Just a short preface to a long article:
If this subject bores you, if you already have all the answers, if you're tired of it, hit "n". No excuses, now. You've been warned.
And if anyone should wish to respond, please do not let me catch you quoting this post in full only to add your one-liner. I promise I'll show up at your door, force a set of headphones over your protesting ears and make you listen to the complete canon of Sinatra...backwards. :-)
In article <940124.85585.JEROME211@delphi.com> JEROME211@delphi.com most kindly writes:
>Rolling Stone, Nov 15, 1969, makes reference to a young man
>who approached them (the mag) in the fall of '68 (the previous
>with a list of clues suggesting Paul's "death." RS rejected
>the evidence, but mentioned it to show that the rumor had been
>around longer than people thought.
Thanks for the reference to this article.
But I checked it and could not find a mention of any young man who approached Rolling Stone with "clues" in *1968*. This is the unattributed article on page 6 of RS, 15 November 1969, titled "One and one and one is three?", datelined Detroit. I also scanned cover articles dealing with the Apple Corps shakeup and several reviews of the recently released "Abbey Road" (which were not very laudable, curiously) but could find no reference to any person coming to RS with clues before these "clues" were generally revealed to an anxious American populace in Fall 1969. If I've somehow missed the reference, kindly point me in its direction.
This RS article on the hoax is fairly interesting as it stands, corroborating what we already know of Fred LaBour (University of Michigan), whose student article helped launch the American version of the myth; it also mentions various disc jockeys (E. Alvin Davis of KLEO, Wichita; Roby Yonge, WABC) who spread it further. Oddly, no mention of Russ Gibb of WKNR, Detroit, whose show was at least as influential as LaBour's article, and whom LaBour cited as his own influence.
One tidbit, which I intend to follow up: RS carries only the second reference I've seen to the Northern Star (student newspaper at Illinois University) and its publication of an article dealing with the clues in September 1969. My library carries a nice collection of alternative newspapers in microfilm, but not this one. I'm hoping a call to the university tomorrow will tell me if they've archived this piece somewhere; it could be a (if not *the*) missing link. Or perhaps just a spurious reference....
Other than this, I still see no evidence of "clues" existing or being discussed before the September 1969 reference. The press conference you mention from May 1967, intended by Paul to address "distortions" in the media, may have only been aimed at pop music papers and the like in Britain. If the "Paul's death" question arose, it seems to have been a uniquely protohistoric version of the myth. And from available index sources in the mainstream (to wit, "establishment") press, it did not intrude upon the sanctity of major newspapers.
This mainstream press awoke, it appears, only after a newlyfashioned version of the myth burst forth from America, some two years later (New York Times, 22 October 1969; Times of London, 21 October 1969; Los Angeles Times, 22 October 1969). The L.A. Times, whose story came to them via the Washington Post, adds some new details, attributing the start of this hoax to a student at Ohio Wesleyan University, one John Sumner, who was supposed to have written a thesis on the subject. A quick check of Dissertation Abstracts International and Masters Abstracts shows no such topic by anyone named John Sumner, though it could have been just an undergraduate research paper, I suppose, which would not have rendered it valuable enough for inclusion into the rosters of posterity.
An unnamed spokesman for the Beatles, speaking to the N.Y. Times, did say that the hoax was "a load of old rubbish", and that they were "mystified by the rash of calls which started last Friday"---that would have been 17 October 1969, five days after Russ Gibbs' Detroit broadcast and three days after Fred LaBour's fanciful article of fabricated "clues" appeared in the U. of Michigan paper. If Apple spokesmen, being British, were familiar with an earlier permutation of the hoax---one which simply claimed that Paul had died in a car crash in 1966---they might have indeed recognized the Yank version as "old rubbish", but I suspect what mystified them was the sudden appearance of heretofore unmentioned clues: "They say that if you play some of the songs at a slower speed or in reverse, you can actually hear Paul say, 'I am dead'...I don't know, I've never tried it", said the anonymous spokesman from Apple (N.Y. Times, p. 8).
It's hard to say, but with this information it would very much seem that the myth had two forms. One was the British: simply that Paul had died mysteriously in 1966 and been replaced by a double. This form would have been in vogue from late 1966 until Fall 1969. At that point the American form came to fruition: built upon the original myth or developed entirely independently, it provided a host of "clues" and proofs that the Fabs were trying to *communicate* this fact to their populace. Such proofs do not seem to have been present in the earlier British version.
Do the two forms of the myth ever overlap? Perhaps....
