Original publish date: June 22, 2015
Reissue date: May 2, 2019
Last week, we once again visited the famous “Paul is Dead” rumor that haunted the Beatles rock band for many years. Obviously, the rumor that Paul McCartney died in a November 1966 car accident was just a rumor, to many Beatlemaniacs during the final years of the turbulent sixties decade, it was very real. It had become a national pastime to search for clues to Paul’s death in the music and artwork produced by the band. The albums Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery tour were allegedly rife with references to Sir Paul’s demise.
The band’s next album, a self-titled work known as “The White Album”, was released on November 22, 1968, prophetically 5-years to the day after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The death reference is not overstated, as soon, the “Paul is Dead” theorists would dissect the music and its accompanying poster for further clues of McCartney’s death. The death connection continued as, in time, the album would be blamed for inspiring Charles Manson and his “family” during their murder spree. Much of which was aimed at the music industry itself through the Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson and the band’s record producer Terry Melcher. But that’s another story.
The stark snow white album cover was seen as an obvious reference to the white light of heaven, where Paul was supposed to be at its release. But it was the poster issued inside the white album (a collage featuring a number of random images of the Fab Four) that came under the scrutiny of those looking for “Paul is Dead” clues. In the lower right hand corner of the poster (page 7 of the CD booklet) is a grainy B&W photo of Paul dancing. Upon close examination, a pair of ghostly hands can be seen reaching toward Paul from behind.
In the lower left hand corner of the poster (page 18 of the CD booklet) is a cold war inspired passport photograph of Paul in disguise. Conspiracy theorists suggested that this image was actually of Paul’s replacement in the band, William Campbell Shears, taken prior to the plastic surgery that made him look more the “the late” Paul McCartney.
In the upper left hand corner of the poster (page 3 of the CD booklet) is a picture of Paul with his head partially submerged in a bathtub. The position of Paul’s head and the suds around him suggest the grisly accident scene of his fatal accident or perhaps the aftermath in the morgue. One version of the “Paul is dead” story claims that Paul left the recording studio after arguing with drummer Ringo Starr. In his song “Don’t Pass Me By”, Ringo is said to express his regret at the tragic turn of events after Paul’s angry departure from the studio: “I listen for your footsteps coming up the drive…I listen for your footsteps but they don’t arrive.” At the end of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, George Harrison is thought to moan the words “Paul, Paul”.
The song “Glass Onion” makes a number of references to Beatle songs and events. John mentions “The Fool on the Hill” and states, “I tell you man he living there still” thought by some to symbolize heaven. However, perhaps the most intriguing line in the song is “Well here’s another clue for you all…The walrus was Paul.” Seen as a final bow to his fallen bandmate and co-songwriter. Some sources have suggested that the phrase “goo goo g’joob” is from Finnegans Wake by James Joyce (Alas, the phrase “googoo goosth” is the closest Joyce gets in th book.) Never fear, the “Paul is Dead” rumorists claim that “goo goo g’joob” are the last words uttered by Humpty Dumpty before his fall. A fall that cracked his head open, much like Paul’s supposed fatal car accident.
Further proof is said to be found in the odd conclusion to “Cry Baby Cry” as Paul asks “Can you take me where I came from? Can you take me back?” Not necessarily as much for what those lines are supposed to mean, but rather that the song leads into “Revolution 9”, the most analyzed of all “White album” tracks by “Paul is Dead” clue seekers.
Revolution 9 was an innovative sound collage that, quite frankly, soared over most listener‘s heads. Later transcripts of the dialog heard early in the song reveals two men who can be heard saying “I know all about it George. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me? Yes.” Theorists claimed that this was John talking with George Martin about the secret placement of clues on Beatles records. However, the biggest clue to Paul’s death on the track is the title itself, whose repeated phrase “Number 9” is said to sound like “turn me on, dead man” when played backwards. A dark recall to the line “I’d love to turn you on” from “A Day in the Life”.
The sound collage of “Revolution 9” is said to contain a recreation of Paul’s fatal car accident. At one point listeners hear car horns, followed by a car crash, and concluding with the crackling sounds of a fire burning. When played backwards theorists claim the statement “Let me out! There were two. There are none now.” can be plainly heard. Most astonishingly, “Paul id Dead” devotees swear that, when played normally, the following disjointed lines can be heard throughout the song: “he hit a pole. We better get him to see a surgeon. So anyhow he went to a dentist instead. They gave him a pair of teeth that weren’t any good at all…So my wings are broken and so is my hair… I’m not in the mood for words… Find the night watchman… A fine natural imbalance… He must have got it in the shoulder blades… Take this brother, may it serve you well…” The final line marking Paul’s passing of the torch to his replacement William Campbell Shears.
Ardent believers believed that other “Backwards” clues could be found on the track “I’m so tired / Blackbird” when some random mumbling is heard that they believe sounds like John and Yoko right after the abrupt ending of “I’m So Tired” and before the beginning of the next song, “Blackbird“. This passage makes no sense when played forwards. However, when played backwards, they believe that you can hear John say, “Paul is a dead man. Miss him. Miss him. MISS HIM!” John Lennon was said to be expressing his grief over Paul’s death in this line of the song followed by the very next line on the record, sung by Paul, “Blackbird singing in the dead of night”, that mentions death.
Ten months later, on September 17, 1969, an article titled “Is Beatle Paul McCartney Dead?” was published in the student newspaper of Iowa’s Drake University. Soon, the “Paul is Dead” story went viral. Almost immediately, other articles followed claiming that clues to McCartney’s death could be found among the lyrics and album covers of The Beatles’ recordings. Clue hunting proved infectious and for a couple of months in late 1969 it became an international phenomenon. Just in time for the Beatles’ next album, Abbey Road. Guess what? The clues continued and soon, Paul McCartney himself would finally be heard from.