------------------------------------------------------------------------ A treatise based on the fine investigative work of: email@example.com (Jim Kendall) firstname.lastname@example.org (Robert Pietkivitch) jbh@hpcnoe.UUCP (Joel Hurmence) email@example.com (Jay Smith) firstname.lastname@example.org (Jean Gerencer) email@example.com (Charles McGrew) special thanks to firstname.lastname@example.org and to email@example.com (J. Gray) introduced and explicated by saki (firstname.lastname@example.org) Last Update: June 4, 1998 Copyright 1993-1998 by saki---No unauthorized use permitted ------------------------------------------------------------------------
For almost thirty years the Paul Death Hoax has intrigued a plethora 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 its genesis, although many claim that the Beatles intended it to be a joke on their fans.
The clues, which seem so cleverly and intentionally arranged, have not been proven to be anything more than random coincidences or inaccurate interpretations of existing facts (to wit: John does *not* say "I buried Paul" at the end of "Strawberry Fields Forever", he said by his own admission "cranberry sauce"...etc.)
All four Beatles have denied that they were involved in any way with the hoax, John's denial being particularly fervent.
Several indications point more forcefully to an origination of the hoax in the American midwest, sometime just prior to the release of the LP "Abbey Road" (the UK and US albums were released on 26 September 1969).
The first documented written source for the hoax was in the Drake University (Iowa) Times-Delphic article written by Tim Harper, published on 17 September 1969; second was Barb Ulvilden's virtual borrowing of Harper's article in the Northern Star, the newspaper of Northern Illinois University, on 23 September 1969. Both articles seem to have inspired other campuses and writers to pursue the story, though at that point the hoax included none of the familiar Abbey Road clues.
It's worth noting, as well, that Tim Harper, author of the first-ever printed story on the hoax, was not the source of any of these clues. In an email interview, Mr. Harper said that at the time he published his article, he hoped that the perpetrators would come forth and admit their part in the hoax; he wrote his article for informational purposes only.
Mr. Harper says he got his information from a fellow Drake student and Times-Delphic writer, Dartanyan Brown. Mr. Brown told me by email that in 1969 he lived in a rooming house frequented by musicians, and that one of them (he doesn't recall who) recounted the hoax and said that he'd heard it on the California west coast. Mr. Brown also recalled having read about the hoax in some underground newspapers at the time, though this cannot be substantiated. No published source prior to Mr. Harper's Times-Delphic piece is known.
Mr. Harper has been a journalist since his graduation from Drake; Mr. Brown teaches music at a west-coast college. So far as anyone knows, they are the earliest known sources for the clues, though neither gentleman says he played any part in the generation of the hoax, but merely reported what he had heard from others.
Fred LaBour, another campus journalist (Michigan Daily---see below) actually admits to having made up a substantial number of clues. Between Harper's initial report and LaBour's invention, almost every alleged "clue" about Paul's death can be traced to one or the other source.
Another source for clues invention was a popular radio show hosted by disc-jockey Russell Gibb of WKNR-FM in Detroit was a vital element in the spread of the hoax. A regular r.m.b. reader, Headly Westerfield, who was not only a friend of Gibb but was present in-studio that afternoon (12 October 1969), recalls reading an "underground newspaper" (it may have been one of the the college papers then carrying the "clues", similar to the ones Dartanyan Brown remembers seeing) with a list of "Paul Is Dead" clues.
Gibb and cohorts were sufficiently inspired to read them on the air and to improvise new ones on the spot. Listeners to the show even recall someone calling up Gibb to report that if you played "Revolution No. 9" backward, you'd hear a secret message. (Note: radio-show collectors used to offer an aircheck of this show or a followup show for trade! Anyone have a copy?)
Within days, Gibb & Co. were astonished when newspapers and reporters took their on-air joke seriously and spread the tale more widely. Some clues which have become part of established folklore, Westerfield reports, were invented that obscure day at WKNR-FM, but have since been accepted as part of the original hoax. Gibb and friends were not the source of the hoax, he emphasizes, but played a part in its initial wider dissemination.
