One of the more tantalizing and persistent myths in rock lore contends that “ Paul is dead”—that Paul McCartney died in a 1966 car accident and was secretly replaced with a lookalike. There are countless sites and rambling YouTube videos attempting to support this claim—based not just on the well-known middle-school myths about the cover of Abbey Road but on arcane evidence surfaced from the depths of pop-culture obscurity. Delve even deeper into the rabbit hole, and you’ll stumble upon an even wilder question: What if the Beatles never really existed at all?
This is the exact claim made by the authors of The Beatles Never Existed: That the most successful, influential and well-documented band in the history of recorded music was actually a rotating cast of actors churning out records and live performances to feed the public’s inexhaustible appetite.
There are several competing (and sometimes contrasting) theories and a bounty of “evidence.” But first, a bit of context.
Beatlemania, Hormones and the Artifice of Boy Bands
The Sixties were a fucking crazy time to be a teenager, and even crazier if you were one of (allegedly) four specific Liverpudlians.
The Beatles made One Direction fandom look like the crowd at a Norah Jones concert. We’ve all seen the newsreel montage: Early appearances involved fainting, bewildered police, crushed barricades and so, so, so much screaming. Their historic appearance on Ed Sullivan drew an estimated 73 million viewers, almost forty percent of America’s population at the time. Their Shea Stadium appearance literally invented arena rock.
As Beatlemania reached stratospheric proportions, so did the cash flow. Capitol Records struggled to get “I Want To Hold Your Hand” 45s pressed fast enough — they sold millions within days. During their two-week “invasion” of the States, businesses were selling novelties, posters, magazines, Beatles wigs and clothing by the metric shit ton. This seems passé in the hyper-accelerated reality of One Directioners, but this kind of pandemonium had not happened before.
In Washington, their management hired wig-wearing decoy Beatles (!!) just so they could hit the stage without being devoured. One teenage girl managed to sneak up behind Ringo and snip a lock of his hair. On a train back to New York City, they were switched to a different platform to juke the horde of screaming girls.
Demand was so abundant that they spawned an entire cottage industry. “Boy Bands” like the Monkees and the Osmonds were bands as much as they were memorabilia salesmen.
The very concept of the Boy Band is artifice. A handpicked group of handsome, talented young men work closely with managers, producers and marketers to create a weaponized force that siphons money from teenage girls. You have archetypes— the Baby, the Wild Card, the Weirdly Older One, etc. You have the band’s impending (if not planned) dissolution and at least one member’s transition to a solo career. Menudo gave us Ricky Martin. N*SYNC gave us Justin Timberlake. One Direction will obviously give us Harry Styles, if not Zayn Malik (too soon?)
It’s a formula that has barely changed in the last 50 years and it works like a goddamned charm.
So... Why Multiples?
One theory offered by a forum poster:
If there was ever a case for multiples; it’s The Beatles.
There are a number of very likely reasons for the use of multiples in regards to celebrities, world leaders, etc.
One is so that the prominent figure or group can keep up with the demands of their grueling schedules. How else could one person do all the touring, performing, interviews, photo shoots, recording, filming, public speaking, writing, etc. that they do without taking any time off for sickness or fatigue?
It’s true that the Beatles maintained a rapacious schedule of touring and recording. Their discography shows a staggering 27 studio albums released in a period of 8 years. Granted, these weren’t 27 separate album sessions—these songs were often recycled into different packages for different countries. But even today, that’s remarkable output. I think even Gucci Mane would admire it.
So could it be that the Beatles—meaning the amalgam of managers, record executives, producers, engineers and the Multiple Beatles—required body doubles? It would sure help with hellish schedules—not to mention safety. Even Saddam Hussein was though to employ body doubles:
Intelligence officials have long suspected that the Iraqi president makes ample use of body-doubles — an idea reinforced two weeks ago when a German television news program asked a forensic pathologist to examine hundreds of archived photographs and video stills of the Iraqi leader. [He] determined that there are at least three Saddam Hussein lookalikes in rotation, making public appearances, firing rifles, smoking cigars, waving and strutting. (The doubles rarely speak, it was suggested, because Mr. Hussein has an inimitable lisp.)
