Why don't we pretend it happened in the road?

The many lives and deaths of Paul McCartney

At five a.m. on a Wednesday morning in November, 1966, Paul McCartney of the Beatles pop group was driving his car in London.  Stopping at a set of traffic lights, he turned to look at a meter maid.  He didn't see the lights change ahead of him and another vehicle collided with his car.  It burst into flames crowds of people gathered around the site of the accident.  The person inside was badly mangled and hard to identify.  He suffered severe head injuries and his teeth were knocked out, so he couldn't be identified by dental records.  All anyone knew was that he was a young man with dark hair.  Shortly after the crash, a Paul McCartney lookalike contest was held.  The winner was William Campbell, a police officer from Toronto.  Campbell underwent plastic surgery and filled in for McCartney, appearing in all the subsequent Beatles' photo shoots.  Right from the beginning the Beatles began putting clues into their songs to tell their fans of Paul’s death...

The myth of the death of Paul McCartney in a car accident, and its subsequent cover-up, displays many elements common to a clear-cut, hyper-sceptical, near-paranoid belief system, a ‘conspiracy’ impenetrable to contrary facts and ordinary common sense.  The very idea that the Beatles and their management were so mired in their own growing legend that the death of one of their number could be successfully covered-up is as scandalous as it is ridiculous.

      So why did a rumour, which began with one man writing in a college newspaper in the American Midwest, blossom into a world-wide news-story so strong, so impervious to basic common-sense, that the Beatles press officer, Derek Taylor, was forced to issue the following: “Even if he appeared in public just to deny rumours it wouldn't do any good.  If people want to believe he’s dead, then they'll believe it.  The truth is not at all persuasive.”  The rumour showed no signs of abating, not until the man at the centre of the controversy appeared on camera to affirm that he was very much alive and well.  Yet even this was not enough to kill the story.

pixel, beatles

In the Fall of 1966, Paul McCartney took a motoring vacation across Europe.  With his Super-8 movie camera and disguise packed (glasses, moustache, overcoat, hair gel), McCartney set out across France in his brand new Aston Martin DB5.  He’d first hit on the idea of going about in disguise to evade the fans during the filming of A Hard Day’s Night.  He’d enjoyed ‘freaking out’ George Harrison and manager Brian Epstein, play-acting an overbearing press photographer to see if he could trick them (which he could).  At Bordeaux he rendezvoused with Mal Evans, the Beatles road-manager, and together the pair flew to Kenya to go on safari.

      The feeling of freedom was intoxicating to McCartney.  The Beatles had played their last concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco at the end of August.  Jaded from the pressures of near-constant touring and recording, the four were reaching the point of burn-out.  The Beatle image, so carefully cultivated in the preceding years, had reached phantasmagoric heights.  ‘Who needs this?’ they asked each other as another hotel loomed.  While it was certain what they didn’t need — screaming fans, record-burning Jesus bigots, the creepy cripple-stroking and schmoozing of local dignitaries and the press before and after each and every gig — what they did need was more of a puzzle.  That they wanted to continue recording was in no doubt, but they needed somehow to keep doing that and stop being Beatles.  McCartney spoke for the whole group when he said that they were “fed up with being Beatles.”  They “fucking hated” the besuited, compliant mop-top image, feeling it was juvenile and rapidly becoming shop-worn.  Plus, they’d received death threats on that last American tour.  Innocuous noises became gunshots in their imaginations; Lennon later spoke of actually recoiling onstage when he heard a sound he took to be a gun report.

      While Lennon went off to Spain and ended up being killed onscreen in How I Won The War (1966), McCartney watched the wildlife and luxuriated in that most epicene of celebrity pleasures: anonymity.  He made home movies, for once the watched playing at being the watcher.  Being nobody was good fun, normal, novel.  On the return flight from Africa, and with his mind turning again towards work, these experiences formed a new inspiration:

Thus, on a flight between continents, came the genesis of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  Paul quickly convinced the other Beatles of his plan, and they immediately set about spicing up their wardrobes, growing handlebar moustaches, and working deep into the winter nights to reinvent the popular sound with producer George Martin.

