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COOLER than Monopoly, more exciting than frisbee, less dangerous than D-Day, is the game of "how many clues can we find to prove that Paul McCartney is dead." All kinds of freaks and non-freaks are listening to their Beatle records, analyzing the art work on their Beatle albums, and weaving strange tales of speculation concerning the maybe late Paul.
Rumors about Paul have been around for years, but so have rumors about John, George, Ringo, and Jackie Kennedy. It was on October 12 that the present McCartney craze started, as dozens of death clues were aired on a radio show by Russ Gibbs, a disc jockey for WKNR-FM in Dearborn, Mich. WKNR has been in the forefront of the Paul frenzy since then; last Sunday the station featured two professors, two bigwigs from the record industry, and one astrologer in a two-hour talk show. The talk was about Paul.
The first big article on the deadness of Paul appeared in the University of Michigan Daily on October 14. Fred LaBour, the Daily's music critic and the author of the article, appeared rather confident that Paul has been dead since 1966. He began his story by saying unequivocally, "Paul McCartney was killed in an automobile accident in early November 1966, after leaving EMI recording studios tired, sad, and dejected."
LaBour went on from there to spin a tale of how the Beatles have hoaxed the world since the "accident." "The surviving Beatles decided to keep the information from the public for as long as possible... Lennon's plan was to create a false Paul McCartney, bring him into the group as if nothing had happened, and then slowly release the information of the real Paul's death to the world via clues secreted in record albums."
To pull off the hoax, "a Paul lookalike contest was held and a living substitute found in Scotland... an orphan from Edinburgh named William Campbell... Minor plastic surgery was required to complete the image." Not only did Campbell look amazingly like McCartney, according to LaBour, but "the difference in voice timbre between the original and phony Paul... was so slight" that the Scottish orphan was able to sound the same as Paul.
Campbell, LaBour continued, was allowed to use his real voice on the single "Lady Madonna," which does sound unlike. Paul's usual style. Beatle manager George Martin, meanwhile, became "an important composer, all the while masquerading as Paul."
LaBour left few things untouched by his theory. "Paul was a homosexual... so confused girlfriends were not a major problem for the plotters. Paul rarely saw his only surviving parent anyway, and had had few close friends... Peter Asher's sister Jane was paid a ripe sum to keep her mouth shut and pretend she was Paul's better half." It was Campbell, not McCartney, who married Linda Eastman last summer, he wrote. The fact that the Beatles have not given a concert since 1966 made things less complicated.
IT TURNS OUT that LaBour is not only a poor writer but somewhat of a liar as well. He has admitted that the entire story is a product of his imagination, based only on assorted clues in Beatle songs and on Beatle albums. He has never met "Louise Harrison Caldwell and George Martin's illegitimate daughter Marian," whom he thanked at the beginning of his story "for their help." The account which he put down as the truth was only "a working hypothesis," he now says.
The Michigan Daily's attitude toward the story is interesting. The paper introduced the article by saying, "Mr. LaBour says it's all true." But editorial page editor Steve J. Anzalone said last week that "we're not trying to pass this off as a news story. I don't know how serious Fred was; I hope most people aren't believing it."
Accounts of Paul's death may be only theories, but the clues are real. The clues are strange. The clues are clues. Few besides the Beatles know what they are clues to, but they are clues.
The most blatant, unmistakable clue of all is the weird, distorted voice at the end of "Strawberry Fields Forever," on the Magical Mystery Tour album, which says plainly, "I buried Paul." Another clue that always makes the uninitiated cringe appears on page 23 of the picture section inside the same album: John, George, and Ringo are wearing red carnations in their lapels, Paul a black one.
AFTER THIS, the clues require a certain degree of imagination to perceive and interpret; that, of course, is where the fun comes in. Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, for example, was the first Beatle album released after November, 1966. The cover picture of the album centers around a grave saying "Beatles," beneath which are flowers arranged in a pattern resembling the letter "P" and also resembling a bass guitar. The flowers can be divided into five characters which conceivably read, "PAUL?" Three sticks are laid across these flowers- one, it is obvious (once you get in the right spirit for this sort of thing), for each non-Paul Beatle.
A raised hand behind a head is considered a symbol of death, and of the 60-odd heads on the Sergeant Pepper's front cover, only Paul's lies under a raised hand. The hand behind Paul's head reappears on pages 18 and 24 of the Magical Mystery Tour picture section and on the front cover of the Yellow Submarine album.
