Paul Is Dead

09 July 2008

Paul Is Dead

I must be getting old. This morning we drove fifty short miles north up Interstate 25 from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, never stepping over fifty-five miles per hour. At home if I was following a caravan going at that slow a speed I would be making the air turn blue. But today driving slowly seemed the right thing to do.

We watched the dry landscape turn a little greener as the cruise control drove us towards Santa Fe, one of the stops on this journey that I've really been looking forward to. By midday we had checked in to the campground where we'll be spending the next two nights. It also doubles as an over-fifty's community so I think I'll feel right at home. Our next-door neighbor, the owner of a rusty but otherwise beautiful sixties Lincoln Continental has lived on the park for the last eighteen years, spending the summers in New Mexico and the winters in southern California where he house-sits for friends.

The number two bus into downtown Santa Fe runs from right outside the campground and costs only two Dollars, so we took the short ride into town for a sun-filled tourist excursion. As our new neighbor had explained, most of the everyday essential shops and businesses have moved out of town in the last ten years to be replaced by galleries, gift shops and cafes. Native American crafts people sit in the shade with their jewellery spread out on blankets in-front of them. Santa Fe has masses of old world charm.

One of the many galleries sold an amazing array of New Mexican antiques and original prints of photographs taken of Native Americans between 1880 and 1930 alongside tourist kitsch.

This part of the world is a fascinating mixture of cultures, particularly the mixture of Catholicism with Native American and Mexican traditions. One of the Mexican festivals that has inspired some of the strangest articles to buy is the The Day of the Dead. According to Wikipedia:

The Day of the Dead (El Día de los Muertos in Spanish) is a holiday celebrated mainly in Mexico and by people of Mexican heritage (and others) living in the United States and Canada. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and relatives who have died. Scholars trace the origins of the modern holiday to indigenous observances dating back thousands of years, and to an Aztec festival dedicated to a goddess called Mictecacihuatl (known in English as "The Lady of the Dead").

The Day of the Dead ornaments for sale ranged from the bizarre to the macabre, but all feature skeletons in the form of living people doing everyday things. Over the last few years their makers have turned to turning bands into skeletons too and I was torn between buying a set of skeletons of The Rolling Bones and The Beatles. $105 later and The Beatles were mine, a fine addition to my Beatles figure collection.

Paul Is Dead

When I sat down tonight to write about The Day of the Dead and my new Day of the Dead Beatles, Google turned up something that seemed to fit perfectly, the urban myth (apparently) that in 1966 Paul McCartney was killed in a car accident and replaced with no less than look-a-like and sound-a-like William Shears Campbell (Billy Shears). The evidence goes like this:

  • "He didn't notice that the lights had changed" ("A Day in the Life")
  • A car crash sound is heard in "Revolution 9" and "A Day in the Life".
  • He was pronounced dead on a "Wednesday morning at 5 o'clock as the day begins" ("She's Leaving Home")
  • Nobody found out this because the news was withheld: "Wednesday morning papers didn't come" ("Lady Madonna").

The album cover of the Abbey Road album also supposedly depicts a funeral procession with John Lennon dressed all in white like a clergyman, Ringo Starr in a black suit as an undertaker and George Harrison as denim-clad gravedigger. McCartney himself wore a suit but no shoes and walked out of step with the other Beatles.

I love urban myths, particularly those that have grown up with so much imagination poured into them.

As we wandered into the beautifully ornate cathedral in Santa Fe and stared up at the stained glass windows and depictions of Christ, I felt almost embarrassed to have always believed that He is the biggest urban myth of all.

By Andy Clarke

Your messages

  • Dan
  • July 9th 2008

If you like the myth (fact?) of Paul being dead checkout this book, The Walrus Was Paul: The Great Beatle Death Clues ($11 on Amazon) its great.  When I was a kid I was infatuated with all the clues and there are so many more than you listed.

The death of Paul wasn’t a concept album but a concept that spaned multiple albums.

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