I’m a HUGE Paul McCartney fan.  If you follow my “Get-Going Groove of the day” tweets, you probably figured that out.  But I remember when I first read the rumors of Paul McCartney’s early demise. It was in a retrospective in Rolling Stone magazine (here’s some current news from them about the Beatles) when I was just a kid discovering my own musical pulse.  I think I was 11.  And to hear that Beatles fans – no, the entire world thought that Paul had died just prior to the release of the monumental Abbey Road album completely blew me away!paul-is-not-dead

And it all turned out to be a hoax!

One of the first disc jockeys to give the story “credibility” was Roby Yonge of WABC-AM in New York (Now a vehicle for Don Imus… ick). Listen to him talk about the beginning of the roumors here, in an aircheck from Oct. 21, 1969, found on the Musicradio 77 site.

Yonge was later fired on the air because of the commotion he raised talking about this.

The next day, it was picked up by American Contemporary Radio, and it gained even more ground.

Now, of course, if you’re not privy to the hoax, you can read all about it.  It has it’s OWN WIKIPEDIA PAGE! So, If I don’t sit here and recount all the “clues,”  please forgive me. (honestly, you don’t have the time…)

Over the years, there have been magazines published and books written, including “The Walrus Was Paul: The Great Beatle Death Clues” by R. Gary Patterson and “Turn Me On, Dead Man: The Beatles and the ‘Paul Is Dead’ Hoax” by Andru J. Reeve.  And Des Moines, Iowa’s own Drake University was one of the first known publications to print stories about “Paul McCartney dying and being replaced by a look/sound-alike.” Really?

The fact that some people ever took this seriously is astonishing. … but I’ll try NOT to let my “Fanboy” passions get in the way of the reporting.

As Paul McCartney said at the time,

“The people who are making up these rumors 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.”

Yet, even after Paul (or someone alleged to be him) appeared in LIFE magazine and said he was alive, the rumors persisted. And I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a core group of folks who still think seriously about this today.

So, what makes a hoax as effective as the “Paul is Dead” rouse pulled on millions-upon-millions of unsuspecting music fans?

Most successful hoaxes have similarities, so it is important to know what these are so you can spot the hoaxes that are often missed by others. Successful hoaxes usually:

  1. Arrive in the form of a credible source (disc jockeys CAN be credible…) 🙂
  2. Utilize impressive, technical language or industry jargon
  3. Involve a sympathetic person whose life and death hang in the balance – these usually arrive in the form of “victim” hoax
  4. High quality equipment makes otherwise outrageous images appear more realistic (Of course in the 1970’s this was difficult to do, but after the first three criteria were met, seeing Paul barefoot on the Abbey Road album cover was proof enough…   for some.)

So how do you spot a hoax? The type of hoax usually determines what characteristics will be present. However, some general tips for spotting a hoax include:

  1. The information presented is one-sided or the claims can only be validated by one or two people – this includes Alien, UFO or Bigfoot sightings.
  2. There are usually no references to back up claims – this is often used in internet and e-mail related hoaxes. The person or company referenced is often made up, so there is no valid contact information provided.
  3. Appeals to the emotions

Hoaxes and jokes can get out of hand; just ask Paul McCartney’s publicist (what a nightmare THAT had to be).  Could the Beatles’ brand have been damaged by the hoax?  Sure.  But as history shows, album sales SKYROCKETED.  While some conspiracy theorists say it was for THAT purpose the hoax was started; I tend to disregard that P.R. move.  For the Beatles it would have been too risky.

So, on this April Fool’s day, use common sense. Look for the signs that you’re being “put on.” And be prepared to laugh at yourself.

Oh… and your shoe’s untied… 😛

Keep Cooking! (fun and frivolity for everyone)
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef

image credit: http://www.ispauldead.com/