No band in the history of music has ever taken over the world and changed the landscape of the business quite like the Beatles did back in the 1960s. Their initial foray into the homes of people worldwide came through pop music and some incredible covers, but by the time they disbanded, the band had touched down in an impressive number of different genres, and their exploration of new sounds and recording techniques laid the framework for modern bands. Comprised of members Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, the Beatles decade of dominance has yet to be surpassed, leaving them as the best-selling band of all-time with over 800 million records sold around the world.
With great amounts of fame comes great amounts of press coverage, and stories can often be blown out of proportion. Celebrity media coverage in our modern age is up-to-the-second, but back in the 1960s, news wasn't as instant. This, in turn, made it easier for ridiculous urban legends to gain some traction and be taken seriously by those who are easily fooled. One of the most famous urban legends in pop culture history remains the alleged death of Paul McCartney.
According to conspiracy theorists, Paul McCartney died in a car accident in 1966, and was quickly replaced with a lookalike named Billy Shears. This means that every song McCartney has written and performed since that night in 1966 has been nothing more than a ruse in what is one of the greatest cover-ups of all-time. But, I am here today to right the ship, and dispel this absurd notion that the man I paid over $150 to see in concert a few years ago is the real deal and not an impostor. These absurd facts have convinced people that Paul is dead.
15 The Fan Magazine
This phenomenon that has come with the alleged death of Paul McCartney has been around since its inception the 1960s, and during that time, people were hot on the trail of the hoax. A litany of articles and magazines covered the topic, and a Beatles fan magazine provided no relief to the rumors. The magazine discussed the hoax in great detail, and even provided readers with the alleged clues. Given that this edition was released in 1969, it is safe to say that people were willing to cling to anything that related to the band, given their untimely demise the following year.
What I would give to have been around in the 1960s. The Beatles were at the height of their global dominance, and these ridiculous rumors were a red-hot discussion for fans and news outlets alike. It is amazing that after all of these decades people still believe that Paul McCartney was replaced with a lookalike.
14 The Abbey Road Album Cover
This is perhaps the most famous example of this ridiculous conspiracy, and people will lead you to believe that it is the most convincing. Abbey Road might very well be the most famous album cover of all-time, and the iconic shot of the band making their way across the street is alleged to provide all the clues you need. A quick glance at the cover will reveal that each member of the band is dressed in drastically different outfits, and conspiracy theorists believe that this is not without reason. Each band member is dressed the part of a funeral procession, and Paul, being barefoot and out of step with the rest of the band, is clearly the corpse. George is the gravedigger in jeans, John is the priest, and Ringo is the mourner. Yes, people actually believe this.
Of course, this “obvious” clue to the death of Paul McCartney is absolutely false. While the circumstances do warrant a few raised eyebrows, this is nothing more than a picture of the boys crossing the road. But, conspiracy theorists cling to this album cover as the most definitive proof out there.
13 "Revolution No. 9"
In November of 1968, the band released, The White Album to critical acclaim and commercial success. The double-album is replete with classics, and is widely considered the band’s most ambitious record. It is on this record that the song “Revolution No. 9” can be found. When played backwards, the song reveals some haunting details about McCartney’s death. The song begins with "number nine” being repeated, accompanied by a slew of sounds, including crashing noises (like Paul’s alleged crash). When played backwards, number nine sounds suspiciously like “turn me on, dead man.” This, in pairing with the crashing sounds, is alleged to provide fans clues about the true nature of McCartney.
Yes, playing the record backwards does provide listeners with a pretty creepy sounding phrase, but it’s impossible to tell that this was the band’s intention. Instead, people should just keep the song playing as intended, appreciating it for what it is.
12 "Strawberry Fields Forever"
While the film Magical Mystery Tour was poorly received by critics, the film’s soundtrack was met with critical acclaim. The eclectic record is full of songs that incorporate a number of different elements from the band’s career, making this album a unique listening experience. One of the album’s most famous tracks, “Strawberry Fields Forever” has long been part of pop culture lore, and many conspiracy theorists believe that John Lennon left a little surprise for fans to dig up. At the end of the song, fans believe that Lennon can be heard saying “I buried Paul,” signifying that he did in fact bury his bandmate back in 1966.
This absurd notion has been dispelled by Lennon himself in an interview, and was also shut down when Anthology 2 was released. On that record, you can clearly hear Lennon saying, “cranberry sauce.” I hate to break it to you all, but this is a load of rubbish.
