As a gift of thanks, I’m giving you what I’ve got, which isn’t money. I do have a sense of humor, though. So in this series, I humbly submit a joke to each of you.
For JohnB Three bachelors--an accountant, an artist and an engineer--are discussing-which is better, having a wife or a mistress. The accountant says, “I’d prefer a wife, because it’s stable, and you can build a relationship, a home, and a family.”
The artist says, “I’d prefer the mistress because of the passion.”
The engineer says, “I’d want ‘em both.”
“Both?” ask his companions.
“Yeah,” replied the engineer. “If you have a wife and a mistress, each one will assume you’re spending time with the other woman. Meanwhile, you can go to the lab and get some work done.”
For Cocaine Jesus A burglar once broke into the house of Pablo Picasso, at the time working at his studio. The investigating detectives asked the famous artist for a physical description. Picasso said, “I’ll draw you a picture of him.”
Based on the drawing, police arrested a nun, an infant, Mick Jagger, a washing machine, and the Eiffel Tower.
For Betty S. A writing professor chastised her class for using double negatives in their exercises. “Double negatives, you see, actually constitute a positive statement. Now in some languages, like Russian, a double negative is still a negative. But in no language does a double positive mean a negative.”
Said a voice in back of the classroom, “Yeah, right.”
For Foam “My art teacher,” said the ten-year-old to his dad, “gave me a ‘D’ because she didn’t like what I was making.”
“What were you making?” asked the dad.
For Mayden Q: What’s the difference between a Yankee Stadium hotdog, and a Fenway Park hotdog? A: You can buy a Fenway Park hotdog in late-October.
For Gary Buell In one of his standup routines, Woody Allen said, “I just started writing again. I’m working on a non-fiction version of the Warren Report.”
For Rayke Q: How does an Oklahoma State Cowboy fan keep an Oklahoma Sooner out of his yard? A: He puts up goalposts.
For Dale Tired of all the grief he’s taken from the Korean Bagel Lady, Dale decided, just as a snide protest, to go down to her shop, plunk down seventy-five cents on the counter, and leave without taking a bagel.
He did this every workday for three months, until the Korean Bagel Lady ran after him following his latest deposit. “Dale!” she hollered.
“I know,” said our friend from up north. “You want to know why I’ve come down here everyday, paid seventy-five cents, and left without taking anything.”
“No,” said the vendor. “I came to tell you that the price of bagels is now eighty cents.”
For Ray Q: What do you call a UFO with a faulty air-conditioning system? A: A frying saucer.
For Angie Police, still getting grief for not solving the murder of Tupac Shakur, turned to the paranormal investigators at TAPS to see if they can pick up any leads at his old house, where friends and family have reported sightings of the fallen hip-hop star.
When the team arrived, they immediately heard a sound too faint to determine. They paired off to see if they could find the source. Two of the investigators went upstairs and heard it more clearly. Looking down, they saw that their audio sensors had picked up the noise as well.
They traveled to the end of the hall, close enough to determine that the noise was a man’s voice. Since the door muffled any actual words. they entered the room and investigated. There, they heard actual words--also picked up by their audio equipment:
I ain’t got time for bitches. Gotta keep my mind on my motherfucking riches. Even when I die, They won’t worry me. Mama, don’t cry. Bury me a G.
They tracked the voice to a door, which they assumed belonged to a closet. Sure enough, when the investigators looked inside, they saw all the Christmas presents (along with boxes, bows and ribbons) that the hip-hop star had bought for his loved ones, but never had time to send.
More important, the investigators discovered the origin of the sound: rapping paper.
Whatever Russ Gibb heard about the Paul Is Dead rumor in England, he won’t divulge. Thus, we have no evidence other than Gibb’s word that this person actually (a) existed, and (b) told him something shocking. For the sake of argument, let’s believe the famed DJ, for a moment. For speculation’s sake, let’s also assume that the person talking to him actually had some connection to US/UK intelligence.
So, what could this secret be?
A spy once told me to expect a black op when a lot of different parties share a common itch to scratch. For Mae Brussell, the summer of 1969 provided one big rash for those in UK and US Intelligence, both of which faced the same dilemma: how to stop the growing anti-war movement without looking like Nazis or Stalinist henchmen in front of cameras. After all, many of the peaceniks of that era came from respectable, even wealthy, homes, with parents who could effectively raise political hell
It would better suit the war machine if the peace movement discredited itself. But if it couldn’t discredit itself, maybe someone else could tarnish its reputation by painting its most prevalent stereotype (i.e. hippy) as deranged (because of drug use), immoral (because of free sex and alternate religion), and violent. Thus, Brussell believed that the murders attributed to Charles Manson represented a covert operation designed to discredit the counterculture, thus resulting in the quelling of anti-war dissent.
While that sounds silly, at first blush, Mae’s evidence is far more substantial than what I can lay out here, and a lot of it merits a closer look later in the The X-Spot. But even Vincent Bugliosi, the Los Angeles Deputy DA who prosecuted the case, noted in his bestselling memoir Helter-Skelter that the Manson family grew, prospered, and murdered with government help in the form of convenient official oversights, and extraordinarily bizarre legal actions.
The actual motive that Bugliosi entered into evidence was what we now know as Helter Skelter, a proposed cataclysmic race war in which African-Americans would slaughter the rest of their countrymen except for Manson and his followers. The Family allegedly planned to hide out in the desert and take the reins of power once blacks realize that they lacked the mental acuity to run a nation.
Bugliosi told a jury that Manson believed he could spark this war by adding a number of clues that would implicate black militants in the deaths of prominent whites, thus causing a backlash and a counter-backlash. Among these clues were a number of pseudo-Ebonic writings on the walls, appliances and doors of the death houses in the victims’ own blood: “Piggies,” and “Healter Skelter [sic]” (left) for example. However, detectives assigned to the LaBianca case, realized immediately that the graffiti had nothing to do with the Black Panthers or similar organizations, but instead came from the lyrics of Beatles songs.
The Fab Four would figure prominently in the actual murder trial. Bugliosi’s case depended on convincing a jury that Manson had misinterpreted the lyrics of Beatles’ songs, and that Charlie believed the band had directly communicated with him through their music. The jury ultimately believed this theory, and convicted Manson of conspiracy to commit murder.
That someone would attempt to spark a revolution because somebody else’s music instructed him to do so probably sounds ridiculous to most of us living in this new century. It wouldn't sound any less comical to those living in the first half of 1969. But the Tate and LaBianca murders occurred on August 8 and August 9, 1969. Authorities would not charge Manson with the crime until December 1, 1969. In the meantime, someone would convince the people that wild misinterpretations of Beatles’ lyrics weren’t just possible, but common. The Paul Is Dead rumor educated the public not only that someone might mistake what the Beatles had written, but also millions of even well-educated people could take the misinterpretation seriously.
Without further explanation, the hypothesis that someone started the Paul Is Dead rumor to obfuscate the real source of the Manson murders is extremely tenuous and speculative. Nevertheless, let’s follow this train of thought, for awhile. If someone had instructed Watson to do the killings and had sprung Manson from prison to serve as the fall guy, and if someone introduced Manson to the LA music scene to guide his contacts, this train of thought would also require some connection between the Beatles and UK/US Intelligence. We would also need something to link US Intel with the pop music industry, and with Manson himself.
The Beatles actually had a connection to Intel via their label, EMI. Electronic and Musical Industries Ltd. began in 1931 when its founder, Alan Blumlein, fostered a merger between the two top British gramophone firms. Like RCA founder David Sarnoff in the US, Blumlein started a record label to provide music for the machines his company built. But at the dawn of World War II, EMI soon found bigger profits in manufacturing radar equipment and components for guided missiles. Thus they became an important defense contractor.
The connection doesn’t mean anything really. Others don’t necessarily mean anything either, including the possibility that the Beatles might have once stayed at the house on 10050 Cielo Drive in LA (the site of the Tate murders), or that Roman Polanski, Tate's widower, filmed Rosemary’s Baby at the Dakota apartment complex in New York, where Lennon lived. But one piece of evidence gives me a sneaking suspicion that the Manson family really did have communications from someone in contact with the Beatles.
