beatles fans
Paul McCartney

The Greatest Hoax in Rock and Roll History - Part 2

By Kathy Wheeler

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Sgt. Pepper is where the real fun begins, and where I think the Beatles either got word of the Paul is dead rumor or invented it as a marketing ploy. The clues don’t appear quite as accidental/coincidental as on the earlier albums. This concept of this album is that the Beatles have transformed into another band. The lineup has changed, but they don’t tell the public directly, only hint at it. The cover of the album depicts Paul’s funeral. All types of famous people came to mourn Paul, mostly dead people he will join in the afterlife. There are some clues buried in this scene. Some of them are quite intriguing.

All the Beatles are holding brass instrument except Paul, who has a black clarinet. He also has an open hand raised above his head, which signifies death (last rites). An open hand appears again over Paul on the cover of Yellow Submarine and in the Magical Mystery Tour booklet. There is a small toy car on the Shirley Temple/Rolling Stones doll’s lap—it looks like the white Aston-Martin, the type of car that Paul was driving. There is also a bloody driving glove next to the doll—and I don’t see OJ anywhere in the picture.

The yellow flowers form a left-handed bass guitar with only three strings. The red flowers spell out “3 Beatles”. Beneath the mourning figures of the Beatles there is a Buddha-like character with a large crack in the top of his head. There is also a stone figure of Snow White who we all know was in a clear coffin when she was thought to be dead. This type of coffin is later referred to as a “glass onion” in the White Album.

The most interesting clue on the cover, I think, is the secret message revealed in the drum. When you hold a small mirror up to the center of the drum—see it “through the looking glass,” Lonely Hearts on the drum reads, “I ONE IX HE DIE.” The 1-one (11) stands for eleven; IX is nine in Roman numerals—in other words 11/9 or November 9, the date of the fatal car crash. There is a diamond after the date and before “he die” which points directly up to our dearly departed holding the only black instrument and down to his grave. Paul was also sporting a mustache to conceal the scar on his upper lip.

When you open the Sgt. Pepper album, you find Paul once again crossed legged and not wearing shoes. He has a patch that reads OPD on his left sleeve. In Britain they use the term “officially pronounced dead” in the same way we say “dead on arrival”. On the back of the album Paul’s back is turned and he is noticeably taller than the others. In reality John, Paul and George are five foot eleven, and Ringo is shorter.  I’ve read that Mal Evans, their road manager was standing in for Paul in this photograph.

Sgt. Pepper was the first album to print song lyrics. The reason for this is because they contain clues. They also print lyrics on the white album poster, which contains more clues. On Paul’s back the lyrics to Within You, Without You are printed. Reading these words in the context that Paul is dead gives them a new meaning. People hiding behind a wall of illusion could certainly support the imposter theory. The booklet in the CD version show all four looking at the words to this song and smiling at the inside joke.

On the back cover of the album, George is pointing to the words from She’s Leaving Home, “Wednesday morning at five o’clock” and has his head tilted towards Paul as to say it is the time he left for good. Lovely Rita is the pretty young meter maid who distracted him as he was driving and nearly made it home, except that he didn’t notice that the light had changed and then crashed.

In the title track and With a Little Help From My Friends there is a really cool clue that I was unfamiliar with before I did the research for this piece—the true identity of the mysterious Billy Shears. As the first song flows into the next, they introduce their new singer, Billy Shears. I had mentioned earlier that the replacement was a man named William Campbell and some say it is a guy named Billy Shears. I never got the connection or thought it was the same person they were referring to, but it is. Knowing the way John Lennon twists words around such as his jabberwocky-like writing style in his books In His Own Write and Spaniard in the Works, it makes perfect sense. After all, Alice in Wonderland was one of his favorites and had a bit of influence on his writing. Anyway, when you realize that they are saying “Billy’s here” rather than “Billy Shears” it is obvious that Paul has been replaced. Bill and Billy are nicknames for William.

With a Little Help from my Friends is introducing Paul’s replacement. It features Ringo singing because if it were Paul, it would be too obvious that the song was about the band carrying on as if nothing had happened. Fixing a Hole is about Billy filling in for Paul. He’s pondering the question whether it is wrong or right and if he belongs. It’s an introspective piece about feeling a bit out of place.

Good Morning, Good Morning has still more clues: “Nothing to do to save his life...”, “you’re on your own your in the street...”, “Nothing has changed it’s still the same...”, “I’ve got nothing to say but it’s okay...”,  “its five o’clock...”, “watching the skirts you start to flirt now you’re in gear.” Good morning was actually is a bad morning for Paul. Rescue efforts have failed after Paul crashed his car. The Beatles carried on as if nothing happened because the show must go on. The incident happened at 5:00 when Paul was distracted by a pretty girl and wasn’t keeping his eye on the road, John promises to say nothing so everything will be okay.