      Conceptually, Sgt. Pepper was quintessentially McCartney, the sublimated result of projecting alternate personalities for the greater part of his childhood and adult life.  Always the smoothest one at public relations, he was well-used from his formative years to remoulding himself to accommodate others.  From smoothing over Lennon’s acid comments, to having tea with fans who came to call at his St. John’s Wood house, to charming the press, generally hoisting his thumbs and being the ‘nice-‘n’-approachable’ one.  He was the most versatile musician, the one most open to alternative musical styles, often shaping his songs to tell the stories of invented people: Eleanor Rigby, Lovely Rita, Desmond and Molly, Rose and Valerie screaming from the gallery... While Lennon’s canon formed, for the greater part, a self-centric journal of his own, often very personal, experiences, McCartney excelled at the creation of masks to hide behind, with agile musical pastiches and songs populated by the Lennon-mocked ‘Beatle people’.  This method of creativity earned its share of criticism and accusations of superficiality and tweeness from a media more comfortable with singular, ‘mono-celebric’ egocentricity than with multiplicitous, eclectic diversity; easier to dismiss shape-shifting, multifold qualities in an industry nourished on the myth of Appollonian appetite and excess.  But McCartney, in his own way, was doing exactly the same as Lennon: plumbing the childhood core of his imagination and filtering it through the kaleidoscopic gauze of psychotropic and psychedelic chemicals.  Wearing the faces he kept in a jar by the side of the door…

      The release of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on June 1st 1967 caused, in the words of Ian Macdonald, “nothing less than a cinematic dissolve from one Zeitgeist to another.”  The four young musicians were no longer pop superstars.  They were artists, sages even, musical prophets. Brian Wilson reputedly shelved his intended masterpiece, Smile, so crushed was he by the Beatles’ latest achievement.  Timothy Leary spoke of the Beatles as being “prototypes for a new race of laughing freemen.”  Other intellectuals took note, and the non-hallucinating generation paid its respects.  Comparisons were made in the English broadsheet press between Eliot’s The Wasteland and “A Day In The Life”.  The Beatles were about as far up as they could go.  From hereon in the only way to go was down.  But, as Philip Larkin later observed when the group’s  dynamic first began to sour, the Beatles could not get down.  So they explored Eastern philosophies and continued to work.  More albums, more singles, a couple of films, solo projects.  The gradual and glorious comedown.

      Meanwhile…

paul is dead beatles cavern
blue red mccartney

Across Britain and the United States a joke was evolving into a Chinese Whisper, thence into a fully-fledged rumour.  The precise origin of the rumour is not certain.  Perhaps it originated in California, perhaps London. Wherever it started, the rumour probably took shape over two or three years, emerging in print for the first time on September 17th 1969 in a Drake University (Iowa) newspaper article  written by Tim Harper.  This article contained the first published examination of the so-called ‘clues’ pointing to the death of McCartney in a car crash.  The writer didn’t claim to have invented the story, having simply compiled information given to him by a friend, who in turn sources (never discovered) underground newspapers and friends of friends.  Within a week The Northern Star, the newspaper of Northern Illinois University, had ‘borrowed’ Harper’s article.  Less than a month later, a disc-jockey and his crew at a Detroit radio station began riffing off one or both of the articles, inventing new Paul Is Dead clues live on air and inviting listeners to call in with their own.  Fred LaBour, a reviewer on The Michigan Daily student paper, heard the broadcast and was inspired to incorporate a few of his own clues into a review of Abbey Road, which, fortunately for clue-seekers, had just been released.  This article, published under the headline “McCartney Dead; New Evidence Brought To Light”, brought the story — hitherto confined to campus rooms — to a critical mass.  The paper’s editors received calls from journalists across and beyond America.  Scores of people were now scrying their Beatles album covers for visual clues about the accident, scratching their records backwards and forwards in the hope of finding concealed audio ‘evidence’ to prove the tragedy.  What began as a joke was now an international news event.  Derek Taylor, the Beatles’ press officer, denied the story to no avail.  Life magazine sent photographers to McCartney’s Scottish farm retreat and earned a cold-water soaking from a bucket thrown by a decidedly living McCartney.  “The rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” he told the drenched representatives, “However, if I was dead I’m sure I’d be the last to know.”