The (Literally) Physical Evidence
The Beatles Never Existed is currently hamstrung (likely due to layoffs at Geocities HQ), but the forum is packed with material. Pretty much all the evidence hinges on completely unscientific facial analysis from old and poorly-reproduced photographs. But this is wild speculation! We’re having fun, aren’t we?
There are literally hundreds of these woodshed photo analyses, so here are a choice few for each member. First up is Paul, who is probably dead and definitely not making certified bangers with Rihanna and Kanye.
The Italian WIRED Story
In August 2009, the Italian edition of WIRED ran a piece about facial analysis in the Mutiple Paul Theory.You can find scans here. Here’s some interesting but unsubstatiated analysis:
One of the first noted differences was the frontal jaw curvature . . . The differences found in the mandibular curve between the two sets of photos showed a stark discrepancy of over six per cent, well beyond the margin of error. I n photos of the real Paul taken before late 1966, each side of Paul’s jaw was composed of two curves, whereas photos of the replacement Paul taken since 1967 demonstrated his face to be comprised of only a single curve. Carlesi pointed out that the width of the line that separated the original Paul’s lips was much different than that of the replacement Paul. The identifiable point at which the nose protruded from the face was also different. The dental features of the original Paul McCartney were also quite notably different compared to those of the replacement Paul.
The analysis also found wildly bizarre characteristics of the ears — this consistent with the well-known phenomenon of photographic tampering carried out on many of the photos dated before late 1966, which were found to have been altered to make the facial features of the replacement Paul appear more like those of the original Paul. Doctor Carlesi was most amazed with the differences in the shape of the hard palate, which is unalterable without significant plastic surgery. Any surgery that would alter the hard palate shape would have necessitated approximately a year or more of recovery time.
What does Heather Mills Know?
In 2007, Heather Mills gave an interview during her ongoing divorce from “Paul” McCartney to Access Hollywood. Here’s that clip with lots of needless effects:
Some choice quotes:
“When I left Paul I said, ‘ I don’t want a penny. Just protect me because people think you’re perfect but you’re not, you’re human like everybody else. You know why I’ve left you. Protect me and I will say nothing.’”
“I have a box of evidence that is going to a certain person should anything happen to me”
“This evidence is against a certain party that behaved in a terrible way and I don’t ever want the evidence to have to go out but if I’m going to be portrayed as this horrific person for my daughter to grow up...”
“This evidence is there for her to make up her mind when she’s older.”
“Knowing what you know now about Paul, would you have married him in the first place?” Billy asked.
“Never,” Heather said firmly.
In an interview with Larry King:
MILLS: [I] Married a legend and there’s a machine behind [him]. I can’t really go into it. But, you know, you have to read between the lines. You know, there’s a whole machine going on to create this negativity in Britain toward me.
KING: Caused by Paul?
MILLS: Well, I can’t go into it. It’s like, you know — I just don’t want to speak badly about Paul, you know?
I still love him and he’s the father of my child. And, you know, there’s things go on. Things are not what you see...
So either Heather Mills is talking about an entrenched PR machine behind a very wealthy man, or a shocking coverup. Perhaps Mills discovered that the man she married is not who she thought he was. That this man has also many ‘’doubles’’ and that she lived with these doubles, intimately and unknowingly, for a certain period of time. Imagine!
So Where Does This Leave Us?
It only goes deeper, folks. I wanted to write this in an evening and spent four days reading about mind control, actual CLONES, something crazy called Tavistock (located just across from Abbey Road studios!) and, inevitably, the Illuminati.
It’s not surprising that one of the most influential, well-photographed, written-about and obsessed-over bands would spawn a loose galaxy of conspiracies and alternate histories.
But maybe, somewhere in all those hundreds of millions of records and dollars, people in the Beatles’ camp figured a way to maximize profits and meet all recording, performance and press obligations without burning out 4 bewildered lads. Maybe they exploited America’s pre-Internet innocence. Social media and high-definition video would make this stunt impossible today. But McCartney alone is said to be worth $660 million. You can probably keep a lot of people quiet with that kinda dough. (Paul — we can make this story disappear. Let’s talk.)
Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, we’re told, are the only Beatles still breathing. But how can we be one hundred percent sure?