11 The Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band Album Cover
Not unlike the cover for Abbey Road, the cover for Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band is rumored to provide fans with clues as well. There is a school of thought that the infamous cover is actually a funeral procession for McCartney, with a number of his peers in attendance. In fact, the wreath near the bottom of the photo looks like a bass guitar that is suited for a left-handed player, which McCartney is. The younger version of the band looks on, sorrowfully mourning the fact that they will never be the same again now that Paul is dead. If you hold a mirror to the bass drum, it will allegedly reveal the date that McCartney died, adding more fuel to the fire that this cover is a legitimate funeral that the band tried hiding from the public.
While there are some interesting theories here, those who aren’t so easily convinced will chalk most of this up to happenstance. The iconic cover may provide alleged clues about his death, but the lyrics in the album’s first few tracks are quite eerie, and makes ardent believers in this theory reinforce their beliefs.
10 "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band"
Kicking off what many considered to be the most important album of all-time is the title track to the record, and this song acts as a kickoff point to the band’s relationship with their newest member. After all, what better way is there to be inducted into the world’s biggest band than by being the center-point of the album’s intro song. The song itself is meant to bring listeners into the world of Sgt. Pepper’s band, but the song’s ending is one of this theory's craziest clues. While McCartney is responsible for singing the song, he ends the song by announcing the introduction of, “ the one and only Billy Shears,” the man who replaced him after his death. After the announcement, the crowd goes ballistic, cheering on the newest member of the band.
Billy Shears is the alleged replacement for McCartney, and this clue is a usual suspect when researching this subject. Unfortunately, the alleged clue is quickly disproved by the next entry on our list.
9 "With A Little Help From My Friends"
Immediately following the introduction of Billy Shears by the band on the album’s intro track, the song seamlessly switches to the album’s second song “With A Little Help From My Friends." This song is meant to be Shear’s big moment as he finally takes center stage and leads the band through the song. This theory, however, is immediately proven false when Ringo, not Paul, is the man tasked with singing the song. That’s right, Billy’s big moment to officially take over for Paul is thwarted by Ringo Starr, putting an end to the notion that McCartney was in fact replaced.
So, why mention Shears at all? McCartney had intended the album to be a concept record, telling a linear story over the duration of the songs. As it were, Shears was merely a character that was created for the album, but theorists singled out the name as McCartney’s alleged replacement. Sorry folks, but this clue holds no weight.
8 "I’m So Tired"
Let’s circle back over to The White Album for yet another song that is supposed to provide the world with proof that McCartney is passed. There are two songs on the record, “I’m So Tired” and “Blackbird” that blend right into each other. Just before the transition from one song to the next, there is some indecipherable mumbling that can be heard. Like other clues on this list, playing this small section of the song backwards is rumored to reveal Lennon dropping more hints about Paul’s death. It is said that Lennon can be heard saying “Paul is dead man. Miss him. Miss him. Miss him.” Shortly thereafter, “Blackbird” begins, which is kicked off by McCartney singing “Blackbird singing in the dead of night.”
Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn has since disregarded the notion that Lennon was dropping another clue. He maintains that Lennon is actually saying “Monsieur, monsieur, how about another one?” While there is no definitive answer, it is hard to take this clue seriously.
7 Yesterday And Today Album Cover
In 1966, The Beatles were nearing the end of the historic run together, and that very year saw the band release a compilation album entitled Yesterday and Today. The album features some of the band’s biggest hits, and at one point featured one of music’s most controversial album covers at that time. The cover was a picture of the band sitting around in white lab coats holding dismembered parts of dolls and what appears to be raw meat. It is an incredibly unflattering photo that caused an outrage in the 1960s, and to this day acts as another clue about McCartney’s death.
The dismembered dolls and raw meat are allegedly meant to represent McCartney’s body after his fatal car accident. This, of course, is absolutely ridiculous. If this were true, then the release of this album came within a few short months of his death, and their facial expressions aren’t exactly sorrowful in the photo. Eventually, an alternative cover for the album was released.
While the band crossing the road on the cover of Abbey Road may seem to be the most obvious clue of Paul’s alleged death, a closer examination of the cover is supposed to reveal another clue. In the iconic photo, there is a car parked to the left of the frame, with the license plate of the photo reading LMW28IF. Never the type to take anything with a grain of salt, theorists speculate that 28IF is a clear indication that had McCartney survived, he would have been 28 at the time that Abbey Road was released.
