Most fans think solemnly back on the day they heard the first Beatle had died as a turning point in their lives. He was such a brilliant entertainer, a beloved icon, a symbol of joy and hope, especially in America — and then he was gone, in a single instant, and taken so unfairly. He was still young, and had so much life ahead of him. There were so many beautiful songs he would have written. He loved his wife so much — or he would have, if he’d met her. He was such a doting dad to his children … or he would have been, I’m sure, if he’d had any. With him, the dream of the Beatles died, and could never be as they were ever again.
I’m speaking, of course, of Paul McCartney, who died tragically one dark and rainy night in November 1966, when he lost control of his vehicle and ran into a lamppost, or a yellow lorry, and was decapitated, or engulfed in flames, or … well, the details have never been quite clear, what with the media blackout and carefully staged cover up. But when fans learned of the deadly accident three years later in 1969, they were devastated! And when they realized that Paul had been replaced with an impostor, a fake Paul — Faul, if you will — and the Beatles had left clues to their fanbase and tributes to Paul in all of their music and album art, fans were both enraged and intrigued.
Little is known about the impostor. He is sometimes known as William Shears Campbell, or William Sheppard. It is said that he once won a Paul McCartney lookalike contest, and was plucked from obscurity to become the new Paul. Some have claimed to have known him, but few have corroborated their tales. What is known is that the Faul was required to have many plastic surgeries in order to look more like Paul. Retouching on album artwork and official photos was painstakingly done. In attempt to hide the imperfections, he grew a mustache. And for long, no one suspected a thing. Foolishly, many still don’t.
Most have considered the story of Paul’s tragic death a mere hoax — a story, and a blatantly unreliable one at that. Until now.
A new documentary is being released, entitled Paul McCartney Really Is Dead: The Last Testament of George Harrison. These truthseekers somehow obtained a recording that George Harrison made before his death in order to expose the truth about the Paul is Dead conspiracy theory. I defy you to click the link and listen to the voice that is “identical to Harrison” tell you about the loss of his dear friend and the subsequent cover up — and I do believe you’ll agree that this recording gives a whole new meaning to the word “identical” — and tell me that you too are not a true believer.
Over 40 years later, the lid is finally being blown off this thing. And I, for one, cannot wait for the truth to be revealed. In order to celebrate the fine work of these detectives and the many dedicated searchers before them, I’ve decided to do a retrospective of the greatest moments in Paul is Dead history. After all, with confirmation of all of our deepest suspicions finally here, the mystery doesn’t have much time left.
1. The Cover of Abbey Road
By 1969, John, George and Ringo had tried almost everything to quietly clue their fans into Paul’s untimely demise. They even seemed to have Faul’s cooperation in placing the clues. Every single album and film they’d made since November of 1966 contained messages, many of them not even subtle, and still no one suspected anything.
That was when they got reckless and accidentally exposed the whole charade in front of a worldwide stage with the cover of Abbey Road, only after which the news of Paul’s death finally broke. At first glance, the cover is just an image of four men crossing the street. But it reveals something far more sinister.
As countless scholars of Paul’s death and subsequent cover up have written before me, the Abbey Road photograph quite clearly symbolizes a funeral procession. With his long hair, Jesus-like beard, and glowing white suit, John Lennon clearly represents God. Next in the procession comes the formally dressed Ringo Starr, who represents the clergy presiding over the service. Next comes “Paul McCartney” — and note that he is out of step with the other three Beatles, who all have left foot forward — who represents the dead man in his burial suit. The clearest indication that Faul represents a corpse is his bare feet, as many people are apparently buried barefoot. Lastly comes George Harrison, following the procession as the grave digger in his rough work clothes to put Paul finally to rest.
One also cannot forget the fifth “Beatle” in the background — the white Volkswagon Beetle behind the procession. A transparent tribute to Paul, it seems clear that it was placed there to represent the extra member of the group. The license plate, which was easily legible on the full-sized LP cover, also makes for interesting reading. The first line says “LMW” — believed to stand for “Linda McCartney Weeps.” It’s true that Linda never met the real Paul — but as his legal wife, nonetheless, surely she would have preferred the real deal? The second line says “28IF,” indicating that Paul would have been 28 if he had lived. True, Paul would have actually been 27, “but he would have been in his 28th year of existance (sic) as Indian beliefs count life from conception and not birth.” *cough*
2. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Artwork
Sgt. Pepper was a work that was begun with Paul still alive. Indeed, he apparently drove off in the night after an argument at a session. Finished with Faul, the album seemingly became something of a tribute to the real McCartney, because it was filled to the absolute brim with visual clues that the Paul in front of us was not the Paul we all knew and loved. One could easily write a blog post about this artwork alone — but let us take a look at just a few of the clues to be found here.
