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In the late 1960s there was a popular theory that Paul McCartney was dead and replaced by an imposter. The Beatles had announced that they would never tour again, and many people wanted an explanation for this - the fantastical Death Theory was the one favoured. The theory suggests that Paul McCartney died in a car accident on the 9th November 1966, and was replaced by someone, named Billy Shears, who had surgery to look like Paul McCartney.
The evidence was contained in clues in the albums released by the Beatles, in the words and pictures they contained. Here then are those clues, and the evidence that claimed that Paul McCartney was dead.
Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
This was the album that launched the "Paul Is Dead" mania. In it there were several supposed clues.
The Album Cover:
On the album, there is a flower display of yellow hyacinths, in the shape of a yellow left-handed guitar, Paul McCartney was left handed, so many believe that the guitar represents him. It only has 3 strings on - many believe that this represents that there were only 3 Beatles still alive. Many also believe the flowers spell out "Paul?".
Another flower display is the name "Beatles" itself. Curiously, this was the first time the band had called itself "Beatles" and not "The Beatles". Many believe that the name "Beatles" is saying that they are no longer "The" Beatles, merely some, ie. 3, Beatles. Another view is that it spells out "Be At Leso" if you include the flowers on the right - supposedly the resting place of Paul McCartney's remains. However, nowhere with the name of "Leso" is listed in modern atlases.
Issy Bonn, a member of the crowd, has his right hand rasied above Paul McCartney's head. This supposedly is a symol of death in many Eastern societies. This symbol is repeated several times in later albums, but only over Paul's head.
Paul McCartney is holding a black cor anglais - the only member of the Beatles with a black instrument - and black is the colour of funerals. He is holding it with three fingers - does this symbolise only three Beatles?
In the front of the cover there is statue of Kali, a goddess that symbolised rebirth and regenereation. Does this hint that there is a new member of the Beatles?
On the doll on the right of the album there is an Aston Martin, which is considered the car of the accident. The doll sits on the lap of a grandmother figure. She has a (bloodstained?) driving glove on her left hand - symbolising the car accident, and the fact that Paul was left-handed?
The biggest clue is on the drum in the centre of the picture. The drum was designed by a Joe Ephgrave - a name considered by some to be an amalgamation of "Epitaph" and "Grave". If you hold a mirror horizontally athrough the middle of "Lonely Hearts", the message "I ONE IX HE <>(diamond) DIE" - the "I One" has been interpreted to mean 11 - and so the mesage reads "11 9 HE DIE" or the 9th of November, the date of the accident. The <> is a diamond shape that points straight up at the figure of Paul McCartney, demonstrating who has died. But would the Beatles, being English, have used the American tradition of putting the month before the day?
The album is also bright red - the colour of (Paul's?) blood.
Sgt Pepper's - the first album after the accident - is also the first album by Apple. Many believe "Apple" sounds like "A-Paul", meaning without Paul in the same way that "amoral" means without morals and "asexual" means without sex.
Lyrics And Booklet:
"I took her home, I nearly made it" - from Lovely Rita - one theory is that Paul was driving and gave a hitchhiker a lift, when he died in the crash.
In the original album's lyric sheet (but sadly not in CD), the lyrics were written over the pictures of the Beatles.
George Harrison's finger distinctly points at a line from She's Leaving Home that reads "Wednesday Morning at five o'clock as the day begins" - this has been used to show the time of the death - the 9th of November was a Wednesday.
The words to Within You Without You were printed on the LPs lyric sheet over Paul's body. The words "We were talking about the space between us all/And the people who hide themselves behind a wall/of illusion never glimpse the truth/Then it's far too late - when they pass away." Does this mean no-one glimpses that Paul has died? Is Paul the one who passed away?
5 o'clock is also mentioned in Good Morning, Good Morning - "People running round it's 5 o'clock/Everywhere in town is getting dark/Everyone you see is full of life" - does this refer to the fact that Paul is dead, but his death was covered up? Another line in "Good Morning, Good Morning" is "Nothing to do to save his life" - does this mean that Paul could not be saved? Many believe that the title has "Morning" as a play on "Mourning", weeping for someone's death.
