Under Essay, Research Paper
PAUL McCARTNEY, SIX FEET UNDER?
I read the news today, oh boy, about a lucky man who made the grade…he blew his mind out in a car. He didn’t notice that the lights had changed.(the Beatles, 1967) These lyrics proved to fans that Paul McCartney had indeed died in a tragic auto accident in late 1966. Some people were skeptical about the explanation, but upon investigating the album covers and the lyrics of the Beatles’ songs, the story seems to make sense. Some of the lyrics have to be a twisted in order to make sense in the prank, but after an explanation, the clues are perfectly coherent.
For thirty-one years, the “Paul Death Hoax” has intrigued a horde of Beatles’ fans and fanatics alike. While it’s difficult to point to an absolute point of origination, there is no evidence whatsoever that the Beatles themselves had anything to do with the story, although many claim that the Beatles intended it to be a joke the their fans. However, clues, which seem so cleverly arranged, are random coincidences or inaccurate interpretations of existing facts, and all Beatles have denied that they were in any way involved with the deceit. This leads people to believe that maybe Paul did die in that alleged accident.
In the late summer 1969, the Northern Illinois University campus newspaper, Northern Star, obtained a list of clues from a student who wrote a research paper on the hoax. (Saki) Russell Gibb, a disc jockey for the Detroit radio station, WNKR, then got a copy of it from a friend of his, and on his radio show, proceeded to read them and even make up his own on the spot. Within a few days, Gibb and his coworkers were astonished to see that newspapers and reporters took his on-air joke too seriously and spread the story more widely. (Saki) More clues came about when Fred Labour, arts reviewer of the University of Michigan’s student newspaper, The Michigan Daily, was asked to review “Abbey Road.” He had listened to Gibb’s radio show a few days before this, and was inspired to write his own article, based on “clues” from Gibb and making up his own. The newspaper published the article under the title, “McCartney Dead; New Evidence Brought to Light.” (Saki) Labour and the editor, J. Gray, assumed that everyone knew it was a joke. The rest of the world took it seriously, and soon Labour was swamped with phone calls from media who wanted more information about his findings. However, these two men are not “responsible” for the hoax, they were the ones who figured it out from the clues.
James Paul McCartney was born in Liverpool, England, on June 18, 1942, in Ward Hospital. His mother, Mary Patricia, had given up hospital work just over a year previously and became a health visitor. Jim McCartney, his father, worked for Napiers, the engineering works in Liverpool, at the time of Paul’s birth.
Paul started primary school at Stockton Wood Road Primary when the family moved to Speke, near Liverpool. He then went to the Liverpool Institute, the best-known of Liverpool’s grammar schools. (Davies, 24) At age thirteen, the McCartneys moved to a little house in Ardwick, also near Liverpool. A year later, Mary died of breast cancer, a tragedy that was extremely painful to the family, especially Paul’s little brother, Michael. The boys were then moved to stay with one of Jim’s sisters, Aunt Jinny, so Jim could start over with the household work. The boys eventually moved back home, but not without help from Jinny and Aunt Milly, another one of Jim’s sisters.
It was most likely because of his mother’s death that Paul decided to start playing guitar. (Davies, 26) He was influenced by the skiffle phase and Bill Haley’s early rock numbers, but like his fellow Beatles, he was impressed by Elvis Presley. It wasn’t until the summer of 1956 that Paul finally saw the first performance of his future co-lyricist, John Lennon. Paul was the one who showed them the chords and words to the popular tune, “Twenty Flight Rock.”(Davies, 33) His first real performance with the Quarrymen was at a dance at the Conservative Club in Broadway. A few years later, with the addition of another guitarist named George Harrison, the group changed their name to Johnny and the Moondogs, a name thought of at the spur of the moment by the host of a television show at an audition. (Davies, 58) In 1959, they changed their name to the Silver Beatles for an audition for the king of British rock and roll, Larry Parnes. Through a gig in Hamburg, Germany, they met their permanent drummer, Ringo Starr, who was then in the group Rory Storme and the Hurricanes. Finally in 1960 they shortened their name to the Beatles, the name that stuck. (Davies, 92)
On Wednesday, November 11, 1966, Paul was driving through town at five o’clock in the morning. He was staring at a meter maid named Rita, and didn’t realize that he was coming up to a red light. A gathering of people stared at the end result. Paul died of massive head trauma suffered in the crash. The Beatles later held a Paul look-alike contest to replace him. The winner was named William Campbell, a dead ringer for Paul, except for a scar on his upper lip.
