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  • Dave McGuire

Beatle Paul's Complicated Death

The Clarksvillian


If you are looking for a shallow and non-curious music fan, it's an interesting exercise to mention the "Paul is Dead" story. Of course it's a rouse! The real story is about the marketing and creative song writing by the Beatles as they took advantage of the myth. Did they start it? Who knows, but they sure did not let the moment pass without fully taking advantage of it.


Download the Beatles “White Album” and scroll to the second-to-last track, “Revolution 9,” and play it backward. You should hear an otherworldly voice moaning, “Turn me on, dead man.” In 1969, this was enough to convince Beatles fans: Paul is dead.


The story began at 5 am on Wednesday 9 November 1966, McCartney stormed out of a session for the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, got into his Austin Healey car, and subsequently crashed and died.


However, a couple of relevant incidents took place. It was 1965, a day after Christmas, and Paul McCartney visited Liverpool to visit his family when he fell off his moped bike. That accident caused a chip on his front tooth and a busted upper lip. The injuries from the accident left an unfortunate scar behind that can be seen to this day - excuses for the conspiracy minded readers. McCartney would later grow a mustache to hide the scar, and if you look at the picture below, McCartney’s mustache grows unevenly as if as it was trying to grow over the busted lip.


Here’s the photo of Paul after the moped accident:


On January 7, 1967, it appeared McCartney had another accident driving his Mini Cooper on the M1 motorway outside London. It turned out the car was being driven by a Moroccan student named Mohammed Hadjij, and McCartney was not involved.


Belief that Paul McCartney died prematurely began in 1969. The first known reference was placed in an article written by Tim Harper and appearing in the September edition of the Times-Delphic - the newspaper of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.


As strange as it sounded, proponents of this theory found dozens of inexplicable references in the Beatles’ songs and album covers following Paul’s demise that appeared to hint something had happened to the bassist.


Example? In the song "Taxman," George Harrison gave his "advice for those who die," meaning Paul. The entire Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album was filled with Paul-is-dead clues: the remaining Beatles formed a "new" band featuring a fictional member named Billy Shears — the name of Paul's replacement. The album contained John Lennon's "A Day in the Life," which included the lyrics "He blew his mind out in a car" and the recorded phrase "Paul is dead, miss him, miss him," which becomes clear only when the song is played backwards. Lennon also mumbles the phrase, "I buried Paul" at the end of "Strawberry Fields Forever" (in interviews, Lennon said the phrase was actually "cranberry sauce" and denied the existence of any backward messages).


Paul-is-dead followers believe the Beatles accompanied these backward tape loops and veiled references to death with album covers illustrating the loss of their friend. The original cover of 1966's Yesterday and Today album featured the Beatles posed amid raw meat and dismembered doll parts — symbolizing McCartney's gruesome accident. If fans placed a mirror in front of the Sgt. Pepper album cover, the words Lonely Hearts on the drum logo could be read as "1 ONE 1 X HE DIE 1 ONE 1." And of course, there's the Abbey Road cover, on which John, George and Ringo pretended to cross the street acting as a funeral procession. John wore white, like a clergyman. Ringo, the mourner, dressed in black. George donned jeans, like a gravedigger. Paul wore no shoes, as he would’ve appeared in a casket, and walked out of step with the others.


So who was this replacement for Sir Paul?


Paul’s replacement is usually cited as William Campbell. He won a notable Paul McCartney lookalike competition in the early 1960s. Although there are accounts that fellow Liverpudian, Billy Pepper assumed the role. Perhaps Billy Shears became the preferred identity of the "new" Paul?


William Campbell

  • Different accounts of the story have different variations of his name. For instance: William Campbell, William Campbell Shears and William Shears Campbell.

  • He is described as coming from Liverpool or an orphanage from Scotland.

  • William Shears Campbell (Billy Shears): has his own page on Facebook.

  • He describes himself as: “Born into an underprivileged family of 10 in Liverpool on November 15, 1953”

  • When Fred LaBour wrote his famous article McCartney Dead: New Evidence Brought to Light, he freely admits that he made up several “clues”.

  • Billy Shears’ actual name was one of his fabrications. LaBour invented his identity as William Campbell, an orphan from Scotland.

Billy Pepper


Bill Shepherd – aka Billy Pepper was the lead singer with Liverpool band Billy Pepper and the Pepper Pots.


  • They released More Merseymania in 1964, on Allegro, ALL 699.

  • The album includes two Beatles covers, Please Please Me and She Loves You.

  • Bill Sheppard wrote most of the original songs on the More Merseymania album.


Billy Shears


Lastly, Beatles fans were introduced to Paul’s replacement in 1967, on the album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

  • At the end of the title track (side 1, track 1), the song ends with the lines: “So let me introduce to you, the one and only Billy Shears, and Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.

  • The track segues into Ringo singing With a Little Help From My Friends.


This rabbit hole trail is a long and winding road within itself! What do you think? If there is an imposter, Paul McCartney, he’s far more talented than the original Paul McCartney. Isn’t that ironic?

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