When Paul McCartney addressed the ‘Paul Is Dead’ rumours

The magnitude of Beatlemania meant that The Beatles were always subject to gossip and speculation from the masses. From reunion theories to relationship rumours, they were a mainstay in the press cycle but there was one theory that topped the rest for absurdity.

Beginning in the late 1960s, rumours began to circulate around bassist and songwriter Paul McCartney. Rather than focusing on his musicianship or even his personal life, speculation surrounded his very existence. A number of so-called clues – fans thought the OPD badge McCartney wore for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club meant “officially pronounced dead”, for example – had somehow led audiences to conclude that the bassist had died.

Really, McCartney had retreated to a farm in Scotland with his wife and their two children. When Life Magazine took a trip to his home, McCartney spoke with them about the rumours and even hinted at the future, or lack thereof, of The Beatles.

“It is all bloody stupid,” he said of the speculation surrounding his death. The songwriter went on to explain each of the instances that had contributed to the theory. He recalled how he picked up the OPD badge in Canada, guessing that it might stand for the Ontario Police Department.

In another image, he was wearing a black flower while his bandmates wore red “because they had ran out of red ones.” “It is John, not me, dressed in black on the cover and inside of Magical Mystery Tour. On Abbey Road, we were wearing our ordinary clothes. I was walking barefoot because it was a hot day. The Volkswagon just happened to be parked there,” he continued to explain.

McCartney went on to suggest that the rumour may have spawned from his absence in the press at the time. “I have done enough press for a lifetime,” he declared, “I don’t have anything to say these days. I am happy to be with my family, and I will work when I work. I was switched on for ten years, and I never switched off. Now, I am switching off whenever I can. I would rather be a little less famous these days.”

Far from the outrageous and contrived rumours that were surrounding him, McCartney was simply taking time out to focus on his family. “The people who are making up these rumours should look to themselves a little more. There is not enough time in life. They should worry about themselves instead of worrying whether I am dead or not,” he concluded.

Amidst his rebuttals of the theory, McCartney also hinted at the non-existent future of The Beatles, implying that it was partially due to the unrelenting nature of the press: “We make good music and we want to go on making good music. But the Beatle thing is over. It has been exploded, partly by what we have done, and partly by other people.” McCartney may not have been dead, but The Beatles were soon-to-be.

Over five decades later, the conspiracy may have quelled in popularity but it still remains one of the most absurd moments in popular culture, one that is still continually referenced today. Despite his attempted insistence on a quiet farm life, McCartney has remained in the press ever since.

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