Hey, readers. Last month, I wrote about how United States Presidents weren’t exempt from being the subject of supposed curses. Singers, such as those in the 27 Club, have also been a part of folklore. Even a member of my all-time favorite group, The Beatles, was once the subject of an urban legend.
The Beatles in 1964 (Public Domain)
Rumors alleging Paul McCartney was dead began circulating in 1967. Proponents of the rumor claimed he died in a car crash on November 9, 1966. They further stated that in order to spare the public from grief, the remaining Beatles replaced him with a look-alike.
This look-alike was “an orphan from Edinburgh named William Campbell.” Others say his name was William Shears Campbell, which was shortened to Billy Shears. The name Billy Shears is included in the words of the song, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
These conspiracy theorists claimed the group began leaving subtle messages in their music and album artwork. Among these “supposed clues” are:
- The song “Glass Onion” includes the words, “The walrus was Paul.”
- At the end of “Strawberry Fields Forever,” listeners can hear John murmuring some words. Many claimed he was saying, “I buried Paul.”
- The White Album track “Revolution 9,” when played backward, supposedly includes the message, “Turn me on, dead man.”
- The cover of Magical Mystery Tour shows one unidentified band member dressed in a dark costume while the other three wear white.
- The back cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band shows George, John, and Ringo facing forward. Paul has his back to the camera.
The rumor continued to spread and grew rampant in the United States in 1969. That same year, the Beatles released Abbey Road. The album cover has become extremely famous in that visitors to London want to mimic the group walking across the street. However, the “Paul is Dead” theorists liken this cover to a “funeral march.”
- John, dressed in white, is symbolic of a heavenly being.
- Ringo, dressed in black, symbolizes an undertaker
- George, dressed in denim, represents a grave digger.
- Paul, barefoot and walking out of sync with the others, is the corpse
The license plate on the Volkswagen Beetle seen in the photo contains the characters LMW 28IF. Many say this is further evidence of Paul’s death, stating Paul would have been twenty-eight if he had lived until 1969. In fact, Paul was twenty-seven years old at the time the album was recorded. They also noted that left-handed Paul held a cigarette in his right hand, which was further proof the person in the photo was an imposter.
The main entrance of EMI, now Abbey Road, Studios (Public Domain)
Radio station WMCA in New York City sent talk show radio host Alex Bennett to Apple Corps. Ringo Starr told him, “If people are gonna believe it, they’re gonna believe it. I can only say it’s not true.”
In a radio interview, John Lennon called the rumors “insane” but added it was good publicity for the Abbey Road album.
The Beatles’ press office issued a rebuttal on October 21, 1969, calling the rumors, “a lot of rubbish.”
Apple Corps building at 3 Savile Row, site of the 1969 rooftop concert (Public Domain)
More than half a century has passed since these rumors circulated. Sir Paul McCartney is still very much alive today. He celebrated his 80th birthday on June 18 and recently completed a tour.
If you want to hear something that will send chills down your spine, watch the Peter Jackson documentary Get Back. (If you’re a Beatles fan and haven’t seen it, you really should.)
In 1969, George walked out of a rehearsal session saying he was leaving the group. John was late getting to the studio one morning. That left Paul and Ringo patiently (or maybe impatiently) waiting. At one point, Paul says, “And then there were two.”
The two remaining Beatles, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney in 2009.
Photo by Antonio Fucito, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons