Paul Is Dead

The Paul Is Dead rumour started with a series of events in the 1960s that led fans of the popular rock band The Beatles to believe that bassist Paul McCartney was actually dead and replaced with a look-alike. McCartney remains alive, as of 2005.

The rumour began in earnest in 1969, when someone identifying himself as "Tom" called Russ Gibb, a radio DJ from WKNR-FM in Detroit, Michigan, and announced that McCartney was dead. Other DJs, television news reporters, newspapers, and magazines picked up on the story and began to look for clues.

The rumour eventually became a full-fledged conspiracy theory as members of the media and Beatles fans searched album artwork and song lyrics for clues to the cover-up and McCartney's supposed death. Believers eventually decided that McCartney had died in a car accident that happened at 5 a.m. on a Wednesday morning (the time and day, mentioned in the song "She's Leaving Home"), and that "he hadn't noticed that the lights had changed" ("A Day in the Life") because he was busy watching the pretty girl on the sidewalk ("Lovely Rita"). According to believers, McCartney had been replaced with the winner of a McCartney look-alike contest. The name of this look-alike has been recorded as both William Campbell and William Shears. Though it has been denied by all four members numerous times, many fans are convinced that the rumor was a hoax perpetrated deliberately by the Beatles as a joke. The rumor has been exhaustively examined in the book Turn Me On, Dead Man: The Beatles and the "Paul-Is-Dead" Hoax by Andru J. Reeve, the latest edition released in October 2004.

Other alleged clues included:

  • The words "number nine, number nine" on the track "Revolution 9" on The Beatles (aka The White Album) became "turn me on, dead man, turn me on, dead man" when played backwards. The track also includes other clues, such as the sound of a car crashing, and comments by John Lennon which seem to indicate what McCartney was doing before he "died" (for example, one comment goes "who can tell what he was saying...his eyes was on fire", while another comment played backwards yields "let me out, let me out!").
  • A similar reversal at the end of "I'm So Tired" (also from The Beatles) revealed "Paul is dead, man, miss him, miss him..."
  • Another The Beatles track, "Don't Pass Me By", has lyrics that read, "I'm sorry that I doubted you...I was so unfair. You were in a car crash, and you lost your hair..."
  • The end of The Beatles track "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" has George Harrison seem to be calling "Paul, Paul, Paul..." (indicating Harrison missing his colleague).
  • Lyrics from the Sgt. Pepper track "Good Morning, Good Morning" contain "nothing to do to save his life".
  • Another Sgt. Pepper track has the lyrics "life goes on within you and without you" (from Harrison's "Within You Without You").
  • Believers think that Lennon said "I buried Paul" at the end of "Strawberry Fields Forever" on Magical Mystery Tour although Lennon claimed he was actually saying "cranberry sauce" and producer George Martin confirmed it in his book Summer of Love. The Beatles Anthology Volume 2 CD includes alternate takes of the song which also confirm this.
  • Another Magical Mystery Tour track, "Blue Jay Way", leads believers to think Harrison is giving a eulogy to Paul (with the lyrics "please don't be long, please don't you be very long, please don't be long, or I may be asleep...").
  • The lines "I believe in yesterday, suddenly, I'm not half the man I used to be, there's a shadow hanging over me. Yesterday came suddenly..." from the song "Yesterday". To believers, this was an admission from McCartney's replacement that he was not the same person.
  • On the US release "Yesterday" ... and Today, McCartney is sitting inside a trunk. Believers thought that the trunk was supposed to represent McCartney's coffin.
  • The Revolver track "She Said, She Said" contains the lyrics "I know what it's like to be dead".
  • The Rubber Soul album cover is supposed to look like the other Beatles (and the McCartney look-alike) are looking down into the grave of the real McCartney.
  • The Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cover appears to be a group of mourners standing in front of a freshly dug grave. McCartney is the only person holding a wooden instrument, representing a coffin, and the instrument is the only one that is black, representing death. It also appears like he's being propped up by Ringo Starr and Harrison, as if he were stiff. McCartney is the only person with a hand over his head, a religious symbol for blessing the dead. The hand belongs to Stephen Crane, an American writer who died at the age of 28. Around the "grave", there are several symbols. A doll with a cracked head represents McCartney's fatal injury, a car on one knee and a bloody driving glove on the other. A TV that is not turned on represents the news blackout about his death. Over the letter L in Beatles, one can see McCartney's rugby trophy.
  • The inside cover of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album has Paul wearing an emblem on his shirt sleeve whose initials are believed to be O.P.D. (for "officially pronounced dead"). However, it is the emblem of the O.P.P. (Ontario Provincial Police) not O.P.D.
  • The yellow flowers on the cover of Sgt. Pepper appear to spell out "PAUL?" McCartney's bass with 3 sticks can also be thought as representing the 3 remaining members.
  • An interesting trick is to take a shiny, polished butter knife and lay it horizontally across the words "LONELY HEARTS" on the drum on the cover of Sgt. Pepper. The top half of the words, combined with their mirror image, spells out "1 ONE 1 X HE ^ DIE", with the arrow pointing up towards McCartney and saying 3 Beatles are left and the X is without Paul.
  • The Magical Mystery Tour track "I Am The Walrus" clues us in that McCartney "died" on a "stupid bloody Tuesday" (if we are to believe that McCartney died "Wednesday morning at five o'clock", as in "She's Leaving Home" from Sgt. Pepper, then it would translate to be Wednesday morning U.K. time, while it would still be Tuesday evening in the U.S. West Coast). The chant at the end of the track, played backwards, reveals "Paul Is Dead, Paul Is Dead..." And when played forwards to the end, contains a portion of a BBC radio broadcast of King Lear which mentions, "O, untimely death!" McCartney is depicted as a walrus according to both the Magical Mystery Tour album cover and The Beatles song "Glass Onion" as Lennon sings, "Here's another clue for you all, the Walrus was Paul." Some claim the depiction of a walrus is an ancient sign of death, ranging from ancient Viking to ancient Greek to ancient Inuit, but no evidence for such claims has ever been produced.
  • In a dancing scene in the film Magical Mystery Tour, McCartney wears a black carnation while the other three Beatles wear red ones, another indication of death. (The real reason was that they had run out of red ones.)
  • In another scene in the film Magical Mystery Tour, McCartney is dressed as an Army Sergeant with a card on his desk that says "I WAS" (indicating that the man WAS Paul).
  • On the back cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band McCartney is facing backwards, which is supposedly because he was dead and replaced with an imposter in the photograph.
Missing image
The car in the background of the cover of the Abbey Road album has a license plate reading 281F. This is suggested as meaning that McCartney would have been 28 years old in 1969 if he was alive.
  • The front cover of Abbey Road is a representation of Paul's funeral procession. Lennon is the clergyman or priest (dressed in white), Starr the funeral director or pall bearer (formally dressed), McCartney the corpse (bare feet and cigarette [ Sicilian symbol of death] and out of step with the others), and Harrison the grave digger (denim working clothes). Furthermore the licence plate of the white car says LMW 281F. LMW is said to stand for "Linda McCartney Widow (or Weeps)", and 28IF suggests Paul would have been 28 if he had not died. (At the time of the album's release, September 26, 1969, McCartney was in fact 27.) Additionally, the cigarette in the picture is in McCartney's right hand, even though he is left-handed. On the back cover, a strangely configured and placed "3" in front of the Beatles name indicates three "remaining" Beatles. Also, the name Beatles has a crack running through the letter S, making it imperfect. Also, if you look at the girl in the blue dress, some people claim that it makes a profile of McCartney's face.
  • "Come Together" (from Abbey Road) contained several clues in the lyrics..."he got hair down to his knee" refers to the claim that hair and nails continue to grow after death..."he wear no shoeshine" refers to Paul being barefoot on the cover..."he got toe-jam football" refers to rugby, a sport Paul liked to play..."he got monkey finger" refers to a thin frail fingers of someone who's been dead..."one and one and one is three" refers to there being only three "remaining" Beatles..."got to be good looking" refers to McCartney as the "cute" Beatle..."'cos he's so hard to see" refers to the fade memory of someone who is now gone. "Come together right now over me" refers to over McCartney's grave as the mourners come together.
  • The singer in "With a Little Help from My Friends" is announced as Billy Shears, the same name as William Shears, the fictional McCartney look-alike who is said to have replaced Paul.

Lennon joked about it in the years following the initial growth of the rumor. In his solo years, John refered to the rumor in his vengeful song to McCartney entitled "How Do You Sleep?" from the 1971 Imagine album, saying, "Those freaks was right when they said you was dead." McCartney himself also made fun of the rumor with the title of his 1993 live album and tour, Paul Is Live.

With the advent of the Internet, the "Paul is Dead" rumors have found new life. Several websites have sprung up claiming that photographic evidence proves that the Paul McCartney before and after late 1966 couldn't possibly be the same man. A popular new take is that the alleged imposter's name is William Sheppard (based off of the inspiration for the Beatle song "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill"), a former member of the Ontario Provincial Police.

Students of the bass guitar have noted a marked difference between the style and quality of Paul's playing between earlier Beatles albums and later ones, his earlier playing being very simplistic while his later playing shows a great deal of skill and innovation. This can be linked to a change in recording technique; prior to 1966 he often recorded his bass live, but around that year he began to overdub the bass parts later, giving him more ability to form melodic bass lines.

Beatles fans critical of McCartney's solo career often suggest that the hoax is true, pointing out that there is no way the Paul McCartney who was with the Beatles would write the music he is now producing. However, that said, very few fans of McCartney or the Beatles believe this rumor in earnest. In fact, it is usually a joke itself among Beatles fans.

As of 2005, the dead Beatles are John Lennon (murdered outside the Dakota building in New York City in December 1980), George Harrison (died of lung cancer in November 2001), and Stuart Sutcliffe (died of a brain haemorrhage in April 1962).

External links

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