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Apple’s American Debut – The Original 1968 Press Kit

By Bruce Spizer

On August 22, 1968, Apple Records’ Los Angeles office sent press kits to radio station program directors across the United States. The kits were packaged in white envelopes with an Apple logo in the upper left corner serving as the return address. The logo was a solid green circle with a white apple in the center with the word “Apple” in white script above the stem. The post mark indicated that the package cost a then hefty eighty cents to air mail. The lucky recipients of these envelopes would be among the first people in America to see and hear what the Beatles new Apple venture was all about.

Those individuals following the group already knew that John, Paul, George and Ringo had formed a new corporation named Apple Corps. Ltd. The initial U.S. promotion of Apple had been handled earlier in the year by John and Paul, who flew to New York on Saturday, May 11, 1968, for a series of events designed to spread the word. From the very start it was obvious that Apple would be different — a blend of the Beatles individualism and creativity combined with the corporate world. There was also an attitude of doing things on a whim without considering the costs of frivolous behavior. John and Paul’s first Apple business meeting in the States set the tone. It was held on a Chinese junk sailing around New York harbor and the Statute of Liberty.

On Monday, May 13, John and Paul went public, giving interviews at the St. Regis Hotel. The next day they held a press conference at the American Hotel. On Tuesday night, John and Paul appeared as guests on The Tonight Show, which was hosted that evening by former baseball great Joe Garagiola subbing for Johnny Carson. Mission accomplished, they flew back to London the following evening.

Readers of the May 25, 1968, issue of Billboard encountered an article titled “Hungry Beatles Form Apple in Bid for Slice of Trades’ Pie.” Billboard reported that the first project for Apple’s music division would be a soundtrack album for the film Wonderwall, featuring a score and arrangements by George Harrison. The article indicated that the Beatles would produce records and write songs for Apple, but would not record for Apple as the group was under contract to EMI in England and Capitol in the U.S.

More details became available a week later in a Billboard story titled “Beatles’ Apple Firm Picking U.S. ‘Core’ of Staffers, Artist Roster.” The article touted Apple’s grandiose plans. The company would have offices in Los Angeles and New York. Apple was going to develop a roster with key American artists and had just signed the Modern Jazz Quartet, who had previously been on Atlantic Records. The Beatles would actively produce new artist sessions and devote much of their time to the company. Paul McCartney had recorded Apple’s first discovery, Mary Hopkins, a sixteen year old Scottish vocalist. [Her last name was actually Hopkin and she was from Wales.] Ron Kass, director of Apple Records, indicated that a number of British artists who had developed clannish friendships with the Beatles had indicated a willingness to join Apple upon expiration of their present recording contracts with other labels. High of the list of potential artists was the Rolling Stones, who for months had been reported as entering a musical venture with the Beatles.

The article further stated Apple’s Savile Row headquarters in London would house an elaborate recording studio, complete with a computer and a control board with 72 channels, designed by Greek engineer Alexis Mardas. [In 1968, 16 channels was considered state-of-the-art. When the Beatles attempted to use the studio built by "Magic Alex" during the Get Back/Let It Be project, they discovered Mardas didn't have a clue and were forced to bring in remote equipment from EMI.] Billboard reported that Apple was discussing U.S. manufacturing and distribution rights with five companies and hoped to reach a decision during June.

The June 29 Billboard announced that Apple Records had entered into an agreement with Capitol Records to manufacture and distribute Apple product in the United States and Canada. The August 17th issue of the magazine stated that the Beatles Apple Records project would get rolling on August 25 with the release through Capitol Records of five discs. The Initial releases would be the Wonderwall soundtrack and four singles, including a new Beatles disc featuring “two new songs written by them, ‘Revolution’ and ‘Hey Judge.'” [The latter song was really titled Hey Jude. The release of George Harrison's Wonderwall album was pushed back to the end of the year.] The other releases would be records by Jackie Lomax, Mary Hopkins and the Black Dyke Mills Band, a traditional British brass band. It was further reported that the Beatles were at work on a new album of their own for a scheduled fall release.