There are many clues in the song A Day In the Life. The line "He blew his mind out in a car" can only refer to some form of car accident. "They'd seen his face before, nobody..." - had they seen his face as one of the Beatles? Some people interpret "nobody" to mean decapitation, or "no body".
Who exactly is Billy Shears who is being introduced? And by saying "I don't really want to stop the show", does it mean the Beatles plan to carry on, regardless of Paul's death?
One theory, that Paul McCartney is wearing a badge with the letters "OPD" (standing for "Officially Pronounced Dead") is, though, false. It quite clearly says "OPP" - and is the logo of the Ontario Provincial Police. (see P13 in the CD booklet). However, one theory says that sometime after Sgt. Pepper was released, a worldwide Paul look-alike contest was held. The winner was from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, which is in the area where the OPP work.
However, on pages 9 and 23, Paul is the only one seen sitting in what is described as the fetal position - how people are buried in Celtic traditions. He is also interestingly the only Beatle whose back is turned to the camera - (page 11 & 13 of the CD booklet), meaning Paul won't be facing us anymore?
Another theory was that on the photo where Paul turns his back (p10-11 of the CD booklet), the Beatles had changed their epaulets to their left shoulder, and not right as elsewhere in the album. This practice is appropriate for funeral possesions. Many believed that this was a clue in itself regarding Paul's death as they are ePAULets - however, this photo is merely the mirror image of the photo on page 12-13.
Fans seeking Paul McCartney death clues even went as far as to seek clues in other albums before Sgt Peppers. In "Help!" it was noticed that Paul was the only Beatle not wearing a hat, and the album title Rubber Soul was interpreted as "Rubber" refering to screaching tyres and "soul" referring to death. It is also said that the Beatles are looking down into a coffin. Rubber Soul, though, was released in 1965, before the supposed accident in 1966.
From Revolver, there are more "clues". "Got To Get You Into My Life" states "I was alone, I took a ride, I didn't know what I would find there" - interpreted as meaning the drive before the accident. The song "She Said She Said" also says "I know what it's like to be dead", and this has been considered a death clue also.
What these albums show is that there were many people who had different versions of the theory, and the date of the death was disagreed upon - and that it is possible to construct "clues" from anything.
The Beatles: Yesterday And Today
Another album released before was the American album "The Beatles Yesterday And Today", which was reported to hold several clues.
The first of these was that the original cover, which contained the Beatles dressed in white coats with figs, meat and headless dolls - symbolising decapitation. There is also a set of false teeth on Paul's right arm. People have claimed that Paul's watch says 5 o'clock, but in truth it is impossible to prove. When that cover was banned, the new cover showed the group around a trunk, with Paul sitting inside - many people considered this to be a coffin.
In both copies of the album, the title "And Today" was on a seperate line to "Yesterday". Many people felt that this symbolised that the Beatles today were different to the Beatles yesterday, as Paul was dead. "Yesterday" is also the title of Paul's most famous Beatles song.
The play list in "Yesterday And Today" has been considered a clue. Songs on it are:
"Drive My Car" - does this refer to the car accident?
"I'm Only Sleeping" - does this mean Paul is "sleeping", meaning dead?
"Act Naturally" - is this the imposter's task? Or what the Beatles themselves plan to do without Paul.
"If I Needed Someone" - is this the search for a Paul replacement?
"Dr Robert" was said to be the name of the plastic surgeon who operated on Paul...
A Collection Of Beatles Oldies
This was a British album released just before Sgt. Pepper's in time for Christmas. It also contained clues. On the front cover, a Paul-like Beatle sits with a cigarette in his right hand, just like in Abbey Road. There is also a picture of a car driving straight towards his head - suggesting a car accident and decapitation.
The title "Beatles Oldies" on the drum Paul is sitting on also contains clues, and is the second drum to conatin clues. Firstly, it says "Beatles" and not "The Beatles", the significance has been discussed before. The word "Oldies" is also interesting. The last four letters are, of course, "Dies". The first two, are O and L. What letters come after O and L in the alphabet? P and M - Paul McCartney's initials - so the title says "P M Dies".
