other members of the Fab Four were nowhere to be found. “I really don’t remember whether or not I invited any of the band to the wedding. 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.”
But while the Beatles were once and truly ended by August 1969 — the same month in which Paul and Linda celebrated the birth of Mary, their first child together—one of rock’s most happy and enduring marriages was only just getting started.
– Ken Womack
Photo Credit: Paul and Linda McCartney by WATFORD/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images