For those disc jockeys who had been monitoring Apple’s progress by reading trade magazines, the arrival of the classy looking white envelope with the Apple logo was truly a magic moment. Upon ripping open the envelope, the recipient encountered a glossy cream colored folder with a large Apple logo on its front side. Inside was a treasure of sound, visuals and text.

In contrast to the white envelope and folder were four distinguished-looking black center cut record sleeves. One proclaimed “The Beatles on Apple” in an attractive script font. The group’s name was in white and Apple in green. The other three sleeves merely said “Apple” in the same eye-catching green script letters. Peeking out of the center of each sleeve was a record label covered with a Granny Smith green apple.

The sleeves were not the only thing different about the singles. While most records had the same label design on both sides, these discs had a full green apple on one side and a sliced apple was its exposed white innards on the other side. The singles also had something new to most Americans — a slip guard consisting of 360 interlocking serations surrounding the label. Although the tiny grooves appeared to be an innovation of Apple, several British labels had been pressing discs with slip guards for years. By coincidence, Capitol had re-tooled its pressing plants for slip guard singles at the beginning of the month, so the Apple singles were among the first Capitol manufactured titles to take on the new look.

For program directors, the most important part of the package was the first new Beatles single in over five months: Hey Jude b/w Revolution. The quality of both sides of the single assured that listeners would stay put when the songs were aired. Disc jockeys were delighted to see that the running time for Hey Jude was an incredible 7:11. At the time the 45 was released in 1968, singles normally contained songs running between two and three minutes long. This record would truly be a DJ’s best friend when nature called or a groupie dropped by the station.

Because the Beatles were under contract to Capitol, their new record was assigned a Capitol catalog number, 2276, even though it was pressed with Apple labels and packaged in an Apple sleeve. There are at least ten different label variations of the Hey Jude single on Apple. The first pressings of the record do not have “Produced by: George Martin” or “Recorded in England” on their labels. The East Coast version has a master number (45-X-46434 for Hey Jude and 45-X-46435 for Revolution) below the record number (2276), whereas the West Coast first issue does not. The West Coast records were pressed by Capitol’s Los Angeles factory and have a machine stamped “*” symbol in the trail off areas. This LA first pressing was the version of the single included in the press kit. It was packaged inside a tab cut “The Beatles on Apple” sleeve.

The other three singles included in the press kit were also pressed by Capitol in LA and packaged in tab cut sleeves. Unlike the Beatles disc, they have Apple catalog numbers, beginning with 1800. The first of these was Thingumybob b/w Yellow Submarine by the John Foster & Sons Ltd. Black Dyke Mills Band. The text on both sides of the label is printed vertically. Thingumybob is credited to “McCartney & Lennon.” Both sides of the disc have a Paul McCartney production credit. Paul also produced Apple 1801, Mary Hopkin’s Those Were The Days b/w Turn, Turn, Turn. All label information on this 45 appears horizontally. Apple 1802 paired Sour Milk Sea and The Eagle Laughs At You by Jackie Lomax. The record was produced by George Harrison, who is given production credit on the label. George is mistakenly listed as the writer of both songs. Although he wrote Sour Milk Sea, the B side was penned by Lomax.

The press kit also included two 8″ x 10″ black and white glossies of each of the artists featured on the records. The Beatles are represented by their cartoon images from the Yellow Submarine film. Paul and his sheep dog Martha are pictured with the Black Dyke Mills Band in the brass band’s horizontal publicity still. Jackie Lomax and the lovely looking Mary Hopkin are each featured in vertical pictures. All four glossies have the artist’s name printed below the picture towards the left side and the Apple logo in lower right corner.

Recipients of the press kit learned about each artist through separate 8 1/2″ x 11″ information sheets and 5 1/2″ x 8 1/2″ booklets. The text of the information sheets is credited to Apple press agent Derek Taylor. Although no credit is given in the booklets, the writing is appears to be the work of Derek Taylor as well.

