If the Beatles are the undisputed titans of pop music, then this is the Titanic of rock myths. In 1969, Beatlemaniacs -- and who in the world wasn't one, by then? -- were buzzing with the bizarre rumor that Paul McCartney had been dead since 1966, the victim of a car crash in his Aston-Martin on a rainy night following a recording session at Abbey Road. The surviving band members, distraught, were said to have scrambled to find an impersonator. Then they began the slow process of dropping hints about the incident: "Here's another clue for you all," John Lennon sang on "Glass Onion." "The walrus was Paul." The walrus was said to be an ancient symbol of death in several cultures (Roman, Arctic). During the eerie outro of "Strawberry Fields," a muffled voice can be heard apparently saying "I buried Paul." And on the cover of Abbey Road, Paul is barefoot (the corpse), John is in white (the angel), Ringo in black (the clergyman) and George in denim (the gravedigger). The dead man has since gone on to record dozens of solo records, compose symphonies, be knighted . . . and get busted for pot.
From my understanding, this all started with a phone call to a radio station from a college man who said he deduced from clues on Beatle albums that Paul was dead. For whatever reasons this rumor spread like wild fire. It certainly didn't hurt Beatle sales, and The Beatles didn't say much about the whole thing. John said it was crazy, Paul's first comment actually fanned the rumor. He said, "If I were dead I'd be the last to know." (I think that's a Mark Twain quote). But anyway, besides the fact that The Beatles had not been in the public eye much at the time, and Paul was quietly at work producing Mary Hopkins, and the press was desperate for a Beatle story, I still think there's more here than meets the eye.
Here is what was supposed to have happened: The story was that Paul McCartney had died in a car accident at 5:00 a.m. on Wednesday, November 9, 1966. 'Paul McCartney Dead: The Great Hoax' suggested that Paul had picked up a female hitchhiker on his way to visit friends. The woman became so excited when she realized who had picked her up that she threw her arms around Paul and caused him to lose control of the car. Both Paul and his passenger were killed when the car swerved off the road and hit a stone fence. And here's where the story takes a turn toward the ludicrous—Paul was decapitated in the accident and the trauma to his head was so severe that even his dental records were useless in identifying the victim! Not wanting to lose potential record sales, record company executives suppressed the story of Paul's death and brought in a lookalike to replace him. For some reason (this is the part where you have to suspend disbelief) the surviving Beatles agreed to go along with this scheme, but they left clues on all of their subsequent albums about Paul's death and the imposter who took his place. Paul's stand-in was a man named William Campbell, who had won a Paul McCartney look-alike contest. With a little plastic surgery, William Campbell had taken Paul's place in photos of the group. The surgery had been successful except for a small scar above his lip. And, as luck would have it, William Campbell could also sing and just happened to be a songwriter with an exceptional ear for pop melodies.
The Beatles all denied that they had perpetrated a hoax and insisted that none of the "clues" about Paul's supposed death had any significance whatsoever. I'm inclined to believe them, and lean toward unintentional "clues." Especially now, knowing all the hard times the group was going through that lead to their demise.
I think a riff started with Paul's mega hit Yesterday, coupled with John's statement about being bigger than Jesus. John was a very insecure man, and he really did resent Paul being the cute one, and was jealous of Paul's success's. There was friendship, yes, but there was also an extremely strong state of competition between the two. Turns out this was great for song writing, but in the beginning they were a team, a 50 50 songwriting team. They'd sit across from each other and write songs together. This later turned into writing separately from each other and trying to one up the other. We know now that this style of writing is doomed, it can't keep going. One has to lose, one wins. Paul was winning. He wrote more songs and had more number 1 hits than John. Remember, John was by nature very insecure, and his lack of self confidence was fulfilled at the time by the fans.
But Paul also suffered from a very human character defect. He had a huge ego, and it showed. It wasn't beneath him to rub it in when things were going great for him. In the beginning John was considered the leader. Slowly Paul was taking over, and then rapidly after Brian died. The other three resented Paul. A serious clash was brewing. Paul was looking for approval for his amazing talent as were the others, but they weren't getting it from each other. It didn't matter that the whole world loved them, their world was much smaller and consisted of mostly each other.
John's statement that The Beatles were bigger than Jesus was made to a friend/journalist and printed in the British press months before without any noise, but when it was picked up in America (the holy land of Gawd), John was recieving death threats and was 'exremely' paranoid about being shot. A concert in Alabama was actively protested by the KKK, while kids in the bible belt burned Beatles records and books with the blessing of the holy DJs. And, though they stood side by side with John in front of the cameras while John defended himself, the other three were actually very resentful toward John. Touring was eventually stopped and music was made in the studio. The public was not getting their Beatle fixes frequently enough. (Most importantly, John's ego was being dissolved by huge intakes of LSD, and it fell on Paul to hold the group together through this phase).
Now back to the Paul is Dead clues. I think this was mostly a result of Paul's ego. He began to try to stand out from the others. He wore a different color carnation in the now famous Magical Mystery Tour sequence. His later comment that they ran out of the red ones is possible, but absurd. Ask a florist how difficult it is to mutate a black carnation. He turned his back to the camera on the back of the cover of Sgt Pepper, as if he was the maestro conducting the other three. His face on the 8 x 10 glossies that came with The White album was huge. They were supposed to be 4 portraits of each Beatle. His was so close up you could count his nose hairs. Was all this intentional? Probably not all of it, but does it really matter? Being the only shoe-less one out of step on Abbey Rd might have been an accident, but it speaks volumes about Paul and the others. And some of it must have been on purpose. Paul is smoking a cigarette, also known as a "coffin nail". He is holding the cigarette in his right hand, even though the real Paul McCartney was left handed.