Most intriguing is the article already mentioned in a previous post, written by J. Marks (note spelling) for the New York Times on 2 November 1969. Marks had apparently been a close companion (just good friends, I'm sure) of Linda Eastman, as she was known then. Marks and Eastman, working on a book, went "star-hopping", has he termed it, in London during Fall 1967, and he quotes Ms. Eastman as complaining that she'd likely never get close to McCartney "because of Jane Asher".
At a party given by Beatles' hangers-on, The Fool (who designed the Apple Boutique), an unnamed "friend of the Beatles" brought up the curious topic that "Paul was killed last year" (1966), and continued to lampoon what seemed to have been an oftrepeated rumor of Paul's untimely demise---assuring Ms. Eastman that Jane would eventually tire of Paul's "double" and Linda could have a go. At the time, though offered jocularly, it seems clear that no "clues" were suggested---no entreaties to play records backwards, look for badges or graves made of flowers or Scandinavian (or Greek or Eskimo) symbols of death. It was, in 1967, just an odd bit of hearsay, and no more developed than that. But it was obviously a joke---its origins clouded in mystery but not, by any account, attributable to the Beatles themselves.
What is worth noting here is that, at least in Fall 1967, several parallels existed to the later American myth: Paul's "death", his "double", and the assumption that his enamorata would eventually be removed from the scene as a result of the switch. (Marks mentioned that he knew it was all balderdash, but was nevertheless brought up short when Paul and Jane *did* split, and Linda took up with Paul shortly thereafter).
No other details emerge---no concordances other than this. If American mythmakers were conversant in the British myth, they gave no sign. Perhaps it acted as the catalyst for later embellishment. Perhaps it was merely an accident of mythologizing.
Author Marks was inspired to wax rhapsodic over the new American permutation of the hoax because of its complexity and its symbolic fascination for someone interested in death and resurrection myths. If you don't think this has validity within the genre of pop music, consider Elvis sightings, or the fascination with pop stars whose early deaths propel them into musical stratospheres.
Another DJ friend of Marks suggests, in fact, that an ardent desire among fans to perpetuate the hoax was due to a need for more "feedback" than mere "impersonal recorded material"--- especially from a monumental group who no longer toured and could not be easily reached: "...kids are inclined to create a response so that it seems as if the stars are sending them messages which, of course, they are not actually sending" (Marks, NY Times, 2 Nov '69, p. 36). Ultimately, it matters little if the "clues" are real; the wish for connectivity overrides reality.
And once the "clues" have been created, they provide the substance of their own veracity! The more there are (whether or not they're rooted in provable fact), the more they persuade the mind that they were intentional. The fact that "clues" are entirely coincidental or unprovable no longer registers; it's their sheer multitude that really counts...as I have heard many people proclaim nowadays (viz., "There are just too many for it to *not* be real").
Several alternative press accounts poked fun at the growing American hoax. The Los Angeles Free Press (31 October 1969) reviewed LaBour's article at great length, revealing some of his more absurdist touches (thanking "George Martin's illegitimate daughter, Marian" for her help, or suggesting that Paul was really homosexual, a fact revealed in "Yellow Submarine"). John Gray's underground paper Big Fat Magazine actually interviews LaBour firsthand to unveil the frivolity; LaBour mentions he originally intended to call the "Paul" lookalike Glen Campbell instead of William "but I decided that would be a little too obvious" (Big Fat Magazine, February 1970).
>From LaBour, many of the excessively familiar "clues" originate,
borne ripely from his own mind: the "OPD" badge (which he didn't know actually read "OPP"), the car-crash references in Beatles songs, the Paul look-alike contest. He admitted that he was partly inspired to make up these clues after hearing Russ Gibb do the same on his previous Sunday's radio show; but LaBour's article, being in print, apparently carried a national (and eventually international) wallop of its own.
LaBour didn't mention being cognizant of any British permutation of the myth. He needn't have been, if his own inspiration came from Gibb. Gibb, in turn, is said to have been inspired by an account of the myth in an underground newspaper, according to a source who knew him and was present that day in-studio. Was this "underground newspaper" actually the Northern Star campus-paper account? Who was that author? Did he know of the rudimentary British version of the myth? Or was the source yet a different underground paper...or a scrap of the old British myth, now rewoven from new cloth?
As for other "underground" papers in the U.S.:
John Wolfe, of Philadelphia's Distant Drummer Magazine, decided to explore hidden meanings in another Beatles song: he plumbs the depths of "Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite" and proves, with tongue firmly in cheek, that "they've fixed their hole in the ocean and some are there already and we must not make any more false moves. The prophets are coming and so too the deep revolutions of the soul. Or something like that." (Distant Drummer, 20 November 1969, p. 7).
