The term "Paul is dead" (PID) refers to an urban legend or a hoax perpetrated either on the musical group The Beatles by their fans or vice-versa. According to the legend, bass guitarist and singer Paul McCartney was replaced by a lookalike after his alleged death in an auto accident in the mid-1960s. Proponents of this hoax cite obscure clues embedded within the Beatles' lyrics, symbolism in their album covers, and Wings as evidence that the "real" Paul didn't survive into the '70s.
The origin of the legend may stem from a 26 December 1965 moped accident that left McCartney with a scarred lip. Thanks to the Beatles' immense popularity, this relatively minor incident ballooned greatly within months — informal polls showed that in spring 1966 many fans were convinced that Paul had been t-boned by a lorry, and by the beginning of the recording process for 1967's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band some diehard Paul enthusiasts had accused John Lennon of hijacking an RAF fighter and crashing it into Paul's bike in the hopes of taking his co-lead singer status in the band.
Many comparisons have been made to McCartney's physical appearance pre- and post-accident, with some fans claiming that it was impossible, even considering injuries incurred in the crash, that McCartney's appearance should change so much in so short a time. The image at left details some of these physical anomalies.
The 3 December 1965 release of Rubber Soul helped fuel the initial rumors of Paul's death. Several lines of the song "Drive My Car" reputedly refer to his accident:
- Baby you can drive my car – refers to the relinquishment of Paul's ownership of his moped due to his death.
- Beep beep, beep beep yeah – mimics the sound of Paul's horn as he crashes.
- I, Paul, am totally dead – Unknown what this one refers to.
However, as Rubber Soul was released three weeks before the accident, these "clues" are not considered airtight by most PID theorists.
Yesterday and Today
Rumors of McCartney's death began in earnest after the initial release of Yesterday and Today. The album's original cover featured the four Beatles covered in bloody meat and the limbs of dismembered dolls. Two of the dolls draped on McCartney are missing their heads, implying that he was decapitated in his auto accident. He is also wearing a watch, indicating perhaps that his time on Earth is up or that he is late for a dentist appointment. Also see that in Paul's right arm you can see a set of teeth biting him. This is because the wreck was so horrific, that even dental records were useless in identifying the body.
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Sgt. Pepper's is a haven for "clues" and contains perhaps the most about McCartney's death. The detailed album art, featuring the four Beatles arrayed with a plethora of cardboard cutouts representing famous historical figures and celebrities, gives fans many opportunities to find evidence for Paul's demise.
The first clue is that on the album Paul is the only bareheaded Beatle, as everyone knows that dead people can't afford hats. Although John also appears to be bareheaded, PID theorists contend that he could actually be wearing a wig. Additionally, in the upper right corner of the cover there is a man in green who appears to be looking towards Paul (or possibly Ringo), and select letters from the album title can be rearranged to spell "PAUL'S DEATH" or "SHOOT LENNON", the latter an apparent prophecy that Mark David Chapman misinterpreted thirteen years later.
The album was the first of its kind to contain a booklet with lyrics to the songs on the inside. In the booklet the other three Beatles are facing the camera, while Paul is backwards. This is suppose to mean one of three things: 1) The imposter Paul is trying to hide his phoniness, 2) it is the real body of Paul and they turned it around as not show the decomposing flesh and scars, or 3) Paul is eating the cameraman's sandwich and doesn't want him to know. There are more clues in the lyrics and the artwork. At the bottom of the page, George is pointing to the lines from "She's Leaving Home", "Wednesday morning at 5 o'clock", which is the time that Paul woke up on Wednesdays when he was alive but cannot anymore because of his death. There is also a line from "Lovely Rita", ""I took her home, I nearly made it""; Paul claims that this was when he once had an early orgasm while engaging in intercourse with his girlfriend. This is another clue for the PIDs that it is an impostor; the real Paul was born knowing how to to give great sex, and only Faul would have an embarrassing moment like that. In the song "Within You Without You", George sings, "Life flows on within you and without you." It is still uncertain what this means, but many theorists believe it is probably important. Even in the song "Good Morning Good Morning" it begins with, "Nothing to do to, save his life, call his wife in."; this is said to be what John Lennon said when Paul died and had to tell Paul's first wife Jane. In actuality, Lennon claims that this part of the song is about a man who dies and his wife is mildly annoyed by it.
Probably the most consistently-cited proof of McCartney's death is the track "A Day in the Life", which chronicles the traffic accident of an unnamed man who "blew his mind out in a car" when he "didn't notice that the lights had changed." The middle verse of the song describes a man drinking coffee and smoking — both activities Paul was known to engage in — and the final jumbled words, when played backwards, sound remarkably like the well-known phrase "Paul McCartney has been dead for ages, honestly" in reverse.
Rarely mentioned, but nonetheless overwhelmingly convincing, is the fact that Paul is holding an English horn, a distant relative of the oboe. Its haunting, melancholy sound invades soundtracks of countless motion pictures as soon as someone is about to depart this world. Paul’s visible attraction to this instrument is a tragic omen; the coincidence of an English man holding an English horn is too unlikely to dismiss.
Magical Mystery Tour
The cover for MMT depicts the Beatles dressed up as animals. Paul, apparently adorned as a walrus, wears a mask that obscures most of his face. This has led fans to surmise that the Paul on the cover is the real McCartney, exhumed for the photo shoot and covered to hide the signs of decomposition. Additionally, the walrus is often cited as a symbol of death in many cultures; to date, no culture has actually stepped forward to admit this.
