A hint of autumnal Beatlemania was in the air Sunday as Paul McCartney, for the second time in his improbable life, climbed the steps of venerable Old Marylebone Town Hall to take himself a bride.
True, thousands of heartbroken female fans crowded the columned building in 1969 when he married Linda Eastman, and only a few hundred showed up Sunday as he wed another American, Nancy Shevell, at the very same registry office.
But the feeling this time was not regret at the loss of a bachelor heartthrob. Instead there was joy that McCartney, regarded as a national treasure and revered the world over, seemed happy again.
The 69-year-old former Beatle appeared proud, content and eager to share his joy with the crowd, raising his bride's hand in triumph as he walked down the steps after they became man and wife in a simple civil ceremony attended by close family and friends, including drummer Ringo Starr and Barbara Walters, a second cousin of the bride.
"I feel absolutely wonderful," McCartney told fans as he arrived at his home after the ceremony. He was expected to sing a new song he had composed for his bride at the reception.
Gone was the memory of McCartney's terribly unhappy marriage to Heather Mills, which ended in 2008 in an ugly public divorce. Remembered was his marriage to Eastman, a serene union that lasted nearly three decades until her life was cut short by breast cancer, leaving McCartney alone and adrift despite his fame and wealth.
The ceremony Sunday afternoon was everything his wedding to Mills was not: simple, understated, almost matter of fact. By contrast, McCartney and Mills married in an over-the-top lavish spectacle at a remote Irish castle that was disrupted several times by news helicopters flying overhead, hoping for a glimpse of the A-list guests.
This time, the smiles seemed genuine.
The affection — and rose petals and confetti — showered on McCartney and his bride captured his particular place in British life.
Long gone are the days when the Beatles divided Britain between young and old, or between hippies and straights. The band is revered as part of a glorious musical and cultural era when Britain seemed a more confident place. There was no controversy whatsoever when McCartney received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II in 1997.
Today Sir Paul — or Macca, as he's usually known — is celebrated as a musical legend who is still composing and releasing CDs, even if they no longer routinely shoot to No. 1 on the charts. His forays into opera, ballet, painting and poetry have not been critical successes, but none of these have tarnished his reputation.
Shevell, 51, appeared radiant and composed in an elegant, ivory gown cut just above the knee. She wore a white flower in her long dark hair, and only light makeup and lipstick.
The dress was designed by McCartney's daughter, Stella, a star in the fashion world who also helped concoct the three-course vegetarian feast served to guests at the reception at McCartney's home in St. John's Wood, a property he bought in 1965, when the Beatles were topping the charts with metronomic regularity.
McCartney, who has long admitted to tinting his hair to keep out the gray, looked youthful in a well-cut blue suit and pale blue, skinny tie.
The couple married on what would have been band mate John Lennon's 71st birthday. Some guests speculated that Lennon would have been among the guests had he lived, with the rift between them having healed.
The wedding party included Beatrice, McCartney's young daughter with Mills, who had been expected to serve as flower girl.
McCartney is credited for having survived a number of tragedies — the 1980 murder of one-time songwriting partner Lennon, the loss of his beloved first wife Linda, the 2001 death of guitarist George Harrison and the public breakdown of his marriage to Mills — with his upbeat nature intact.
Mills, a much younger model who had lost part of her leg when she was hit by a motorcycle, tried to battle McCartney in the court of public opinion during their divorce. She accused him of cruelty and sought a gargantuan $250 million settlement.
But her charges against McCartney didn't stick. Few if any fans turned against him, and the divorce court judge ruled against her, calling her demands exorbitant and unfair.
The very public spat opened McCartney's vast fortune to unprecedented public scrutiny. Long rumored to be pop's first billionaire, he was found to have assets worth about $800 million, including works by Picasso and Renoir and luxury real estate in the United States, Britain and elsewhere.
Steve Wood / Hulton Archive
From The Stones to Coldplay, check out these great musical imports from across the pond.
The Beatles -
The British are coming! That must have been the cry in 1964 at the onset of the "British Invasion." But after more than 40 years, the Brits continue to rock and Americans just can't get enough. No one personifies this phenomenon more than The Beatles.
Birthplace: Liverpool, England
Claim to fame: In addition to several accolades, the Beatles have won seven Grammy Awards.
Did you know? "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was first played by a Washington, D.C., DJ who received the record from his stewardess girlfriend.AP / AP
The Animals -
Birthplace: Newcastle, England
Claim to fame: Known for their gritty, psychedelic rock covers of blues tunes, the band topped U.S. charts in 1964 with their rendition of "House of the Rising Sun," which had previously been recorded by a number of artists including Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and Nina Simone.
Did you know? Alan Price (organ and keyboards) left the band in 1965 because, he said, he was scared of flying and could not travel to the U.S. with the rest of the group.Getty Images / Getty Images
Herman's Hermits -
Birthplace: Manchester, England
Claim to fame: Herman's Hermits had two more No. 1's in the U.S. with "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter," which garnered two Grammy nominations in 1965, and "I'm Henry VIII, I Am."