The information sheet on the Beatles reads in part:

“It is the Beatles again, doing it again, doing our minds in again with the magical mystic Beatle mastery of their medium. They are the message, are the medium. They have written and produced two sides for this new single which you know, you know beyond the thinnest wisp of a shadow of a doubt, will engage the most profound admiration from the public, from the industry, from those in other groups, who strive to match the Beatles achievements. ‘Hey Jude’ is lead sung by Paul McCartney and it is a long lovely loving love-song offering hope (‘Hey Jude, don’t be afraid… take a sad song and make it better…’) and beauty in the words and extraordinary melodic subtleties in the music. ‘Hey Jude’ is the longest song ever recorded by the Beatles (seven minutes and five seconds), and I would say it was the best if it weren’t for all those others that have gone before. I would say it was the best if, also, it were not that ‘Revolution’ — main voice John — were not so breathtaking vital and insistent. This is the new Beatle peace — with strength message, with the voices forced out of the grooves by a backing as new for Capitol now as Strawberry Fields was for then. A theme for today, ‘Revolution,’ written by revolutionary visionaries. The Beatles are without peer. Their music is magnificent. It can be said again and again as they sing and sing it again.”

The booklet on the Beatles is full of optimism and tells a story of the Beatles quite different from the feuding that was actually going on during the recording of the group’s first Apple album:

“The Beatles are in good health, of sound heart and willing spirit, and by the Fall the new evidence of their continuing supremacy will be spinning on the world’s turntables around the symbol of their own shimmering green Apple label.”

“At this moment they are deeply involved in the twin responsibilities of recording the album-successor to the profoundly respected Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and of administering the Happy Apple complex of companies in London.”

“John, Paul, George and Ringo, firmly united one for all and all for one as the Beatles, growing up and outwards, phasing their expansion so as to keep a hold on which might otherwise consume their precious careers and confuse the thread of their energy sources are confident and cheerful and the human condition will be thrilled by the coming results of their willing and enduring Beatle-bondage. Unhampered by the pressures of world stardom, entranced by their opportunities, simulated by the blossoming of Apple, they will give all of us new wonders to soothe our pain.”

“The end for now, but there is no end.”

While comments about “Happy Apple” and “willing and enduring Beatle-bondage” proved false, the statements about the brilliance of the Beatles new single were on target. Hey Jude quickly topped the charts and remained at the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for nine straight weeks during its 19 week run. Revolution charted separately for 11 weeks and peaked at number 12. The Beatles first Apple single sold over three million units in its first two months of release.

The information sheet on the Black Dyke Mills Brass Band urges readers (including radio program directors) to “come on and hear about the best band in the land.” The opening text was a play on the lyrics from the tune Alexander’s Rag Time Band (“Come on and hear the best band in the land”). The accompanying booklet is titled “The Black Dyke Mills Band and a Beatle.” The reader learns that the band is 113 years old and is sponsored by John Foster and Son Ltd. of the Woollen Mills in the village of Queensbury, Yorkshire near Bradford. The band, which has 27 members plus a percussion section, won The National Champion Band of Great Britain award in 1967 for the seventh time since 1945. The sheet tells the following story:

“When Paul McCartney was faced with the challenge of producing his theme song for the London TV show ‘Thingumybob’ he decided to forget studio musicians, and the sophistication of formal studios and took himself up the trunk road which splits England from top to bottom. Up from exciting London to industrial Bradford in the north where, in an ancient city, he recorded The Black Dyke Mills Band in their home town. The results are strong and amazingly contemporary for within the song there are those strange, unique touches of the Beatle-flair. The ‘B’ side is ‘Yellow Submarine,’ one of the great youth marching songs of all time played as a march as it is begged to be played. Be played by them. March to them yourselves across the living room, be young again, and brave.”

Although the single was interesting and well produced, most program directors were not brave enough to play the single on their stations. It failed to chart and is highly collectible.

The booklet on Mary Hopkin tells the tale of how super model Twiggy saw the young Welsh folk singer on the British TV talent show Opportunity Knocks and was so impressed that she told Paul McCartney of her talent. Paul signed her to be part of the launching of his dream organization, Apple. The information sheet boldly predicted that “Mary Hopkin will be #1 in the charts with Those Were The Days.” According to Derek Taylor:

“The record is produced by Paul McCartney who is English, sung by Mary Hopkin who is Welsh, written by Gene Raskin who is American. It is for all ages, all tastes, all creeds, sensibilities, for anyone with the capacity to be stirred by music and is there anyone who has not this capacity? It is a long song: it builds, grips, embraces. It will be whistled, hummed, sung, translated, exploited, adapted all over the world. It will be one of the hits of the year.”