There are many clues in the twenty-four page coloring book that was released with the album. Page 26 (Paul's age if he were alive) contains an image of a bus; this is obviously an ambulance that came to pick up Paul. It also says below, "They are five miles north of the Dewbury Road and are having a wonderful time." Some people believe this is where Paul hung out on occasion when he was alive and had fun. In the song "I Am the Walrus"... I'm not telling.
The White Album
Often seen as a tribute to Paul — a white man — The White Album contains numerous PID clues within its tracks. The song "Revolution 9", a collection of experimental studio sounds and seemingly-random sound effects, actually contains the entire eulogy said at Paul's funeral when the song is played backwards. Skeptics scoff at this as either coincidental or a humorous response to the legend by the Beatles, though the official coroner's records included in the album insert are difficult to explain away so easily.
In "Glass Onion", Lennon also makes the statement that "the walrus was Paul," which could either mean that:
- The walrus on the Magical Mystery Tour cover is the real Paul.
- The walrus on the Magical Mystery Tour cover is the fake Paul, representing the death of the real Paul.
- Paul was actually a walrus.
Most theorists omit the third option, as it is unrealistic.
The front of the Abbey Road album is often viewed as a kind of funeral procession for McCartney. In front, Lennon leads the way as a white-garbed priest, with Ringo Starr following behind in black clothing to signify mourning. McCartney comes next apparently in some sort of box, followed by George Harrison as a grave digger in work clothes. Furthermore, the closest moving car in the photo is in McCartney's lane; if it backed up (towards the camera) it would run over only McCartney, assuming George jumped out of the way.
Let It Be
In the track "The Long and Winding Road" on Let It Be, Paul can be heard singing tearfully, as if he knows he is already dead. In the lyrics of the title song, "Let It Be", Paul uses cryptic lyricism that actually states that everyone should "let it be" and accept the cold, hard fact that is he dead. The mention of religious figures like "Mother Mary" can also signify he is dead, as the Bible indicates she always hangs out with St. Peter at the gates of Heaven just because she "likes to annoy the hell out of him, pun intended." Also, Paul grew a beard, which indicates that he is dead; in fact, the rest of The Beatles' beards are clues as well, as they all indicate that he is dead.
Finally, the Let It Be album cover is black. The first, and the last, black Beatles album cover. Ever. Possibly to symbolize the end, or death, of the Beatles? Or maybe it was to symbolize the death of a Beatle? Also, the three Beatles' (John, George, and Ringo) background squares are adorned in white, while Paul's, the poor unfortunate soul, is depicted with a blood red background. This might have just been an unfortunate incident on the photographer part, it might have been his best shot and they could have used it. Not noticing what was behind Paul. Or maybe it was a little joke on the Beatles' part, they did love those. Or maybe they were feeling guilty about something much more unfortunate...
Even five decades after the breakup of the Beatles, many fans still insist that the Paul McCartney who continues to record and tour is an imposter and that the true Paul died at the height of his musical career in the 1960s. Despite refutation from every Beatles member as well as the late Linda McCartney and the lack of any true evidence for the belief, conspiracy theorists refuse to let go of the notion.
In his book Turn Me On, Dead Man, considered the most exhaustive investigation of the "Paul is dead" legend, writer Andru J. Reeve concludes that "It may be hard to swallow, but yes, the 'Yesterday' Paul is the same as the 'Band on the Run' Paul. Sorry."
After using investigative techniques such as fingerprinting, going through his house, and spying on him with closed-circuit surveillance, the reality of it was truly clear. Everyone but Paul died in The Beatles, and somehow nobody noticed because according to interviews conducted by The National Enquirer, the fans noticed no difference in appearance of The Beatles between '62 and '70. The truth is, the fans were duped.
Back in 1965, Ringo married a woman named Maureen Cox, who was actually the third cousin of objectivist Ayn Rand, who claimed in her books that she, "hated men and their sheepish ways of thinking," from her most famous work, Atlas Sucked. Maureen, based on her hatred of men, found the wedding to be a mistake, and "accidentally" drove him off a bridge somewhere in Liverpool. Ringo's twin brother replaced him shortly after, and it was so covert that nobody else in The Beatles knew about it. Not even Ringo.
George Harrison and John Lennon were abducted by the Chinese Mafia on November 9, 1966. While heading towards the Chinese embassy the Chinese Mafia failed to make a turn signal and crashed into the car of Lovely Rita, who, coincidentally, was just leaving from work. She worked as a call-girl somewhere in Liverpool. Harrison and Lennon suffered blows to their pride and died of lack of hubris two hours later. They were replaced by the comedy team "Harrisong and Limon", who were widely known around Liverpool and nowhere else, and who strangely looked, talked, songwrote, and acted like Lennon and Harrison. Again, nobody noticed this. Not even Harrison and Lennon.
Paul is the only surviving Beatle. And in fact, the clues mentioned earlier were only a facade to draw attention away from the three dead members. Currently, Ringo, John, and George are all buried somewhere in Siberia, but these speculations remain inconclusive, as one Liverpudlian stated that Ringo's grave was located near a marina with a Yellow Submarine parked in one of the docks. No word has been mentioned yet on who owns that submarine.
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