Abbey Road, the last album the Beatles recorded together, was released in the fall of 1969 (September 26th in the UK and October 1st in the US). Rumors that Paul McCartney had died in 1966 and had been replaced by a lookalike had been in the air for many months before the release of Abbey Road, but this story had mainly just circulated on college campuses. People in the know claimed that the Beatles had left clues about Paul’s death and replacement on their albums. Abbey Road served to fuel these rumors and fears that Paul McCartney had died became the focus of media attention shortly after the album’s release. On October 12, 1969, Russ Gibb, a DJ for Detroit radio station WKNR, took a call from a listener who identified himself as Tom. The caller was concerned about the rumors of Paul McCartney’s death and he thought “Uncle Russ” might be able to explain what was going on. This was news to the DJ, however, and Russ Gibb kept Tom on the line for an extended period as they discussed many of the “Paul is dead” clues on the air. From that point on the story took on a life of its own and within days it was reported in major newspapers and on network TV news. The story remained in the news for a few weeks until Life magazine tracked down Paul McCartney in Scotland and showed a picture of him with his family on the cover of the November 7, 1969, issue under the heading “Paul is still with us.”
Though it’s difficult to identify the specific detail that triggered the “Paul is dead” hysteria, Abbey Road contributed several new “clues” to the story. The cover, which shows a photograph of the Beatles walking in step across the street away from Abbey Road Studios, resembles a funeral procession. Leading the procession is John wearing white, symbolizing the clergy. Ringo, dressed in black, is a pallbearer or an the undertaker. George, dressed in work clothes, is the gravedigger. Paul, the corpse, is out of step with the other Beatles, leading with his right foot instead of with his left. Also, Paul’s eyes are closed and he is barefoot. Asserting that because people in many areas of the world are buried barefoot, Paul McCartney Dead: The Great Hoax stated that this was “a strong death symbol.” Also, Paul is smoking a cigarette, also known as a “coffin nail“. He is holding the cigarette in his right hand, even though the real Paul McCartney was left handed.
Behind the Beatles on the left side of the street is a Volkswagen Beetle with a license plate reading “28IF”, suggesting the Paul would have been 28 if he were still alive. Actually Paul would have been 27 when Abbey Road was released. For those who thought that this was just too tantalizing to let pass, Paul Is Dead: The Great Hoax explained, “To the believer, 28 IF does symbolically state Paul’s age—since people (especially in the Near East where Paul learned mysticism) believe we are all one year old at birth (counting the nine months of pregnancy). True, in this light, Paul would have been 28 IF he had lived!.” (Emphasis in original) The first three letters on the license place, “LMW,” has been interpreted as “Linda McCartney Weeps”. One problem with this interpretation, however, is that Paul had yet to meet Linda Eastman in 1966 when Paul’s fatal accident supposedly occurred. A police van was parked on the opposite side of the street in the Abbey Road cover photo. Joel Glazier, author of “Paul Is Dead… Miss Him, Miss Him” in the fanzine Strawberry Fields Forever #51 (1978), asserted that the police who came to the scene of Paul’s fatal accident in 1966 were paid off to maintain secrecy. To Joel Glazier the police van parked in the background is a reference to this.
The back cover, which shows a young woman walking by a wall marked with an Abbey Road street sign, was also scrutinized for “Paul is dead” clues, and the images on the back cover have given rise to some of the strangest clues. Embedded in the concrete are a set of tiles spelling out “Beatles” and the “S” at the end of “Beatles” has a crack running through it. In The Walrus Was Paul: The Great Beatle Death Clues of 1969, R. Gary Patterson suggests that this is an allusion to literary “supernatural characters who assumed any shapes desired. This shape appeared perfect at first glance, but upon closer examination, a slight deformity was evident.” He cited the character of Geraldine from “Christabel” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and “Lamia” by John Keats—easily the most literary (and far-fetched) of the “Paul is dead” clues.
To the left of the tiles spelling out “Beatles” are eight dots, which when connected form the numeral “3”, so the back cover actually reads “3 Beatles”. In 1970 Joel Glazier visited the wall where this photo was taken and he counted 13 dots. His conclusion was that the Beatles had intentionally cropped the picture to reveal the number of remaining Beatles. Also, he noted that to the right of the tiles is a very odd shadow that looks like a skull.