All of the above proved true except for the prediction that the song would be number one. Although Those Were The Days was number one in England, it had to settle for the second spot in the United States, where it could not get past Hey Jude.

Although the booklet on Jackie Lomax tells more of his background than most people would care to know, the information sheet gets straight to the point: “Jackie Lomax is from Liverpool and it shows.” Derek Taylor informs the reader that:

“George Harrison produced and wrote for this first Lomax solo effort on the fresh, new just-ripening APPLE label. It is called ‘Sour Milk Sea’ — the sea we all find ourselves in from time to time. ‘Get out of that Sour Milk Sea, you don’t belong there. Come back to where you should be……’ A few words of Beatle-warning, Lomax delivered. The backing of the record is astounding — listen to the guitar solo and know that Britain can still play rock’n’roll.”

Although the information sheet justifiably raves about the Lomax single, it tells the reader little about the song’s history and recording. Sour Milk Sea was written by Harrison during the Beatles stay with the Maharishi in India in March of 1968. The Beatles recorded a demo of the song in May of 1968 at Kinfauns, George Harrison’s bungalow in Esher, Surrey. The song was one of 23 tunes recorded in demo form for consideration for the upcoming Beatles album. For reasons unknown, George decided against recording it for the Beatles LP. Instead, he gave it to Lomax as his first Apple single. The song was recorded in late June with a line up featuring the Threetles. Lomax sings lead and plays rhythm guitar along with Harrison on rhythm guitar, Paul McCartney on bass, Ringo on drums, Eric Clapton on lead guitar, Nicky Hopkins on piano and Eddie Clayton on conga drums.

Sour Milk Sea is a great rock single that should have been a hit. Unfortunately for Lomax, Harrison and Apple, the song was overshadowed by the Beatles and Mary Hopkin singles and did not chart. The song was re-issued in July of 1971 on Apple 1834, this time paired with (I) Fall Inside Your Eyes. Once again, the song failed to chart.

The Apple press kit mailed to U.S. radio stations in August of 1968 is the American equivalent to the elaborately packaged “Our First Four” box, which contained the same debut singles and was distributed to British radio stations and members of the press. Although Apple reportedly delivered copies of the boxes to the Queen and the Prime Minister, it is unlikely that a copy of the U.S. press kit was sent to the White House.

Only one complete copy of the press kit, which is in the author’s collection, is known to have survived. Two other copies are near complete. Over thirty years later, it is still a thrill to go through the press kit, read its flowery Derek Taylor text, look at the pictures of the beautiful Mary Hopkin, the cartoon Beatles and Paul with his sheep dog Martha posing with a brass band, and, of course, play the great singles that launched Apple Records. One can only imagine the excitement created by that white envelope with the Apple logo all those years ago.

 

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The above article, © 1999 and 2000 by 498 Productions, L.L.C., first appeared in Beatlology Magazine, Vol. 1 No. 5 (May/June 1999) . After its publication, a few other complete press kits have surfaced.

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Paul McCartney Admits Beatles Planned Death Hoax

by Bruce Spizer
(Originally Published April, 2004. Upon completion, be sure to read the note in the black box at the end of the article!)

While on a recent quick vacation in New Orleans, Paul McCartney let his guard down and admitted what some Beatles fans have suspected for years. He confirmed that the “Paul is dead” clues found in several Beatles album covers and songs were deliberately planted by the group as part of an elaborate scheme dating back to the summer of 1966.

According to McCartney, the plan was formulated by manager Brian Epstein. “Brian dropped by the studio to hear the playback of our latest single, ‘Paperback Writer.’ He didn’t like it one bit. ‘Not a love song,’ he said. He was concerned that the press and our fans wouldn’t get it. He told us, ‘People want love songs. They won’t spend money for a song about a novel writer. You boys are gonna blow it with this one.’ But by this time, we were running the show, not Brian. We insisted that ‘Paperback Writer’ would be our next single and told him that the song represented the new direction our songwriting was going in.”