A door found at Spahn Ranch (left) featured a number of Beatle lyrics. That the Beatles would feature prominently in the Family’s graffiti should come as little surprise, for according to former members, Manson had become obsessed with the lyrics of the band. It wasn’t that he saw signs from their music, as is commonly believed, but rather he felt that they were outlining or summing up some plan that he had already had in mind.
“Helter Skelter,” alludes to a song on the White Album. The reference to the Beatles is clear because a variation of the song’s lyrics “She’s coming down fast” appears below it. The word “Peace” at the top left corner could refer to John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance,” a song released earlier that summer. A peace sign underneath hovers above the phrase “I Love You,” a possible pun on the song title “P.S. [Peace] I Love You.” The word “love” is most likely a reference to the song “All You Need Is Love,” and I would guess that the word “nothingness” might refer to the refrain of “Strawberry Fields.”
At the top right hand corner is the phrase “1, 2 3 4 5 6 7 ALL GOOD CHILD-REN [go to Heaven?].” This line comes from a popular nursery rhyme that we all learned as kids. However, it also appears verbatim in the Beatle song “You Never Give Me Your Money,” an inner track of the Abbey Road album. Given the number of other Beatle references on this door, it would make sense that the inspiration for this clue also comes from the band.
Police raided Spahn Ranch on August 16, and arrested Charlie and company for suspected auto theft. They were let go on a technicality (specifically, a misdated warrant). Upon his release, Manson believed someone at Spahn Ranch had snitched on him, most likely B-movie actor and ranch hand Shorty Shea, who disappeared forever the following day. By September 9, Manson, fearing another raid, had moved the family to Barker Ranch in Death Valley. The last possible date in which we have any reason to believe that a Family member might have stepped foot on Spahn Ranch was September 22, 1969, when Beach Boy drummer and Manson associate Dennis Wilson received a threatening message from a phone located there (that's assuming Manson had anything to do with the call).
In other words, the latest the probable date for the graffiti on the above door was September 22, even though someone most likely put it on the door weeks before. If the “All good children” comment alluded to “You Never Give Me Your Money,” however, we have a bit of a problem, for Apple/Parlophone/EMI wouldn’t release the AbbeyRoad album until September 26, 1969. So the question becomes, how could they have heard a song that hadn’t become available to the public yet, unless they had some inside connection?
The connection might have been Wilson, at the time signed to EMI subsidiary Capitol Records. Wilson could have gotten an advanced copy and given it to Manson. Yet, the relationship between Manson and Wilson had become strained long before the summer of 1969. One would have to then wonder why he would offer up a record that didn’t officially exist yet, especially since he wanted to distance himself from the Family.
As I said, this is a tenuous and speculative hypothesis on so many levels. Nevertheless, the Paul Is Dead rumor helped out a lot of itchy folks. It probably didn’t help the Beatles themselves, for their album sales were always consistently high. They didn't need a gimmick. The rumor did, however, provide a motive for one LA County prosecutor. It also provided something else of value to those who lurk in the shadows professionally. Judging from the number of rock stars on the Security Index, and under surveillance, and from the workings of COINTELPRO, which created a number of crazy schemes to discredit people, the US Intel community saw popular culture--in particular youth-oriented music--as a threat against order--especially the Beatles, who were really high profile. The rumor accomplished two things that white operators could have only dreamed of in their wildest fantasies. First of all, it harassed the Beatles, especially McCartney, something the FBI, in particular, was quite fond of, especially if it involved silly stuff.
Most important, The Paul Is Dead rumor preyed upon a public desire for secret knowledge, for some kind of insider information that would let fans know that they were a part of an admired celebrity’s private world. As any conspiracist will tell you (including me), we all desire something to prove our pet theories correct. Some (not including me) have a great deal of personal feelings at stake, and the thought of being wrong, or encountering troubling evidence against or compelling disproval of a cherished notion, can really wreck their psyche.
It’s in this context where the Paul Is Dead rumor pulled off its most spectacular victory. It managed to get millions of fans to secretly wish that someone they admired (and whom the establishment hated) were dead.
Billy Pepper and the Pepperpots, a “Mersey” band that recorded three albums in 1964 had solid connections to the Beatles. First off, their cover songs are dominated by Lennon-McCartney compositions. Their album artwork consists of either mock Beatle sets, or actual photographs of Beatle audiences.
Most important, however, is that Billy Sheppard, ostensibly a Pepperpots’ member, was also a Beatles insider. Sheppard, you see, penned a number of pieces, often depicting stories of the band's life on the road, for their fanzine. Most important, he wrote the band’s first authorized biography, The True Story of the Beatles. The words at the bottom of the cover read, “As told to Billy Sheppard. With 22 pages of photographs published for the first time in this country.”
Figure 1. The True Story of the Beatles
The Merseybeat bands of the early-1960s consisted primarily of working-class youths from such industrial towns as Liverpool and Manchester. While nothing prevented them from being good writers (e.g. John Lennon’s In His Own Write, a collection of poems), the job of producing books and churning out articles would be better suited for a professional wordsmith: one who could meet publisher deadlines, one who could respond to editorial decisions, one who could understand both the long-term and short-term strategies necessary to write an entire volume.
We should therefore think of Sheppard, whoever he was, as primarily a professional writer. Curiously, however, his opus doesn’t extend beyond 1964-1965. His work, including the Pepperpot songs, is also completely Beatle-related. This strongly suggests that the name Sheppard was a pseudonym for an author who had published works, before and after Beatlemania, under another name.
Because of the Beatles’ grueling schedule, any dictation to Sheppard would have to have occurred on the road, as they toured, or at Abbey Road studios as they recorded. He would thus know the members very well, and they, in turn, would know him very well.
As it turns out, there was a professional writer touring with the Beatles, who published a number of works both before and after his stint on the road with them. Strangely enough, his last name was Shepherd (note the spelling). His first name, however, wasn’t William.
Jean (pronounced the same as ‘Gene’) Shepherd (left), made his fame in New York as a radio personality and standup comedian.* A friend and contemporary of Shel Silverstein and Lenny Bruce, his work included numerous articles for such publications as Mad and Playboy, movie and television scripts, and such books as A Fistful of Fig Newtons. In both radio and print, Shepherd demonstrated a phenomenal gift for storytelling on the level of such folks as Mark Twain. As Marshall McLuhan said of him, “[Shepherd] regards radio as a new medium for a new kind of novel that he writes nightly.”
So, Shepherd was a pro’s pro, and eminently qualified to write anyone’s biography. He was also an amateur musician, who performed such parodies as “The Bear Missed the Train,” a spoof of the popular Yiddish song “Beimir bist du schoen.” As it so happens, he also became an early member of the Beatles’ extended family in 1964 while touring with them in England to write an article. Born in 1921, Shepherd was neither a part of the music scene, nor a fan of rock and roll, his tastes leaning more toward Tin Pan Alley and swing. Yet, despite the age difference, the offense to his musical sensibilities, and his comic, but genuine, misanthropy, he gushed over the Fab Four, and his place with them. In a number of monologues, he recounted his adoration with a bit of shame, for he realized early on that what attracted him to Harrison, McCartney, Lennon and Starr wasn’t their personalities, but rather the immensity of their fame. Consequently, the wild adulation that fans demonstrated for the band reached him through proxy, allowing him to vicariously soak up the praise and power that such celebrity could demand.
Figure 3. Jean Sheppard: four stories about his life with the Beatles**
One more piece of information about Jean Shepherd will add further insight as to the origins of the Pepperpots, and ultimately the Paul Is Dead rumor: Shep, wasn’t just a prankster, but a giant in the world of hoaxers. As Eugene Bergmann illustrated in his 2005 biography, Excelsior, You Fathead!:
This prismatic portrait affirms Shepherd's position as one of the 20th Century's great humorists. Railing against conformity, he forged a unique personal bond with his loyal listeners, who participated in his legendary literary prank by asking bookstores for the nonexistent novel I, Libertine (when Ian Ballantine had Shepherd and Theodore Sturgeon make the fake real, PW called it ‘the hoax that became a book’). Storyteller Shepherd's grand theme was life itself.