On the back cover, Paul is the only Beatle dressed in black - the colour associated with funerals.
Magical Mystery Tour
Like Sgt. Pepper's, there are clues in the Magical Mystery Tour film, booklet, cover and lyrics. Unfortunately, the 24 page photo booklet that was with the original LP version is not available with the current CD.
The Cover, Booklet and Film
The cover has the four Beatles dressed in different costumes - one of which is a black Walrus costume. In some Scandinavian countries, a Walrus is said to a harbinger of death. (Rumours that "walrus" is Greek for "corpse" are, however, false.) Black, as has been said, is a colour of funerals. Who is the Beatle in the Walrus suit? The Beatles said it was John, yet the bird-like creature on the top right seems to be wearing John's glasses.
Yet again, on the cover, the group are refered to as "Beatles".
In the booklet, examining the centre picture (4 & 5 on the CD) reveals many clues. Ringo's drum has the message "Love 3 The Beatles" - why the 3? Does this refer to the fact that there are only 3 Beatles and Paul is dead? Also note the shoes by the drums, and that Paul is not wearing any, like in "Abbey Road". In some societies, corpses are burried without shoes on.
Another photo in the booklet has John Lennon's hand raised over Paul McCartney's head, similar to on Sgt Pepper's cover.
At the end of the Magical Mystery Tour film, George, Ringo and John are wearing red carnations, yet Paul's is black - why? Paul is also the only Beatle to recieve a boquet of dead flowers. Are these for his grave?
In the leaflet, underneath the song name "I Am The Walrus" are the words ""No You're Not" said Little Nicola". As we later learn that the Walrus was supposed to be Paul - does this mean that Paul is an imposter?
In the film, and in the longer, original booklet, Paul McCartney when in uniform sits behind a desk with the words "I was" in front. Above his head there is a cross of flags. Crosses bring to mind ideas of gravestones, and death. Another picture is of John Lennon in the tour ticket shop, with the words "The Best Way To Go Is By M & D Co" to his right. "M & D Co." is said to be the initials of a British funeral director - but this is a tenuous link. What does remain scary is that the company's initials - M D C - are also the initials of Mark David Chapman, John Lennon's murderer.
Magical Mystery Tour was released as an album on December 8th 1967 - 13 years later, to the exact day on December 8th 1980, John Lennon was murdered.
- From "I Am The Walrus" -
"I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together" - does this refer to John Lennon, Paul and Paul's imposter?
"Stupid bloody Tuesday" is said to refer to when Paul dies - yet this disagrees with the Wednesday clues. One argument is that it refers to the night before the accident, when Paul allegedly got drunk and into an argument with the other Beatles - but can this be considered stretching it?
The line "Waiting for the van to come" is said to refer to an ambulance for Paul.
"Goo goo g'joob" are a quote of Humpty Dumpty's last words - the "Eggman". Does this symbolise a Humpty Dumpty fall and a break-up of the Beatles with Paul's death - like an egg is broken?
At the very end of the song verses from King Lear is heard, including the words:
OSWALD Slave, thou hast slain me: villain, take my purse:This has been interpreted to suggest the death - that the imposter has in effect "slain" the real Paul McCartney. He has taken his purse and money by impersonating Paul McCartney, the one who has suffered an "untimely death".
If ever thou wilt thrive, bury my body;
And give the letters which thou find'st about me
To Edmund earl of Gloucester; seek him out
Upon the British party: O, untimely death! [Dies]
EDGAR I know thee well: a serviceable villain;
As duteous to the vices of thy mistress
As badness would desire.
GLOUCESTER What, is he dead?
In "Blue Jay Way" George sings "Please don't be long, please don't you be very long". Some claim that this, when reversed, says "Paul is bloody, Paul is very very bloody."
