I'm a sucker for a good conspiracy theory, and Paul is Dead is one of the best out there (up there with the moon landing..)
For those that haven't heard of this, the theory is that Paul McCartney was killed in a car crash in 1966 and replaced by a lookalike competition winner, known among other things as William Shears Campbell/William Sheppard, Billy Shears and most commonly Faul - Fake Paul.
The fact that this alleged phony was writing better songs than the real Paul doesn't seem to be enough to put people off this absurd but hugely entertaining theory.
The story started in the late sixties when some American college students noticed various clues in Beatles song lyrics and on album covers alluding to Paul's death and literally hundreds of sometimes tenuous othertimes staggeringly direct clues have been uncovered since.
The covers of Sgt Peppers and Abbey Road are particularly ripe with clues. The detail above from the "Abbey Road" album cover shows the Volkswagen's number 28IF, as in Paul would be 28 if he was still alive..
The photo on your left (taken from the White Album) has been alleged to be not Paul dressing up, but the only publicly distributed photo of William Shears Campbell.
Some alleged clues taken from various Beatles recordings include the following :
- From "Got To Get You Into My Life" : "I was alone, I took a ride, I didn't know what I would find there".
- From "A Day In The Life" : "He didn't notice that the lights had changed" .
- From "She's Leaving Home" a line that mentions the time of the accident : "Wednesday morning at 5 o'clock as the day begins".
- From "Strawberry Fields Forever", "I buried Paul, I buried Paul". Although most believe John is actually muttering "Cranberry Sauce".
- "Bury my body" and "Oh untimely death" appeared in the radio feed towards the end of "I Am The Walrus", taken from a BBC production of King Lear.
- From "I'm So Tired" , John whispers "Monsieur, monsieur, monsieur, how about another one?" When played backwards, this sounds like "Paul is dead, man, miss him, miss him".
- From "Don't Pass Me By" : "I'm sorry that I doubted you, I was so unfair/You were in a car crash and you lost your hair".
- From Faul's "Mother Nature's Son" : "Find me in my field of grass".
- There is the sound of a car crash, followed by an explosion, in "Revolution 9".
- "Revolution 9" when played backwards, is said to contain the repeated phrase "Turn me on, dead man".
There are whole websites dedicated to the phenomenon. Visit here to check out a bunch of other clues.
The writers of DC's Batman even got some mileage out of this in the June 1970 issue.
Andru J Reeve wrote an excellent and thoroughly engrossing book on the whole phenomenon that is particularly involving without actually suckering you in. You can buy his book "Turn Me On Dead Man: The Beatles and the "Paul Is Dead" Hoax" here. I highly recommend it.
Even more entertaining is the DVD release "Paul McCartney Really Is Dead ; The Last Testament of George Harrison" which purports to feature an audio recording of George confessing all on his deathbed. Alas 'George' sounds nothing like the George we all know and love, and any remaining credibility is derailed when Paul's ex-wife Heather Mills is implicated in the original crash, despite the fact that she wasn't even born at that point. Entertaining stuff nonethless if taken with a grain of salt (well, lots of grains of salt). The DVD is available here.
The Mystery Tour wrote "The Ballad of Paul" to cash in on it (watch it below). Plenty of other tunes have alluded to it as well - there's a CD compilation of these tunes available somewhere...
A quick google search will turn up hundreds of other websites dedicated to this urban legend, with some pretty heated arguments developing between believers and non-believers.
My stance is that this whole phenomenon only goes to show you can prove almost anything you want - true or not - if you look hard enough for clues, especially in a songbook as rich in surrealism as the Beatles is.
My recommendation is to start with "Turn Me On Dead Man: The Beatles and the "Paul Is Dead" Hoax", and if you want to know more after that delve into the crazier end of the spectrum....