Another r.m.b. reader, J. Gray, was the literary editor of The Michigan Daily, student newspaper at the U. of Michigan. Leslie Wayne was its arts editor, and one Fred LaBour was an arts reviewer. Ms. Wayne assigned a review of the Beatles' recently released "Abbey Road" LP to LaBour, who serendipitously listened to Russell Gibb's radio show the Sunday afternoon wherein the "clues" were jocularly announced. LaBour was inspired to write his own article, based on "clues" from Gibb and some invented ones of his own.
The Michigan Daily published it under the title "McCartney Dead; New Evidence Brought To Light". Editor Gray and author LaBour assumed it was obvious that their work was a joke. The rest of the world took it seriously.
Gray reports that he and LaBour received phone calls from media representatives worldwide, and playing along, LaBour insisted on the veracity of his information. Gray says that LaBour's article was reprinted in an anthology of student writings, and that LaBour was even flown to Los Angeles for a television interview. (LaBour, BTW, became a musician and toured in the seventies with Dickie Lee, whose fame was based on death-themes too---"Patches" and "Laurie"---and eventually played guitar for Riders In The Sky).
A followup article, printed in J. Gray's underground journal "Big Fat Magazine", gives the date of Russ Gibb's broadcast (12 October 1969), the date of Fred LaBour's tongue-in-cheek response (14 October 1969), and even details some of the clues invented by LaBour---the invention of William Campbell, Paul's "look-alike" (LaBour originally wanted to call him Glenn Campbell but thought that would be too obvious); the statement that a walrus was a Greek symbol for a corpse (this seemingly derived from the Harper/Ulviden clue that the walrus was a Scandinavian or American Indian sign of death!).
Gray is certain that LaBour got his idea for the "Paul Is Dead" hoax from Russ Gibb's show. However, both Gibb and LaBour are probably responsible for the inclusion of "clues" from the Abbey Road LP, which had just been released in the U.S. Before Gibb's radio show, no Abbey Road LP clues existed, of course. And before Tim Harper's article, it appears that the hoax, if it existed at all, was spread by word of mouth at campus parties during the first week of classes that semester.
A British permutation of the rumor existed prior to the American hoax, but in very rudimentary form. Nevertheless, it's worth examining; it may have provided a basis for the American version of the hoax.
The British version seems to have involved a rumor (untraced as to source) that Paul McCartney died in an auto crash around January 1967 and was replaced by a double. This rumor was a source of distress to the Beatles themselves, who apparently countered the rumor at least once (May 1967) in a press conference. By late fall of 1967 it was a subject of hilarity at a party attended by various Fabs and their entourage; one of the latter, quoted by New York Times journalist J Marks, made light of it one evening.
Unlike the later American permutation, the British rumor seems not to have been built upon clues, but to have involved only the story that Paul had died and had been replaced by someone else. Perhaps the story had its origin in a real accident McCartney suffered on 26 December 1965, while riding a moped around Cheshire near his father's house outside Liverpool; Paul's moped skidded and Paul was sent flying, cutting his lip and chipping a tooth. The chipped tooth was visible for some months afterward (in unretouched "butcher" cover photos, in the "Rain" television promo) until McCartney had it capped in mid-1966. Of course, it goes without saying that Paul did not die. :-)
By late October 1969 the hoax was well entrenched, and even McCartney came out of seclusion at his Scottish farm to deny it vociferously. But this gesture did little to dispel the growing mythologizing of Paul's "death", and over the years the hoax has taken on aspects of a bizarre, morbid parlor game, with new adherents convinced that the Beatles created their music already imbued with secret elements intended for the clever capabilities of tenacious trivia-buffs.
Various other legends surrounding the Beatles' genesis---their haircuts, their Hamburg attachments, their rise to fame---have either been lately confirmed by documentation or debunked by same.