If you listen closely to the very end of "Strawberry Fields Forever", the words "I buried Paul" are said to be hearable, yet this is muttered, and the Beatles all said that it was really John saying "Cranberry Sauce". This seems most likely, as on the Anthology version, the words "Cranberry Sauce" are audible loud and clear. However, in the video for "Strawberry Fields Forever", as soon as the words "Nothing Is Real" are sung, we are greeted with a close up of Paul's face. Is this saying that it is not Paul?
There are very few clues on the Yellow Submarine album.
Firstly, on the cover, John has his raised hand above Paul's head - identical to in Magical Mystery Tour and Sgt. Pepper's.
The song "Only A Northern Song" also contains clues in its lyrics: "If you think the harmony/is a little dark and our of key/You're correct, there's nobody there" and "When you're listening late at night/you may think the band's not quite right" - is the band not right because Paul is not there, and so not singing the harmony?
The Beatles: The White Album
There are clues in this album also. The cover, being white, is the colour of death in some societies. The photos inside also contain clues, as do the lyrics, and even some songs when played backwards!
The Booklet And Cover
On p3 of the CD booklet there is a picture of Paul lying in a bath. It has been suggested that the water that's up to his neck symbolises decapitation - the photo also does not seem of a lifelike Paul.
On p7 in the bottom middle has a picture of Paul, with what appears to be skeletal hands reaching out to grab him from behind.
The main photograph of Paul McCartney has also been said to show a scar above Paul's lip - allegedly the imposter's plastic surgery.
The first is that in "Glass Onion" John sings "Here's another clue for you all, The Walrus was Paul" - a direct reference to Magical Mystery Tour, the implications of which have already been discussed.
Ringo sings "You were in a car crash, and you lost your hair" in "Don't Pass Me By". Did Paul lose his hair and his head through being decapitated? Once again - a reference to a car crash.
George "Look[s] at the floor and I see it needs sweeping" in "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" - sweeping up blood?
And just what is being refered to when Paul suggests that "No-one will be watching us, why don't we do it in the road?" Is this a referal to the accident that no-one saw being covered up?
In "Yer Blues", the lines "the Eagle picks my eye/the worm he licks my bones" refer to a corpse decomposing, and the lyrics "Yes I'm Lonely, Wanna Die, If I'm not dead already, girl you know the reason why" - does this refer to Rita, the hitchhiker who witnessed the accident? And "If I'm not dead already" - does this mean Paul is, in fact, already dead, and so there is an imposter?
Is the "Blackbird" a symbol of death?
"Revolution 9" endlessly repeats "Number 9", does this refer to the date of Paul's death? Or refer to Paul, as "McCartney" is a name with nine letters in. Curiously, November the ninth 1966 - the day of the supposed accident - was the day that John and Yoko met. Which was also the fifth anniversary of Brian Eptsein meeting the Beatles on November 9th, 1961.
There are also clues when tracks are played in reverse. Between "I'm So Tired" and "Blackbird" is a mumble, which when reversed, is supposed to say "Paul is dead man, miss him, miss him, miss him." "Revolution 9", when reversed, apparently has messages including "Turn me on, dead man" and "let me out! let me out!", which are said to be the death cries of Paul McCartney, trapped in his car...
Let It Be
This album does not contain many clues. Only that the cover is funeral black, and that Paul McCartney's photo is the only one with a blood-red background.
Booklet And Cover
The cover of Abbey Road has the four Beatles crossing the road, in a manner that is supposed to symbolise a funeral parade. John is wearing white, which is supposed to be a colour of mourning in Eastern religions, and Ringo is wearing funeral black. Paul McCartney is out of step, and again holds a cigarette in his right hand when he is left handed, similar to in "A Collection Of Beatles Oldies".
Paul is also shoeless, similar to in Magical Mystery Tour, reminding us of the custom to burry people without their shoes in some cultures.
The Beatles are walking East-West, and in Ancient Egypt, pharohs were buried facing west.
Behind is the Volkswagen Beetle with the number plate "LMW 28IF", which is supposed to say that Paul would be 28 If still alive... However, Paul was 27 at the time. Some say that some cultures count you as 1 when you are born, and so that he would be 28 in their customs. This, though, could be considered going too far.