To call this ridiculous clue a complete fabrication is a vast understatement. First and foremost, it is just a license plate number and nothing more than that. The car just happened to be parked on the street when the photo was taken. Secondly, Paul McCartney wouldn't have been 28 at the time the album came out, effectively putting this rumor to rest. Sometimes, people grasp for straws when it comes to these insane theories, and that is exactly the case here.
5 "A Day In The Life"
If you haven’t noticed already, John Lennon is typically the band member that is tasked with revealing the clues about Paul’s death, and that isn’t a coincidence. After all, their collaborations are responsible for the band’s most iconic songs, and the prolific duo’s music have withstood the test of time. Given this, it should come as no surprise that the Lennon-penned “A Day In The Life” provides another clue about Paul’s untimely death. Lennon talks about death throughout the song, and even sings about someone blowing his brains out in a car, which is rumored to be about Paul McCartney’s car accident. Once again, playing this song backwards reveals Lennon saying that his bandmate is dead and that he misses him.
These backwards clues are useless, as these recordings don’t clearly say anything. They are incredibly hard to understand, and people can plug in a variety of different words that fit the syllables. While the lyrics about death are straightforward, they have nothing to do with McCartney because he is still alive.
4 "Glass Onion" Reveals Paul Was The Walrus
The White Album sure does pride itself on providing theorists with insane clues, and our third trip back to the landmark album leads us to another clue that includes a song from Magical Mystery Tour. On “Glass Onion,” Lennon (surprise, surprise) can be heard singing “the Walrus was Paul,” a clear callback to the band’s song “I Am The Walrus.” Preceding the line, Lennon announces that he is providing listeners with a clue, and theorists have taken this far too seriously. After all, Lennon was the walrus. In some cultures, the walrus is a symbol of death, so, people decided that 3 plus 2 is 12 and ran with the theory.
Fortunately, this absurd rumor was put to rest by Lennon himself. In an interview, Lennon mentioned that he was just having some fun with poetry when he wrote the line. Nevertheless, theorists have long since clung to this fact.
3 "Taxman" Is "Advice For Those Who Die"
This alleged clue is an absolute stretch, but theorists still claim that it is yet another indicator of Paul’s death. A few months after Paul McCartney’s alleged crash, the band released their album Revolver, which was the band's seventh proper album release. The album begins with the song “Taxman” which was written and sung by bandmate George Harrison. The quiet Beatle sings that he is giving “advice for those who die” which is construed as being directed towards the recently deceased McCartney.
Needless to say, most any mention of death in a Beatles tune can be construed as a clue, but this one is just ridiculous. It is a brief line in a song talking about taxes, and nothing more. It is pure coincidence that the song was released the same year that McCartney was said to have died. At least theorists deviated from John Lennon and gave truth seekers an excuse to listen to a George Harrison tune.
2 Call 2317438 – “You’re Getting Closer”
Admittedly, this clue might be the creepiest associated with this hoax, but I’m not convinced in the slightest bit. On the cover of Magical Mystery Tour, it is rumored that holding a mirror up to the word Beatles provides a sequence of numbers reading 2317438. Numbers as letters is nothing new, but it is what these numbers provide that is the alleged clue. The sequence of numbers acts as a phone number for fans, and, when dialed, a voice will tell you, “you’re getting closer,” before quickly cutting off.
The thought of this being true is terrifying, but, with no area code provided, I’ll go ahead and say that this clue is a load of rubbish. This clue piqued my interest, and I gave into the temptation. I called the number from my local area code and was met with nothing more than a dial tone. The 10-second phone call was investigative research at its finest, and I did it all for you guys.
1 The Yellow Submarine Album Cover
In our final entry on this list, allow me to take you back to the year 1969 when the band released their 10th album Yellow Submarine. An animated film had been created, and the band was tasked with penning the soundtrack to the film. The album was released to little fanfare as it dwelled in the large shadow cast by The White Album. Nevertheless, the band finished out their remaining year together before breaking up for good. The album's cover, featuring an animated and psychedelic version of the band, is home to one of the more farfetched clues that theorists have clung to. McCartney is seen here with a hand over his head. While this may seem meaningless, in some cultures, this is a symbol of death, clearly showing that Paul had died.
Not so fast, folks. This symbol of death is nothing more than a fallacy, and this clue holds no weight at all. While it is an interesting thought, making up facts about other cultures to perpetuate an urban legend is just sickening.