Because of his background in writing, music, and hoaxing, and because of his closeness to the Beatles, there's good reason to believe that Jean Shepherd and Billy Sheppard are the same man. But much more than convergence makes this likely. First of all, there’s the Pepperpots’ music:
Figure 4. Billy Pepper and the Pepperpots: “Tell Me I’m the One for You.”
“Tell Me I’m the One for You” has an exaggerated Mersey beat similar to that featured in many Beatles’ tunes. But the vocals are comparatively clunky, with true Beatle--style harmony only at selected cadential points (i.e. at the end of a few phrases). The melody itself sounds rather staid. Here’s why: the heavy rock beat from the drums masks the fact that the harmony and melody are (save for a few phrase endings) modally structured like a Tin Pan Alley song, not a rock one, which would have featured a strong infusion of blues or European folk harmony instead of the major-minor diatonicism (i.e. like in "classical" music) found here. This type of song would be consistent with the type Jean Shepherd would most likely have written were he trying to spoof the Beatles.
Looking at a photograph of the Pepperpots, (taken from the previously posted album cover), and comparing it to people connected with the Beatles, we see something quite interesting. Because of the darkness, and position, the gentleman standing in the back doesn’t ring any bells for me. But the man front and center screams Neill Aspinall. The angular face, the long nose, the intense eyes and the eyebrows seem to match.
Figure 5. Beats!!!! album cover photograph (left): Neil Aspinall c. 1966 (right)
To be honest, I didn’t see this correlation on my own, but rather with the help of this forum on the King Is Naked website. Likewise, I didn’t see the next one without their help.
Figure 6. Beats!!!! album cover photograph (left): Mal Evans c. 1960 (right)
The man standing to the left of the seated figure, is a large, brawny one with a broad face, and distinctive frown lines. A contemporary photograph of Beatles’ road manager Mal Evans shows the same thing. Evans not only served as a road manager, but in other capacities. He played saxophone for the band on occasion. According to Lennon, and subsequent sources, he anonymously co-wrote the songs “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band,” and “Eleanor Rigby.”
Figure 7. Beats!!!! album cover photograph (left): Jean Shepherd 1959 (right)
While I might have needed help for the first two comparisons, I made the third one on my own. The man standing on the seated figure’s right looks thin and young. However, on closer inspection (click to enlarge) we can see the obvious crop marks around the neck. In other words, this represents one man’s face on another man’s body. The face, most likely framed by a wig, looks virtually the same as Shepherd’s, with an identical jaw line, eyes, eyebrows, and nose.
We might be able to dismiss the close resemblance of a single Pepperpot to a member of the Beatles’ entourage as a fluke. But for three doubles to look like part of the Fab Four’s support staff is just too weird to be dismissed as coincidence.
In the above recording, Jean Shepherd tells of a stagehand who, after seeing the excitement of Beatles fans, wishes that someone would scream like that for him, just once. Shepherd seems to feel the same way. Actually, it makes sense for those close to the Beatles to want to taste the limelight once in their lives. And sensing from the close-knit relation between band members and staff, it’s not beyond the pale that the Pepperpots got a little help from their friends, the Beatles, who might have (through Brian Epstein) arranged a few recording sessions and photographs for them. I have yet to find any indication that the Pepperpots actually performed live, despite extensive research into the Mersey sound. Other than these albums, we have no evidence that they existed at all.
I believe Jean Shepherd most likely was behind the initial ruse that created the false Beatle-related names associated with the Paul Is Dead rumor. The initial 1967 rumor, the one with no cryptic clues or messages, probably came about naturally from miscommunications concerning Paul McCartney’s moped accident, and had somehow incorporated one or more of the Billys from the Pepperpots into the story as a putative replacement.
At the same time, there’s serious cause to speculate that something deeper lurks behind the Paul Is Dead rumor. While traveling in England, Russ Gibb, the Detroit DJ who first spread the tale to an international audience, met someone from UK Intelligence. The spy told him something about the PID rumor that absolutely chilled him. Gibb has said that he might make a deathbed confession, but refuses to divulge any information at the present time.
I don’t know what spooked Gibb. But that doesn’t stop me from making a guess.
--------------------------- *Shep referred to himself as a ‘humorist,’ and hated it when peopled called him a “comedian.”
**This clip is approximately thirty minutes long, and included here only to document the points made in the previous paragraph. If you have thirty minutes to listen to it, by all means do, for these are fantastic stories. Otherwise, don’t feel obliged.
Here are a few valid things about the Paul Is Dead rumor to consider. Update: per Rayke's request, I have included an additional example.
(1) McCartney actually suffered injuries from a vehicular accident in the fall of 1966. The mishap occurred when he fell off of his moped. The spill left him with a chipped front tooth and a scar on his upper lip, which he hid by growing a mustache.
(2) The Beatles did stop touring in 1966. Changes in recording technology made it nearly impossible to recreate live the studio sounds of Sgt. Pepper and subsequent albums. Nowadays, a band could, with some imagination, perform very complex arrangements with a minimum of players thanks to new technology. Back then, no way.
(3) There was a famous Paul McCartney look-alike contest held in 1966. The winner was neither Scottish nor anyone named William, but rather Keith Allison (left), an accomplished American musician who would soon find success with his own band, Paul Revere and the Raiders.
(4) The rumors of McCartney’s death first circulated in the fall of 1966 in the UK. The February 1967 edition of the Beatles' official fanzine quelled the gossip in a front-page story stating that Paul was still very much alive. Unlike their US counterparts, British rock fans accepted the explanation and thought little more about it until 1969.
(5) There’s good reason to believe that some of the “clues” were deliberately planted. The “I was” (or "I you Was") photo in The Magical Mystery Tour (left) faces away from McCartney, who most likely didn’t see it. Although McCartney directed the scene, I see no indication that he directed principal photography. That’s important for the sign isn’t apparent in the movie. And as director, McCartney focused more on the improvisational qualities of the acting. He could have easily missed something placed out of his view, in an area where he held no responsibility.
Some clues seem to have come from their label, EMI. EMI released the Beatles in Europe, while its subsidiary, Capitol Records, did the same in the Western Hemisphere. Consequently, the UK and US releases almost always differed. Ending side two of the UK version of the Sgt. Pepper album is a curious two-second song, simply known as “Sgt. Pepper’s Inner Groove.”
Figure 3. “Sgt. Pepper’s Inner Groove”forward and reversed
Example 3a. "Sgt. Pepper's Inner Groove" slowed and reversed.
The lyrics are unintelligible, and sound more like deliberately baskmasked clues than a straightforward recording. Only upon reversal, can one hear an intelligible phrase: “Will Paul be back as Superman?” At the time, some of the officially released Beatle artwork alluded to “The Man of Steel.” Once again, in the Magical Mystery Tour booklet, there's a drawing of Superman (left; lower right corner). The panel reads, "He thinks he's the courier."
McCartney himself didn’t know about the cut’s existence until 1969, when someone pointed it out as a clue. Even then, his initial interpretation of the words was an unprintable obscenity.* It’s clear he, or the others, had no participation in the recording of this brief song. It’s just as clear that it’s a deliberate backward masking (note the crispness of the ‘S’ and “n” in Superman, something you usually wouldn’t hear in an unintentionally backmasked lyric). Also clear is the implication that Paul is gone, and suggests that he will come back in another identity.
(6) The deaths of Mal Evans, Brian Epstein and Lennon occurred amid cloudy or suspicious circumstances, and merit more serious investigations than they have been given by authorities. Knight’s death, while violent, doesn’t present any mysteries. Abram’s attempted murder of George Harrison, on the other hand, leaves a number of unanswered questions.
(7) Two of the names attributed to William Campbell belong to actual persons, neither of who could be McCartney. Victor “Vivian” Stanshall (left) made a name for himself during the early-1960s as the leader of a novelty jazz act, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. His appearance with McCartney in the final scene of The Magical Mystery Tourdoesn’t keep him from being a “faux Paul,” necessarily, since actors of that era had played dual roles on many occasions, most famously on The Patty Duke Show. But given the striking differences in physical appearance, one would find it very doubtful to confuse the two men, so we may safely exclude him as a Faul. Sadly, Stanshall perished in a fire on March 5, 1995.
