The bigger the name, the weirder the theory.
And this is the original insane rock-and-roll conspiracy theory.
Paul McCartney became a household name when
he rose to prominence as part of the Beatles.
But, in 1969, a rumor spread that Paul McCartney was not Paul McCartney,
because Paul McCartney had died and been replaced by an impostor.
This was the infamous "Paul is dead" theory.
According to this theory, Paul died in 1966, in a car crash.
The crazed minds of obsessive Beatles fans came up with the rest of the story.
According to the story, Paul McCartney died on November 9th, 1966,
after his car skidded off an icy road.
According to the theory, the Beatles replaced him with an impostor: a look-alike named Billy Shears.
Billy Shears looked the part, acted the part, and even sounded the part.
The theory made absolutely no sense, since according to the theory,
Billy Shears would have written the Beatles biggest hit up to that point, "Hey Jude."
At the time, Paul McCartney thought this theory was amusing.
His official statement was: "If I were dead, I'd be the last to know."
However, crazed Beatles fans kept looking for clues.
They found many of them on the cover of 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.'
Supposedly, the front cover depicted a funeral.
Paul, on the cover, is wearing a patch that says O.P.D.,
which stood for, Officially Pronounced Dead.
In fact, it was a patch from the Ontario Police Department,
saying, Ontario Provincial Police.
On the back cover, George's finger
points to the words, "Wednesday morning at 5 o'clock,"
because that's when Paul was officially pronounced dead.
Fans kept looking for clues on 'The White Album.'
On the track 'Revolution 9,' it begins with a voice saying, "Number nine, number nine."
If you play it backwards, you can hear the words saying, "Turn me on, dead man."
And, if you listen to the spot in between 'I'm So Tired,' and 'Blackbird,'
and you play that backwards, you can supposedly hear John Lennon say,
"Paul is dead, man, miss him, miss him."
And famously, at the end of 'Strawberry Fields Forever,'
you hear John saying what seems to be, "I buried Paul."
However, he was actually saying "cranberry sauce."
Because it was October 1969, and the Beatles' new record was 'Abbey Road,'
that's where people looked most closely for clues.
On the cover of 'Abbey Road', the four Beatles
are crossing the street toward their studio.
However, people came up with the theory that it's a funeral procession.
John is wearing white, because he's the preacher.
Ringo is dressed in black, because he's the undertaker.
And George is bringing up the rear, wearing blue jeans, because he's the gravedigger.
And Paul is wearing black, like the corpse.
He's out of step with the others, he's smoking,
and pointing a cigarette down, and he's barefoot,
which was supposedly a sign of mourning in Sicily.
Tellingly, a Volkswagen in the background of the photo has the license plate "28 If,"
because Paul McCartney would be 28, if he were still alive.
In fact, Paul McCartney was 27.
John Lennon called this theory
"the stupidest rumor I've ever heard," and it died down pretty quickly.
"Paul is dead" went down in Beatle mythology as a popular,
delusional, word-of-mouth phenomenon.
As for Paul McCartney, he remains very much alive; working hard,
touring hard, writing new songs, and still admirably amused by the whole thing.
My name is Rob Sheffield,
and I officially do not believe any of these WTF Music Conspiracy Theories.