The ’Paul is Dead’ myth first surfaced in print in the 17 September 1969 edition of the Times-Delphic, the newspaper of the Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. It quickly snowballed, and was heavily featured on the Detroit radio station MKNR. Towards the middle of October it had broken across the Atlantic.
Reporters attempted to contact The Beatles for their responses. Paul McCartney travelled to his Scottish farm on 22 October, and Peter Brown called him to ask for a statement that could be given to the press. McCartney gave a line borrowed from Mark Twain: “Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
The statement did little to quell the intrigue, and Apple continued to be bombarded with calls from reporters. WKNR’s Russ Gibb spoke to Derek Taylor, and to someone else who claimed to be McCartney but was in fact Tony Bramwell. The station’s John Small also spoke to John Lennon, who sounded bewildered and amused by the story: “What did we do, stuff him and shave him? How could we do it? I don’t understand what it’s all about.”
A reporter from New York’s WMCA, Alex Bennett, arrived in London on 22 October. The following day he interviewed Ringo Starr, Derek Taylor, Neil Aspinall, photographer Iain Macmillan, McCartney’s tailor and barber, and members of Apple group White Trash. Starr told the Bennett: “If people are gonna believe it, they’re gonna believe it. I can only say it’s not true.”
On 24 October McCartney agreed to speak to the BBC’s Chris Drake. The interview took place at McCartney’s High Park Farm in Campbeltown, Scotland.
McCartney suggested that the stories had begun as he had adopted a lower public profile recently. He said that he once did “an interview a week” to keep in the headlines, but since getting married and becoming a father he preferred to live a more private life.
He was firm in denying he had died, saying: “If the conclusion you reach is that I’m dead, then you’re wrong, because I’m alive and living in Scotland.” Linda McCartney said their holiday was being ruined by the press speculation, adding that “everybody knows he’s alive”.
Talk then turned to the subject of McCartney’s farm, which he admitted was scruffy. He said he had been dubbed “the new Laird” when he first met his Scottish neighbours, but didn’t want to be considered the “squire of the district”. He concluded the interview by saying that The Beatles had no plans to reconvene in the near future, having recently completed an album and film, and that he may not return to London until 1970.
A one-minute extract from Chris Drake’s interview was broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend on 26 October from 1pm. A longer recording lasting 3’30” was included on The World At One the following day, and 3’20” was included on Late Night Extra on Radio 2 from 10pm later that night.
Also on this day...
- 2015: Ringo Starr live at Grand Theater, Mashantucket, Connecticut
- 1968: George Harrison produces Is This What You Want? by Jackie Lomax
- 1965: Recording: I’m Looking Through You
- 1964: Live: Granada Cinema, Walthamstow, London
- 1963: Radio: Karlaplansstudion, Stockholm, Sweden
- 1961: Live: Cavern Club, Liverpool (lunchtime)
- 1960: Live: Kaiserkeller, Hamburg
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.