The Rumour About Paul McCartney by Robert Paterson
Here's a little snippet to tell you about the "Is Paul McCartney dead?" debate that took place back in the 1960s. I've written about this elsewhere, but I thought I would now give a bit more detail about it.
Around the late 60s, after the Beatles had stopped touring as a band, a rumour started going around that Paul McCartney had died, possibly from a drug overdose, and that the man you saw in the pictures and film news footage was a look-alike. One version of the story claimed the man was Paul's brother, or his twin brother.
There were various opinions as to why the death of Paul should have been hushed up, if it were true. Whatever these reasons might be, many people claimed to have found hidden clues which served as evidence to back up the story. There were many of these clues on the Sergeant Pepper Album, but also elsewhere.
Here are some clues from Sergeant Pepper. Cover via AmazonOn the front cover is a flower bed with the band standing behind it, along with pictures of famous people from history. One of the clusters of flowers is in the shape of a guitar. The shape is that of the unusual "violin bass" that Paul always played on gigs, and it is in the left-handed position (Paul is famously left-handed.) The idea being that the flowers look like those on a grave.
The Sergeant Pepper album was one of the first to be packaged in the "gatefold" format, meaning that the cover opened like a book or a gate, showing a wide angle inside picture. On this picture, you can clearly see that Paul is wearing on his upper arm a black badge carrying the letters O.P.D. These letters are apparently used in hospitals and elsewhere to stand for "Officially Pronounced Dead."
On the back cover picture, Paul is shown facing away from the viewer while the other members face the camera. On the cover of the Abbey Road album, Paul is the only band member to have bare feet. Cover of Abbey RoadSome people saw bare feet as symbolic of death.
Some claimed to have found audio evidence in certain song tracks, notably in "Revolution 9" and "Helter Skelter" from the White Album by using electronic filtering techniques. The famous run-out groove on Sergeant Pepper was said to contain a secret message when played backwards, and the same was said about certain sections of "Revolution 9." The Beatles were known to enjoy experimenting with reverse over-dubbing, as in, for example, the George Harrison guitar solo in "I'm Only Sleeping" from Revolver, so it was natural that people would try to look for less obvious examples.
Well, the rumour eventually blew over, as do all rumours once they have run out of new evidence to support them. One possible explanation is that the whole thing was some private joke or hoax started by the band themselves, just for fun. Or perhaps it was giving a more artistic message. Because before all this happened, the Beatles had announced that they had tried the drug LSD, and Paul described the experience he had as being very profound. He claimed that he had come face to face with God while under the influence of the drug. This could be viewed as a type of "died and went to heaven then came back to tell the tale" experience. In those circumstances, it might well be artistically viable to hint at the death of the old self and a birth of the new.
The Beatles themselves were never forthcoming with explanations whenever the media questioned them about these speculations. This was quite right, artists should not need to explain their artistic creation, if it is complete it can stand alone by itself.
The most probable explanation is that all these "clues" were just coincidences which people seized on and tried to make something out of them which was not really there. It is a familiar media trick nowadays, but it was not so common at that time.