But the "Paul Is Dead" story seems too big to defeat with facts. And it appears facts aren't the issue, anyway.
Most Fabs fans these days are pretty well convinced that the original Paul is alive. What originated as a story about Paul's "death" has nowadays transformed itself (not without help) into a belief that the Beatles perpetuated upon an unsuspecting public a myth so cleverly convoluted that "clues" are virtually endless. Without the merest hint of verifiable evidence or documentation, it is often proclaimed that the Beatles must have been behind all this. After all, the clues are there! Aren't they?
Of course not everyone believes this is the case. Some focus on denials from the principals...or one of them, anyway. John was asked outright, by a Rolling Stone interviewer in 1970, whether there were "any of those things really on the albums that were said to be there". John's reply: "No. That was bullshit, the whole thing was made up." He *did* admit that the group put in the "tit, tit, tit" as a deliberate joke in "Girl", but that was the totality of secret messages, backwards or otherwise, in the Beatles oeuvre ("Rolling Stone", January 4, 1971).
This is surely a fertile field for folklorists, some of whom have already considered it. One article I've seen about the phenomenon is Barbara Suczek's "The Curious Case of the 'Death' of Paul McCartney" in Urban Life & Culture, Vol. 1, Number 1 (1972). Even in this early work, Suczek picks up on the odd fact that true believers of this scheme are mightily piqued when confronted with denials---whether from John, Paul, or mere doubters.
The suggestion that some reliable evidence is necessary to prove the Beatles originated this this hoax is, to ardent PID-fans, ludicrous. As Suczek points out, "Evidence was the whole point! [Believers] were fortified, bulwarked, armed to the teeth with evidence: they had a veritable overkill of evidence."
And evidence seems to point, according to Suczek, right back to the Fabs---at least that's what the PID proponents say. Otherwise, one must suppose that the whole thing really *is* a massive joke, played by some anonymous wit who's still enjoying the stir he's created. Heaven forfend that the joke should be on the innocent Beatles fan. Even the suggestion causes tempers to bristle. To wit: "The fact of the matter was that each public would accept as credible evidence only such data as suited the logic of its cognitive system and thus it was that the more McCartney's death was denied, including by himself, the more the tension and hostility seemed to increase, feeding in and out of the interfactional dispute" (Suczek, p. 30).
So it's *got* to be true...or else everyone's wasted a passel of energy on the subject.
At this point in her article, Suczek wanders into musings on Dionysian elements in the McCartney resurrection myth, which is less relevant to today's PID folklore. I think she just misses the more interesting hypothesis for the perpetuation of this legend. It's not that people really believe Paul is dead; it's more or less a belief that one can share the joke with the Fabs themselves through these clues cleverly planted by their own hand (for so it must be) from 1966 onward.
It's a big puzzle; and the Beatles relied on us, being True Fans, to cling tenaciously to the clues till the story was revealed. What a concept. That's even better than a concept- album! What other pop group planned such a hoax---and a long- lived one at that---of such remarkable proportions? It's like a search for the grail. And once PID enthusiasts get a taste for the hunt, they're not going to let go. The more random, disconnected, and illogical the clues, the better. That makes the game more of a challenge.
The much better question is who *really* might have been behind the Paul-Is-Dead hoax. The most detailed information is now available in journalist Andru Reeve's book "Turn Me On, Dead Man: The Complete Story of the Paul McCartney Death Hoax" (Popular Culture Ink., 1994; available from Beatlefest, 1-800-BEATLES.)
But finding out the origins of the PID hoax would likely not not diminish the fervor of its adherents. It might, however, teach us something about the resilience of personal belief.
What follows is a conglomeration of clues, trivia, and whatnot as collected by famous folk of r.m.b.'s past. Although occasionally contradictory and now superseded in some instances by newer information, we hope it will amuse and enlighten. Some "clues" from lyrics are so farfetched that it seems pointless to refute them. If you're confused about the interpretation, please write and ask for a clarification.