Was Paul's way of hinting to the world that he was the main Beatle being misunderstood as Paul was the dead Beatle? Hmmm...
There are a few weird things that leads me to believe that John had a bit of fun with it, after the fact. Just before Blackbird on The White album, if you play John's mumbling backwards, it sure sounds like, "Paul is a dead man, Paul is a dead man, miss him, miss him, miss him." But Number 9 backwards sounds a like 'turn me on dead man' just because that's what number 9 backwards sounds like. I think John's only intention when making Revolution 9 was to make an avant garde recording. Oh, at the time, many believed everything was placed there by the Beatles with the intent to let you know Paul was dead (ask any fan from that time), and one could search and find anything one wanted to believe, and Revolution Number 9 was the most used example. Other White Album clues were "Don't Pass Me By", where Ringo expresses his regret at the tragic turn of events after Paul's angry departure from the studio one evening: "I listen for your footsteps coming up the drive/I listen for your footsteps but they don't arrive." George moans "Paul, Paul" at the end of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."
It all really got out of hand. I had a great time of it. Lot's of bizarre coincidences. I wish I could have wrote this article then, when I was full of enthusiasm about it all. The hand over Paul's head, Paul sitting behind a sign that said "I WAS," Revolution Number 9 backwards, 28IF on the 'Beetle' Volks wagon on Abbey Rd meant Paul would have been 28 IF he had lived. The major problem with that is he would have been 27, but not to worry. In some Indian culture somewhere they count the 9 months in the womb as your first year, so it all made sense (sarcasm). John was the minister, Ringo the undertaker, Paul the corpse, and George the gravedigger.
The OPD badge that was given to him by the Ontario Police Dept suddenly meant officially pronounced dead. Lennon's inspiration from The Walrus and the Carpenter was replaced with the belief that the walrus was a death symbol in Greenland or something. Ha, again. Most clues were a real stretch. John's 'cranberry sauce' at the end of Strawberry Fields at the time was heard as 'I buried Paul.' And it went on and on. I hope you find one of the better web sites that goes into some of the clues. No one could cover them all.
Connect the dots and it will read "3 BEATLES."
It was a cool event to live through, and it's a big part of Beatle history. I don't want to attempt to start listing all the clues because of my perfectionism streak. I know I can't list them all so I won't even try. Besides, to me it's more interesting to decipher the psychological dynamics that were at work among the Beatles that resulted in such weird deductions from fans. It wasn't the clues and sounds and pictures so much as the personalities behind the art.
If looked at with a sensible attitude rather than the belief that The Beatles actually inserted codes into their work to hint to fans that Paul had died, I think you can tell a lot about the group. It's too bad really, that two best friends could become such bitter enemies while singing songs like All You Need is Love. What a mess things had become. Perhaps Paul died as a Beatle? Well, they all did didn't they? But maybe if died first? Paul became very depressed over that break up, though he's the one who instigated the lawsuit to dissolve the group. If only he'd waited. If only this, if only that. I happen to be looking at the Let It Be cover right now. Isn't it odd that Paul is looking straight ahead while the others are looking to left. Almost looking away from Paul. But just look at them. Lennon and McCartney's 'lovers spat' completely overshadowing George's talent. Ringo, well he was just happy to be the Beatles drummer. They all forget something vitally important that Brian Epstein told them about the survival of the group. He told them that they were each 25% of the whole. No one can be the Beatles without the other three. And maybe, just maybe, Paul was the first to forget this, and by doing so died as a Beatle. All rumors are based on some facts. And it seems to me, though I've only slightly touched on the subject, that this is what happened. At least in part.
And now, 44 years later, the world is rediscovering The Beatles. Not the break up or the fighting, but the four lads that were friends and belonged in a band together. We remember when we all lived in a yellow submarine, were all together now, and all you needed was love. And those four guys put their life's into that dream and gave it to the world. That light will never dim. For those that came here to find out about the Paul is dead thing, I'm sorry if I've disappointed you. John is dead. George is dead. Ringo still plays drums in his unique and amazing way. Paul is working his butt off doing many things, seemingly revitalized by a new young wife. His pop music still misses that Lennon edge, Harrison guitar, and Ringo back beat.
Even Paul had some fun with it on his 'Paul is Live' album. The cover of Paul Is Live shows him with his dog on the famous Abbey Road crosswalk—hardly a funeral procession. In the background of the album cover photo is a Volkswagen Beetle with the license plate reading "51 IS". Rather than being dead in his twenties, Paul was still alive and making music at age 51.
The Beatles? They live on right here in my heart, every bit as big as Jesus.
A hand is over Paul's head, as though he were being blessed by a priest before being interred.
If you hold a mirror across the middle of the words "LONELY HEARTS" written across the center of the bass drum, you will see "IONEIX HE<>DIE". When arranged as "I ONE IX HE <> DIE," this image suggests the date (11-9, or November 9, 1966) that Paul died, as the diamond between the words "HE" and "DIE" points directly at Paul.
In three booklet that came with Magical Mystery Tour, Paul is sitting at a desk behind a sign that says, "I was." The British flags are crossed which is what is done at a military funeral.
Is that a 3 painted on the drum, saying Love "3" Beatles?