Neil Aspinall began as the Beatle’s chauffeur, and worked his way up the administrative ladder to become the current CEO of the Apple Corporation. As such, he literally thinks of the Beatles more than anyone in the world. Because of numerous appearances with McCartney (left), we can safely exclude him as a Faul too.
Billy Sheppard and Billy Pepper might be two different aliases for the same man. We know that in 1964 a band recorded three albums under the name Billy Pepper and the Pepperpots: Beats!!! The Merseyside Sound, Merseymania, and More Merseymania. We can link Billy Sheppard to the band because he receives writing credits for original songs on their albums.
Figure 7. More Merseymania album, side one
Figure 8. Beats!!! The Merseyside Sound album cover
The names Campbell, and Shears have no clear origin. For reasons I’ll explain later, they both most likely referred to real musicians in the Pepperpots. Imagine, if you will, a gimmicky artist that not only cashes in on Beatlemania in a transparent way, but also uses songs written by Lennon and McCartney. Going further, suppose they conceived of a band where everyone had the same first name. As a quartet, they would thus be Billy Campbell, Billy Shears, Billy Sheppard and Billy Pepper.
Yet, that’s one possibility. Billy Shears might also be Billy Pepper and Billy Sheppard. Beatle fans most likely got the first two names from the featured characters of the Sgt. Pepper title track. The name Campbell might have come from another alias once used by Sheppard, or made up whole cloth by a PID proponent long ago.
What distinguishes the whole PID rumor from others is the inclusion of a specific person as a possible replacement. Thus understanding the origins of the rumor does not require any further examination of McCartney’s identity, but rather Billy Sheppard's.
*Happens all the time that forward lyrics aren’t heard correctly. For example many thought Hendrix’s “Purple Haze had the phrase “’Scuse me while I kiss this guy,” instead of the correct one, “Excuse me while I kiss the sky.”
The weight of evidence overwhelmingly indicates that Sir James Paul McCartney OBE did not perish in 1966, and is still quite alive at the time of this posting. First of all, the PID rumor presupposes willingness on the part of numerous officials to ignore their own concerns and violate their own procedures in order to help the Beatles maintain their prominence and wealth. As we can easily determine from FBI files, US and UK Intelligence had an animus against rock stars during the 1960s. They had nothing to gain by helping the band pull off such a hoax. Most important, every bit of documentary, anecdotal, and eyewitness evidence stresses that McCartney is still alive.
Meanwhile, the abundant clues and the scant evidence offered are specious, fraudulent, or irrelevant.
As I said earlier, recording forward lyrics that one can purposely reverse would require a painstaking effort to produce a very limited quantity of messages (say three or four). But here, we have scores of backmasked “clues” from a very prolific band. And if the listener is predisposed to the rumor’s main tenets, then she can pick out just about any collection of stray sounds and construe them as something intelligible. Thus, backmasking doesn’t offer any evidence that McCartney is dead.
Likewise, one can construe cryptic lyrics any way he wants, especially when he takes the words out of context. For example, the line in the song “Glass Onion” that goes “And here’s another clue for you all; The walrus was Paul” refers to Lennon’s frustrations about listener misinterpretation of his lyrics and statements. And since “Glass Onion” appeared on the White Album, released in 1968, there’s no logic in Lennon referring to “another clue,” since previous clues had yet to emerge until the fall of 1969.
The Terry Knight song “St. Paul” faced similar misinterpretation. In context, the song mocks the Beatles for selling out, thus alluding to a metaphoric death, not a literal one.
Many PID proponents harp on the fact that Lennon and McCartney published the song, but none of Knight’s other tunes as if there is some type of sinister connection. The reason for Maclen to publish “St. Paul” is quite obvious. The song has an extended quotation from the Beatles’ “Hey Jude.” Had Knight (left) produced the song in 2007, he could have done so free and clear, since current law allows one artist to copy another for purposes of parody. In 1969, such a tune would have straddled a gray legal area. Rather than go to court and sue for copyright infringement, Lennon and McCartney opted to do something sensible: they simply licensed “St. Paul” themselves to take their rightful share of the profits from it.
As for the visual cues, the Beatles didn’t do their own artwork; others did. Even when the Beatles controlled their own visual representations, such as The Magical Mystery Tour, which they wrote and directed, other aspects such as the album cover, the accompanying booklet, et cetera were done by professionals. Their involvement with Yellow Submarine was limited even further to their non-animated appearance at the end. Voice actors depicted them onscreen, and they had no control of the script or editing. If there were intentional clues in these, they didn’t come from the Beatles.
I believe that some of the clues are deliberate, and not random. A few come from the Beatles themselves, but only after the band broke up for good. They goofed on the rumor occasionally, and that explains the post-Beatle clues.
In other words, there is nothing probative about the vast bulk of the Paul Is Dead evidence. Worse yet, the traditionally cited evidence at best demonstrates randomness and selective stimuli response. Facial and vocal analyses are the only real evidence that hint at the possibility of something untoward. Yet they alone do not indicate McCartney’s death, let alone prove it. Moreover, much of the facial evidence is fraudulent.
R. Gary Patterson, a researcher who looks extensively into rock controversies and oddities, became intrigued by the facial recognition tests that indicated an unnatural change in McCartney’s physical appearance. Instead of expressing an ill-informed opinion, he sought help from experts, specifically the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, in preparation for a Coast-to-Coast interview on the subject. The TBI found the photographs used to prove alleged differences between McCartney and William Campbell were, well, worthless:
The resolution of the pictures is not comparison quality--different angles are not a scientific way to examine photographs especially to back up an argument. Different angles are there to give an overall view only but not for comparison. It has to theoretically be an exact of the one you are comparing it against.
Changes in muscle movements in various photographs cannot be seen with the naked eye but can change measurements if you are comparing only photographs. That is why unless you can see beneath the skin to the actual muscle-then you cannot say precisely what a facial measurement is especially using two photographs that are that dissimilar in expression for comparison.
I myself noticed immediately that the apparent shape of McCartney’s face prior to 1966 was the result of two things. First off, the infamous moptop haircut created an optical illusion of roundness for McCartney, but not the other Beatles. That’s probably due to the uniqueness of his head shape. After all, the exact same haircut can have a different effect on any two people. Secondly, the effect became more pronounced when he tilted his head back just a little. Most important, when one takes a look at McCartney before the moptop days, one discovers that he actually had a long, rectangular face to begin with.
Figure 2. Paul McCartney c. 1961
In many of the comparison photographs between McCartney and “William Campbell” someone has altered McCartney’s face. The differences are quite subtle. Nevertheless, they betray a very judicious use of Photoshop (or Photochop, as She puts it) somewhere along the line.
Figure 3. Paul McCartney, Spies Like Us album image (left), and altered image purporting to be from the same album (right)
At first glance, the faces look the same. But if you click on the image (to enlarge it), you’ll see that the genuine McCartney photo (left), although grainier, shows more detail with respect to his hair. Secondly, in the real McCartney photo the inner eyelid fold is more pronounced, despite the fact that it’s of lower quality. Note too the difference in nose size and angle between the real photograph and the fake one.
Although the differences are slight, the altered picture fits more neatly into an argument that McCartney had (pardon the expression) two faces, and thus could not have been the same individual. As an old mentor used to tell me, photographs don’t lie, but photographers do.
While negotiation of the facial recognition analysis breaks down under scrutiny, the vocal analysis is tougher to dismiss. Dr. Truby was a highly respected linguist, and would have been one of the best people on the planet to take on the job of analyzing McCartney’s voice. If he said there were three voices, then there were three distinct voices identified as Paul McCartney.