The title on the cover of the album “Rubber Soul,” released in 1965, is in the shape of a heart, indicating a lost soul among the four Beatles. (Saki) The group (including “Paul”) is looking down, possibly peering into a grave. The picture is somewhat distorted so no one can tell there is an imposter Paul and not the real one. Even though this album came out before Paul’s death, it is still referred to for clues.
In the song “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” the words indicate what might have been going through Paul’s mind at the time of the crash: …-had it been another day, I might’ve looked the other way and never been aware. In the song, “Girl,” the lyrics refer to the highly publicized relationship between Paul and Jane Asher. …that a man must break his back to earn his day of leisure will she still believe it when he’s dead… shows that their relationship wasn’t a very good one. Most of the lyrics of “I’m Looking Through You” tell that Paul is in his grave:
I’m looking through you, where did you go? I thought I knew you, what did I know? You don’t look different but you have changed, I’m looking through you, you’re not the same…your lips are moving I cannot hear, you don’t sound different I’ve learned the game…you were above me but not today, the only difference is you’re down there…you’ve changed, you’ve changed, you’ve changed….
The words in “In My Life” describe how being alive is better than being dead …all these places have their moments….some are dead and some are living, in my life I love you more… The song “Nowhere Man” describes Paul in his present state, dead. He’s a real nowhere man…doesn’t have a point of view, knows not where he’s going to…you don’t know what you’re missing, nowhere man can you see me at all?
The next album that contains any clues is “The Beatles ‘Yesterday’…and Today,” released in 1966. This album had two covers, the first being the infamous “butcher cover.” In it, the group has lab coats on, and they are holding dismembered dolls. There is a set of teeth on Paul’s right arm, signifying his teeth were knocked out in the car crash, rendering dental records useless for identifying the body. (Gabriel) George is holding a doll’s head next to Paul’s head. This is supposed to show that Paul was decapitated in the accident. (Gabriel) The alternate cover had Paul in a box with the other three surrounding it. When the album was turned on its side, the box looked like a coffin. As a sick joke, George called Capitol Records and just had the alternate covers on top of the original covers, instead of reprinting them. (Saki) This is the first time “Paul” is seen with a scar on his upper lip, so it has to be the imposter, William Campbell.
The album had a couple of songs with lyrics that pointed to the death. I believe in yesterday…suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be, there’s a shadow hanging over me. Yesterday came suddenly are to signify that either Paul is no longer himself or he is not who he thinks he is. (Gabriel) He does everything he can, Dr. Robert… from the song “Dr. Robert” means that the doctor did everything he could to save Paul’s life after the accident. A reference to Paul being buried is in the song “And Your Bird Can Sing”: you can’t see me…you can’t hear me.
“Revolver” was released in August, 1966. This is the first cover picturing an open hand above Paul’s head, signifying that the person below was departed from this world. (Gabriel) Paul’s name is sideways, as if it didn’t fit with the rest of the names, indicating he doesn’t fit in with the rest of the band.
There are three lines of “Taxman” that have clues: …if you drive a car *Paul*…, reinforcing the fact that he died in a car accident, …if you get too cold, *Paul*…, saying that bodies become cold after they die, and …my advice to those who die, taxman…, could be a shortened form of taxidermist, who preserves the remains of dead animals. The word “Paul” is in asterisks because they really say “ohhh,” but it could be interchanged with “Paul.” Instead of using Father McKenzie in “Eleanor Rigby,” the lyrics were going to be Father McCartney, but the group figured that Paul’s father wouldn’t be too happy with his surname being used. Father McKenzie, writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear…was buried…Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave, no one was saved… “For No One” tells of a love of Paul’s (possibly Jane Asher) who is no more: …she says her love is dead…she says that long ago she knew someone but now he’s gone. The song “Got to Get You Into My Life” tells what happened that tragic day, in nutshell: I was alone I took a ride I didn’t know what I would find there…and then suddenly I see you (the metermaid). (Saki) Even though the lyrics of “Tomorrow Never Knows” don’t have Paul’s name in them, it could be substituted for the word “all” in this line: …*Paul* played the game existence to the end.
