The rumor goes back to the late 1960s, and centered in part on the cover of Abbey Road: Was the Beatles’ Paul McCartney actually killed in a 1966 car crash and replaced by a look alike?
That 1969 album found McCartney walking barefoot across the street adjacent to the Fab Four’s recording studio — with a somber-looking John Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison each wearing shoes. Somehow, this was interpreted as a funeral procession, and became another bit of grist for the rumor mill.
As you can imagine, all of this speculation was a strange experience for Paul McCartney.
“It was a little difficult when I was, like, dead on the Abbey Road cover,” McCartney tells Shadoe Davis and Nesta Matthews in this clip. “People would come up to me, and keep prodding me — going, you know: ‘Is this an android?’ I’d say: ‘No, it’s me. Remember me?’”
Even before the appearance of Abbey Road, other so-called clues had already been mentioned in a student newspaper at Drake University in Iowa, including backward messages found on the Beatles 1968 self-titled White Album and imagery from 1967′s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
By October of 1969, the Detroit-based WKNR radio station had devoted a lengthy broadcast to the rumors, and the idea became lodged in the public consciousness.
“Those were the days when everyone looked for clues in everything the Beatles did,” McCartney says. “We weren’t planting the clues. They were made up. This one guy said I had bare feet, and that’s a Mafia sign that he’s dead. I said: ‘Guys, it was actually a very hot day, and I arrived at the photo session with sandals on — and I kicked them off, just for a few shots.’ Of course, those are the shots they used. What are you going to do?”