      The first appearance of the man who’s supposed to have replaced McCartney after his accident, a Canadian police officer named William Campbell, is on the Sgt. Pepper cover.  ‘Campbell’ has his back to the camera on the reverse cover shot (supposedly because his plastic surgery had not healed, I think the legend has it).  The front cover allegedly depicts McCartney’s funeral: he is the only one holding a black instrument, the flowers in the dirt spell “Paul is dead”, a toy car is present in the composition, and details of the accident are sprinkled throughout the lyrics, revealing how he “blew his mind out in a car” because he “didn’t notice that the lights had changed.”  In the hands of dedicated seekers, the album’s design and content became a veritable codex brimming with signs and cryptic meanings.  The Magical Mystery Tour packaging went even further — every page of the book that came with the record was allegedly encrusted with Paul Is Dead meaning.  By the time the Abbey Road album came out in 1969 practically everything the Beatles recorded or displayed on their album covers could, with a sprinkling of imagination (or grains of hash, perhaps), be assimilated to bolster the myth.  It would have taken a French philosopher to extract P.I.D. inferences from McCartney appearing on live television in front of a sports stadium crowd saying “yes, I am alive”, but I don’t think it’s overly wild to suppose some would have taken a crack at doing so.

      In the space of a few weeks a ridiculous story about a fatal car crash supported by nothing more than creative interpretation went from publication in a small mid-Western newspaper to being publicly denied by McCartney in person.  The same rumour in today’s networked society would proliferate within hours, but somehow I can’t see it reaching such intensity, certainly not to the point where McCartney or his publicists would have to start issuing denials.  The myth began as a slow burn, simmered for a time then suddenly mushroomed, accelerating like a capsule on a sling-shot trajectory when the mass media tuned in and compounded its strength.  The rumour followed a fractal sequence: frat-party gossip to radio studio in-joke to newsman’s liar-club to a kind of international parlour game.  In this way it resembles a kind of several-times-removed grandchild of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion — impossible to trace back to a positive primary source, and therefore impervious to culpability (and journalistic standards) because the source-chain fragments and vanishes into the past. Although having said that, Jim Yoakum makes a fascinating case for the rumour’s true origin in 'The Man Who Killed Paul McCartney' in Gadfly magazine (May-June 2000).  Yoakum contends that the myth began with Mohammed Chtaibi, a friend of McCartney’s, who suffered a serious accident on the M1 while delivering drugs to Keith Richard’s Sussex house on 7th January 1967. Chtaibi was driving McCartney’s distinctively customised Mini Cooper that night, and is said to have held enough passing resemblance to the artist to have been mistaken for him by spectators at the scene of the crash.

The theory of how the narrative aspect of the rumour — the urbanesque, almost balladic tale of the car crash — may have started in England is very possible, even if the majority of the clue-hunting was a Stateside phenomenon.  Tara Browne, the twenty-one year old heir to the Guinness brewing fortune and a friend of the Beatles, was killed in a car crash in Chelsea’s Redcliffe Gardens in the early hours of December 18th 1966.  In a curious — possibly significant — coincidence, Browne was with McCartney when the Beatle crashed his moped a few weeks prior to this tragedy, on November 9th 1966.  McCartney is also supposed to have crashed his moped on another occasion before this, in Cheshire on December 26th 1965.  This crash is more verifiable as McCartney sustained a chipped tooth and a scar on his upper lip, both visible in the “Paperback Writer/ Rain” promo films and the notorious Yesterday and Today ‘butcher’ album cover.  Predictably, these facts were later to become ominous ‘clues’.  I have not discovered if either of these accidents surfaced in the press.  If so it isn’t difficult to imagine the story crossing the Atlantic, changing Chinese Whisper-style from minor moped accident to full-blown car crash (although the story must surely have survived its crossing to America intact, with the U.S. media reporting identical facts).  If not, if McCartney’s moped accidents were not publicly aired until much later in biographies, then we are left with the ironic possibility that the myth originated within the Beatles circle itself.  Throughout the latter of half of 1967 the subject of McCartney’s ‘double’ was doing the rounds in London.  New York Times journalist J. Marks heard it from someone in the Beatles’ entourage in the Fall of that year.  Considering the story’s macabre surreality, could it perhaps have been a jest made in jealousy, the usurped leader aiming an off-the-cuff snipe against the main architect of the triumphant Pepper?

      Does the root of the Paul Is Dead myth dust for Lennon’s fingerprints?

      The song “Glass Onion” with its lyric “And here’s another clue for you all / The walrus was Paul” was written by Lennon and was recorded for inclusion on The Beatles album on September 11th 1968.  This was just over a year before the publication of Tim Harper’s article, so the Beatles were undeniably aware of the rumours.  It isn’t clear whether the other Lennon ‘clue’ on the same album, the backwards “Paul is dead now, miss him, miss him” at the end of “I’m So Tired” is intentional or synchronicitous.  The same goes for the quasi-holographic skull just visible on the back of the Abbey Road cover between the letters D and N.  The skull is there, but is it an intentional clue or merely a printing quirk?