Paul is the only Beatle on the back cover of Sergeant Pepper's whose back is facing the viewer, which indicates strongly that the Beatles may be trying to single him out for something. LaBour also mentioned the fact that, in the inside photo of the album, McCartney is wearing, on his left sleeve, a patch reading "O.P.D.," which means "Officially Pronounced Dead," and, on his left breast, a medal awarded to dead British Army heroes. It happens, however, that the "O.P.D." could just as easily be "O.P.P." ("Ontario Provincial Police") and that George is wearing the same Army medal as Paul.
The theme song "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" is the first song on side one of the album, but its reprise is the next-to-last, not the last, song on side two. The only song, then, which is outside the "Sergeant Pepper's" framework is the last song on side two- "A Day in the Life." And it is "A Day in the Life" in which the Beatles sing "about a lucky man" who "blew his mind out in a car." New significance can be lent to the phrase repeated in the song: "I'd love to turn you on."
"Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," on side one, introduces "the one and only Billy Shears," which could be the Beatles' way of introducing an addition (LaBour's William Campbell) to the old group.
Magical Mystery Tour came next. People musing on Paul's death have hit upon the walrus- an animal featured in the album- as a symbol of death. One Beatle is portrayed in a walrus suit on the front cover, and the song "I Am the Walrus" ends side one. LaBour made the unsubstantiated assertion in his story that "walrus" means "corpse" in Greek- somehow. It has also been rumored that the walrus is an Eskimo symbol of death, but LaBour says that he has studied the Eskimos and knows of no such symbol.
ON THE inside cover of Magical Mystery Tour is a reference to "4 or 5 Magicians" - i.e., John, George, Ringo, Campbell (or manager Martin) and, if you're counting dead people, Paul. On page three of the inside picture section Paul (or Paul's double- get it?) is pictured above a large sign saying, "I You Was." A bizarre picture on page five includes surgeons and policemen- "both involved in Paul's car crash," according to LaBour.
Paul is pictured in black trousers and no shoes on pages 10 and 13 of the section, and, according to LaBour, "dead men are buried in black trousers and without shoes." Also on page 13, there are a pair of empty shoes to Paul's left, which, LaBour wrote, "were a Grecian symbol of death." Paul is holding, a wreath on page 24, in addition to wearing a black carnation.
"The Story of the Magical Mystery Tour," printed inside the album, says on page nine, "Meanwhile PAUL BEGINS TO DAYDREAM. His thoughts fly FAR AWAY. He is standing high up on a warm, grassy hill... SUDDENLY Paul's day-dreaming is over." And the songs on the album include "Strawberry Fields Forever" ("I buried Paul") and "I Am the Walrus." The latter song ends with a quote from King Lear- "Is he dead? Sit you down, father, rest you" -and includes, according to LaBour, "the radio broadcast that never took place announcing Paul's death to the world."
IT IS VERY difficult to draw clues from the plain white cover of The Beatles, the group's next album, although an expert at the Paul game might suggest that the blankness represents Paul's mind just after the fatal accident. The words, however, are loads of fun.
Beatle diggers have always assumed that "Dear Prudence," the second song on the album, refers to Mia Farrow's sister. But LaBour wrote that "John called McCartney 'Prudence' back in the old days..." And so we come to the part of the Paul game which involves interpreting song lyrics, far from being obvious clues in themselves, within the framework of Paul's being dead. The reinterpreted lyrics seem quite eerie: "Dear Prudence, won't you come out to play... greet the brand new day... open up your eyes... see the sunny skies... Dear Prudence, won't you let me see you smile?"
"Glass Onion" is better as a clue container, because in it the Beatles are obviously trying to say something about Paul. "I told you about the walrus and me, man, you know that we're as close as can be, man. Well, here's another clue for you all; the walrus was Paul." And "the fool on the hill," identified with Paul on page 9 of the Magical Mystery Tour picture section, is "living there still." (Note the laudable technique of using reference material from two different albums.) "Lady Madonna trying to make ends meet" could refer to the new Paul.
