The Beatles, for all their utopian good vibes, were no strangers to the dark side of the ’60s. They were, of course, at the center of a rather obsessive conspiracy theory — the first one after the JFK assassination to indicate that conspiracy theory had joined the flow of the times, and that it wasn’t just limited to the murder of a president. That theory said that Paul McCartney was dead, that he’d been killed in a car crash in 1966 and replaced by an imposter. (The incident that touched this off was a traffic accident, early in 1967, that involved McCartney’s Aston Martin.)
If the Paul Is Dead rumor was true, then an awful lot of people had to be in on pretending that the fake Paul was the real Paul. To me, though, the ultimate proof that the conspiracy theory was false always came down to Paul McCartney’s eyes. Just study them sometime; they’re among the most distinctive set of celebrity peepers of the 20th century. They are ever so slightly, and beautifully, cockeyed — Paul’s left eye slopes down, and his right eye tilts up just above the other one. They’re the special soul of his Cute One factor. Does anyone really think that a replacement Paul McCartney could have been found who had those exact eyes? As is so often the case, there’s only one thing you should ever lean toward believing about conspiracy theory, and that’s that when you look at it closely, it tends to fall apart.
Yet “The Sixth Beatle,” a documentary about the group’s earliest days, is rooted in a conspiracy theory.
Via: SiriusXM Blog
“I was gonna rap with you about Paul McCartney being dead,” said a caller named Tom, a local student who had tuned in to DJ Russ Gibb’s show on WKNR-FM in Detroit, on Sunday, October 12, 1969. “What’s this all about?”
So it began. There had been a few murmurs around London of Paul McCartney’s death in 1967, but the rumor never really caught on. It had made its way to the States, first with an article in the Drake University paper, which then got picked up by a few college outlets and spread its way east. Now people were beginning to take note.
What fascinated them weren’t necessarily the facts of the death itself — though grisly, it was unremarkable: a car crash on an icy road in the early hours of November 9, 1966, which allegedly left the Beatles’ bassist lifeless and partially decapitated. It wasn’t even how the band had kept his death a secret, finding a look-alike bassist and continuing on as if nothing had happened.
What drew suspicious fans into obsession were the baffling clues that the remaining members supposedly slipped into the visuals of their album covers and in the lyrics and music of the songs.
So with Tom’s call on October 12 — and the on-air discussion that followed, along with the hour-long radio special WKNR produced later that week — the rumor of Paul McCartney’s death would become a phenomenon.
However, it was mostly accepted as a hoax the following month, when Life Magazine trekked to the McCartney country home in Scotland. After a brief bout of rude behavior, a frustrated Paul consented to an exclusive. He refuted many of the clues with perfectly reasonable explanations, and pled with the public to let him “live in peace.” So it was put to rest, Paul McCartney was alive and well. If only you could stop seeing the clues everywhere you looked.
How the Rumor That Paul McCartney Died in 1966 and Was Secretly Replaced by a Look-Alike Got Started