      The subject of death and death-related imagery crops up in other Lennon-driven songs, not just “A Day In The Life.”  Listen closely to Beatles For Sale, Rubber Soul, Revolver (from the pre-P.I.D. period) where the experience or threat of being dead haunts a number of Lennon’s compositions.  While McCartney might have been a little accident prone on his moped, Lennon was in another league where misfortune with vehicles was concerned.  His mother was run down by a car and killed when he was seventeen.  He suffered a serious accident while out driving with Yoko Ono and his son, Julian, in the summer of 1969, resulting in hospitalisation.  He was shot moments after leaving a car, and died in an ambulance.

cubist beatles

There is nothing folkloreish about this.  The theory of whether the rumour started with Lennon is impossible to verify.  Yet I would suggest that a binary polarity exists between him and McCartney: identical prodigies who are two sides of the same person.  Without this polarity, this creative super-symmetry, the Paul Is Dead myth would have fewer unconscious resonances.  We’re now moving into an area where the objective ‘falseness’ of the story is irrelevant.  It is true in that it is ‘successful’ — it ‘works’ on a symbolic level.  In the same way the Beatles worked so well in public offstage because they projected an image of one being with four natures: John the ‘tough one’, Paul ‘the obliging one,’ George ‘the shy one’, Ringo ‘the loveable one’.  As pop critic Nik Cohn observed, “it all made for a comforting sense of completeness.”[1]  The original title of the Help! movie was Eight Arms To Hold You, and their next planned feature, what came to be titled Up Against It by playwright Joe Orton, developed this concept of the four-in-one.  Orton wrote:

Like the idea.  Basically it is that there aren’t four young men.  Just four aspects of one man. Sounds dreary, but as I thought about it realised what wonderful opportunities it would give [...] Already have the idea that the ending should be a church with four bridegrooms and one bride. THE HOMECOMING in fact, but alibied in such a way that no one could object.[1]

I thought, let’s not be ourselves.  Let’s develop alter egos so we’re not having to project an image which we know.  It would be much more free.  What would be really interesting would be to actually take on the personas of this different band [...] I thought we can run this philosophy through the whole album: with this alter ego band, it won’t be us making all that sound, it won’t be the Beatles, it’ll be this other band, so we’ll be able to lose our identities in this

The theme of the four sons traces back much further than the Harold Pinter play cited by Orton.  Although the Beatles passed on the Up Against It screenplay (too rude), the film they made instead, the much-criticised Magical Mystery Tour, delved much deeper into unconscious territory, even to the extent of providing strange links between the Beatles and ancient Egyptian myth and ritual.  The animal-costumed Beatles are alleged to parallel the four sons of Horus: the man-headed Hesti, the ape-headed Hapi, the jackal-headed Tuamutef, and the falcon Qebhsennuf.  (Only the man-headed Hesti is out of place, as one of the Beatles was wearing a walrus mask, but the others fit very well.)  In one particularly strange Magical Mystery Tour sequence, a drunken singalong on the bus is intercut with a scene of McCartney on the beach at Falmouth.  The little photographer, George Claydon, is lying on the sands.  Standing at Claydon’s head, McCartney raises his arms above his head, pivots left towards the sea, and bows.  He then walks backwards to Claydon’s feet, pivots again towards the sea, and performs the same gesture. (There is more prescience embedded in this than in all the ‘raised hand above McCartney’s head’ clues which misrepresent the gesture as a Hindu symbol of death.  The raised right hand is in actual fact a gesture meaning “fear-not” (abhaya-mudrã) and bestows protection). As he turns back to face Claydon the camera pans up and away into the sky.  In taking their magical mystery tour, the Beatles touched on depths far beyond the childhood memory-strata from which they — like the first exponents of the Paul Is Dead myth — were drawing much inspiration.

      This is not as spurious as it might at first seem.  Every act of creation has an antecedent, and before we write off the power of allusion as a vaporous notion, we should recall an obscure drifter and sometime songwriter called Charles Manson who saw the Beatles as another mythic foursome, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, a vision that was powerful enough to inspire murder.  By inventing the Sgt. Pepper band, McCartney enabled the Beatles to step sideways into a fictional world housed within a kaleidoscopic, Technicolor reality of fairgrounds and carnival (also recovering a glimmer of the circumstances of McCartney’s first meeting with Lennon at a fete).  The love and playfulness invoked by these illusions were balanced against the horrors of Manson’s Helter Skelter; in his imagination a call to rise up, in reality an English fairground ride where the rider climbs to the top of a conical tower, then slides down a gully that winds around the outside.  It harks back to English summer festivals and maypoles, and further back down a long, long chain of half-forgotten associations with helixes, serpents, knowledge, DNA, fertility, life and death.  As in so many other songs of this period, McCartney says more than he consciously knows, more even than he intends to express.  As designer David Vaughan perceived:

A lot of people thought Paul McCartney was shallow.  I didn’t see him as that at all, I saw him as very very deep […] Because he could absorb a lot without encountering any mental block, he could express that Machiavellian, European horror.