The operant phrase is “identified as Paul McCartney.” Truby analyzed data given to him by others. Many non-musicians hear function before they hear actual sound, so it’s quite likely that if someone else in the band performed in the style of McCartney, listeners might mistake him for Paul. When John Lennon sang lead, for example, McCartney’s role entailed performing a linear modal harmony above him, almost always at the third. Sometimes, however, internal band squabbles would upset this arrangement. As McCartney explained to dedicated Beatles researcher Mark Lewisohn for the book The Beatles: Recording Sessions:
It's a nice one. I like the title ‘She Said She Said,’ which I think was made up on the session. John brought it in pretty much finished, I think. I'm not sure but I think it was one of the only Beatle records I never played on. I think we had a barney or something and I said, ‘Oh, fuck you!’ and they said, ‘Well, we'll do it.’ I think George played bass.
Figure 4. “She Said, She Said” excerpt
For the song “She Said, She Said,” George Harrison took over on bass and vocals. I have little doubt that someone could have confused him as McCartney on this cut, especially in some sections where he sounds rather close. Thus, Harrison’s pretty much a lock as the second Paul.
The third McCartney voice belonged to an impersonator, a rather obscure Apple employee named Tony Bramwell. Bramwell admitted in 1990 that McCartney’s characteristic seclusion forced him to take on the bassist’s identity for telephone interviews and other Apple-related business.
So now, all of the Pauls are present and accounted for. The remaining evidence—laterality, height and eye color—are likewise better explained by more mundane circumstances. First of all, I’ve seen footage of McCartney writing with his right hand in 1964, and with his left hand in 1967. That tells us that (a) McCartney’s actually ambidextrous; or (b) the films in one or both cases were reversed, a pretty common practice in image making. If it’s the former reason, then that negates this aspect of the rumor. If it’s the latter reason, then it renders the point moot. Second, I’ve known people whose eye color changes during the day, depending on the amount of sunlight reaching the irises. Furthermore, McCartney could have simply been experimenting with colored contact lenses. As for the height, the first Jane Asher photograph (posted previously) doesn’t show us a true height differential, for the cropping doesn’t show their legs. For all we know, she could have stood on a step in that first image, therefore exaggerating the height differences in the second. Then too, in the comparison of photos between McCartney and his bandmates, we again run into the problem of varying angles, and forced perspective. What’s more, McCartney could have been wearing elevator shoes in some photos, and not in others. Note that in the famous Abbey Road photograph McCartney’s barefoot, and doesn’t appear appreciatively taller than Harrison, who’s walking behind him.
Figure 4. Abbey Road photograph
While we can see that nothing serious supports the Paul Is Dead rumor, there are, nevertheless, elements of truth behind it. What we have to consider is how the story came about. We also have to wonder if the resultant hoopla came from someone’s deliberate attempts to convince the public that he died over four decades ago.
Authorities may review any case of death, whether resulting from natural causes or homicide, and base subsequent findings upon court-quality evidence. As intriguing as they are, the Paul Is Dead “clues” don’t come close to meeting this standard. But photographs and aural/spectral voice identification do.
Twenty-first century technology has given us a number of means to catalogue, compare, manipulate, and store graphic and sonic data to a degree unimaginable in 1969, when the PID rumor began. Naturally, those who persist in maintaining this belief have turned to photographs and recordings in order to prove that McCartney died in 1966.
Looking at any photo of Paul McCartney from the 1940s to 2007, one can immediately recognize his most salient facial feature: a slight inner-eyelid fold that makes his eyes seem to slant toward the outside of his face. While inner-eyelid folds are common among eastern Asians, they are relatively rare among Europeans. Proponents of the PID story say that the public therefore concentrates upon the eyes as a McCartney identifier, and neglects other parts of the face that exhibit more severe changes. This trait was one also the one most easily corrected by cosmetic surgery.
Two very popular PID websites, The King Is Naked and James Paul McCartney (1942-1966) have given an extensive look-see into the possibility that while the eyes match, much of the face doesn’t. The most prominent feature is the size and shape of McCartney’s head.
Figure 2. John Lennon and Paul McCartney 1964 In the above photo, Lennon and McCartney are the same distance from the camera lens, and their facial angles are practically identical. In this photograph, Lennon’s face appears rather long and rectangular, while McCartney’s face seems smaller and rounder. Superimposing McCartney and Lennon’s faces, from the above photo, onto their pics on the Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band album, you can see that properly scaled, John's head seems to fit well (Figure 3).
Figure 3. Sgt. Pepper photo with 1964 Lennon image superimposed
Superimposing McCartney’s head into this picture, however, yields a startling result. One finds that inserted at the precise scale of the Lennon image from the same 1964 picture that between 1964 and 1967, Paul’s head seems to have inexplicably grown larger. Most important: the shape of his face has apparently changed from round to long and rectangular.
Figure 4. Sgt Pepper photo with 1964 McCartney image superimposed
In order to drive the point home further, proponents of the PID rumor have compared photos of McCartney to those allegedly belonging to William Campbell, alias Neill Aspinall. In particular, they note the similarity of the elongated, pointy chin of the "imposter."
Figure 5. “William Campbell”
Figure 6. Paul McCartney c. 1967 (left); Neil Aspinall and John Lennon, 1964 (right)
Figure 7. “William Campbell”/Paul McCartney comparison, c. 1968
In addition to the alleged change in facial shape, PID proponents also point to changes in eye color (from brown to green) and laterality (from left-handedness to right-handedness). Also, they note that between 1966 and 1968, McCartney apparently grew a couple of inches.
Figure 8. Lennon and McCartney, 1965 (left); “I Am the Walrus” video from Magical Mystery Tour (right)
Figure 9. McCartney and girlfriend Jane Asher c, 1965 (left): McCartney and Asher c. 1967 (right). Voice Analysis Any Beatlephile can tell you that McCartney’s voice changed during the group’s existence. Comparing his performance on “The Night Before” to that of “Blackbird,” for example, one notes obvious differences in sound that reflect varying vocals techniques. In the former, for example, the voice originates more towards the back of the throat, and thus contains a bit of a rasp. The latter originates more in the area of the nose, which (in technical terms) emphasizes the upper partials of McCartney’s voice, making it seem “softer” (or whiney, depending on your perspective).
Figure 10. “The Night Before” and “Blackbird” excerpts
During the PID rumor’s heyday in 1969, a Miami, FL disc jockey prompted a well-respected linguist, Dr. Henry Truby (University of Miami) to determine if there were two different voices attributed to McCartney. After poring over and analyzing a number of singing and speaking recordings, Dr. Truby realized that there were not two Pauls. There were three.
In order to save time and space, I’ll cut to the chase and say that I have absolutely no dispute with Dr. Truby’s analysis. Three different men sang or spoke for Paul McCartney between 1962 and 1969. While this would constitute court-quality evidence, it in no way proves that the former-Beatle died in 1966 or any other year. It can only be used as supporting evidence for that thesis. After all, there are better explanations for why there were three Pauls—especially when you know who the other two were.
Don't forget. Go to Can of Worms for part III of Angie's interview.
We take a break from our current subject to bring you news of great joy. I've managed to persuade our friend Angie (left) to post again. She's only answered three of the five interview questions posed by yours truly. That means there's more good stuff coming on Can of Worms.
Today, Angie has answered one more question. The final installation in the series comes tomorrow. Pop over, will ya'.
The putative clues of Paul McCartney’s 1966 death are far too numerous to list here. Indeed, fans of the PID hoax continue to find new ones every day. A more thorough accounting of them can be found at the Paul Is Dead, and the Officially Pronounced Dead websites, and in Iamaphony’s very entertaining Rotten Apple series on YouTube.
The clues themselves fall into six separate categories: (1) backmasked examples; (2) cryptic lyrics; (3) artwork appearing on album covers, liner notes, and special promotions packages; (4) movie allusions; (5) non-Beatle clues; and (6) post-Beatles references. Here’s a very selective sample of each type.
Backmasked Examples Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
(1) The refrain of :”Getting Better” sounds like “After all, Paul is dead. He lost his hairs, head” when reversed.
(2) The end of the title track’s refrain sounds like “It was a fake mustache” when reversed.
Magical Mystery Tour
(1) Lyrics of the song “Blue Jay Way,” when reversed, sound like “He said, ‘Get me out.’ Paul is what is. Paul is Hare Krishna it seems. Paulie is naughty.”
(2) Lyrics beginning the coda of “I Am the Walrus” when reversed sound like “Ha ha! Paul is dead.”