This is not, by any means, an attempt to gather all available clues, some of which are still being "invented" by well-meaning fans who think they've noticed something new. For seventy definitive clues, and their refutations, please consult Andru Reeve's book, mentioned above.
All spelling errors belong to the originators, not the Editor. :-)
REALITY: Paul did suffer a minor motorcycle accident in Dec. 1965, and chipped a tooth; you cans see the as-yet-uncapped tooth in the "Rain" promo and in a filmed Ed Sullivan appearance in June 1966. This accident may be the source for the story of Paul's "car crash death".
MYTH: Then the Beatles, in the winter of 1966, held a "Paul look- alike" contest but no winner was ever announced. BUT - there was a winner....his name was William Campbell, and he was paid a considerable amount of money to play along with the facade - he was to be the NEW Paul. He supposedly looked enough like PM to sit in with the other Beatles for photographs, sometimes even fooling the photographers. Strangely, nothing was ever heard of William Campbell again. His picture is included on the poster that came with the White album in the lower right-hand corner. Looks like Paul with glasses, mustache, and combed back hair. William Campbell has this faint scar on his upper lip, PM doesn't.
REALITY: Such a contest was actually held, co-sponsored by an American teen magazine (perhaps "Tiger Beat"?) and Dick Clark of the TV show "American Bandstand". The winner of this 1965 contest was Keith Allison, who had a brief brush with fame on teen shows such as "Where The Action Is" and apparently later joined Paul Revere and the Raiders, circa 1966. The real Paul *does* have a faint scar on his upper lip from the above-mentioned motorcycle accident. No William Campbell ever won a Paul look-alike contest.
The William Campbell clue was invented by Fred LaBour.
MYTH: Since then, the Beatles supposedly started putting clues on their album sleeves and even in their music so that their poor fans would find them and thus the shock of Paul's untimely death would be assuaged.
REALITY: All four Beatles, John included, denied any involvement in the Paul Is Dead hoax.
REALITY: None of the above is true. There was no "death of Paul" and memos exist explaining why the "butcher cover" to "Yesterday and Today" were being withdrawn. BTW, the "butcher cover" shot was actually photographed as a promotion for the "Paperback Writer" single; it was used on "Yesterday and Today" only as an afterthought.
All of the doll parts are resting on Paul except the one doll head that George is holding up. [ Actually, both dolls' bodies are resting on two Beatles - one on John/Paul, the other on Ringo/Paul.]. This is two clues in one -
a) George was the 'head' of the plot (it was his idea). b) The doll head is right next to Pauls head symbolizing his decapitation.
And, of course, the previously mentioned symbolic 'coffin' on the 'Trunk' cover.
REALITY: "Yesterday" was *also* written before Paul's alleged "death".
And Your Bird Can Sing: "..you can't see me, you can't see me.." "..you can't hear me, you can't hear me.."
REALITY: All of "Yesterday and Today" was recorded before the Nov. '66 alleged "death" of Paul, so all clues on this album are obviously false.
(movie) Hard Day's Night: aerial sequence of the "Can't Buy Me Love" romp, director Richard Lester runs around instead of Paul.
REALITY: In fact, Paul was filmed in most sequences; he missed one because of a hangover, and Lester used his own legs and feet (wearing Beatle boots!) as a subsitute for the temporarily incapacitated Paul.
John is missing from the final scene ("Sorry we hurt your field, mister") because he had to attend a literary luncheon at the Dorchester Hotel in Islington, celebrating the publication of his first book "In His Own Write".
Also, there was a major scene between Paul and an actress cut from the movie (presumably Paul was unavailable).
REALITY: The scene was cut because Paul's acting was very self-conscious. And anyway, "A Hard Day's Night" was filmed in 1964. How could the Beatles have planned "clues" that early???
(movie) There was a third movie in the works for the Beatles in late 1966 after HDN and Help, but it was canceled when Paul died and Billy Campbell was unready to appear before the searching eye of the camera. John spent the time appearing in Richard Lester's "How I Won the War", while 'Paul' composed music for the film "The Family Way" (performed by George Martin and a BBC orchestra).