The front and back covers and inside gatefold of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” released in 1967, depict the most clues of any other album. Each of the wax figures on the front cover is of a deceased celebrity or someone who was outdated by then. There appears to be a freshly dug grave in front of all the people. The wax figures of the early Beatles show them facing Paul, who is facing forward into a grave. (Saki) Each Beatle is holding an instrument, John, a brass french horn, George, a brass flute, Ringo, a brass trumpet, and Paul, a black Cor Angelis clarinet. The flowers spell out “Beatles”, and there is a left-handed bass guitar with three sticks upon it, indicating the three remaining Beatles. Some even believe that the guitar appears to spell “PAUL?” (O’Brien). On the right side of the cover, there is a doll with red lines (blood) running down her dress (Jane Asher or the metermaid), and there is a small car on her lap, the model of the one Paul was driving. Below the “T” in the word “Beatles,” there is a statue of the Hindu god Shiva, “The Destroyer,” whose hand points directly at Paul. (O’Brien). If a mirror is held up perpendicular to the drum on the front, so the words “LONELY HEARTS” are split in half, the combined writing of the drum and the mirror says, “1 ONE 1 X HE DIE.” It says that there are three original Beatles left, the “X” crosses out the deceased Paul, and the arrow between “HE” and “DIE” points directly to Paul. There is another open palm above Paul’s head.
On the inside gatefold, the Fab Four are seen facing the camera. On Paul’s left shoulder, there is a patch whose identification is wrong at first glance. Some say it says “O.P.D.” which means “officially pronounced dead” in Canada, but it really says “O.P.P.” which stands for “Ontario Provincial Police.” This could also be interpreted in the song “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” that William Campbell was once a police officer.
The vinyl copy of “Sgt. Pepper’s…” has lyrics printed on the back cover, layered over a picture of the Beatles. Paul is facing backwards, to signify he is an imposter, and he appears to be taller than everyone else, even though he, John, and George are the same height. The lyrics “Within You Without You” from the song of the same title are coming out of Paul’s head. George’s thumb is pointing to the line, “Wednesday morning at five o’clock,” the time of Paul’s death. The word “LOVE” is spelled out by the Beatles, Paul’s “O” being left out. (O’Brien) George is pointing a “sixth finger” at Paul, indicating an ill-omen. (Saki)
“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” is an actual idea taken from history where a man can replace another man without anyone catching on. (Saki) …so let me introduce to you, the one and only Billy Shears and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band… introduces William Campbell to the world as Paul’s replacement. The lyrics to “Fixing a Hole” show how William is adjusting to his new position: …and it really doesn’t matter if I’m wrong I’m right, where I belong I’m right where I belong. See the Beatles standing there, they disagree…silly Beatle run round, they worry me… “She’s Leaving Home” tells the day of the week and time of day Paul died: Wednesday morning at five o’clock as the day begins… The metermaid he was looking at when he died is found to be named Rita, as in “Lovely Rita”: ..standing by a parking meter when I caught a glimpse of Rita… “Good Morning” tells of the chaos that followed the accident. …nothing to do to save his life…you’re on your own you’re in the street….people running around it’s five o’clock…watching the skirts you start to flirt now you’re in gear… The tragedy is finally told in the song, “A Day in the Life” : …he blew his mind out in a car, he didn’t notice that the lights had changed. A crowd of people stood and stared, they’d seen his face before. Nobody was really sure if he was from the house of Paul… However, the lyrics on the album cover say “house of Lords.” On side B of the British release, there is a statement called “The Inner Groove” that says, “Will Paul come back as Superman?” (Saki)
