References in song

The Beatles were said to have referred to the death a number of times in their songs.

The list below is just a taster. Particularly in the case of ‘Revolution 9’, there have been a huge number of interpretations, hidden meanings and fanciful explanations, many of which deserve to remain in the minds of the beholders. In short, any mention of death or cars in Beatles songs (‘Eleanor Rigby’ and ‘Good Morning Good Morning’ proved particularly fruitful) can be shoehorned into the myth.

  • The opening words of ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’: “I was alone, I took a ride, I didn’t know what I would find there”.
  • The line “He didn’t notice that the lights had changed” from ‘A Day in the Life’.
  • The opening line of ‘She’s Leaving Home’, which highlighted the moment of the accident: “Wednesday morning at 5 o’clock as the day begins”.
  • The suppression of the story in the news found its way into ‘Lady Madonna’: “Wednesday morning papers didn’t come”.
  • At the end of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, Lennon can be heard muttering “cranberry sauce”. This was misheard as “I buried Paul”.
  • “Bury my body” and “Oh untimely death” appeared in the radio feed towards the end of ‘I Am The Walrus’, taken from a BBC production of King Lear.
  • At the end of ‘I’m So Tired’, John Lennon mutters “Monsieur, monsieur, monsieur, how about another one?” When played backwards, this was interpreted by some as “Paul is dead, man, miss him, miss him”.
  • “I’m sorry that I doubted you, I was so unfair/You were in a car crash and you lost your hair” – from Ringo’s ‘Don’t Pass Me By’.
  • The line “Find me in my field of grass” in ‘Mother Nature’s Son’ was taken as a reference to a cemetery.
  • There is the sound of a car crash, followed by an explosion, in ‘Revolution 9’.
  • The same song, when played backwards, is said to contain the repeated phrase “Turn me on, dead man”.
  • “And so I quit the police department”, a line from ‘She Came In Through The Bathroom Window’, supposedly referred to William Campbell’s alleged former career in Ontario, Canada (see the Sgt Pepper visual clues in the next section).

A number of visual clues were also said to be found in the group’s record releases.

Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album artwork

  • The front cover spells the word ‘Beatles’ in flowers. Some, however, took this to say ‘Be at Leso’, a reference to the Greek island the group were considering buying (actually called Leslo).
  • An arrangement of yellow flowers below this is of a left-handed bass guitar, the instrument most associated with Paul McCartney. Some saw the flowers as spelling out the name ‘Paul’.
  • A toy Aston Martin car sits atop the rag doll on the right hand side of the cover.
  • If a mirror is placed horizontally across the middle of the Sgt Pepper bass drum, so it bisects the words ‘Lonely hearts’, the phrase “I ONE IX HE DIE” can be seen. This was taken to mean “11 9 HE DIE”, a reference to the supposed date of death, 9 November. Another interpretation of this is that “1 ONE 1” represents the three other Beatles, and the X represents the dead McCartney. A diamond symbol between HE and DIE points upwards to McCartney.
  • The album cover shows an open hand above McCartney’s head, which in some religions is a symbol of death, signifying that someone will die or has recently died.
  • At the bottom of the image is a statue of the Hindu god Shiva, the destroyer. His hand is pointing directly at McCartney.
  • The gatefold sleeve shows McCartney wearing a badge on his arm appearing to say OPD. This actually said OPP, and stood for Ontario Provincial Police, though some people took it to mean “officially pronounced dead”.
  • Original pressings of the album had the lyrics of the songs along with a photo of The Beatles. In the photo George Harrison’s thumb points to the line “Wednesday morning at five o’clock,” the alleged time of Paul’s death.
  • On the rear cover McCartney has his back to the camera, suggesting that he is hiding his identity. Turning one’s back is said to be a symbol of death in certain cultures.

Magical Mystery Tour

The original Magical Mystery Tour double EP (and LP in the US) was released with a booklet. This contained a number of cartoons, song lyrics and photos from the film.

Magical Mystery Tour album artwork

  • The front cover spelt the word ‘Beatles’ in stars. Held up to a mirror, this reveals a telephone number, 2317438, said to have belonged to a London mortuary.
  • A number of photos in the booklet show McCartney without shoes, said to signify death: people tend to be buried without them.
  • McCartney is shown in military uniform in one picture, behind a desk on which sits a sign saying “I was”.
  • Ringo’s drum head, in a still from the ‘I Am The Walrus’ sequence, appears to say “Love the 3 Beatles”. Next to the kit are McCartney’s boots (as on Abbey Road, he is barefoot), covered in what appear to be blood stains.
  • A still from the ‘Your Mother Should Know’ sequence shows all four Beatles in white suits, dancing. McCartney is the only one to have a black carnation in his lapel; the others all have red ones.
  • A cartoon of Paul labelled ‘The Fool on the Hill shows him with a crack in his head.

Abbey Road

Abbey Road album artwork

  • The cover of Abbey Road is said to make reference to a funeral procession, with John Lennon dressed all in white as a priest; Ringo Starr in a black suit as an undertaker; McCartney being barefoot, as many corpses would have been buried; and George Harrison following as a gravedigger. McCartney was also out of step with the others, with his eyes closed.
  • In the same picture, McCartney is holding a cigarette with his right hand. However, it was well known that he was left-handed, suggesting that an impostor was in his place.
  • A Volkswagen Beetle car in the background has the numberplate LMW 28IF. LMW was taken to mean ‘Linda McCartney weeps’, and 28IF was interpreted as referring to Paul’s age if he had lived. However, at the time of Abbey Road’s release in 1969 he would have been 27, rather than 28.

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