R. Gary Patterson reports that a number of conspiracy theorists thought that the woman walkingby was Jane Asher, Paul’s girlfriend at the time of his fatal accident.Conspiracy theorists believe that she must have been aware of Paul’s death and replacement by a look-alike, so she must have been paid to keep quiet about the whole matter.Joel Glazier, however, asserted that the woman’s image was included on the back cover because it contained a visual reference to Paul McCartney. He suggested that if you look at the elbow of the woman in the photo from a distance, you can see Paul McCartney’s profile, with his nose in the upper right hand corner of the picture and the woman’s elbow forming his mouth.
Those looking for references to Paul’s death listened closely to the lyrics of the songs on Abbey Road. As R. Gary Patterson points out, the tone of “Come Together” suggests that “an underlying tragedy was hidden beneath the lyrics,” and the cryptic imagery of the song lends itself to imaginative interpretation. The opening line of the song “Here come old flattop” might refer to the injuries to the head Paul sustained in his fatal crash. “He wear no shoeshine” may refer to the barefoot Paul in the cover photo for the LP. “Got to be good looking ’cause he’s so hard to see” may refer to the absence of the “cute Beatle.” “Got to be a joker/He just do what he please” might refer to the “great hoax,” Paul’s replacement by a lookalike. And the line “One and one and one is three” might mean that there are now three Beatles instead of four.
The medley that dominates side 2 of the LP offered plenty of fodder for conspiracy theorists, as well. The interlocking set of eight songs from “You Never Give Me Your Money” to “The End” may not have been thematically related but the song fragments fit together well. This form was fairly novel in 1969 and the reputation of this piece has grown over the years. Rolling Stone calls it “the matured Beatles at their best: playful, gentle, acerbic, haunting and bonded by the music.” Inevitable, then, that conspiracy theorists would examine this piece closely. Joel Glazier pointed out that the “Sun King” was the French monarch Louis XIV. In Part III of The Vicomte de Bragelonne or Ten Years Later by Alexander Dumas, “The Man in the Iron Mask” is Louis XIV’s twin brother who, through an elaborate plot, comes to replace the “Sun King”. To Glazier this reference supported the story that Paul had been replaced by a lookalike. Also, Andru Reeve, author of Turn Me On, Dead Man: The Beatles and the “Paul Is Dead” Hoax, points out that the songs in the medley contain a number of references to death. “You Never Give Me Your Money” contains the line “All good children go to Heaven,” “Golden Slumbers” is “the Big Sleep—death,” and the medley concludes with “The End.” He also mentions that “Carry That Weight” could be interpreted as a pallbearer’s task (which is how this song was used in the Bee Gees/Peter Frampton musical adaptation of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), as well as the heavy burden on the remaining Beatles after Paul’s death.
“It is all bloody stupid,” complained Paul McCartney when he was interviewed by Life magazine in the fall of 1969. “On Abbey Road we were wearing our ordinary clothes. I was walking barefoot because it was a hot day. The Volkswagen just happened to be parked there.” Clearly Paul McCartney was bothered by such strange interpretations of the Abbey Road cover and he has made references to it at various points over the years. In 1993 he released the album Paul Is Live, choosing the title not only because it was a live album, but also as a counter to the “Paul is dead” story. In the cover photo McCartney consciously addressed the “Paul is dead” mythology that had emerged surrounding the Abbey Road album cover. The cover shows an updated image of him crossing Abbey Road with his dog, Arrow, who was a descendent of Martha, immortalized in the song “Martha My Dear” on the White Album. Paul is balancing on his left foot (rather than leading with his right foot) and holding the dog’s leash in his left hand. Paul’s eyes are open and he’s wearing shoes. Gone is the police van but the the white Volkswagen Beetle remains. Close inspection reveals that the license plate has been changed to read “51 IS”, as Paul was 51 when this album was released in 1993.
In 2009 Paul McCartney was a guest on the Late Show with David Letterman. Dave asked him about the “Paul is dead” hysteria, and McCartney pointed to the Abbey Road cover as the trigger for the rumors.