And some dear lady whose byline is merely "Susan" or perhaps "Poppy" (which is how she signs off) writes about the Fabs experience a "bummer in Apple Land", not the least of which is the Paul-Is-Dead hoax: "...it becomes a complete mind blower, when you stop to think how many things they are involved in, and how extensive their trip is. They are like super electric octpii [sic], that becomes involved with everything that exists---closed fragments of many souls held together by being together" (Daily Planet/Miami Free Press, 24 November 1969). My, how prose standards have changed since the Golden Era! :-)
Back to that troubling car crash, the alleged start of it all:
>>Paul did, as we know, suffer a motorcycle accident in May 1966....
And was corrected:
>Actually, the moped accident happened at least as early as March, when
>the "butcher" photos were taken. Paul's broken tooth can be seen in
The accident occurred even earlier, in February 1966, when Paul was motoring over icy roads near Liverpool, on a visit to his dad, and lost his balance. The broken tooth is visible in the unretouched "butcher cover" photos (actually taken to promote "Paperback Writer"/"Rain") but was retouched for the official release...and then of course the cover was rendered unusable by appalled industry representatives, who determined that the use of this photo for the next Beatles' album was in poor taste.
Nevertheless, word of it---even visual proof of it---got out to a significant number of viewers. And it added to a growing sense of disorientation among fans and record mavens alike, who were beginning to feel that the Beatles weren't all there. An anonymous industry source, quoted in an American music paper in 1966, mentions mail received from fans "...and all have been asking the same questions--'what is happening to the Beatles?' 'Why are they becoming so weird?' Personally, I think the Beatles are now so far from their public that they don't even know what their public wants anymore" (KRLA Beat, 2 July 1966, p. 3).
Interesting thought. It had nothing at all to do with Paul's moped crash, really, or Tara Browne's crack-up and death in late 1966 in London. And by this time it goes virtually without saying that the Fabs themselves can't be tied to its genesis, not by direct or indirect admission, evidence circumstantial or otherwise, testimony from friends, associates, wives, lovers, or other notables. Talk about conspiracy theories!
Imagine the trouble they'd have had, silencing all those who might know of their culpability, destroying all taped chatter revealing their involvement, shredding all documents proving it was their idea from the beginning, an in-joke of monumental proportions!
The Fabs were clever boys...but not *that* clever. They had enough trouble battling dunderheads like Gary Allen, writing for American Opinion in February 1969, whose conspiracy theory involved the communistic and Marxist messages in songs like "Back In the USSR" and "Revolution".
The legend of Paul's "death" came from another source entirely. First in its British and then American embodiment, it was less a prank than a vain attempt to mythologize the ungovernable, the incomprehensible; to explain (as ancient societies used to do with myth) the mysteries of the cosmos. Only here the cosmos was represented by the world the Beatles had given us in their music, up to that moment. Henceforward, the Boys were no longer boys, no longer moptops. Their universe was changing, and their music reflected it, often eerily (the forthcoming "Tomorrow Never Knows" was its clearest representation).
They even hinted to us that it was to be. Press reports in 1966 commented that the Beatles wanted an LP with songs that ran into each other, with no boundaries, but their label vetoed it; John revealed that their next album would be "very different" (and "Revolver" certainly was!) John said curiously intemperate things about religion and war, or so it seemed. Solo projects were mentioned. Plans for touring in '66 remained up in the air until nearly spring, and then no mention was made of what dates they'd play the next year. Fans had to wait overlong for single and LP releases. The finely-tuned pop machine was changing its rhythm, and the implicit transformation of its components sent a foreshock through those who thought they knew all the Beatles had to offer...and who could not find comfort (or even clues) in the New Direction.
Musically, one could argue, there was even *more* artistic substance in the mix...but the shrill inner scream of mania was muffled by the artists' burgeoning maturity. And for some, that was a loss. What could fans do but create some artificial bond between themselves and their idols---men who now eschewed the very idea of even *being* idols? How best to grasp that loosening lifeline, to imitate that gentle womblike sheltering of erstwhile innocence? It's all in the game, of course---the furtive labyrinth of hidden messages and intimations, whose discovery and divination would prove its player's worth.
J. Marks noted rather helplessly the inevitable attraction of such a game, the "funk death which symbolizes the peak of the hallucinogenic voyage". The death-hoax becomes its own drug, so much safer than what was out there on the streets (and still is! :-) And arguably it's as great a high, as heady an intoxicant.
Truth is the victim----or whatever passes for truth these days, hard as it is to pin down after so many years and so much distance. But "nothing is real", as the Bard sang to us, all those years ago.
Not even death.
"Screaming girls, struggling policemen, a constable's helmet rolling on the floor. It's those Beatles again." -- saki (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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