Episode Nine: Paul is Dead

Definately one of the most famous album covers in Rock and Roll history, but did you know that it almost didn’t happen? The original title of the 1969 Beatles album was Everest and the cover photo would’ve been the Beatles in the Himalayas. Instead what we got was Abbey Road with the fab four strolling across a crosswalk in front of the Abbey Road studios where they recorded the album. Lots of theories surrounded the album cover. Many had to do with the rumor that Paul McCartney had died several years before and been replaced by a lookalike. The license plate on the VW in the background is 281F which was translated to “28 if” meaning that Paul would be 28 if he were alive (he was actually 27 at the time). The same theorists that came up with this interpreted that John Lennon represented Jesus with his white suit, long hair and beard; Ringo Starr represented the undertaker in his black suit; Paul represented the dead man with his bare feet, eyes closed, and cigarette; George Harrison represented the gravedigger with his work clothes. An interesting theory, but Paul McCartney is alive and well. There’s a man standing just behind John’s head on the sidewalk, his name is Paul Cole and he was an American tourist who had no idea what was going on. He later figured it out when he saw the album cover in a store. If you know anything about the history of the Beatles, you know that tension ran pretty high during the last few years. In an effort to tame tempers, the record was produced very different than their previous few albums. What came out of the sessions was a bigger separation between Paul and John as well as George feeling like he was left out of the creative process (Stay tuned for more on George). The two sides of the album (remember it was vinyl) were put together in a way that Paul and John each had their side. Side One was John and Side Two was Paul. Side Two consisted of several short songs meant to be a medley. Still to this day, radio stations play the songs together. If you listen to the album as a CD or digitally, you can hear a pretty abrupt change from the end of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” to “Here Comes the Sun.” Ironically Side Two (remember Paul’s side) started with a George Harrison tune and George and Paul were at odds. Other hits on the album are “Come Together,” “Something” (seriously one of the greatest songs ever!!), “Octopus’ Garden.” Always towards the top of lists of greatest albums, Abbey Road deserves it’s praise. I know it has mine.

Not only has the album cover been parodied, but the entire album was covered by George Benson a month after it’s release. The album cover was parodied by not only Benson (The Other Side of Abbey Road), but The Red Hot Chili Peppers (The Abbey Road EP; yep just socks), Booker T and the M.G.’s covered songs from the album and mimicked the cover (McLemore Avenue; the street outside of Stax Records in Memphis) and even by McCarney himself (Paul is Live; note the VW).

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