Also taking on extra significance is "While My Guitar Gently Weeps": "I don't know how you were diverted; you were perverted, too [remember the homosexuality business]. I don't know how you were inverted; no one alerted you." In "I'm So Tired" the Beatles sing, "You'd say I'm putting you on, but it's no joke, it's doing me harm." And my roommate looked up "Gideon" -mentioned in "Rocky Raccoon" -in his Smith's Bible Dictionary (p. 210), and found a reference to "the reluctant Asher."
"Don't Pass Me By," of course, can be interpreted as a painfully obvious reference to Paul's death: "I'm sorry that I doubted you; I was so unfair. You were in a car crash, and you lost your hair." "Revolution Number Nine," the strangest cut on the album, includes a backwards tape which repeats the words, "Turn me on, dead man," according to LaBour.
"Find me in my field of grass," the Beatles sing in "Mother Nature's Son." And, in the picture collage included with the words to The Beatles there is a very strange picture, in the upper left corner, of Paul's head lying in a pool of water. There is also a weird photograph, not far from the lower right corner, in which a bespectacledman seems to be threatening a shuttered Paul.
THE FRONT cover of Abbey Road, the Beatles' most recent album, shows the group walking across the street, possibly from a cemetery, Paul is the only one barefoot and is the only one out of step; here is another good clue that the Beatles are trying to single out McCartney. The license plate on the Volkswagen behind George has the number 28IF. This is significant because it means that Paul would be 28 years old today IF he were alive, and would be even more significant if it were true, which it is not, since Paul would actually only be 27 if he were alive, or is 27, or something.
It has also been tossed around that Paul's profile is visible as a superimposition on the girl in blue pictured on Abbey Road's back cover. This clue, however, is far from being obvious, and possibly should be tossed away.
"Come Together." the first song on the album, can really seem strange if looked at the right way. One of the possible explanations for the Beatles' "preoccupation with Paul's death." according to John J. Small. coordinator of WKNR-FM, is that "Lennon is a self-proclaimed Jesus Christ who has devised a scheme to make the world come together over Paul." And so: "One and one and one is three [not four]; got to be good-looking cause he's so hard to see. Come together... over me."
LaBour also mentioned that "Octopus's Garden," on side one, is a British cemetery for naval heroes, and that "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" "is Lennon wrestling with Paul. trying to pull him out of the earth." And in "Oh! Darling," the "Oh! Darling"'s sound a lot like "Oh! Johnny"'s and the words include. "I broke down and died."
Additional possible clues can be found in the titles of the two sides of the Beatles' last single. "Get Back (to where you once belonged)," John says, while Paul urges. "Don't Let Me Down."
The frantic search for clues has not been limited to Beatle music. The "request" in Her Satanic Majesty's Request, a Rolling Stones album, is supposedly that McCartney return to life. "Badge." a song on Farewell to Cream (on which George Harrison is supposed to have played guitar), is about a car wreck. Nobody has tried out yet a new interpretation of J. Frank Wilson's golden oldie. "Last Kiss."
APPLE. Inc., the Beatles' music company, has denied that McCartney is dead. Gibbs of WKNR said that Apple told him to "cool it" on airing the rumors. And last Friday Apple released a statement attributed to McCartney which read. "People can go on listening to their records and looking at their albums, but I am alive. I think the whole thing is too silly for words."
But Small of WKNR seems to be correct in saying that "whether Paul is dead or alive, there is a hoax here somewhere. The Beatles have a definite preoccupation with Paul's death- physical, spiritual, or fictional." Small mentions three possible explanations for the preoccupation besides the religious one- that Paul is alive and well and "the Beatles are playing a game for the hell of it." that Paul is dead and the Beatles are hoaxing their fans, and that Paul is very ill and has been replaced by a double.
The "playing a game" explanation, with the religious motive perhaps mixed in, seems the most likely. Death would be a likely topic for the group simply because of the sudden passing of their manager, Brian Epstein, in the summer of 1967, and Paul, specifically, may have wished to be identified with death on the Beatle albums. Most of the "clues" about Paul's death are not clear-cut; the Beatles' extensive use of symbolism and seemingly meaningless language leaves them especially open to all kids of interpretations.
If the Beatles had wanted death clues to trickle out to the public, it seems that they would have confirmed, instead of denying, the recent rumors. But until they explain such goodies as "I buried Paul," black carnations, and hands behind Paul's head, a small portion of the world's confusion will continue to focus on what has been going on in their minds.
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