“Paul Is Dead” is an urban legend and conspiracy theory alleging that Paul McCartney died in November 1966 and was secretly replaced by a look-alike.
Dozens of supposed clues to McCartney’s death have been identified by fans and followers of the legend. These include messages perceived when listening to songs being played backwards and symbolic interpretations of both lyrics and album cover imagery. One frequently cited example is the suggestion that the words “I buried Paul” are spoken by Lennon in the final section of the song “Strawberry Fields Forever”, which the Beatles recorded in November and December 1966. Lennon later said that the words were actually “Cranberry sauce”.
In September 1969, a rumor of McCartney’s supposed death began spreading across college campuses in the United States. The rumor was based on perceived clues found in Beatles songs and album covers. Clue-hunting proved infectious, and within a few weeks had become an international phenomenon.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
- Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band: This song details the arrival of William Campbell; the Beatles are pretending to be another band in order to reveal the hoax.
- With A Little Help From My Friends: The introduction announces “Billy Shears,” a pun on words which means “Billy's here,” referring to the arrival of William Campbell.
- She’s Leaving Home: The opening line “Wednesday morning at five o’clock” indicates the time of Paul's crash.
- Lovely Rita: Details Paul catching a glimpse of Rita the meter maid, which led to the crash.
- Good Morning, Good Morning: The phrases “nothing to do to save his life,” “and you’re on your own you’re in the street,” “people running around it’s 5 o’clock,” and “watching the skirts you start to flirt, now you're in gear” are all details of the crash. Notice the time of the crash matches that in “She’s Leaving Home.”
- A Day In The Life: The person John wrote about in these famous lines is reported to be Tara Browne, heir to the Guinness fortune. But PIDers see these lyrics as a motherlode of crash details, including “He blew his mind out in a car. He didn’t notice that the lights had changed. A crowd of people stood and stared. They”d seen his face before...”
Magical Mystery Tour
- Fool On The Hill: The fool is apparently Campbell, who is doomed to be ignored for “the sound he appears to make.” Or the fool is Paul, who is dead and buried, which is why he lies “perfectly still.”
- I Am The Walrus: This song features a sampled recording of a BBC production of Shakespeare’s King Lear. The sampled passage goes like this:
Slave, thou hast slain me. Villain, take my purse.
If ever thou wilt thrive, bury my body
And give the letters which you find’st about me
To Edmund, Earl of Gloucester. Seek him out
Upon the English party. O, untimely death!
I know thee well: a serviceable villain,
As duteous to the vices of thy mistress
As badness would desire.
What, is he dead?
Sit you down, father. Rest you.
The chanting at the end, when played backward, reveals the chanted phrase “Paul is dead! Ha ha!”
- Strawberry Fields Forever: At the end of the track, when it fades back in, John is heard saying “I buried Paul.” (John actually says “cranberry sauce,” as proven on the Anthology outtakes.
- Hello Goodbye: “You say goodbye, I say hello” is William Campbell’s mention of his arrival and Paul’s departure.
- All You Need Is Love: At the end of the track, John sings, “Yes he’s dead,” and “We loved you, yeah, yeah, yeah...” (Examination of the audio proves that John is singing “Yesterday” and that Paul joins him in singing “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah / She’d love to, yeah, yeah, yeah...”)
The Beatles (known as “The White Album”)
- Glass Onion: “Here’s another clue for you all, the Walrus was Paul.” The Walrus, in India, is a symbol of death. (Not true.) A “glass onion” is an English term for a see-thru coffin. (Also not true.)
- While My Guitar Gently Weeps: George is singing “Paul, Paul, Paul” at the end of the song. (Actually, he’s just moaning.)
- I’m So Tired: The gibberish at the end, when played backward, becomes “Paul is dead, man, miss him, miss him.”
- Don’t Pass Me By: Ringo sings “You were in a car crash / And you lost your hair.” This is what happened to Paul.
- Revolution #9: The repeated phrase “Number ” when played backward, becomes “turn me on, dead man.” There’s also a lot of recorded conversation in this music-free track, much of which has been taken by listeners as clues to Paul’s crash and death: “his voice was low and his eyes were high and his eyes were closed” and “his legs were drawn, his hands were tied, his feet were bent and his head was on fire and his glasses were insane. This was the end of his audience,” and “My wings are broken and so is my hair. I’m not in the mood for wearing clothing.” You can also hear the crash, a fire, sirens, and Paul screaming “Get me out.”
- Only A Northern Song: Written by George in reference to the band’s publishing company, Northern Songs, this song contains several lyrics that reference Paul’s replacement, such as “When you’re listening late at night / You may think the band is not quite right,” and “You may think the band’s a little dark and out of key,” before announcing “There’s nobody there.”
- Hey Bulldog: Although this is John’s song, both John and Paul sing lead vocals, which makes the line “You think you know me, but you haven’t got a clue” suspect to PID enthusiasts.
- Come Together: “One and one and one is three” refers to the three remaining Beatles.
Let It Be
- Let It Be: The phrase “Let It Be,” played backward, becomes “He Is Dead.”
- Lady Madonna: The line “Wednesday morning papers didn’t come” refers to an English newspaper recalling Wednesday’s paper which reported Paul’s crash (which happened, according to the legend, on a Tuesday). (There’s no evidence of any papers being recalled on the day in question.)
- Revolution: John sings “Paul died, Paul died” at the end. (He’s actually singing “All right,” a continuation of the phrase used in the chorus.)
- You Know My Name (Look Up The Number): After the cuckoo clock chimes, a phone rings, and a number is recited. Calling this number will present you with a recorded announcement containing more clues.
(via Live About)