Surely he doesn’t mean the man who wrote “Michelle”?

      McCartney first met David Vaughan through Tara Browne, and at Vaughan’s suggestion encouraged the other Beatles to whip up the legendary “Carnival of Light” composition for a media event held on January 28th and February 4th 1967 at the Roundhouse Theatre in Camden Town, London.  The fourteen-minute result of this collaboration — recorded in the midst of the Pepper sessions — is the only major Beatles piece not to have been commercially released to date, and few have ever heard it.  Tara Browne, then, the man who “blew his mind out in a car”, is the hidden inspiration of two major Beatles myths, Paul Is Dead and the coveted “missing track”, as well as what is arguably the most daring and mysterious composition in modern popular music, “A Day In The Life.”  George Martin, Neil Aspinal, and Stu Sutcliffe all have good claim to be the Fifth Beatle, but only Browne is their shadow muse, a ‘Beatle person’ existing in a domain that lies between the memories of history and the shadows of myth.

      It would be inappropriate to use the word ‘resurrection’ in the context of the Paul Is Dead myth as some have done.  McCartney does not ‘live again’ in the myth, the lore of which acknowledges without a doubt that the ‘genuine’ McCartney is positively six feet under (the car crash references, the Pepper ‘funeral’, the Abbey Road ‘procession’, John’s “I buried Paul” — actually “cranberry sauce” — in the fade-out to “Strawberry Fields Forever”).  It is McCartney’s bodily image that lives on, a curiously tangible illustration of the widespread notion that everyone has an identical double somewhere in the world.  The replacement Campbell allegedly earned his place in the group by winning a lookalike competition.  Thus, for a short time, almost any young man in the Western world could theoretically have been a Beatle.  And who would have refused that chance?  Thus, the story of the Man In The Iron Mask is updated to the Man In The Pepper Moustache.  The story is an inversion of the Elvis Is Alive myth, a useful contrast.  The E.I.A. narrative is genuinely Dionysic/ Osiric in its framing of a king/god who, following his death in a weakened state, regenerates in a more vigorous (albeit pot-bellied) form.  In P.I.D., however, the replacement continues the looks and spirit of the deceased; a story structure more closely related to shadows and doppelgangers (The Man In The Iron Mask, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Elizabethan drama) and beyond that, folk and faery tales of changelings… one or two of which may have been spun to the young McCartney by his mother, a domiciliary midwife.

      Where the Paul Is Dead myth develops existing stories is in its embellishment of the double — the snapshotting and continuation of the image.  The first junction between the myth and the invention of Sgt. Pepper’s Band is in the summoning of an invented person, a perfect doppelganger to replace the ‘dead’ McCartney.  His name is Campbell, aptly evoking Warhol’s screen-print soup cans, where a near-worthless, indistinguishable commodity (an unremarkable nobody) becomes a framed and admired work of art (a famous Beatle).  He is a policeman and therefore suspect, one of ‘Them’, perhaps a malignant twin in the classic mode.  The conspiracy is set.  Those Beatles are a clever lot really, aren’t they?  There has to be more to those songs than falling in love... Right?

cubist beatles

Day by day, word by word, these tiny sub-myths and suppositions aggregate and before you can sing ‘you were in a car crash and you lost your hair’ an internally consistent and generally plausible narrative has developed.  Minute details swell into dogmatic assumptions, sculpted and given credence and velocity through a mass media already practised in the creation of Beatle sub-lore: the ‘Fifth Beatle’; the allegedly crime-free State of New York during the Beatles’ performance on the Ed Sullivan show; the mobbish mis-contextualising of Lennon’s comments on religion. This clue-hunting game unites a like-minded class of fans, providing a platform on which they can test their Beatle knowledge.  It also comfortingly boosts their heroes’ cleverness for being able to plant these signs so cleverly, infusing the group with an attractively sinister aspect, like that of the stereotypical master criminal who deliberately leaves a cryptic trail for the police to puzzle over.