The most legendary and compelling of all the clues is also the most hidden. It has been discovered that if a mirror is placed horizontally across the center of the words “Lonely Hearts” in the middle of the Sgt. Pepper drum, a gruesome message is spelled out: “I ONE IX HE DIE”. Between the words “he” and “die” is an arrow pointing upwards, directly at Paul. The “I ONE IX” is believed to refer to the date of Paul’s death — 11/9 — as it is believed that Paul died during November. Click on through to see a photograph of this trick in action — it really does work.
The flowers on the front cover are also of particular note — notice that they have a feel rather similar to that of pre-arranged funeral/cemetary flowers. Below the word Beatles is also an odd arrangement — what appears to be a left-handed bass guitar, Paul’s instrument. (Some even believe that his name can be found in these yellow flowers.) Also notice the four additional wax Beatles, wearing all black and looking rather glum, as though they are in fact in mourning. As for Faul, he can be found on this cover with an open palm over his head — a symbol that surrounded him quite often, and which is believed to indicate death. *cough*
Even the inside gatefold of the album contains a famous clue. Take a careful look at the badge on “Paul’s” arm:
It reads “O.P.D.” — police code, apparently, for “Officially Pronounced Dead.” *seriously something is really stuck in my throat*
One can ask for little more confirmation than that. But a long list of Sgt. Pepper visual clues can be found here.
3. The White Album Poster Photo
Contained with the release of the White Album was a poster of various candid and personal photos of the Beatles — some dating back to their very early days as a group. Seemingly, the three remaining Beatles were having so much fun that they let even Faul get in on the action, with a little photo from his own past.
See above, this photo inconspicuously placed in a bottom corner of the poster. Many believe it to be the only known and public photograph of William Shears Campbell/William Sheppard, before he began his new life in the role of Paul. Look carefully, right down to the one arched eyebrow, and it’s remarkable just how much he looks like Paul — at least, the “Paul” we’re used to seeing now. There seems to be no public comment at all of who is in this photo. Some might say that it is actually Paul, in disguise. But why such a formal photo, when he was pretending to be somebody else? And why not simply state the man’s identity? Unless, of course, you were trying to hide something.
4. The Black Carnation
In the You Mother Should Know sequence from Magical Mystery Tour, the Beatles dance in white tuxedos, each having a carnation on his lapel. John, George, and Ringo each wear a carnation that is the standard red. But Paul on the other hand is wearing one that is … black? The color of mourning? If you can’t see it in the picture above, check out a brighter shot here.
One could merely argue that Paul was leading the dance and singing the lead vocals of the song, and therefore he wanted his own carnation to stand out. A plausible explanation. Except that why would the Beatle known for being most cheerful and upbeat choose a black carnation, during a happy and playful number, no less? Clearly, there were ulterior motives to be had.
5. The Cover of A Collection of Beatles Oldies (But Goldies)
The cover of this compilation album released only in the UK, a mere month after Paul’s death, is most likely in fact the very first Paul is Dead clue to see the light of day. Evidently, the Beatles had to scramble to get the artwork commissioned or changed following Paul’s death, but the rush paid off.
The drawn man on the cover is unidentified, and not clearly any particular Beatle. He does, however, wear clothing in the style that Paul was particularly fond of in late 1966, and bear a distinctive “mop top” haircut. If one is honest, she would easily have to say that of the four Beatles, the figure most resembles Paul. What makes this resemblance eerie is what is happening in the background — a drawing of a car, driving at night with headlights turned on, headed straight for the man’s head. Paul is said to have died in a car accident, at night. Is it possible that right after his alleged death, the appearance of this official Beatles album is a mere coincidence? It seems unlikely, at best.
Bonus Clue: Every Photo of “Paul” From 1967
Some say that 1967 was a weird time for Paul. He was mourning Brian Epstein’s death. He was doing lots and lots of cocaine! He just lost a lot of weight. And he was experimenting with new hair and clothing styles. Of course he looked a little different. People all change a bit, over time.
And to them I say: Yes, yes, excellent points. But does this look like Paul McCartney to you?
Case closed. Oh Paul, we hardly knew ye.
Leave your own favorite visual Paul is Dead clues in the comments. And be sure to check back in next week, when I examine the audio/lyrical clues the Beatles left us.