On the back cover of the album is the name "Beatles" - yet again repeating the idea that they are just some Beatles, not The Beatles. The "S" of Beatles has a crack in it - does this symbolise that there is a flaw in the Beatles themselves?
In the original album, but sadly not the CD, on the back you can see dots to the left of the word "Beatles". These dots, when connected, form the shape of a 3 - so that it reads 3 Beatles on the back. 1
You also see a girl in a blue dress walk past. Some people feel that this represents "lovely Rita", the hitchhiker Paul was supposed to have been with at the time of the accident. Another theory is that it is Jane Asher - the girl who Paul McCartney was engaged to, before he married Linda McCartney. Paul's marriage to Linda was thought to be proof of the fact that he was not Paul, as Paul's relationship to Jane ended at the time of his supposed death.
- Clues in the lyrics include several in the opening track "Come Together":
The phrase "flat top" could refer to a headless corpse
"He wears no shoes shine" - Paul has twice been seen without shoes.
"One and One and One is Three" - does this refer to there being only 3 Beatles?
"Come together, right now, over me" conjurs up images of a wake gathered around Paul's coffin at a wake.
The line "Got to be good looking as he's so hard to see" - Paul was considered the good looking Beatle - is he hard to see as he has been buried? Also, only the "good looking" will be able to spot the hidden clues.
The song "Sun King" could have a hidden meaning, as King Louis XIV was called the "Sun King". Alexander Dumas' famous novel "The Man In The Iron Mask" tells how the Sun King was replaced by an imposter.
In "You Never Give Me Your Money" are the words "1,2,3,4,5,6,7, all good children go to Heaven" - is the going to Heaven a reference to Paul being dead? Curiously, the numbers here add up to 28 also...
During this time, some singles were released that were not put on any albums. Lady Madonna's line "Wednesday Morning Papers Didn't Come" has been interpreted to mean that on the day of Paul's death, a Wednesday, no report of it was in the news at all.
How likely are these clues? It cannot be denied that the vast majority are coincidences, interpreted in certain ways. It is true, though, that the Beatles did experiment with backwards tracks - the earliest example is the song "Rain" where at the end there is a backward track of John singing the first line again. As for hidden clues in album covers - the original cover of Wings' "Red Rose Speedway" had a mesage in braille that read "we love you, Stevie baby" that was included for Stevie Wonder.
Another curiosity is that on Wenesday November 9th 1966 Paul McCartney DID have an accident, but this was a motorcycle accident on the way to his aunt Bett's house, and it did not happen at 5 o'clock. A local doctor was called, and the accident resulted in only a chipped tooth, and a scar to his lip. This is why in the "Rain" and "Paperback Writer" videos, Paul appears without a tooth - which was considered evidence of his being an imposter. It would also explain any scars seen in the "White Album" photo.
If Paul McCartney was dead and there were clues telling us this, then why did these clues stop? Why aren't there any references to this in the Beatles solo careers, with the exception of John Lennon's bitter line in "How Do You Sleep?"; "Those freaks was right when they said you was dead".
And is it really possible for a mere Paul McCartney look-alike to have written such classic songs as "Band On The Run", "Live And Let Die", "No More Lonely Nights", "We All Stand Together", "Mull of Kintyre" and "Somedays"? That seems unlikely.
One thing that remains is a curious legacy that perhaps tells us more about the time than the Beatles. It was a time when the theory of a conspiracy regarding John F. Kennedy's assasination was on a lot of people's minds, and with Vietnam going on, it was a time of paranoia when it was easier to believe in the extreme than rationality.
Yet despite this, Paul McCartney has proven that he has a sense of humour regarding the whole thing. If you look at the cover of his 1993 album "Paul is Live", he is crossing Abbey Road walking his son's dog, and the Beetle in the background has the number plate "51 IS" - saying that Paul is 51, and IS alive. And if you play some versions of "Maybe I'm Amazed" backwards, you are rewarded with Paul reading out a recipe for lentil soup, and a message: "Oh, and by the way - I'm alive".How the Beatles Did Not Get Their Name