On the cover of “Magical Mystery Tour,” also released in 1967, the walrus is Paul, something not discovered until “The White Album.” Paul is also the only one in black, and is in front of the other three Beatles. According to the Lewis Carroll story, the walrus ate oysters and died, and the walrus is a sign of death in certain cultures. (O’Brien) When a mirror is held up to the word “Beatles,” it reveals a phone number (2317438). When called, the caller gets this cryptic message: “You’re getting closer…” and the call would abruptly end. (O’Brien) Throughout the booklet issued with the vinyl album, Paul is shown without shoes on. Generally people are buried without their shoes on. On the first page, Paul’s magician hat is pulled down over his face, hiding it because it is not really him. Page three finds Paul sitting under crossed flags; crossed flags are placed over caskets at British military funerals. (O’Brien) On the same page, a sign sits in front of him at the desk, reading “I WAS YOU.” It is this picture that the scar on his upper lip is noticed, indicating that William has successfully replaced Paul in the band. Paul’s hat is crushed on page four, indicating he suffered head injuries in the crash. The reference to head injuries comes up again on page nine, when the drawing of Paul shows a crack in his head. Page thirteen shows Ringo’s drum reading, “LOVE THE 3 BEATLES,” and a pair of bloody shoes right next to it. On page 23, the three remaining Beatles have red carnations, while Paul has a black carnation. Page 24 shows yet another open palm over Paul’s head. (Gabriel)
Day after day, alone on a hill, the man with a foolish grin is keeping perfectly still…but nobody ever hears him and the sound he appears to make… are the lyrics of “Fool on the Hill.” On page nine in the booklet, there is a cartoon of Paul labeled ‘fool on the hill’, with the word “hill” running down Paul’s head. Nobody ever hears him because he is gone. In “I am the Walrus,” the eggman equals life, while the walrus equals death: I am the eggman they are the eggman I am the walrus…(no you’re not, said little Nicola). “Hello Goodbye” tells how William had to adjust: …you say goodbye and I say hello. There is some conflict about the line I buried Paul, signifying that he was there with Father McKenzie (”Eleanor Rigby”), at the end of “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Some say John says that, others say John says cranberry sauce, but why would there be a pause between the syllables? …No one you can save that can’t be saved…nothing you can see that isn’t shown…yes, he’s dead…we loved you yeah, yeah, yeah from “All You Need is Love” confirms to listeners that Paul is indeed dead, and will be sorely missed. (Gabriel)
The album cover for “Hey Jude” shows the four Beatles standing in a doorway. On top of the doorway is a picture of where Paul is supposed to be buried. In the song, “Lady Madonna,” the lyrics say the newspapers that day of the accident were recalled: …Wednesday papers didn’t come… At the end of “Revolution,” some of the all rights sound just like Paul died, and occasionally a background vocal dubs in that phrase. The song “You Know My Name, Look Up the Number,” cites the phone number found on the “Sgt. Pepper’s…” album cover. There is a cuckoo clock that rings five times (possibly for the four Beatles and William) when the phone number is called and a gruff voice saying, “BEWARE OF ABBEY ROAD.” (O’Brien)
“White Album”, the mysterious double album, was released in 1968. On page seven of the CD booklet, there is a picture of Paul dancing in the bottom right corner. Looking closely, there appears to be two skeletal hands reaching for him. There is a large picture of Paul that clearly shows the scar on his upper lip, on page fourteen. William Campbell’s face is finally shown, before plastic surgery to look more like Paul, on page eighteen.
