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In October 1969, shortly after the release of “Abbey Road”, Beatle fans everywhere were suddenly digging up “evidence” of a music-world tragedy—the death of Paul McCartney.
What did the rumor about Paul say?
According to the rumor, he had argued with the other Beatles during a 1966 recording session. Supposedly, early in the morning of Wednesday, November 9, he stormed out of the studio and roared off in his Aston-Martin roadster, only to crash and die in a small, unidentified English town. To spare the world of the agony of a McCartney-less Beatles, a look-alike named William Campbell was said to have been brought in for photo shoots from then on.
Album-cover “clues”—past and present—were soon cited in abundance.
On the front of the “Sergeant Pepper” album, we see the “funeral” of the old Beatles, in which a hand is raised above Paul’s head, a death omen in some cultures. A white toy Aston-Martin rests upon a doll’s knee. On the ground is a yellow wreath in the shape of a left-handed bass guitar (Paul was the quartet’s only “leftie”). One of the four guitar strings is missing.
Inside the foldout album cover, Paul wears a circus-band uniform with an arm patch that reads O.P.D. In England, our term of D.O.A (Dead on Arrival) is expressed there as O.P.D—Officially Pronounced Dead. On the back cover, Paul is the only Beatle with his back to the camera.
On the cover of “Magical Mystery Tour”, one Beatle is disguised as a walrus (another death symbol in some countries). In the inside booklet, Paul sits at a desk behind the nameplate IWAS (I WAS). In another photo, he plays his bass guitar with his eyes closed, and his detached shoes nearby have a red stain on them. In another photo, the other three Beatles wear red flowers in their lapels; Paul’s is black.
Clue-hunters really hit the jackpot with “Abbey Road”. On the front cover, the Fab Four traverse Abbey Road (also the name of the band’s recording studio) in a line. John wears long reddish hair and is dressed in white—an obvious Jesus symbol. Ringo looks like an undertaker. Paul, the third in line, is the only Beatle with his eyes closed, the only Beatle without shoes (in some countries people are buried shoeless), the only Beatle out of step with the others, the only Beatle shown smoking. (Left-hander Paul holds his cigarette in his right hand.) George, bringing up the rear, wears the outfit of a gravedigger.
A VW Beetle (get it?) in the background bears the license plate 28IF. Paul was 27 in 1969, however, in some cultures a person is counted as one year old at birth. On the album’s back cover, a series of dots before the word BEATLES form the number three if connected. Angled slightly left and counterclockwise, shadows on the wall next to BEATLES form a human skull.
The world’s greatest rock band never did admit to what was obviously a well-planned hoax that they always claimed was only a set of interesting coincidences.