REALITY: The third film was "A Talent For Loving", set for filming in 1966 but abandoned when the Beatles lost interest. Playwright Joe Orton wrote a play which he offered to Paul as a vehicle for the Beatles, but "Up Against It" never appealed to Paul and it was never seriously considered.
REALITY: Remember, "Rubber Soul" was recorded and released in late 1965. It preceded the hoax and even Paul's alleged "death". Its clues are thus entirely bogus.
Girl: "..that a man must break his back to earn his day of leisure/will she still believe it when he's dead.."
I'm Looking through You: "..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 can not 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.."
REALITY: "Revolver" precedes Paul's alleged "death"; clues are bogus.
On the cover, Paul's name is sideways, as if it didn't fit in with the other Beatles any more.
Lyrics: Taxman: "..if you drive a car Paul.." "..if you get too cold Paul.." "..my advice to those who die, taxman!"
REALITY: Actually the lyric is: "If you drive a car...*ohhhhh*"....
Eleanor Rigby: "..father McKenzie (McCartney?) 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.."
REALITY: Paul has said he originally wrote it as "Father McCartney" but thought his dad Jim Mac would be embarrassed or offended.
Yellow Submarine: "..in the land of submarines.." "..sky of blue, sea of green in our yellow submarines.." (nice term for a casket that's underneath a sea of green grass)
REALITY: Interpretive and unsubstantiated.
She Said She Said: "..she said I know what it's like to be dead.."
REALITY: John admits he took this phrase from Peter Fonda, who was tripping on LSD when he said it; it has nothing to do with Paul.
For No One: "..she says her love is dead.." "..she says that long ago she knew someone but now he's gone.."
Got To Get You Into My Life: "..I was alone I took a ride I didn't know what I would find there.." "..and then suddenly I see you.."
Tommorow Never Knows: "..laid down all thoughts surrendered to the void.." "..Paul played the game existence to the end.."
REALITY: Actual lyrics are "*all* play the game...."
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Lovely Rita: "..standing by a parking meter when I caught a glimpse of Rita.." (he took his eyes off the road!)
Good Morning, good Morning: "..nothing to do to save his life.." "..and you're on your own you're in the street.." "..people running around it's 5 o'clock.." "..watching the skirts you start to flirt, now you're in gear.."
A Day In The Life: "..I saw the photograph. 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.."
Magical Mystery Tour
John sings [says] "I buried Paul" on "Strawberry Fields Forever". The phrase 'I buried Paul' occurs at the end of Strawberry Fields Forever. It appears to have been slowed down, but it is quite clear.
I Am The Walrus: "..I am the eggman, they are the eggmen, I am the walrus.." (eggmen represent "life", walrus represents death. Since PM is the walrus the meaning implied is that I have life, they have life, I am dead).
All You Need Is Love: "..No one you can save that can't be saved.." "..nothing you can see that isn't shown.." "..yes he's dead.." [actually "yes, he is"], "..we loved you yeah, yeah, yeah.." [actually "she loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah...].
Hey Bulldog: "..you think you know me but you haven't got a clue.."
Yellow Submarine: (see Revolver)
All You Need Is Love: (see Magical Mystery Tour)
REALITY: Not everyone hears this phrase, especially those who don't know what to listen for. :-)
One "clue" alleged that centuries-old definition of a "glass onion" referred to a glass coffin handle used in Britain in the past (Russ Gibb seems to have come up with this one) but a scrupulous search of the OED shows no such meaning.
While My Guitar Gently Weeps: George calls out to Paul at the end of the song.
You Never Give Me Your Money: "..one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, all good children go to heaven.."
Revolution: "..don't you know it's gonna be -all right, Paul died, all right.." (a couple of those "all rights" sound just like "Paul died", also a background vocal occasionally dubs in Paul died)
Any additional information? Ideas? Comments? Please send them to saki at email@example.com.
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