Paul McCartney is dead, long live Paul McCartney
On Sep. 26, 1969, The Beatles released their critically acclaimed opus, Abbey Road. On Oct. 12th that same year, Detroit radio station WKNR received a call claiming that if the station were to play Revolution 9 – a track from The Beatles’ self-titled album – backwards, they would hear the phrase “turn me on dead man.” It proved to be true. It just happened that this suspicious phrase was the start of what Time Magazine would call “one of the most enduring conspiracy theories.”
Hidden within Revolution 9 were multiple reverse messages. Most notably, fans picked up on a sped-up message sounding like “Paul already left.” Picking up this rumour that was spreading quicker than it could be disproven, thirty Indiana University Bloomington students conducted a research project to prove the conspiracy that Paul McCartney had died and been replaced by a lookalike.
DJ Robey Yongue of WABC-AM spoke to these students and broadcast his findings on air. He shared that on track 6 of The Magical Mystery Tour, titled I Am The Walrus, Lennon rightfully sings: “I am the Walrus.” Fittingly so, Lennon is in a walrus costume on the cover of the album. Yongue told listeners to notice that on the inner photos included with vinyl releases of the album, John, is holding his right hand above Paul’s head. Yongue told listeners the Walrus is a pagan symbol of death – which there seems to be little evidence to back up – proving the death of McCartney.
Furthermore, in the song Glass Onion on The Beatles, Lennon sings “Well here’s another clue for you all / The walrus was Paul.” Although seemingly proving Yongue’s disposition, Lennon later cited the inspiration of this line as a method to “just confuse” anyone trying to understand their lyrics.
Fans also noticed that on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, McCartney was wearing a pin reading “ODP,” meaning Officially Pronounced Dead. As well, on the Abbey Road Cover, McCartney wasn’t wearing any shoes. Why? Because no dead man needs shoes.
In addition, behind McCartney on the cover of Abbey Road, a Volkswagen Beetle is illegally parked. Fans thought this, combined with the lyric from A Day In the Life: “He blew his mind out in a car” to be signs backing up the theory of McCartney’s death in a car crash. The lyric was revealed to reference the death of Tara Browne, who, like the apparent McCartney, died in a car crash.
Finally, proving McCarney’s replacement, track two of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band introduces a “Billy Shears” before a voice who was assumed to be Paul starts singing. This revealed Paul had been replaced with a lookalike who was named Billy Shears.
Among all this haze, on Nov. 9th, 1969 – just over 53 years ago – Life Magazine, after being chased away, was finally granted an interview with the elusive McCartney who had been living on a farm in Scotland. McCartney revealed that the ODP badge was picked up here in Ontario, standing for “Ontario Police Department.” Further, he revealed that he was barefoot on the Abbey Road cover as it was a hot day, the car was just there, like any other car, and the voice singing after Billy Shears’ introduction was Ringo Starr.
In the interview, McCartney noted that “The Beatle thing is over,” news of the breakup that had not yet been made public and wouldn’t reach public knowledge until a later interview with Paul in 1970. The public never realized this first admission by Paul, as they were all too caught up in his death.