One of the most fascinating, controversial, famous, and still current, conspiracy theories in the world of music is the legend of the death of Paul McCartney, nicknamed PID (Paul Is Dead), which began to circulate in 1969.
Legend has it that on the night of November 9, 1966, coming out of the rehearsal studio after arguing with the other members of the Beatles, he got into his car and not seeing a red light, went off the road to avoid the impact with another vehicle and slammed into a tree. The car then caught fire and Paul hit his head against the tree. In another version he was completely decapitated. Once his band members heard what had happened they decided not to leak the news to not upset the fans and to not endanger the future of the group, which in that year was at the peak of its success. So they started looking for a look-alike and chose William Campbell, a Scottish actor who underwent plastic surgery to look even more like the defunct Paul. In another version the name of the look-alike is thought to be William Sheppard, a former Canadian police officer. From that moment on, the Beatles no longer performed live, because the “new” Paul was taller than the original, and because he had yet to learn to play and talk like him.
On the evening of October 12, 1969, DJ Russell Gibb, during a radio show in Detroit, said that the previous night he had received a call from a certain Tom, who argued that the real Paul McCartney died in a car accident in 1966, and, to support his argument, he stated that there were many clues in hidden messages in the Beatles’ songs and on the covers of their albums. About ten days later, another DJ, Roby Yonge, from a New York radio station, commented live about Paul’s death for an hour. At that time a magazine on newsstands titled Paul McCartney Dead: The Great Hoax came out.
Very soon the news spread and fans began to look for hidden messages, all the Beatles’ albums published before and after 1966 were selling like crazy. The reason why these clues were provided, according to the supporters of the legend, was to make the truth known indirectly and gradually.
The first reliable clues can be found on the cover of the album A Collection of Beatles Oldies (But Goldies!). In the word OLDIES is the word DIES, and the letters O and L, that, respectively, precede P and M in the alphabet, hence PM DIES (Paul McCartney dies). Moreover, the road shown on the cover seems to lead into the head of the person depicted on the cover, alluding to the wounds in the neck reported by McCartney as a result of the accident. In addition, for the first time on the cover of the album it says “Beatles” and not “The Beatles” and on the back cover Paul is the only one dressed in black.
In the video for the single Penny Lane, from the album “Strawberry Fields Forever”, one of the times in which Lennon said, “Nothing is real” there’s a zoom on McCartney, to indicate that this is a “fake” Paul, according to proponents of the theory.
Another cover with many clues is that of “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” On the right you will see a doll with a car on her womb, there’s an inscription on her shirt that says Welcome The Rolling Stones, who were friends of the band and were aware of the pile-up, and the car seems to be headed right towards the word STONES, with reference to that. At the bottom the name of the group is made up of red flowers and soon after you will see a circular red flower arrangement which, when read together, makes up the word BEATLESO, to be read detached BE AT LESO, as a reference to the supposed burial place of Paul, Lesotho. Just below, there’s a posy of yellow flowers with the shape of a bass (the instrument which Paul played) with only three strings, to represent the three surviving Beatles. Moreover, if you take a closer look it seems to make up the word PAUL. If you look at the four Beatles in the center of the cover, you will notice that McCartney is the only one photographed up front and he is also the only one to have a black tool in his hands. If you take a mirror and put it in front of the writing that appears on the bass drum LONELY HEARTS, you will cut in half the writing and when reading it in the mirror, you will see the phrase 1ONE1X HE DIE, where the 3 words symbolize the three remaining Beatles and HE DIE, even if grammatically incorrect, means he dies or he died. Another interpretation is 1X 11 or November 9, the date of the supposed accident. This is however the “Drum Clue” that is the most complex and intriguing clue among those found. In addition, a very singular thing is that the artist who created the cover was called Joe Ephgrave. We do not have proof of his real existence, therefore it is believed to be a fictitious name created by combining the words epitaph and grave.
The back of the cover, with the texts of the songs and a photo of the band, still contains many clues, primarily, in the picture Paul is the only one shot from behind, his jacket has three black buttons, and is noticeably taller than the others. Furthermore, next to his head appear the words Without You. George Harrison’s finger is pointing towards the word “at five o’clock” (that would be the time of the accident), and every band member mimics a letter with his hands: George Harrison mimes an L, John Lennon mimes a V and Ringo Starr mimes an E, as if to represent the word LOVE, but Paul, who should have mimed an O, isn’t miming any letter, as if it had been erased. This can be interpreted as the disappearance of McCartney and the affection the Beatles were feeling for him.
Even in the lyrics there are some clues. In the opening track Paul introduces a certain Billy Shears; Billy is the nickname of William, as the likely replacement, and can be interpreted as Billy’s here. In the text of the song “Good Morning Good Morning” there’s the phrase “Nothing to do to save his life, calls his wife”, referring to the accident. The song “A Day in the Life” contains many clues: “He did not Notice that the lights had changed”, “He blew out His Mind in a car”, “They’d seen his face before.” In reality, the song refers to the 1966 car accident, in which Tara Browne, the Guinness heir of the Irish brewery, lost his life. His name was later included in the list of possible replacements for the real Paul. At the end of the album, there is a ghost track, “The Inner Groove”, which constantly repeats something that sounds like “Never could be any other way”, referring to the choice by the band to omit the fact that Paul had died. In the CD booklet there is also another clue: a coat of arms attached to the suit that Paul is wearing and it says “OPD”, which stands for Officially Pronounced Dead, but according to some it stands for Ontario Police Department. This is an odd clue as it would be the police department where Campbell worked before replacing Paul.
Another disc, other clues. On the cover of Magical Mystery Tour, a 1967 album, the star-shaped word Beatles, read in the mirror, revealed an English phone number, 5371438. It seems that in the ‘60s a recorded voice would answer at this number saying, “You’re getting closer.” To what? On this same cover of the album, the four Beatles appear dressed as psychedelic strange animals, in which Paul plays the role of a walrus, which for the Eskimos symbolizes death. In the song “I am the Walrus”, Lennon sings “I am the Walrus”, but in the booklet of the CD a certain “Little Nicholas” says, “No, you’re not”; in the same song you can hear a voiceover that, when played backwards, seems to be saying “Ha ha, Paul is dead.” The booklet of the CD has many clues: on page 3 Paul is sitting behind a desk where the words I was are written, and behind him two British flags are folded in mourning, on page 9 the sketch of Paul shows a crack on his head, referring to the injuries sustained in the alleged accident, on page 13, on the bass drum of the percussion you can read “LOVE the 3 Beatles” and, on page 23, Paul is the only one wearing a black flower on his jacket’s buttonhole. In the text of the song “Hello Goodbye”, Paul sings “You say goodbye, I say hello”, that the supporters of the conspiracy have interpreted as a kind of mockery against the real Paul, that is to say “you go out, I go in.”