As mentioned before, in the song “Glass Onion,” the lyrics figure out very important evidence about Paul: I told you about Strawberry Fields…well her’s another place you can go…to see how the other half live looking through a glass onion… tells of looking at the coffin; “glass onion” is a term used for a coffin that has a glass panel over the top so people can see in. …I told you about the walrus and me man, you know that we’re as close as can be man, well here’s another clue for you all, the walrus was Paul… confirms the walrus’s identity, as well as John and Paul’s friendship. I told you about the fool on the hill…listen to me fixing a hole in the ocean… tells about Paul’s passing. He is referred to in the album “Magical Mystery Tour” as the fool on the hill. The ocean reference comes from the album “Yellow Submarine” when the lyrics tell of Paul buried under the grass. The hole is his grave. George sings “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and at the fade-out, he can be heard singing Paul, Paul, Paul, Paul… The end of the song “I’m So Tired” and the beginning of the song “Blackbird,” played backwards, says Paul is dead man, miss him, miss him. “Mother Nature’s Song” is sung by “Paul,” and he says find me in a field of grass, Mother Nature’s Son, referring to he being buried. Ringo laments Paul’s accident in the song “Don’t Pass Me By”: you were in a car crash and you lost your head (the lyrics say hair)… “Revolution #9″ is the spookiest of any of the songs mentioned. ..his voice was low and his eye was high and his eyes were closed…*Paul* died…my fingers are broken and so is my hair, I’m not in the mood for wearing clothing…maybe even dead…you become naked… are heard playing the song forward, among other things, and the droning number 9 refers to Paul’s last name, which has nine letters in it. Played backwards, there is a nasty car crash heard, the car catches fire, and Paul is heard screaming get me out! get me out! The words number nine played backwards really are turn me on, dead man. (O’Brien)
“Yellow Submarine”’s album cover shows another open palm above Paul’s head, and the yellow submarine is stationery under the land. In the song “Yellow Submarine”, John shouts various naval orders, which include Paul is queer, an attempt to divert Paul’s fan’s attentions from Paul’s eternal absence so it wouldn’t be so traumatic. …sky of blue, sea of green, in our yellow submarine…in the land of submarines… tell that Paul was buried in a yellow coffin, under the green grass in the land of coffins, a cemetery. (Saki) The name of the publishing company for the Beatles is called Northern, the song “Only a Northern Song” was written because of that. When you’re listening late at night you may think the band is not quite right…you may think the band’s a little dark and out of key, you’re correct, there’s nobody there… shows that the group really missed Paul because he played bass, and in a band the lower-pitched instruments keep rhythm, as well as percussion. Obviously since Paul’s bass-playing abilities were absent, the group suffered musically. People oblivious to Paul’s untimely death were made aware of it in “Hey Bulldog”: …you think you know me but you haven’t got a clue… (O’Brien, Gabriel)
The album cover for “Abbey Road,” released in 1969, was the clincher. The front shows a funeral procession with each of the Beatles taking a role: John, the preacher in white, Ringo, the mourner in black, and George, the gravedigger in work clothes. Paul is out of step with the rest and in bare feet. In his right hand he holds a cigarette, even though he is left-handed, and he is the only one smoking. The Volkswagen in the background on the left has a license plate that reads “28IF,” meaning that would be Paul’s age at the album’s release, if he lived. Because he would actually only be 27, it is pointed out that in many Indian religions, a person is one year older than he or she really is. On the back cover, a crack runs through the word “BEATLES” signifying a split in the group, and a glimpse of a woman (possibly Rita) can be seen walking by. To the left of the woman’s arm, a shadow of a skull is present. There are three holes of very similar shape beneath the word “BEATLES,” representing the three remaining Beatles. To the left of the word, there is a curious pattern of circles cut in the stone–four are grouped together, but one is a different color (William), and one is the same color as three of the four (Paul). (O’Brien)
“Come Together” describes Paul: …he got early warning… meaning he died early in his life. …one and one and one is three… mentions the three remaining original Beatles. The fact that he lost his hair in the crash is implied in this line: …here come ol’ flattop… Paul’s eyeballs were replaced by the undertaker as portrayed by this: …he got Joo Joo eyeballs… He is known to be in heaven because the song calls him holy roller. The song “You Never Give Me Your Money” has this at the end: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, all good children go to heaven. Apparently Paul was good enough in his life to get to heaven. (Saki)
So, did James Paul McCartney really die on November 9, 1966? Are the clues just coincidental? The much better question is who really was behind the story. It’s a big puzzle, and the Beatles relied on their true fans to cling to the clues until the story was revealed. So, it has to be true, or everyone else has wasted a huge amount of energy finding the clues. This is not an attempt to gather all available clues, new ones being invented by well-meaning fans who think they’ve found something new. For the time being, Paul is dead, and that is that. Case closed.