Alan Chrisman is an American who, for political reasons, decided to come to Canada in the Fall of 1969. But before he came to this country, he was a student living on the campus of the University of Illinois. Alan wrote an article concerning the "Paul is Dead Hoax" shortly after the first Ottawa Beatles Convention and is presented here for the first time on the internet at the Ottawa Beatles Site. Alan Chrisman was the event organizer and producer for the first and second Ottawa Beatles Convention held respectively in 1995 and 1996. He is also past proprietor for several years of a vinyl shop entitled "Get Back Records" that was located in the cozy Westborough area of Ottawa.
- John Whelan, December 26, 2003
AN INSIDE STORY: THE PAUL IS DEAD
AN INSIDE STORY: THE PAUL IS DEAD RUMOR- by Alan Chrisman
In late 1969, a rumor went around the world that Paul McCartney was dead. There were supposed to be several clues on various Beatles albums that gave evidence of this. And there have been two books in last couple of years that published on this topic.
I have some inside knowledge of the whole affair because in September '69, I was living at the University of Illinois which happened to be the second campus where this rumor began to spread to. And this is the way I remember it happening: My younger brother, who also went to school there, had a friend who was related to a fellow at the university in Michigan who supposedly had first discovered it. One night I was visiting my brother when the friend told us of this theory. We didn't take it too seriously, but decided to test it by calling England late one night (there was a phone number hidden on the cover of Magical Mystery Tour and the time to call (was located) on the back of Sgt. Peppers album cover: "Wednesday morning at 5 a.m."). To our surprise, it actually was a phone number in England, although it was busy. So we tried again for the next two weeks and kept getting busy signals. This just wetted our appetite and soon we were looking for more clues. As we learned more about this rumor, we began to find more and more evidence. We found many hints on Sgt. Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, The White Album, etc.
Actually at first we thought the clues might have been about John (in keeping with his sometimes dark humor) because after all he sung I Am the Walrus. I had seen the North American premiere of the film Magical Mystery Tour in 1968 and had failed to notice that the little girl on John's lap had said "No you're not," which is stressed in the liner notes too. It was actually left-handed Paul dressed as the Walrus (something Lennon was to confirm in the White Album's Glass Onion: "here's another clue for you all, the Walrus was Paul.") We played backwards and slowed down such songs as Strawberry Fields Forever, which said "I buried Paul". We were just getting into it deeply when The Beatles released their new album, Abbey Road, in early October. And who's on the cover, but Paul barefooted as he was a year earlier on Magical Mystery Tour crossing the street with George in denim (a grave digger), Ringo in black (undertaker), and John in white (minister or angel). The new single from the album was for the first time to not include a McCartney song but John's Come Together (over me) and George's Something; in fact the whole second side could be interpreted as, perhaps, about the life of one person: Here Comes the Sun King; The End is equal to the love you make. When we heard this we believed were really on to something. Supposedly it was Paul and he had been killed in a car crash ("he blew his mind out in car" lyric from A Day In the Life) and had been replaced by an imposter. An article in our campus newspaper was soon reaching to other campuses and before long we were holding regular meetings in a large lecture hall. Now we had no idea then, just how far this would go around the world.
And for me this happened at an especially significant time in my life. It came just as I was about to be drafted into the American army for the Vietnam War. I had already decided that I wouldn't go and was trying to get enough guts to possibly come to Canada (as the only logical choice rather than going to jail). So in a strange way, (as Beatles music and occurrences have somehow seemed fatefully guided me throughout my life), this Paul is Dead thing allowed me to get my mind off the momentous decision I was about to make. At these meetings I was involved in, more and more people attended and several people told things that had happened to them or their friends. Some had supposedly gotten through the phone number and had to answer three questions and being whisked away to a secret island, etc. (Yes, it was the 60's after all!) Now what did this mean? Was McCartney really dead? (which was one of the questions supposedly asked to the callers.) I won't go into all the clues and theories here, but all I can say is that at that final meeting I attended (I had to leave to Canada soon after), the guy who had supposedly started the whole thing showed up and said there were indeed clues and The Beatles were trying to tell us something.
