Could the 'Paul McCartney is dead' theory be true?

Arguably the most influential band in music history, The Beatles just couldn’t Let It Be when it came to releasing hit after hit.

Today, 62 years after the group first formed, their music continues to play an influential role in popular culture.

But according to an urban legend, The Beatles as we know them ended 56 years ago when Paul McCartney supposedly died in a car accident.

According to the "Paul is dead" conspiracy, the "real" Paul McCartney died on November 9, 1966 and was replaced with a lookalike named Billy Shears.

Supposedly Shears has been secretly performing in McCartney’s place ever since. But is the theory plausible?

Meet The Beatles album cover
It is said that playing The Beatles' 'Revolution 9' backwards reveals the hidden lyric "turn me on dead man". Source: Getty Images

Hidden messages were deliberate, expert says

Futurist and Philosopher Dr Richard Hames told Yahoo News’ Conspiracies Unpacked that there is an overwhelming amount of symbolism associated with the theory – and much of it is intentional.

“There’s so much that leads us to believe that perhaps he died,” Dr Hames said.

According to believers, the song I'm So Tired backwards allegedly contains a hidden message that says “Paul is dead man, miss him, miss him, miss him”.

“In Sgt. Pepper’s, if you look at Paul, he is wearing a different kind of costume and he’s got a badge that says O.P.D, which is to many conspiracy theorists ‘Officially Pronounced Dead’,” Dr Hames continued.

“On the Let It Be album cover, Paul is looking straight at the audience from a red background while the others are looking to the side.”

Sgt Pepper album photo with enhanced inset of Paul McCartney's O.P.D badge
John Lennon once told a radio host that the symbolism was put into music and albums "for a laugh, to give all those Beatles nuts something to do" but conspiracy theorists aren't buying it. Source: Michael Cooper, Parlophone

“Or more specifically you can go to the Abbey Road album cover where they all seem to be part of a funeral procession and Paul is the only one with bare feet, cigarette pointing down, which would indicate that he is dead.”

But could this so-called hint have been an accidental oversight? Dr Hames doesn’t think so.

“Their producer George Martin was an absolute master of techniques like that. I think they were deliberately playing with those ideas,” he said.

'Paul is dead': Fact or fanfare?

So, was there a reason to cover up Paul McCartney’s supposed death? Dr Hames says yes.

“Think of the money, the money that would be lost if The Beatles just stopped if one of their members had died. Absolutely you'd want to cover that up,” he said.

But why are fans so convinced that a man named Billy Shears has been posing as Paul for 56 years? Dr Hames points to a suspicious oversight in a lookalike competition that may have fuelled the rumour.

“William Shears won a lookalike competition in Canada and the results of the competition were never announced,” he said.

But, overall, Dr Hames concluded that while the evidence is compelling, it's unlikely that the conspiracy theory is true.

“When you look at Paul as a whole picture, not just his looks but his accent, his talent, sense of humour and so on, it’s not very plausible,” he said.

Regardless, the "Paul is dead" theory continues to gain momentum in the present day, and it seems as though fans won’t Come Together on a definitive conclusion any time soon.

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