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The Beatles were met with an unbelievable amount of popularity over the course of their careers. By 1966 the band had released 17 albums, and were hard at work on their legendary 1969 album Abbey Road. Unfortunately, their popularity wasn’t the only thing being talked about at the time, as rumours began swirling about one of their founding members, Paul McCartney, had died.
McCartney was front and centre of all the promotion the band did alongside his pal John Lennon.
But during the midst of the team’s various albums and recording sessions, fans began believing that McCartney had been replaced by someone else.
The conspiracy theory went that McCartney had died in a car crash on the M1 motorway on November 9, 1966, and was replaced by a lookalike.
Even more bizarre was the theory that the rest of the band actually held a McCartney lookalike competition to find the next Paul.
These claims were later “backed up” by looking at the cover of Abbey Road, which depicted the band walking across the iconic zebra crossing.
In the photo, McCartney isn’t wearing shoes, which theorists took to symbolise that he was actually dead.
Furthermore, Lennon was wearing an all-white suit, which conspirators took to mean he was a priest, leading a funeral procession.
In 1974 McCartney spoke out about when he heard the rumour that he had died in 1966.
Speaking to Rolling Stone at the time, McCartney said: “Someone from the office rang me up and said: ‘Look, Paul, you’re dead.’ And I said, ‘Oh, I don’t agree with that.’
“They said: ‘Look, what are you going to do about it? It’s a big thing breaking in America. You’re dead.’
“And so I said, leave it, just let them say it. It’ll probably be the best publicity we’ve ever had.”
He added: “I won’t have to do a thing except stay alive. So I managed to stay alive through it.”
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McCartney was the only one joking about the situation, though, as Lennon was quite furious about the ordeal.
Lennon called a Detroit radio station who was discussing the rumour at the time and explained how ridiculous he thought the idea was.
Lennon said: “It’s the most stupid rumour I’ve ever heard. It sounds like the same guy who blew up my Christ remark.”
The Imagine singer then denied further claims that he had referenced the death of McCartney in codes hidden backwards in his music.
Lennon continued: “I don’t know what Beatles records sound like backwards, I never play them backwards.”
He then spoke about the Abbey Road cover conspiracy, saying: “They said I was wearing a white religious suit. I mean, did Humphrey Bogart wear a white religious suit? All I’ve got is a nice Humphrey Bogart suit.”
Further theories surrounding McCartney’s “death” suggested lyrics in Strawberry Fields Forever included “I buried Paul”.
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