Today, we are jumping into a yellow submarine and going all the way back to November 9th, 1966, the day Paul McCartney died–or at least, that’s what conspirators will have you believe. We’re going to take a closer look at one of the biggest conspiracies in music history and break down some of the core elements to finally put to rest whether Paul McCartney is alive or if the man we know, and love is just a lookalike.
Music’s Biggest Conspiracy
So how did this conspiracy come about? It started on October 12, 1969, while Russ Gibb, a Detroit DJ, hosting his radio show was asked by a caller to play The Beatles (White Album) and spin the intro from “Revolution 9” backwards. When Gibb tried it on the air, he heard the words, “Turn me on, dead man.” This revelation was all Beatles fans needed to scrub for any other “secret” messages throughout their discography.
Other messages were soon discovered while listening closely and adjusting the speed of song playback. For example, at the end of “Strawberry Fields Forever,” John can be heard saying what conspirators believe is “I buried Paul.”
Now that you know how the ball got rolling, let me lay out the conspiracy of Paul’s death and jump into the connections fans have made to support the claim through the music and artwork.
Here’s how the conspiracy went, Paul died on November 9, 1966. He drove away from Abbey Road late at night and ended up wrecking his car and never making it home. He was officially pronounced dead (“O.P.D.”) on Wednesday morning at 5 o’clock. The other Beatles decided to keep the news private, so papers did not report the accident. The band moved forward and kept Paul’s death a secret by replacing him with a look-alike.
The Fan’s Findings
So how does any of this play into the Beatles lore? Here is what fans have found, starting with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the 1967 studio album. On the front cover of the album fans noticed the funeral esq stylization of the flowers with the band and onlookers standing almost in memorial. The most prominent discovery came when a fan decided to hold a mirror up just under the three main members of the band. The writing on the kick drum spells out what appears to be a secret message: “IONEIX HE<>DIE” read as “11/9 he die” with an arrow pointing directly to Paul.
Fans found even more to justify their conspiracy on the back cover of the album. For one, Paul is the only Beatle with his back turned. Secondly, In the same photo, George stares downwards and points his finger to a specific lyric: “Wednesday morning at 5 o’clock as the day begins” the time conspirators believe Paul to be in the accident. On the gatefold of the album, Paul is seen wearing a badge that looks as though it spells O.P.D. Fans believed the acronym meant “Officially Pronounced Dead.”
On their following studio album, The Beatles (The White Album) there are also other “clues” fans spotted. Similar to the strange phrases fans discovered when playing “Revolution 9” backwards there was also a portion that revealed itself when played backwards on the song “I’m So Tired.” The ending of the song has John muttering what seems to be gibberish but when reversed says: “Paul is a dead man, miss him, miss him, miss him.”
The Beatles following album, Abbey Road, had fans pouring over the contents of the artwork. The Michigan Daily likened the Abbey Road cover as a funeral procession: the Preacher being John in all white, the Undertaker being Ringo in black, the Corpse being Paul’s lookalike, and finally George, in blue denim as the gravedigger.
So, let’s get all this straight, if Paul died in 1966, who is the Paul McCartney we have seen nearly every year since? The answer conspirators have provided is a lookalike. Known by fans as “Faul” is rumored to be a Canadian man named William Shears Campbell.
The idea is that Campbell underwent various plastic surgery procedures to closer resemble Paul. Fans have gone as far to analyze Paul’s facial features throughout his career pointing out differences in his jawline and ears as proof that William Shears Campbell took over the role of Paul shortly after the accident.
Now, all this may sound convincing but let’s go through and debunk some of the biggest claims. For one, John was actually saying “cranberry sauce,” not “I buried Paul,” and the “O.P.D.” patch said “O.P.P.,” and believe it or not, was a gift from the Ontario Provincial Police.
Not to burst your bubble but Paul isn’t actually dead and really this conspiracy theory is most interesting because it depicts one of the first widespread cultural conspiracies. Although many now consider the theory to be more of a joke and sensational, at the time it was very widespread and even had The Beatles making public statements about the falsehoods.
During the tailspin of rumors surrounding Paul, Life magazine secretly sent reporters out to McCartney’s farm. In the November 9th cover story (“Paul McCartney Is Still With Us”), Paul added, “The Beatles thing is over.” Ultimately it was clouded by the all-consuming conspiracies around Paul’s death. In 2009, Paul stated “I think the worst thing that happened was that I could see people sort of looking at me more closely: ‘Were his ears always like that?’”
So, there you have it – from an early morning car accident to secret messages, to a lookalike who underwent plastic surgery. One of the most interesting less talked about facets of this conspiracy is that if the Paul lookalike was true that would mean he actually would end up writing some of Paul’s best material! Let me know in the comments below how you think this conspiracy shifted the cultural winds and widespread prominence of other major conspiracies. Until next time, I’m Jordan Neese, and this is Ripley’s Rewind.