The Beatles (White Album)
(1) Mumbling heard after the final cadence of the song “I’m so Tired” sounds like “Paul is dead. Miss him, miss him.”
(2) In addition to “Turn me on, dead man,” “Revolution no. 9,” when reverse, contains a passage that sounds like a man screaming “Get me out.”
Cryptic Lyrics Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
(1) The song “She’s Leaving Home” begins with the phrase “Wednesday morning at five o’clock as the day begins.”
(2) The song “Lovely Rita, Meter Maid” is allegedly a reference to constable Rita Davies.
(3) The song “Good Morning, Good Morning” begins with the lyrics “Nothing to do to save his life.”
(4) The first verse of “A Day in the Life” contains the lyric “He blew his mind out in a car. He didn’t notice that the lights had changed.” The verses end with the phrase, “I’d like to turn you on.”
The Beatles (White Album)
(1) The song “Glass Onion” contains the line “And here’s another clue for you all: the walrus was Paul.”
Artwork and Photography
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1) The general motif is that of a funeral, according to some, with the bass drum serving as a headstone. Yellow flowers are arranged in a shape reminiscent of a Rickenbocker bass strung for a left-hander.
(2) Tom Mix, and a number of other celebrities who died in motor vehicle accidents appear in the background.
(3) The top half of the bass drum, when reflected by a mirror shows the phrase “1 ONE 1 X HE DIE” (11 November he die)
(4) On the liner notes, George Harrison points to the lyric “Wednesday morning at five o’clock as the day begins” from the song “She’s Leaving Home.”
(5) On the inner sleeve, McCartney sports a patch that looks like it says “OPD” which to some means “Officially Pronounced Dead.”
(6) A hand is over McCartney’s head supposedly symbolizing that he is dead.
(1) The Beatles are supposedly depicting a funeral scene. Lennon, dressed in white, symbolizes the minister. Starr, dressed in black, represents the undertaker. Campbell, dressed in business suit, but barefoot, represents the corpse (apparently in some places they bury corpses without shoes), and Harrison, dressed in denim plays the part of the gravedigger.
(2) The license plate of the Volkswagon parked on the curb reads “LMW 28IF,” which some interpret as “Lived McCartney Would 28IF,” or “If McCartney had lived, he would have been 28.”
Magical Mystery Tour (1) The booklet accompanying the soundtrack’s release included a still photograph from the movie in which McCartney, playing a military officer, sits at a desk behind a sign reading “I was.”
(2) In the “I Am the Walrus” sequence, the bass drum appears to say “[Heart] the 3 Beatles.” Also in that sequence, guys dressed as surgeons do a bizarre dance. Paul, barefoot, has put his shoes next to the drum kit. The shoes have red stains under them. McCartney is the only one dressed in a black costume. And twice, during the video, Lennon jumps up from behind the piano and puts his left hand over McCartney’s head.
(1) In one scene, aboard the sub, there are five Beatles, because McCartney appears twice in two separate locations.
The most talked-about non-Beatle clue is a song by Terry Knight, an American disc jockey who had roots in the Detroit area. In the spring of 1969, he recorded a cryptically worded tune titled “St. Paul,” which quickly hit the UK pop charts. Because of the numerous allusions to the Beatles in lyrics, and abundant musical quotations from “Hey Jude,” the Paul in question can be no other than McCartney. Some of the lyrics hint of McCartney’s death, but in a metaphorical way:
You Knew it all along. Something had gone wrong. They couldn’t hear your song and sadness in the air, While they Were crying out, ‘Beware! ‘Your flowers and long hair!’ While you and Sgt. Pepper saw the writing on the wall.
“St. Paul” became the only song Knight published by Maclen, a proprietary firm jointly owned by McCartney and John Lennon to administer their collaborations.
Post Beatles Clues
(1) In the video for the 1987 George Harrison song “When We Was Fab,” the left-handed bass player where’s the same costume worn by McCartney in Magical Mystery Tour.
(2) In his 1971 song “How Do You Sleep,” John Lennon makes a reference to the Paul Is Dead rumor.
(3) In documentary footage released in 1988 as Imagine, centering on Lennon’s life during the 1970s, John, George and Yoko Ono make small talk over the breakfast table. Lennon makes a reference to “The Fab Four,” and Harrison immediately corrects him, saying, “The Fab Three.” Lennon agrees. Then Harrison grouses about “Beatle Bill.” In the middle of the exchange, both men become aware of the camera, and Lennon gives it an exaggerated wink. (Click here to see it.)
4. In the 1984 movie Give My Regards to Broad Street, an actor accidentally refers to McCartney as “William.” (Click here to see it.)
Just for the fun of it, you might want to contribute more “clues.”
What follows is the second version of the Paul Is Dead rumor. These do not represent the thoughts of X-Dell. They are simply stories.
Friday, September 11, 1966, Paul McCartney headed home after enjoying a holiday in Scotland. That evening, while on the road, he telephoned Ringo Starr to see if he could swing by with a couple of lady friends. McCartney called again a few minutes after his expected arrival. Blaming his delay on a rainstorm, he promised that he’d only be an hour or two late.
Come the next morning, McCartney still hadn’t shown up at Starr’s place. Ringo, thinking that Paul had blown him off, rang him at home, but received no answer. After calling around, he got worried. Soon, he, John Lennon, George Harrison, manager Brian Epstein, and everyone connected to the Beatles began a frantic telephone search.
The following Thursday, September 17, 1966, they finally received word from some friends who had seen McCartney in France a day or two earlier. Epstein flew to Outreau, and tracked him down. It seems that two days earlier an unnamed woman had found him seriously injured with a broken leg, and had taken him in. He had no identification on him, and no money.
Before leaving the house of the Good Samaritan, Epstein phoned the other Beatles to tell them that he had found McCartney, and that he would be okay. Unfortunately, however, both Epstein and McCartney vanished. Starr, Harrison and Lennon flew to France to find both missing men.
Wednesday morning, September 23, 1966, at approximately 5:00am, the surviving Beatles received a call from Outreau police, who informed them that they had found the bodies of Epstein and McCartney. They explained that the plane Epstein chartered exploded in mid-air, and plummeted into the sea. The manager’s body had gone down with the wreckage, but the blast had blown McCartney out of the craft, along with a piece of the fuselage. Investigators found him at the foot of a cliff beneath a piece of the hull, his badly disfigured face (left) visible through one of the passenger windows. One of the detectives offhandedly remarked that he looked like a walrus, an insensitive comment that almost drove Lennon to fisticuffs with the gendarme.
The surviving Beatles believed at the time that someone had effectively silenced the band. But an acquaintance suggested that they replace both McCartney and Epstein with doubles. With the little help from their friends within MI6, the band secretly hired American actor Don Knotts (left) to play Epstein. They then looked around for a suitable McCartney imposter, and found Scottish musician Geoffrey William Shepard, alias Neil Aspinall. They polished the differences between Shepard and McCartney through wigs, makeup and prosthetics, and hired someone else to sing for McCartney on records. Shepard, nicknamed Billy Pepper by friends because of his bright red hair, relished substituting for McCartney. Knotts soon grew weary of the deception, however, so intel helped him stage a mock suicide (as Epstein) in August of 1967.
From this point on, the story of the McCartney imposter, whom Harrison mockingly referred to as “Beatle Bill,” parallels that of the other major version, but with a couple of twists.
In this version, Lennon hired a top-tier private detective agency to find out what had happened to his friend, and found out that he himself had precipitated the death. He learned that someone had surrounded Epstein and McCartney’s taxi, then on its way to the airport from the Good Samaritan’s house, and forced them to stop. A gang of Klansmen (sans robes) forced them out of the car, and rigged their airplane to explode, in retaliation for a comment John had made in March of 1966: “We’re more popular than Jesus, now.”
Working from New York, Lennon had developed some fresh leads regarding the identities of the actual killers in February 1980, but Mark Chapman murdered him before he could solve the case.
In 1992, George Harrison, then stricken with a lung cancer that would go in and out of remission over the next nine years, dictated to his wife, Olivia, what he thought would be a deathbed confession, which has since circulated widely on the Internet.