A newspaper taxi in Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds could be an obituary as well as a hearse reference. “Newspaper taxis appear on the shore waiting to take you away. Climb in the back (of the hearse) with your head in the clouds (heaven) and you’re gone (dead)”

A Day in the Life fills the listener in to more details of what happened. A very famous Englishman dies in a car crash from fatal head injuries. The song was actually about Tara Brown, a Guinness heir and friend to the Beatles and Rolling Stones. He was also ironically the friend Paul was riding his moped with when he crashed and chipped his tooth.

“I read the news today oh boy, about a lucky man who made the grade. And though the news was rather sad, I just had to laugh. I saw the photograph. He blew his mind out in a car. He didn’t notice that the light had changed. A crowd of people stood and stared. They’d seen his face before. Nobody was really sure f he was from the House of Lords.”

Magical Mystery Tour

The Magical Mystery Tour album was made into a short movie that was shown in black and white on BBC TV and wasn’t very successful. Brian Epstein had died and the band lacked direction. It was a goofy movie, but it had some great songs and an ample array of clues for all the young detectives on the case. Because the public still had not yet discovered the hoax, they needed to become a little more generous in their approach in MMT.

The Magical Mystery Tour is coming to take you away...the Magical Mystery Tour is dying to take you away—could the this bus be a symbol for a hearse or an ambulance? The Fool on the Hill is Paul dead in the clouds. “You know that they’re the fools” may be referring to people who haven’t caught on to the clues yet. It had been about two years by then.


Blue Jay Way is about Paul’s cry for help after his crash, needing emergency help from the police and an ambulance. “Please don’t be long or I may be asleep” takes on an eerie new meaning when put into this scenario.

I Am the Walrus is usually seen as a major clue. It is commonly said that Walrus is a symbol of death. I’ve seen a couple of explanations—that walrus means death in Greek, that it is a symbol of death in Scandinavian countries and that if an Eskimo sees a dead walrus while hunting it is interpreted as a death omen. Another Alice in Wonderland reference is that the walrus dies in The Walrus and The Carpenter. Something about eating oysters. This walrus thing can get quite confusing because it is clearly John singing the song and is wearing the black walrus costume in the movie. The other three are wearing white costumes.

The strange twist is inside on the list of songs where it lists the title as I Am the Walrus (“No you’re not!” said Little Nicola). Did they know that a walrus was a death reference? The inside of the album refers to the hoax when you read, “Maybe you’ve been on a Magical Mystery Tour without even realizing it.” I think John was planting things by this time and the others may have been in the loop. I definitely hear “I buried Paul” not cranberry sauce at the end of Strawberry Fields. He says it twice.

Looking at the booklet inside the album there is a combination of photos and cartoons referring to the movie. It is jam-packed with Paul is dead clues. Page 3 shows Paul in a military costume with crossed flags over his head and sitting at a desk behind a sign that reads, “I was”.  As a magician, his cap is bent signifying a head injury. On page 5 is a photo from when they are doing I am the Walrus. Paul is not wearing shoes and written on Ringo’s drums is “Love the 3 Beatles”.… Do the math.

There is a creepy clue on page 8. If you turn the picture on its side, blur your vision; you can see a skull as the man’s hat becomes an eye socket. On the next page our friendly Fool on the Hill is a cartoon of Paul with a cracked head. The walrus/no you’re not clue is repeated on this page. John is not the walrus; he is the eggman. Eggs bring life and walruses mean death. Goo-Goo-a-Joob was supposedly Humpty Dumpty’s last words.

This death scene from Shakespeare’s King Lear is heard at the end of I am the Walrus.

“Villain, take my purse;
If ever thou wilt thrive, bury my body;
And give the letter which thou find’st
about to Edmund, Earl of Gloster;
Seek him out upon the British party;
0’ untimely death!”
“I know thee well;
A serviceable villain;
As duteous to the vices of my mistress
as badness would desire.”
“What, is he dead?”
“Sit you down, Father; rest you”

In the center spread of the MMT booklet you see Paul, once again, without his shoes on. The shoes are by the Love the 3 Beatles drum and they are splattered with blood. Paul is also wearing black pants. Page thirteen #22 says Major McCartney is looking “Very Important.” The picture shows cartoon Paul keeled over at his desk with the crossed flags over his head, a British military symbol for death. The fact that “Very Important” is capitalized could be a signal that this is another clue.

Moving on to page 23, the Beatles are in white tuxedos singing Your Mother Should Know. John, George and Ringo are wearing red carnations and Paul is wearing a black one. Black carnations don’t exist in nature; it was painted and planted as a clue. The inside of the back cover prints the lyrics only of the songs that have clues: Magical Mystery Tour, The Fool on the Hill, Blue Jay Way, Your Mother Should Know and I Am the Walrus.

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