We all love a good conspiracy or the juicy details. We kicked off the best conspiracy theories in rock series last week talking about the infamous 27 club and the associated white light myth. Make sure you check that one out! This week we will keep things going by moving onto another compelling story that has been a topic of conversation for a surprising amount of time.
Paul Is Dead!
The Beatles are undeniably one of the biggest and most profitable rock bands of all time and of any genre. Not only are their songs some of the most recognizable and covered tunes in history, but they also cultivated the most impressive following of fans and remain as a relevant comparison almost 60 years after their inception. Although The Beatles only lasted a decade as a cohesive band, their influence has proved to be timeless and they are still the focus of many musical conversations. Also, each member went on to forge their own respectable and successful careers and identities.
With a band this recognizable and always being in the spotlight, there are bound to be several theories floating around about them or at least one of the members. There are several fan conspiracy theories that have sprouted and maintained for many years, but one of the most bizarre has to be that Paul McCartney, the band’s bassist, vocalist and international pop icon, is actually dead.
The vivid story begins in 1966 when Paul McCartney was said to have been involved in a deadly car crash when his vehicle slid on the icy road and directly into a pole. Instead of broadcasting on major news outlets that one of the world’s most iconic musicians had died, supposedly John Lennon and the rest of the band started worrying about their loyal fanbase and the heartbreak they may incur. Also, what would this do to their commercial success? Would their careers be over if they had to publicly replace Paul?
The rumors began to circulate in 1969 after a college newspaper columnist sent out an article with the title: “Is Beatle Paul McCartney Dead?” Could you image if that came out as a tweet or Facebook status today? That would be one of the most click-bait articles ever and would reach millions of people in less than ten minutes. But, even back in the days of print media, this story was captivating enough to make a splash; actually, it was more like a tidal wave.
This has sparked the subsequent outrageous, long-standing rumor that the real Paul McCartney was replaced by a faux Paul or “Faul.” It is said that the Paul we know today is an imposter who has been playing the bass and singing for the past 50 years. The supposed “Faul” is said to be a guy named Billy Shears, the alias Ringo Starr adapted for the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band. But fake Paul is so much more interesting!
Over the years, the most avid conspiracy theorists have come up with some pretty convincing evidence (for some people). For example, if you listen to “Revolution #9” backward, there is an abrupt noise that sounds eerily like a car crash and then a voice that can be made out to be saying, “He hit a pole! Better get him to see a surgeon.” Or, if you play “I’m So Tired” backwards you can hear “Paul is Dead.” They have also theorized that when you look at pictures of Paul before and after the crash, the two individuals look very different. They have different shaped faces and jaws and their eyes are too different to be the same person.
Perhaps one of the most bizarre but in-depth assumptions is in regard to their hit 1969 album Abbey Road. At first glance, you just see the four members standing in the middle of a road across from their recording studio Abbey Road Studios on the crossing markers. But, to the crazed theorist, there are a slew of compelling clues to suggest that the real Paul McCartney is gone. Paul is the only one pictured with his right foot forward instead of his left, is the only one barefoot, has a cigarette in his hand, and has his eyes closed. This cover is not just an innocent picture but is said to resemble a funeral procession. “John is wearing all white, just like a priest; Ringo’s all dressed in black like a pallbearer; and George is bringing up the rear in a blue-jean getup, the gravedigger of the group.”
If you stop to think about the facts surrounding this wild but entertaining theory, it is pretty impressive and thought-provoking. Not only the fact that it has sustained over 50 years and has evolved spectacularly but think about the faux Paul. That means that an unknown individual played bass, piano, and sang on 7 Beatles albums, started Wings, and has grown his career to unprecedented heights. That would be astronomical for a no name guy who looked similar to Paul McCartney.
People love a good mystery and what is more provocative than one of the Beatles being an imposter? So is all of the “evidence” just odd coincidences, fan-made fiction, or just a clever joke from the band who wanted to have fun with their gullible fans. We probably won’t ever know and that is part of the experience.