This obscure publication promised to get to the bottom of the “Paul is Dead” conspiracy theory. It succeeded only in confusing the reader more. I am confused as to why they couldn’t find a picture of Paul McCartney without such severe razor burn on his neck.
“Paul is Dead” is a conspiracy theory that alleged that McCartney, of The Beatles, died on in November 1966 and was secretly replaced by a look-alike. The rumor began circulating in summer 1967, and it grew after being reported on American college campuses in late 1969. It was based on perceived clues found in Beatles songs and album covers. Clue-hunting became thing, and within a few weeks Paul is Dead become an international phenomenon.
According to the theory, McCartney died in a car crash, and to spare the public from grief, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and John Lennon replaced him with the winner of a McCartney look-alike contest, sometimes identified as “Billy Shears”. It was said that the band left messages in their music and album artwork to communicate the truth to their fans. These include the song Glass Onion (1968), in which Lennon sings “here’s another clue for you all / the walrus was Paul”, and the cover photo of their just-released album Abbey Road, where McCartney is shown barefoot and walking out of step with his bandmates.
Things settled down after an interview with McCartney, who had been secluded with his family in Scotland, was published LIFE magazine in November 1969. During the 1970s, the conspiracy theory was the subject of analysis in the fields of Sociology, Psychology and Communications.
McCartney parodied the hoax with the title and cover art of his live album, Paul Is Live (1993).
In 2009, Time magazine included “Paul is Dead” in its list of The Top Ten of “The World’s Most Enduring Conspiracy Theories”.
The LIFE Magazine investigation in late 1969 included a statement from McCartney himself:
“It is all bloody stupid. I picked up that O.P.D. badge in Canada. It was a police badge. Perhaps it means Ontario Police Department or something. I was wearing a black flower because they ran out of red ones. It is John, not me, dressed in black on the cover and inside of Magical Mystery Tour. On Abbey Road we were wearing our ordinary clothes. I was walking barefoot because it was a hot day. The Volkswagen just happened to be parked there.
Perhaps the rumor started because I haven’t been much in the press lately. I have done enough press for a lifetime and I don’t have anything to say these days. I am happy to be with my family and I will work when I work. I was switched on for ten years and I never switched off. Now I am switching off whenever I can. I would rather be a little less famous these days.
I would rather do what I began by doing, which is making music. We make good music and we want to go on making good music. But the Beatles thing is over. It has been exploded, partly by what we have done and partly by other people. We are individuals, all different. John married Yoko Ono, I married Linda Eastman. We didn’t marry the same girl. The people who are making up these rumors should look to themselves a little more. There is not enough time in life. They should worry about themselves instead of worrying whether I am dead or not.
What I have to say is all in the music. If I want to say anything I write a song. Can you spread it around that I am just an ordinary person and want to live in peace? We have to go now, we have two children at home.”
By June 1970, Batman, whose artists seemed to think the Fab Four still dressed as though it were 1967, was on the case.