Did you know? Lead vocalist Peter Noone was a child actor who starred in a British soap opera called "Coronation Street."Getty Images / Getty Images
The Who -
Birthplace: Shepherd's Bush, West London, England
Claim to fame: Causing an all-out ruckus is now synonymous with rock 'n' roll, but The Who was the first band to make that its modus operandi. The band released five albums in the U.S. beginning in 1969.
Did you know? Rolling Stone magazine included the first time guitarist Pete Townshend smashed a guitar in its list of "50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock ’n’ Roll."Getty Images / Getty Images
The Rolling Stones -
Birthplace: Dartford, England
Claim to fame: The iconic band has released 24 studio albums in the U.S. In 1986, the band received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Did you know? In 1963 the band played on the British TV show "Thank Your Lucky Stars," and the show's producer reportedly told the band's manager to lose "that vile-looking singer with the tire-tread lips."Getty Images / Getty Images
The Kinks -
Birthplace: London, England
Claim to fame: "You Really Got Me" was a No.1 hit in England and reached No. 7 in the U.S. In 1990 the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Did you know? From 1966 to 1969, the band was prevented from touring in the U.S. after their appearance on the American TV show "Hullabaloo."Getty Images / Getty Images
The Clash -
Birthplace: London, England; Bromley, England and Ankara, Turkey
Claim to fame: Double album "London Calling" was raved about by U.S. critics as one of the best albums of the 1980s.
Did you know? Bassist Simonon suggested they call themselves "The Clash" after noticing how continuously the word was being used in the newspapers.Getty Images / Getty Images
Sex Pistols -
Birthplace: London, England
Claim to fame: In 1977 the band's album "Never Mind the Bollocks" charted to No. 1 and is considered one of the best "punk rock" records of the time.
Did you know? Although their hit single "God Save the Queen" outsold the No. 1 record, it is only charted as No. 2 due to its subject matter.AP / AP
Iron Maiden -
Birthplace: Leyton, England
Claim to fame: "Number of the Beast" topped the British charts, making them international rock stars.
Did you know? "Ed Hunter," the band's three-disc greatest-hits album of 1999, spawned a namesake Maiden video game.Getty Images / Getty Images
Birthplace: London, England
Claim to fame: In 1981 Queen performed in Sao Paulo, Brazil to the largest crowd of paying fans ever to witness a concert.
Did you know? Roger Taylor had a degree in biology, John Deacon had a degree in electronics, and Freddie Mercury in illustration and design. Brian May was working on a Ph.D. in astronomy.Getty Images / Getty Images
David Bowie -
Birthplace: Brixton, England
Claim to fame: His most popular album, 1983's "Let's Dance," had several hit singles, most notably the title track. Rolling Stone magazine ranked Bowie 39th among the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time."
Did you know? Bowie started his own mime troupe called Feathers in 1968.Getty Images / Getty Images
Birthplace: London, England
Claim to fame: The duo gained a following in the U.S. with the 1983 single "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" and won a Grammy in 1987 for the song "Missionary Man."
Did you know? Band members Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart were romantically involved at one point.Getty Images / Getty Images
George Michael -
Birthplace: East Finchley, North London, England
Claim to fame: Besides the unfortunate 1998 run-in with a police officer in a Beverly Hills bathroom, Michael is a two-time Grammy Award winner, for Best R&B Performance -- Duo or Group with Vocal, and for Album of the Year, both in 1988.
Did you know? His birth name was Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou.Getty Images / Getty Images
Sir Elton John -
Birthplace: Pinner, Middlesex, England
Claim to fame: Known for his songwriting skills, piano pop rock and flamboyant performance style, John has won five Grammys and one Academy Award.
Did you know? The singer has admitted that he battled bulimia for several years.Getty Images / Getty Images
Culture Club -
Birthplace: London, England
Claim to fame: Though Boy George made headlines for his androgynous look, the group's real claim to fame was winning a Grammy Award in 1983.
Did you know? After winning the Grammy Award, Boy George gave a speech saying, "Thanks, America, you've got taste, style, and you know a good drag queen when you see one."Getty Images / Getty Images
Duran Duran -
Birthplace: Birmingham, England
Claim to fame: Duran Duran won two Grammys for their music videos in 1983. In addition, they were one of the most successful bands in the New Romantic genre, with 21 singles charting in the Billboard Top 100.
Did you know? In 1985 People magazine labeled the group "the prettiest boys in rock."Getty Images / Getty Images
The Police -
Birthplace: London, England
Claim to fame: Known for infusing reggae, pop and rock, the band has won five Grammy Awards.
Did you know? Before Sting made his mark with The Police, he was a secondary-school English teacher.Getty Images / Getty Images
Billy Idol -
Birthplace: Long Island, New York (Billy and his family moved back to England when he was 4 years old)
Claim to fame: It's not just his signature bleach-blond mohawk that made Idol a fan favorite. The rebellious Idol's singles "White Wedding," which went No.1 in the U.S. in 1983 and "Eyes Without a Face" which went No. 1 in 1984, were among his several hit singles.