What happened was we did a cover for a record called Abbey Road and we–[applause] see, even the cover gets applause! The idea was to walk across the crossing and I showed up that day with sandals–flip flops–and so, it was so hot that I kicked them off and walked across barefooted. So this started some rumor that because he was barefooted, he’s dead. I couldn’t see the connection myself…. It was American DJs so you guys are to blame. Not you personally. The thing is, you know, I just laughed it off but it was a little bit strange because people did start looking at me like… is it him or a very good double?
It’s interesting to consider why Abbey Road was the album that triggered the “Paul is dead” hysteria. Perhaps the growing awareness that all was not well with the Beatles contributed to this phenomenon, but this does not completely explain why the “Paul is dead” story took on a life of its own at this particular time. In his book Watch the Skies! A Chronicle of the Flying Saucer Myth, Curtis Peebles suggests that the incident that took place in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947 did not have much of an impact on mainstream culture until decades later because the mythology about UFOs was not yet in place to support the story. Only after key elements of UFO mythology had been established did the story spread beyond a small group of conspiracy theorists. Similarly, the “Paul is dead” mythology was not fully in place until 1969 when college students organized the “clues” into a narrative. I would point in particular to Fred LaBour, who created key elements of the story that would later be repeated as true, such as the identity of Paul’s double, WIlliam Campbell. Fred LaBour had listened to Russ Gibb’s radio show on October 12, 1969, before writing a review of Abbey Road for his college newspaper. He structured the review, which appeared in the Michigan Daily two days later, as an obituary built around a number of the “Paul is dead” clues that he had either heard or invented to fill in the gaps. Once this narrative was in place, the “clues” took on new meaning and the story spread rapidly after that.
Why is Paul not wearing shoes on the Abbey Road cover? ›
7. Paul McCartney is barefoot in the photo because the shoes he was wearing were too tight and he took them off just before the photos were taken. 8.What were George's last words to Paul? ›
Passing away at Sir Paul McCartney's American home, George Harrison had wife Olivia Harrison by his side until the end. According to those present, his final words were: “Everything else can wait, but the search for God cannot wait, and love one another.”What was Paul's reaction to John's death? ›
Sir Paul opened up about his devastation over John's death in an interview for 'The Beatles Channel' on SirusXM, saying: “When John died it was so difficult. It had hit me so much so, that I couldn't really talk about it. I remember getting home from the studio on the day that we'd heard the news he died.Why is Ringo Billy Shears? ›
Ringo [Starr] is Billy Shears" on "With a Little Help From My Friends," McCartney said. “It just happened to turn out that we dreamed up Billy Shears. It was a rhyme for 'years' … 'band you've known for all these years'… We thought, 'That's a great little name.What did John Lennon think of Abbey Road? ›
Lennon ultimately said that he disliked Abbey Road as a whole and felt that it lacked authenticity, calling McCartney's contributions "[music] for the grannies to dig" and not "real songs", and describing the medley as "junk ... just bits of songs thrown together".Is Paul McCartney holding a cigarette in Abbey Road? ›
United States poster companies have airbrushed the classic Beatles Abbey Road album cover to remove a cigarette from Paul McCartney's hand. The move was made without the permission of either McCartney or Apple Records, which owns the rights to the image.What was Paul's last words before he died? ›
Even when Paul had plenty of reason for concern, he faced death triumphantly. He was able to look back over his life and say, “I did what the Lord asked me to do, and that's all I can do.What was Paul's last letter before he died? ›
The Second Epistle to Timothy is one of the three pastoral epistles traditionally attributed to Paul the Apostle. Addressed to Timothy, a fellow missionary, it is traditionally considered to be the last epistle he wrote before his death.Who was Paul's wife? ›
|Saints Aquila and Priscilla of Rome|
|Depiction of Saint Paul (left) in the home of Saints Aquila and Priscilla.|
|Holy Couple and Martyrs|
The two former Beatles got together in Los Angeles at an event in honor of McCartney's fashion designer daughter, Stella McCartney. After nearly 66 years of friendship, it appears Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney are still going strong.