There are actually two versions of the Paul McCartney death rumor, with minor variations in each. What follows are as complete an account of them as I can give. Remember: these do not represent the thoughts of X-Dell. They are simply stories.
In the wee hours of Wednesday, November 11, 1966, Paul McCartney left Abbey Road Studios in a huff. He had just finished a loud argument with drummer Ringo Starr as the two recorded tracks for an upcoming album tentatively titled Smile. Driving recklessly away in anger, McCartney then spotted a shapely traffic cop handing out tickets at five o’clock in the morning. Distracted by the woman, he didn’t notice that the green light ahead of him had changed to red. He went through the intersection, where a truck plowed directly into the driver’s side at full speed.
McCartney’s vehicle burst into flames upon impact, cooking his skin, and singing off his hair. According to some variations, he died instantly after decapitation. In other versions, he screamed for help before the blaze fried him to a crisp.
The traffic cop, later identified as Rita Davies, rushed over to render assistance, as did the truck driver. Davies (or the trucker, depending on the variation) instantly recognized the dead, or dying man as Paul McCartney. Flummoxed by what to do next, she found the phone number of Beatles manager Brian Epstein, and alerted him to the situation. Everyone agreed not to do anything until he arrived.
On the way to the crash site, Epstein and driver Mal Evans initially feared that the gravy train known as Beatlemania had ended its journey. After all, the thought of three Beatles would have all the appeal of a smile with a missing tooth. But before he arrived at their destination, the clever manager came up with a plan.
By 1966, the Beatles had given a Royal Crown Performance, and had become knights of the British Empire (OBE). Given Queen Elizabeth’s affection for the band, Epstein enlisted Her Royal Highness’s help in order to pull off a switch between the real Paul McCartney and an imposter. She immediately dispatched police to shoo away a gathering crowd of onlookers. She then enlisted the aid of an intelligence unit, the Canadian Provost Corps (CPC), to create a cover story that would explain the doppelganger’s disappearance. By utilizing Canadian Intel, she hoped to distance the rumors from the UK, where they could be more easily corroborated. The CPC also had to prepare the imposter to take on a new identity, something they routinely did when kidnapping hostile agents and replacing them with doubles loyal to them.
The surviving Beatles, George Harrison, John Lennon and Starr, received news of McCartney’s death between eight and ten in the morning at the studio. Epstein informed them of his intent to replace McCartney with a look-alike. Lennon vehemently objected, but Epstein managed to convince him to go along.
The surviving Beatles secretly funded a Paul McCartney look-alike contest later in 1966. William Campbell, a Scottish musician who also went by the stage names Billy Sheppard, Billy Shears, Billy Pepper, Neil Aspinall, and Vivian Stanshall, took first prize. After receiving additional cosmetic surgery, Campbell, whom Lennon wryly dubbed the ‘Faux Paul’ (‘Faul’ for short), still didn’t look enough like the late bassist to pass as the real McCartney. To cover the discrepancies in appearance, he grew facial hair. The others grew mustaches and beards as well, to make the transition seem more natural. As an added precaution, they agreed not to schedule any more tours or personal appearances.
Meanwhile, they gave some of their recorded instrumental tracks from that last Abbey Road session to their labelmates, the Beach Boys, who recorded Smile under their own name, and finally released it thirty-seven years later in 2004. Those in which McCartney had already laid down vocal tracks were kept and added to the project, renamed Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in honor of its latest member.
Although Faul contributed greatly to the band’s resurgence, he and Lennon bickered constantly. The others attributed John’s hatred of Campbell to his sense of guilt for continuing the charade, which he felt betrayed the memory of his late best friend and collaborator, and to Campbell’s zeal to replace Lennon as the band’s leader. It was at that point where Lennon developed his own plan to undermine the royal conspiracy by alerting close-listening fans through a series of clues.
Because of the tenuousness of the conspiracy, the cover-up resorted to violent action over the years to maintain secrecy. Epstein was the weakest link, for he witnessed the accident and knew the details of the plan. A black ops unit consequently murdered him on August 17, 1967. Mal Evans, the driver, threatened to expose the story in December of 1975, but never got the chance. Claiming self-defense, Los Angeles police gunned him down on January 5, 1976. Lennon’s attempt at exposing the switch resulted in his murder on December 8, 1980. Harrison tried to break the silence in 1999, but quieted down after receiving multiple stab wounds in a murder attempt by escaped mental patient Michael Abram on December 30th of that year. Terry Knight, a visitor to the Apple offices in 1969 who overheard information about the cover-up, got into a fight with Donald Fair, his daughter's boyfriend. Fair stabbed Knight to death on November 1, 2004.
On October 12, 1969, Russ Gibb (above), a local disc jockey for Detroit station WKNR-FM, opened the phone lines for callers. He received one from Eastern Michigan University student Tom Zarski, asking that he clarify a rumor that had spread across the campus like wildfire.
Gibb: Who do we have here? What’s your name?
Zarski: Uh, this is Tom on the line.
Gibb: Yeah, hello Tom. What’s going down? Have you got your radio on?
Zarski: Yeah, a little bit —
Gibb: Well, turn it down, man, ‘cause you’re giving us feedback.
Zarski: I was going to rap with you about McCartney being dead and what is this all about?
Gibb immediately recalled a previous false rumor regarding the supposed death of Bob Dylan two years earlier. He attempted to explain to Tom that rock stars like Beatle Paul McCartney were always rumored to have died secretly. Tom insisted that the DJ play the Beatles song “Revolution No. 9” backwards. Forward, a voice repeated the words “Number nine” over and over again. Played backwards, Gibb clearly heard the same voice utter, “Turn me on, dead man.”
Figure 1. “Revolution No. 9” excerpt, forward and backward.
Tom finally had Gibb’s attention. The two discussed the rumor at length. Subsequent callers began to point out other ‘clues’ that were apparent on other Beatles songs and artwork indicating that McCartney had died in 1966, and had been replaced by a double.
Unbeknownst to Gibb, the station management had been receiving calls from all over the place, as listeners phoned to friends in other towns about the rumor. One-by-one, other radio stations patched into the WKNR broadcast, until it saturated the entire US. After his shift, Gibb found out that he had just done a live, coast-to-coast broadcast.
Gibb wasn’t the first to publicize the rumor. Three days earlier, DJ Larry Monroe of Ann Arbor Station WOIA discussed the rumor on air, when callers began to alert him to it. Almost a month earlier, on September 17, 1969, Tim Harper, a Drake University (Iowa) student, reported the rumor in the campus newspaper, The Times-Delphic. Harper said he had heard it from his roommate, Dartanyan Brown, who had heard it from some unnamed musicians traveling through town between gigs.
Gibb’s callers only pointed out a few clues. University of Michigan student Fred LaBour came up with more a couple of days later when reviewing the Beatles’ latest release, the Abbey Road album, for his campus newspaper.
Other WKNR personalities followed through on the story during the next week. The station managed to contact Apple employee Derek Taylor, John Lennon and Yoko Ono for radio interviews. All three vehemently denied the allegation. Perhaps by then, however, it was too late for some to believe. Roby Yonge, a disc jockey for WABC (New York), the most listened to radio station in the US at the time, received a pink slip from station manager Rick Sklar during the middle of his broadcast for repeating the rumor. Younge’s firing seemed to hint of cover-up, and before long, a full-fledge conspiracy investigation had sprung up, with famed attorney F. Lee Bailey offering his services to find the truth.
McCartney, at the time living in seclusion on his farm in Scotland, hadn’t heard the rumor until approached by Life Magazine reporters a couple of weeks later. Paul took the news rather well, actually: he angrily threw a bucket of water on the journalists.
Realizing that one of them had taken a picture of the assault, and realizing the damage to his image, McCartney agreed to a full interview in exchange for suppression of the photograph. It appeared in the magazine’s November 7, 1969 issue (left), with McCartney, his wife and his kids adorning the cover.
