Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Four Reasons Why... Paul McCartney is Dead
Conspiracy Corner, Not Exactly the News but Still Newsworthy
by Jon Burrows
This Week 4 Reasons Why... Paul McCartney is Dead
Last time we discussed the faked death of Elvis Presley - now we look at the faked life of Paul McCartney. Though largely considered a hoax, the idea that McCartney was replaced with the winner of a look-a-like contest named William Campbell in 1966 continues to this day. The actual story goes like this: shortly before 5:00 AM on the morning of November 9, 1966 McCartney missed a traffic light and smashed his Austin Healy, resulting in a rather unfortunate case of decapitation which ended his reign as "the cute one". While any actual physical or even circumstantial evidence of this theory is shoddy, legitimacy can be found in the basis for a cover-up and in the Beatles music.
1. Album Covers: One could devote a grad school thesis to deciphering the cover art of The Beatles' albums. Some drop more clues than others, but if you look closely enough every album produced after 1966 contains clues about the death of McCartney. For example, it is fairly accepted that the crowd gathered on the cover of Sgt Peppers is gathered for a funeral, and clues such as the words "Here Lies Paul" and images of burning cars can be found in the collage. Clues are also seen on Magical Mystery Tour. Most famously, however, the iconic cover of Abbey Road, which shows the band walking across the street outside of their studios, depicts Paul suspiciously different from the others. To begin with, Paul is barefoot (a barefoot burial is fairly common). He is also out of step with the others who are leading with their left foot, while Paul leads with his right. And McCartney, who is left handed, is holding a cigarette (known as a "coffin nail" in the 1960s) in his right hand.
2. The Scar and other physical changes: McCartney mysteriously produces a scar on his upper lip post-1966, which is clearly visible in the portrait included with The White Album. The Beatles claimed that the scar was from a scooter accident. But that doesn't explain why the part in his hair changes after 1966, and it certainly doesn't explain why McCartney seemed to grow nearly two inches after 1966. Photographs taken prior to '66 show McCartney to be roughly the same height as Lennon and Harrison, but after '66 McCartney is significantly taller.
3. "Turn Me On Dead Man": The Beatles did use backmasking on their records and when you play their records in reverse you can hear hidden messages. Staunch supporters of this theory claim that the song "Revolution #9" is a sonic reenactment of McCartney's crash when played in reverse, and it is here that Lennon mumbles the famous words "Turn me on, dead man", a harrowing allusion to McCartney's "I'd love to turn you on" from "A Day in the Life". Other examples include the phrase "I buried Paul!" when "All Together Now" from Yellow Submarine is reversed ("Yellow Submarine" by the way, is a reference to McCartney's coffin); "He's dead!" is repeated four times when the chorus from "Let It Be" is played backwards; and on The White Album, during the transition from "I'm So Tired" to "Blackbird" Lennon mumbles something incomprehensible which when reversed sounds like "Paul is a dead man, miss him, miss him."
4. The Open Palm: Starting in 1967, McCartney is pictured or depicted numerous times in album covers and even movies with the open palm of a human being above his head, as if being blessed by a priest. Commonly mistaken for some sort of spiritual Indian symbol which doesn't exist, theorists have lately begun to propose that the open palm is strongly reminiscent of a priest blessing a corpse before burial. McCartney appears this way on the covers of Sgt Peppers, and Yellow Submarine, as well as the Magical Mystery Tour and Yellow Submarine movies, among other places, furthering the idea that this is not merely coincidental.
Numerous stories more detailed than this have been written on this story since it was first reported on a radio show in Michigan in 1969, and there is much more evidence to be perused than my humble space allows. It should be noted that in the last days of the 1960s this was a very popular story, and questions about McCartney's death dogged the members of The Beatles for years. Stories were published discrediting the claims in the usual places one turns to find discrediting comfort, Time, People, and The New York Times. McCartney himself famously quipped, "If I were dead, I'd be the last to know", and Ringo Starr refused to discuss the matter. Footage of McCartney playing the guitar right handed also hasn't helped to quell the rumors, which have become a nice piece of trivia for pop culture enthusiasts to celebrate. Our Conclusion...
Like every great cover-up, there is both too much evidence and not enough. This is one of those cases that you just wish were true for the simple fact that, as great a songwriter as McCartney actually is, he's incredibly boring as a celebrity. Frankly, outside of his work, his non-death is probably the most interesting thing he's ever done. Or never done. I'm not really clear.