Did you know? Playing himself, Billy Idol had a brief but funny scene in the Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore film "The Wedding Singer."Getty Images / Getty Images
Spice Girls -
Birthplace: Berkshire, England
Claim to fame: The pop divas have sold more than 55 million records worldwide and their popularity was compared to Beatlemania.
Did you know? Tickets for the first London date of "The Return of the Spice Girls" World Tour sold out in 38 seconds.AFP - Getty Images / AFP - Getty Images
Birthplace: University College, London
Claim to fame: Coldplay's first full-length album, "Parachutes," went double platinum and earned the band a Grammy in 2002 for Best Alternative Music Album.
Did you know? One of the band's first monikers was "Starfish." Now, an Italian Coldplay tribute band plays under the name.Getty Images / Getty Images
Birthplace: Oxfordshire, England
Claim to fame: The two albums "OK Computer" and "Kid A" won the band the Best Alternative Music Grammy and gained critical praise.
Did you know? Their original name was "On a Friday" but after being inspired by a song on a Talking Heads' album, they changed it.Getty Images / Getty Images
James Blunt -
Birthplace: Wiltshire, England
Claim to fame: Blunt was nominated for five Grammys in 2006 for his debut album "Back to Bedlam" and was the first British act to have a single ("You're Beautiful") hit No. 1 in the U.S. since Elton John's "Candle in the Wind" in 1997.
Did you know? Blunt posted an ad on eBay for someone to help transport his sister to Ireland for a funeral. The ad was answered, and his sister married the lucky man in 2007.AFP - Getty Images / AFP - Getty Images
Joss Stone -
Birthplace: Dover, Kent, England
Claim to fame: In 2005, Stone was nominated for three Grammys. In 2007, she shared an award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for her collaboration with Sly & the Family Stone, John Legend and Van Hunt on "Family Affair."
Did you know? When Stone was 14, she auditioned for the BBC TV show "Star for a Night" and not only got on the show, but won.Getty Images / Getty Images
Amy Winehouse -
Birthplace: Southgate, England
Claim to fame: Besides her trademark beehive hairstyle, cat eyes and substance abuse, Winehouse became a household name after her 2006 sophomore album "Back to Black," which led to five Grammy Award wins.
Did you know? At the age of 10, Winehouse and her best friend drew inspiration from Salt-n-Pepa to create their own rap duo called Sweet 'n Sour.AFP - Getty Images / AFP - Getty Images
Natasha Bedingfield -
Birthplace: Lewisham, London
Claim to fame: In 2007, she was nominated for a Grammy in the category Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for the song "Unwritten."
Did you know? Bedingfield is an advocate for Stop the Traffik, a global coalition that works to end human trafficking.Getty Images / Getty Images
His wealth reflects in part his incredible global popularity — in recent years he has filled stadiums from Rio to Russia, producing tens of millions of dollar of revenue with each tour.
Shevell, who is independently wealthy and quite successful in her own right, is not seen by the British public as being interested in McCartney's fortune.
The couple met four years ago in the Hamptons, a seaside playground for the rich and famous on the eastern tip of Long Island in New York.
Some reports say that Walters played matchmaker, inviting McCartney to a dinner she knew her second cousin Shevell would attend.
Walters said she cried during the ceremony, which she called "beautiful and wonderful."
Shevell, who was married for more than 20 years to attorney Bruce Blakeman and serves on the board of New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority, is also a vice president of a lucrative New Jersey-based trucking company owned by her father.
She has stayed out of the public eye since taking up with McCartney, refraining from commenting on her relationship with the man once known as "the cute one" in the world's most popular band.
She has a few things in common with Eastman: like McCartney's first wife, she is American and affluent.
Unlike Eastman, who performed with McCartney's post-Beatles band Wings, Shevell is not expected to join her husband onstage on his extended world tours.
She joins a pantheon of "Beatle wives" — each band member married more than once, and many of the unions were troubled.
Lennon abruptly left his first wife for Yoko Ono, and Cynthia Lennon has complained in print about his abusive treatment of her and his neglect of their son, Julian.
His relationship with Ono was punctuated with occasional breakups, but is often portrayed as a happy marriage, and since his death she has curated his works and burnished his legend.
Starr's first marriage also ended in divorce, but he has had a long, stable union with his second wife, the actress Barbara Bach, who joined him at Sunday's ceremony.
The two even went through a recovery program together when Starr decided to confront his alcoholism.
Harrison's first marriage — to the model Pattie Boyd — ended in divorce when she left him for guitarist Eric Clapton. He had a long happy marriage to Olivia Harrison, who plays an important role in the recently released Martin Scorsese film about Harrison.
If the mood Sunday is any indication, the man responsible for classics like "Penny Lane" and the angst-ridden "Eleanor Rigby" may find pleasure and contentment in the years ahead. That's certainly what his fans are hoping.