When contacted in London, former Beatles press agent Tony Barrow confirmed Brian’s concerns. “Brian was into traditional love songs. He had told Paul to come up with another ‘Yesterday’ or ‘Michelle’ for the next single. Imagine his shock when he heard ‘Paperback Writer’ and ‘Rain.’ Not only were they not love songs, but they were so loud! We didn’t know it at the time, but the Beatles had recorded the first heavy metal single. Not exactly ‘Till There Was You’ or ‘A Taste Of Honey.’ I was worried, too. I wondered, ‘Had the boys gone too far this time?'”

Brian became even more concerned when he imagined an album full of unconventional songs. While a fan might take a chance on a single, an album purchase was a big thing in those days. Due to its higher price, youngsters, particularly those in the U.K., were very careful about buying albums. That is why the Beatles often issued an EP from an album containing four of its best tracks. So Brian came up with a plan to help sell albums in the event he was right about the dangerous new direction the group was heading in. Paul explained, “When I told him our future albums would be dominated by songs about interesting people and places, his heart sank. He didn’t think people would buy such albums and came up with this great idea to push sales in the event he was right and we were wrong. The idea was that we would plant clues in our songs and album covers that one of us had died in a car wreck. If after a few albums, our records weren’t selling well, we’d leak out word about the clues and let our fans and the press take over. People would buy the albums to see and hear the clues. We thought, ‘Wow, that’s an incredible idea!’ We realized it would be great fun to have all those clues sitting there undiscovered until people started going nuts looking for them all.”

Tony Barrow also thought the plan was brilliant. “Nothing re-energizes a singer’s career like his death. Do you really think Buddy Holly would have been so famous had he not died in that plane crash? Same for Richie Valens and certainly that one-hit wonder Big Bopper with his ‘Chantilly Lace’ song. And how about Otis Redding? He never had a number one hit till after he died in a plane crash. The fact that Brian came up with a car crash shows his genius. Airplane crashes were the norm.”

Having sold the group on the idea, the Beatles had to decide which one of them was to “die.” Brian wanted the victim to be Ringo because he was the most popular Beatle in the all-important U.S. market, but the drummer wanted nothing to do with it. Tony Barrow recalls, “Ringo flat out refused to be the one. He said, ‘Being painted red in a movie is one thing, but pretending to be dead’s another. I’m superstitious. Those clues might make it happen.’ Brian was disappointed because he knew Ringo was the most sympathetic Beatle. You know Ringo got more mail from America than the other members of the group combined.” [Author's Note: Ringo was unavailable for comment.]

After Ringo turned down the “opportunity” to die, the honor of being a dead Beatle was up for grabs. According to Paul, “George said right away he didn’t feel comfortable faking his death. But it sure got him thinking. A few days later he showed up at a session with a new song called ‘The Art Of Dying.’ We didn’t think it was that good a song, so we never recorded it. George later improved the lyrics and included it on his first album.”

Paul’s recollections are backed by the original lyrics to the song, which appear in George’s “I Me Mine” book. The 1966 version of the song referred to Brian Epstein, who was the mastermind behind the death clues. It contained the line “Then nothing Mr. Epstein can do will keep me here with you.”

With Ringo and George not willing to “die” for the good of the group, it came down to John and Paul, with both thinking it would be fab to be “dead.” Paul recalls, “John wanted to be the dead Beatle, but this time I didn’t cave in to John like I did on the songwriter credits. I thought it should be me because I was the second most popular Beatle. Brian agreed it should be me because he was worried that once the clues became known, people might think it was a John practical joke if John was supposedly dead. But me…Brian thought, ‘No one would suspect Paul for rigging his own death. They think John’s the clever one.’ So I got to die.”