What did Black Sabbath think of the Beatles? ›
Osbourne wasn't the only member of Sabbath to have enjoyed the same lightbulb moment and, after first hearing The Beatles, the band's bassist and main lyricist Geezer Butler bonded with his bandmate over their shared love of the band. “I loved The Beatles, still do,” he explained to the Daily Express.Did Paul and Ringo get along? ›
The former Beatles bandmates have remained great friends over the years and Sir Paul even makes an appearance on Ringo's new album 'Give More Love' but the iconic duo don't get to spend a lot of time together these days.What were Harrison's last words to Ringo? ›
“I said, 'I got to go to Boston' and he goes,” says Ringo pausing for breath as the memory takes over him, “It was the last words I heard him say actually. He said 'D'ya want me to come with ya?What was Paul McCartney's favorite song he wrote? ›
Surely none of McCartney's songs were more poignant and personal than that? Alas, in The Lyrics, tasked with settling on just one song as his favourite, he chose the 1966 Beatles hit 'Here, There and Everywhere'.What was John Lennon's last words? ›
But today, in an emotional interview, she reveals the last words her husband John Lennon uttered moments before he was gunned down on a New York street in 1980 by Mark Chapman. “I said 'shall we go and have dinner before we go home?Did The Beatles know Abbey Road was their last album? ›
“It's a revelation,” Lewisohn says. “The books have always told us that they knew Abbey Road was their last album and they wanted to go out on an artistic high.Did The Beatles enjoy making Abbey Road? ›
“It was a very happy record,” George Martin later said of the album. “I guess it was happy because everybody thought it was going to be the last.”What song did George Harrison write on Abbey Road? ›
While George Harrison had been contributing songs to Beatles albums since 1963, he had long been in the shadow of Lennon and McCartney. By 1969, however, his compositions had reached such a standard that his two songs on Abbey Road (“Something'” and “Here Comes The Sun”) were among the standout songs on that album.Which Beatle was the biggest womanizer? ›
He was affectionately known as 'the quiet Beatle'. But George Harrison was in fact a womaniser, whose love of the opposite sex almost ruined his 23-year-marriage, a new documentary has revealed.Which Beatle was a domestic abuser? ›
But, as students of Lennon's life readily acknowledge, he was far from the perfect father or husband. He was — by his own admission — physically and verbally abusive to his first wife, Cynthia Powell, who died in 2015, and he was often cold and distant with their son, Julian.
Did any of the Beatles have a drinking problem? ›
Ringo Starr also "had a major drinking problem" (who is now sober) said Sir McCartney, but he still regards the group were "reasonably well adjusted" to fame. DrinkAware pinpoint the common warning signs of alcohol dependence, which affects nine percent of men in the UK and three percent of women.Which Beatle walked barefoot across the Abbey Road LP cover holding a cigarette in his right hand and out of step with the others? ›
Fifty years ago, on August 8, 1969, the Beatles crossed Abbey Road, creating what is without a doubt, the most iconic photograph of the Fab Four, ever. But, because one Beatle in specific was barefoot —Paul McCartney — the legend of why Paul wasn't wearing any shoes on the cover of Abbey Road spun out of control.What happened to the VW Beetle on the cover of Abbey Road? ›
Well according to Wikipedia, the car was sold at auction in 1986 for $23,000 and is currently on display at the Volkswagen museum in Wolfsburg, Germany.Who is the man in the background of the Abbey Road cover? ›
' He was 33 (at the time) and was very distinctive at 6 feet 4 inches tall. Tony Staples was his name… . He was on his way to work as an administrative secretary for the National Farmers Union on the Friday morning when that photo was taken.” (The book adds that Staples has since died.)Why Volkswagen just moved the beetle on the cover of Abbey Road? ›
The reason: The Beetle was untidily parked up on a curb in the original photo. The changed image is for a good cause: to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Abbey Road album and to raise money for a children's charity in Sweden. It's also to promote Park Assist technology on new Volkswagens.Who was the biggest womanizer in The Beatles? ›
He was affectionately known as 'the quiet Beatle'. But George Harrison was in fact a womaniser, whose love of the opposite sex almost ruined his 23-year-marriage, a new documentary has revealed.Which Beatle was abusive? ›
John Lennon opened up a little more about the song and how it allowed him to reflect on his past abuse behaviour: “I couldn't express myself and I hit. I fought men and I hit women.