That should have ended the rumor right then and there. But curiously, people were digging deeper and deeper into their record collections, and finding more clues. Consequently, McCartney has lived most of his life under the suspicion that he isn’t himself, but rather an imposter. The rumor acquired new legs in 1980, after his arrest in Tokyo for marijuana possession. According to some, his fingerprints didn’t match those on file for when the Beatles first played Japan in 1964. The rumor began anew in 1984 when a German court dismissed a paternity suit against McCartney after forensic evidence excluded him as the baby’s father. Said some, “Of course his blood didn’t match. After all, the man tested wasn’t Paul.” Currently, a number of Internet websites have introduced photographic, and computer-analyzed evidence to “prove” that the man who recorded under the name Paul McCartney in 1965 was not the man who recorded under that name in 1968.
Gibb correctly surmised that celebrity death rumors had little merit, for they happened all the time. But the Paul Is Dead (PID) rumor was a very unique one, its singularity easily demonstrated by comparing it to the Dylan Is Dead (DID) hoax of 1967. The DID hoax was based on very public information, namely extensive documentation and news coverage of Dylan’s near-fatal motorcycle accident. The PID rumor had no documentation. In the DID hoax, Bob simply died, and that was that. In the PID rumor, McCartney had been secretly replaced. Furthermore, there’s very specific information about who replaced him and why. What’s more, there are these abundant clues. Most important: Dylan refused to come out of seclusion until his injuries had healed. Yet once he re-emerged, the rumor ended. Not so with McCartney.
So one has to wonder why all the controversy over the putative death of a man so obviously and provably alive.
Alright, here's John Lennon's latest record that, when you play it backwards at slow speed you can hear a voice saying 'Dummy! You're playing it backwards at slow speed!'
—George Carlin, 1970
What happens when you play a blues record backward? Your dog comes back, your wife treats you okay, but you don’t wake up in the morning.
—Garrison Keillor and Paula Poundstone, A Prairie Home Companion
backmasking...end times films...toys of the devil (Pokemon cards included)....Maybe people need something to blame for the world's state of corruption...easier doing that than facing an individual's inner reality of greed and [selfishness] and unkindness..cloaked in good deeds and rousing sermons like white washed tombstones...hoping that each charitable act seen by everyone would buy him/her a step in the stairway to heaven...
William Yarroll, a man proclaiming to be a neurologist and head of a research institute, possessed dubious academic and medical credentials. The Institute for Applied Potential produced only one study that I can find, a thin 1983 book on the matter by Yarroll himself. As far as I know, Yarroll might have been its only member.
Still, legitimate researchers note that there is such a thing as subliminal perception. This entails the awareness of a deliberate communication by someone on the unconscious level. As communication, however, it contains no more coercive force than a statement one can easily understand. Advertisers rely on subliminal messages not because they’re trying to convince you to buy a certain product (although they hope that you do). Rather, they are simply trying to make the reader aware of the product. After all, the average person living in the industrial world sees, on average, approximately 2000 advertising messages a day. Subliminals can help make an ad stand out. But in order to convince the public to buy the goods or services promoted, one would have to rely on normal, everyday communication that’s easily understood, and well above the level of consciousness. As Dr. Philip Merikle (University of Waterloo) explained in the Encyclopedia of Psychology about Dr. Wilson Key’s findings:
Other claims regarding the extraordinary efficacy of subliminal perception also lack substance. In the 1970s, Wilson Bryan Key wrote such books as Subliminal Seduction and Media Sexploitation in which he claimed subliminal sexual symbols or objects are often used to entice consumers to buy and use various products and services...Although Key's claims are widely known, there is no independent evidence indicating that embedded subliminal words, symbols, or objects are used to sell products. Furthermore, even if such embedded subliminal stimuli were used, there is no evidence to suggest this would be an effective method for influencing the choices that consumers make.
The backmasking argument presented by Yarroll and those citing him also fails to take into account something that’s quite obvious. As a musician who’s spent a good deal of his life in recording studios, and who’s actually experimented with backmasking, I can tell you that it’s not nearly as easy as it might seem. For example, the letters ‘n’ and ‘i’ could very well sound like ‘t’ and ‘u’ when reversed. Then again, they might not. Two different singers pronouncing the same phrase might not produce the same backwards message because of differing accents and annunciations. In fact, the same singer could sing a phrase over and over with an intelligible reversed message occurring in only one instance. Furthermore, some backmasking effects aren’t caused by the human voice alone, but by reversed singing in conjunction with other instruments. In short, it’s extremely unpredictable. For someone to deliberately put in a backmasked message that’s undetectable in forward lyrics would require a painstaking effort of trial and error, which would make the cost of producing a commercial album prohibitive before the advent of digital recording technology.
Thus, there are tons of seemingly coherent messages made by singers when reversed. These are extremely random, and occur everywhere. The vast majority of them seem innocuous.
Figure 1. The Carpenters: “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” excerpt forward, backward, and slowed.
Forward lyrics: “You send a message, we declare world contact then…” (To see reversed lyrics, highlight the empty space below.)
“That’s not the way, and video sends the message.”
Okay, the Carpenters could never be confused with Iron Maiden, or even Mayden’s Voyage for that matter. So it’s not all that surprising that Karen doesn’t sing anything naughty, at least in this passage, when reversed. Can’t say the same thing for other wholesome artists and recordings.
Figure 2. Captain and Tennille: “You Never Done It Like That” excerpt forward, backward and slowed.
Forward lyrics: “I thought the flame was dead and gone.” (To see reversed lyrics, highlight the empty space below)
“I needs a man to fuck back.”
Figure 3. Jack Mercer: “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man” excerpt forward, backward and slowed.
Forward lyrics: “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man [chuckle]. Popeye the Sailor Man.” (To see reversed lyrics, highlight the empty space below.)
“[Gibberish] Give me a fuck [chuckle]. Oh yes, Give me a fuck, now.”
C’mon. Popeye? Do you really think Seymour Kneitel and the other Max Fleischer cartoonists managed to slip in a pedophilic plea that went unnoticed for seven decades and counting?
Obviously, the so-called “hidden messages” are nothing more than sonic coincidences. Many of them aren’t even perceivable when played backwards, unless someone suggests a meaning beforehand. That would imply that the listener’s mindset might hold the key to what he or she hears rather than actual sound.
Instances where artists actually insert backwards messages into their songs sound quite different from the previous examples. Upon hearing them forward, we can immediately recognize that there’s a backwards message in our conscious perception. When we reverse the recording, the meaning is clear and unambiguous.
Figure 4. The Beatles: “Rain” introduction, forward and backward.
Forward lyrics: [Gibberish] (To see reversed lyrics, highlight the empty space below.)
“If the rain comes, they run and hide their heads.”
In the above example, we hear John Lennon singing a fairly innocent line. No pleas to Beelzebub, or anything like that. Mostly artists use backmasking for humorous effect. Knowing that predictably intrigued record buyers will play the record backwards upon hearing an obviously reversed message, they’ll says something like, “I caught you trying to get to the secret message! Ha-ha.”
Figure 5. The B-52’s: “Detour Thru Your Mind” bridge, forward and backward.
Forward lyrics: [Gibberish] (To see reversed lyrics, highlight the empty space below.)
”I buried my parakeet in the backyard. Oh, no! You’re playing the record backwards. Watch out! You might ruin your needle.”
One artist really good at disguising his backmasking was, weirdly enough, Al Yankovic. In the song “Nature Trail to Hell,” there’s a passage layered into numerous tracks that when reversed says, “Satan eats Cheese Whiz.” Because of the texture, it’s difficult to perceive even when played backwards. In the song “I remember Larry,” the backmasked lyrics are slightly perceivable as such, due to the fact that Yankovic carefully followed the arc of the melody when inserting the hidden message.
Figure 6. “I Remember Larry,” coda.
Forward lyrics: “I remember Larry [and gibberish’).” (To see reversed lyrics, highlight the empty space below.)
“Boy, you must have an awful lot of free time on your hands.”
See what I mean? In effect, artists who deliberately include masked lyrics primarily laugh, because they realize that if you believe in the power of secret hidden messages, the joke’s on you, the listener.
Unfortunately, no one laughed on one night in the fall of 1969, when the general public first received a crash course in backmasking.
To read the first post in this series, click here.