A few days after the “Paperback Writer” listening session, the group was at Brian’s office when photographer Bob Whitaker dropped by with the pictures from the butcher session. Brian asked Whitaker to shoot a picture of Paul in steamer trunk to symbolize his lying dead in a coffin. Paul picks up the story. “Bob thought it was too direct, so he suggested we stand the truck upwards and have me sit in it with the other standing around. That way, it would only look like I was lying in a coffin if the cover was turned sideways. Bob had Ringo place his hand on the trunk lid like he was closing the coffin. Brilliant! Brian told us to throw some clues into our songs. Right away John came up with ‘I’m Only Sleeping,’ as if ‘Paul isn’t dead, he’s only sleeping.’ Pretty subtle. Most people missed that clue, and that was one of the first!”

The “coffin trunk” photo was sent to Capitol to serve as the cover for the American album “Yesterday And Today.” But when Brian saw the cover mock-up, he began having second thoughts about using the photo so early in the game. He was concerned that people might suspect Paul was dead a lot sooner than the group wanted to clues to be discovered. So Brian sent Capitol the butcher photo, knowing that it might ultimately be rejected, but at least it would deflect attention away from the provocative coffin trunk cover. The plan worked to perfection with the Butcher cover causing so much controversy that when it was “replaced” by the trunk cover, no one noticed it showed Paul lying in a coffin!

One of the casualties of the plan was Robert Freeman’s unused cover for “Revolver.” Paul explains that, “For ‘Revolver,’ Robert Freeman came up with a great cover image, but there was no death clue in it. I asked Klaus [Voormann] to do a pen and ink with a photo collage so we could throw in some clues. I had him place an image of my face in my ear. That represented a ‘beetle’ crawling out of the ear of my buried corpse. You know, insects get into coffins and mix with the dead bodies, crawling through eye sockets, ear openings and the like. Very creepy and very subtle. And the other clue came from Klaus drawing my face in a side profile looking to the left. The others were drawn looking forward. When you turn the cover on its side, I’m looking upward, just like I’d appear on a morgue slab or if I were buried underground. We really were into having clues appear when you turned our covers sideways. I’m surprised nobody caught those ‘Revolver’ clues.”

According to Tony Barrow, there was one other clue planted on “Revolver.” “John had this really weird song that had no title, so he called it ‘Mark I.’ Later he came up with ‘The Void,’ to symbolize the void left in the group by Paul’s death. Ringo thought that was too subtle, so he came up with the perfect phrase for describing the direction the group would go in if Paul really were dead. And that was ‘Tomorrow Never Knows.’ Ringo was great at stuff like that.”

By the time the Beatles recorded “Sgt. Pepper,” the plan really took off. Tony Barrow recalls, “Brian thought ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ was way out there. You can imagine his fear of an entire album of songs like that. He was terrified that Sgt. Pepper would be viewed as pretentious nonsense! He told the boys to throw in a bunch of clues on that one!”

The first song recorded for “Sgt. Pepper” was “Strawberry Fields Forever,” though it ended up being used as a single. At the end of the song, John was supposed to repeat “I buried Paul” several times, but that was too obvious, so instead he said “Cranberry sauce” and then slurred his words so that “I buried Paul” sounded like “I’m very bored.” The plan worked as it took over two years before anyone realized what he was really saying.

Later songs also had clues. Paul admitted that “She’s Leaving Home” contained the time the car wreck supposedly occurred-“Wednesday morning at five o’clock as the day begins.” The line “Meeting a man from the motor trade” tied in the motor vehicle. And, of course, “A Day In The Life” was about a car crash. According to Paul, “The drug references were just a smoke-screen to deflect attention away from the car crash, you know. ‘He blew his mind out in a car’ could mean his head was crushed or he was doing drugs. Take your pick.”

The cover was full of clues: the crashing car; Paul’s bass made of flowers; Paul having his back to the camera on the back cover; the hand over Paul’s head; and the infamous “O.P.D.” patch on Paul’s uniform, which was McCartney’s favorite Pepper clue. “We had to work hard on that one. Someone told John that in America the letters OPD stood for ‘Officially Pronounced Dead.’ I remembered I had this patch with the letters “OPP,” which I got in Canada. I think it stands for Ontario Police Precinct or something like that. So I got the idea to put the patch on my uniform’s sleeve and shoot the picture so that the lower part of the second ‘P’ would not be visible, thus making it look like ‘OPD.’ I was quite pleased with the way it came out.”