      Significantly, P.I.D. lore allows for little discussion of the fearsome practicalities required to cover-up the death and maintain the group, the main one being that someone — Lennon working double-time, presumably — goes on to write most of the best songs of the Beatles remaining years together (even “The Long and Winding Road”.)  Such is the confidence of the Beatle mythologists in their heroes’ powers, perhaps.  In a way, the myth also supports an opinion held by many of the previous generation that members of pop groups were nodding, miming dolls, Golems created by the invisible wizards of Tin Pan Alley, the real talents behind popular music.  After all, the Beatles ‘only’ ever played songs we already seemed to know — even McCartney first thought “Yesterday” was an old tune.  Perhaps if the rumour had started earlier these issues of authorship would be a stronger part of it, but by the second half of the 1960s it was obvious that these four musically untutored young men could be capable of the most intense musical creativity.

      Before we complete this long and winding road, we’ll take an offramp that leads to an appropriate final twist to the story…

      In July 1964, the science-fiction novelist Philip K. Dick and his close friend Grania Davidson, suffered a fairly serious motor accident while driving in Oakland, San Francisco.  Grania escaped unhurt, while Dick was consigned to a body cast and arm sling for two months, a disaster for his writing productivity, and for his mental state which plumbed suicidal depths in the following weeks. The car Dick overturned was a VW bug, better known in England as a beetle...  Oh dear.  There we go again, sliding into another curious dimension, one where the Paul Is Dead legend is, in some strange and magical sense, true and ‘objectifiable’ — if only phonetically!  How apt for this tangent to spring from the hands of Philip K. Dick, a writer whose tales of flanged reality (to borrow a Lennonism) chime most uncannily with the creation and inner workings of the Paul Is Dead myth.  The parallels between classic Dick fiction-structure and P.I.D. lie broadly in a supposition about the fundamentals of reality, fundamentals that, upon the unveiling of a greater reality, prove to be false, mere subsets concerned only with containment and gratification.  The new over-reality, however, is further down the path also seen to be false, just another layer of the onion.  Along the way there has been tragedy and ecstasy, concluding in a redemption of sorts.  Our protagonist has undergone a modicum of ‘evolution’ or is transmogrified somehow at the tale’s end (cue Phil Spector’s heavenly choirs on Let It Be.)  Just as simple cause-and-effect patterns collapse and liquefy in Dick’s imaginary future empires, so too, in the creation of P.I.D. consensus, Aristotlean ‘objects’ melt in the petroleum inferno surrounding McCartney’s fictional accident.  And out of these mythical flames emerges a fresh working of an old, old story, a clue to the nature of which can be found in the spooky, fathom-deep composition “Blackbird”, a song that stands equally as a nursery-school reworking of the legend of the bird who dies in order to arise as prior interpretations have tried to fix it in an overtly political context.

      The main question raised by the Paul Is Dead myth surmises as, “When do inert contradictions become living paradoxes?”  In other words (and if we are agreed upon the essential value of such a task) how can we define, observe, even participate in the process that spins myth from mere reportage?  The answer lies in the physical conveyance, the writing and the telling (especially) the daisy-chain whispering of word into sound.  An authentic myth, to embrace an oxymoron, is bench-marked against its very absurdities, and the creative pleasures to be had from being a participant in its blooming.  The myth’s paradoxes are what make it credible — that is, credible to imaginative, as opposed to rational, instincts.  Add common-sense plausibility and the paradoxes and symmetries we find so appealing begin to topple.  Or put another way, why not Ringo Is Dead?  Somehow it doesn’t quite work…

WORKS CONSULTED

 

The Beatles Get Back, Apple Publishing 1969

Brown, Peter; The Love You Make, Pan Books 1984

Delilo, Richard; The Longest Cocktail Party, Charisma Books 1973

Goldman, Albert; The Lives of John Lennon, Bantam Books 1989

Lewisohn, Mark; The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Hamlyn 1988

Macdonald, Ian; Revolution in the Head (revised), Fourth Estate 1997

Miles, Barry; Many Years From Now, Vintage 1998

Norman, Philip; Shout!, Elm Tree Books 1981

Orton, Joe; Up Against It, a screenplay for the Beatles, Eyre Methuen 1979

Spence, Lewis; Egypt Myths and Legends, Senate 1994

Sutin, Lawrence; Divine Invasions, A Life Of Philip K. Dick, HarperCollins 1994

Originally published in Mikita Brottman (ed.) Car Crash Culture, Palgrave St. Martins (2002)

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