beatles fans
Paul McCartney

The Greatest Hoax in Rock and Roll History - Part 1

By Kathy Wheeler

Back in 1969, around the time that The Beatles released Abbey Road, a rumor spread that Paul McCartney had died at approximately 5:00 am in a car crash on November 9, 1966 and the Beatles were covering it up. The story was widely circulated for about two months. The Beatles were said to be revealing clues through songs and album covers. Some say this rumor originated on college campuses around the country and it was mostly an American phenomenon. The story came out nearly three years later on October 12, 1969 when Detroit disk jockey Russ Gibb received a call from a listener about the “I buried Paul” clue on Strawberry Fields and he began pulling out Beatles albums and inventing new clues on the spot. The Newspapers publicized his on-air bit and the rumor spread like wildfire.

At the urging of a Miami disc jockey, Dr. Henry Truby, Director of the University of Miami’s Language and Linguistics Research Laboratory ran a twenty-hour spectrograph experiment using Beatle songs to analyze the “vocal fingerprints”. He compared Yesterday with Hey Jude. Dr. Truby discovered six distinct voices and concluded that he heard three Paul McCartneys.

The story took on a life of its own. Suddenly everything the Beatles had done since Yesterday and Today may have concealed a secret message that Paul was dead. Of course, he wasn’t dead, but everyone had a great time searching for clues. The biggest puzzle is what did the Beatles know and when did they know it.  If they actually had anything to do with it, they have never said so publicly. They have always denied having anything to do with it. No one really knows whether the clues were planted intentionally from the start, were coincidental, or whether someone in the Beatles organization picked up on the rumors early on and capitalized on them. I have my suspicions, however, that John, with his somewhat twisted sense of humor, and possibly others such as Mal Evans, Brian Epstein or someone close to the Beatles may have masterminded or had some involvement in the greatest hoax in rock and roll history.


The Fatal Crash

Paul left Abbey Road Studios in a huff on the day John met Yoko. Driving a white Aston-Martin sports car, he ran off the road after being distracted by a pretty girl —possibly a meter maid. He suffered severe head injuries and his teeth were knocked out. There was a secret look-alike contest and that a man named William Campbell was the winner. You could tell the imposter by the scar on his upper lip. He was also taller, which is why they stopped touring. Some also said the replacement’s name was Billy Shears.

It is true that Paul McCartney was in a crash in 1966 and November 9, 1966 happened to fall on a Wednesday. There were also times when he would be in the studio until around 5:00 in the morning. However, Paul’s accident was on a motorbike, not in a car. In the Beatles Anthology he says that he grew a mustache because he had a moped accident and chipped his tooth and tore up his lip. He certainly was not decapitated. In the promotional videos for Paperback Writer and Rain, you can see Paul’s chipped tooth. The video was actually filmed on May 20, 1966, a few months before the alleged car crash.


Early Clues

Now that you have heard about the accident and how clues are hidden in the songs and albums, it is time to do some detective work and find all the clues. For some strange reason clues were popping up in albums that came out before November 9, 1966, namely Rubber Soul, Yesterday and Today, as well as Revolver.

The name of the album Rubber Soul may just be the very first clue. Rubber for the tires of the car Paul was driving and Soul for death. The serious expressions on their faces may indicate mourning.  Were they looking down into the grave?  The distortion in the photo symbolizes that something is not the same about the group. Could it have been because someone was standing in for Paul? On the back in the lower left corner Paul is shown as only a head, no neck or body, indicating head injuries or possibly decapitation. The song I’m Looking Through You could indicate transparency such as a ghost. Paul also refers to William Campbell when he sings, “You don’t look different, but you have changed.”


Yesterday and Today’s Butcher Cover was meant to shock people and retaliate against Capitol Records for repackaging their albums in America. The cover features the Beatles in a gruesome scene with decapitated dolls, raw meat and false teeth. This supposedly symbolized the fact that Paul was dead, torn up and bloody, decapitated and his teeth had been knocked out. Paul was also the Beatle with most of the stuff on him, including the teeth, which indicated that the corpse was hard to identify, even through dental records. George is holding up a head next to Paul’s head, signifying that Paul had been decapitated. The album was recalled, re-covered and re-released. This was the beginning of the “cover-up”.  The new and improved cover for Yesterday and Today featured Paul cross-legged and apparently barefoot sitting in a trunk beneath the other three Beatles. When looked at sideways, he appears to be in a coffin. Both bare feet and crossed legs are ways other cultures (and the mafia) bury their dead.

This type of symbolism will appear elsewhere in this Paul is Dead scenario. The songs also give very subtle clues. Drive My Car is one of the first car references. I’m Only Sleeping is about dying and sleeping forever. Doctor Robert is the guy who secretly signed the death certificate. Nowhere Man means the man (Paul) is no longer here in this world. Act Naturally is advice to William Campbell not to blow the cover-up. The song, Yesterday includes the lines “I’m not half the man I used to be, there’s a shadow hanging over me.” Does this mean Paul is not really Paul?

The last album in the “not-quite-a-clue-yet” category is Revolver. There are a couple of clues in the songs also. Paul’s Got to Get You Into My Life says, “I was alone, I took a ride, I didn’t know what I would find there.” This is another car accident reference. Tomorrow Never Knows tells us to not think about the deception, just accept it. “Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream. It is not dying, it is not dying. Lay down all thoughts surrender to the void, it is shining” is directed at Paul as he is hanging by a thread.  The “it” in “it is not dying” refers to the group, not Paul. “It is shining” refers to the white light, which is seen at the moment of death. Basically, the message is that Paul’s death does not have to mean the Beatles are dead. In fact, pretty much the entire song can be reinterpreted as a clue.

And, finally, She Said talks about knowing what it is like to be dead. On the cover of Revolver Paul is pictured differently; his head is turned away from the others. In all the instances where Paul is portrayed differently it is a clue that he is a different person.

Part 2 - Part 3