When I arrived in Ottawa in November '69, on the magazine stand were to my amazement -- several international magazines with stories on the rumor that only a few of us had first heard and with several clues listed (even a voiceprint which showed McCartney's voice was different.) So make of it what you will. Was Paul really dead? The Beatles were soon to break up with the other three siding against him and some would argue that he was to later only make Silly Love Songs. Was it perhaps just a joke by John saying that he later wrote about Paul when he said: "Those freaks were right when they say said you was dead, the sound you make is muzak to my ears". Or was he fed up with the Beatles as was evidenced on The White Album and Let It Be and saying they were just falling apart. Why would The Beatles do such a thing, just to sell albums as some have accused? They certainly didn't have to. Was it just a product of the times? At the very least, it shows the power that the Beatles had over us and still do. Or as the "founder" of the theory hinted at that last meeting I attended, were The Beatles trying to get across something more important? We may never really know. Intriguing anyway, over 25 years later. I have my own theories about what it all meant. As I said in my last article about The White Album, very few people according to Lennon have understood what that was about (and I believe it's all tied together). You can search and listen for the "clues" yourself. Think about it. They are still there for those smart enough to discern them.
TURN ME ON, DEAD MAN by Andru J. Reeve (a review)
After I had written my above article, I ordered and read over Christmas this excellent book that focuses mainly on how the rumor got started and how it had spread into the media. I wanted to see if it had actually happened the way I had remembered it all those years ago. I discovered first of all that I probably had been in on the early beginnings of such. As the first radio station Detroit was not to publicize it until October 12, 1969, and I had remembered hearing of it in September almost a full month earlier just as it first surfaced. The author, in fact, interviewed several of the key participants and did exhaustive research on its evolvement.
The book unfolds almost as a mystery as he tries to find it's origins. And the development of the rumor becomes almost as interesting as the rumor itself. I won't give away the contents of the book but before it was over, it led to thousands of calls a day to Apple, the Beatles' record company, over 300 newspaper reporting's and coverage by all the major networks. And such unlikely occurrences as special meetings as special meetings between the starters and Beatles insiders and the Beatles' new manager, Allan Klein, a TV courtroom trial with F. Lee Baily (yes, of O.J. Simpson fame) and even a call by Paul (or his double?) to the Detroit radio station. And most intriguing of all, a mysterious single by a Detroit singer that first hinted of Paul's death (and by the Beatles' own publishing company, Maclen!) Quite amazing for something that only a handful of college kids had first "discovered". So it's a fascinating story and the phenomenon is still studied as an example of a spontaneous rumor and how the "clues" remained remarkably consistent and spread so fast. So as I said above, believe what you want. But almost 30 years later people are still fascinated with it and lectures such as Joel Glazier who provides an afterward in the book, are still given on it at Beatles conventions and colleges. The author does list many of the major clues and evaluates them systematically and some like the spoken ones on Revolution #9 and I'm So Tired are hard to refute. And after reading the book and thinking about it all these years later, I don't think it can all be dismissed as some might think. Do I think as every asks that Paul is Dead? After all we've seen in the past few decades (and with the Kennedy 's deaths and John Lennon's assassination) anything is possible. But yes, as I've always thought there were some "clues" there. Who put them there, we may never know, but I suspect they were put there for a purpose that few have still yet understood. It all fits in with my theory on what The Beatles have been trying to tell us all along.
Anyway, you can read the books and see for yourself. I would recommend Reeve's book (published by Popular Culture, Ink) or for more on the clues try The Walrus was Paul by Gary Patterson (published by Simon & Shuster). Both of these books are available from Beatlemania Shoppe in T.O.
ONE FINAL NOTE ON PAUL IS DEAD:
From the Official Beatles fanzine, the Beatles Book Monthly, Feb., 1967:
Stories about the Beatles are always flying around Fleet Street. The seventh of January was very icy, with dangerous conditions on the MI motorway, linking London with the Midlands, and towards the end of the day, a rumor swept London that Paul McCartney had been killed in a car crash on the MI. But, of course, there was absolutely no truth in it at all, as the Beatles' Press Officer found out when he telephoned Paul's St. John's Wood home and was answered by Paul himself who had been home all day with black Mini Cooper safely locked up in the garage.
The Ottawa Beatles Site