Although the sales of “Revolver” and “Pepper” made Brian realize that the clues probably weren’t needed to sell records, the group kept creating more and more clues. According to Paul, “It was so neat coming up with clues that we kept doing them even thought we never thought they’d be needed to sell albums. It was great mischievous fun! When Brian died, we really went wild with it! For ‘Magical Mystery Tour,’ I wanted to wear a black flower on my jacket. The florist thought Alistair Taylor was nuts when he insisted they send us a black carnation. We became worried people would catch on when they saw the ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ booklet because the clues were so obvious. The 4 or 5 musicians, the “I was” sign. But no one caught on.”

Paul stated that placing the clues in the songs was even more fun than the visual images. “Ringo had this old song, ‘Don’t Pass Me By,’ which we had refused to record for years. But I realized it could be used for a clue. I gave him the line ‘You were in a car crash and you lost your hair’ And we did great stuff with backwards tape loops and mumbling. John going ‘Paul is a dead man, miss him, miss him.'”

Some of the clues were easy and obvious. John’s “Glass Onion” even told the fans what was going on with its line “And here’s another clue for you all, the Walrus was Paul.” But some were quite intricate.

According to Paul, the toughest one was “Revolution 9.” “We had to come up with a phrase to go ‘Number 9′ when you played it backwards. Our plan was to have it go ‘Number 9′ on the record, but when you played it backwards it would sound like ‘Paul is dead.’ When we recorded ‘Paul is dead’ and played it backwards, it didn’t go ‘Number 9.’ It sounded more like ‘Pythagorian Theorem.’ The phrase ‘Macca is dead’ sounded like ‘Thermo nuclear’ when we played it backwards. We experimented for hours until Alan Parsons came up with ‘Turn me on dead man.’ When we reversed the tape, it sounded like he was saying ‘Number 9, number 9.’ So that’s how we did it.”

Abbey Road engineer Alan Parsons remembers the session well. “We spent hours recording different phrases until I lucked into ‘Turn me on dead man.’ When I played the tape backwards and heard ‘Number 9,’ well, it was one of the greatest moments of my life! We were all sworn to secrecy about the clues, but now that Paul’s let the cat out the bag, I can talk about it. I later recorded my own song about looking for clues, ‘Eye In The Sky.'”

The last batch of clues were planted on the album cover to “Abbey Road,” which was designed by Paul. McCartney came up with the idea to stage his own funeral. George, in the role of the grave digger, dressed in work clothes. Ringo, the funeral director, wore a black suit. John, the angel, wore white. Paul was barefoot, as it is the custom in several cultures to bury people without their shoes. In a subtle touch, the left-handed McCartney held a cigarette in his right hand. This was to imply that the Paul who had been with the group since mid-1966 was a right-handed imposter.

Paul recalls the other major “Abbey Road” clue with fondness. “I’ve always liked puns, so I wanted to have a Volkswagon Beetle represent me. Alistair Taylor arranged for a friend of his to park his VW Beetle on the street by the studio. Alistair and I placed a special license tag we had made the night before on the car. It said ’28 IF,’ meaning that I would have been 28 if I had lived. Unfortunately, I out-thought myself on that one. I was only 27 at the time, but I told Alistair to paint it as 28 because I didn’t think “Abbey Road” would come out until I was 28. That’s because I was sure that the “Get Back” album would come out first. By the time we decided to put out “Abbey Road” first, I had forgotten about that clue, so we didn’t have the picture altered to have the tag read ’27 IF.'”

When John told the others he was quitting the group, Paul began thinking it was time to expose the clues. “I was always nervous before a record came out, you know. Would people like it? And, in this case, what if word leaked out that John had quit? We were all worried that the album would bomb, and when word spread that John was out, we’d be forgotten. No one would buy our latest LP or our old records. The clincher was a pair of bad reviews published in ‘The New York Times’ and ‘Rolling Stone.’ I thought, oh sh*t, no one likes the long medley on side two. So I had Mal [Evans] go to Detroit and tell some college kids about the clues. One of the guys phoned in some of the clues to a radio station there. That was all it took.”

Once people started looking for clues, they were easy to spot. The American press was fascinated with the story. Brian’s plan worked to perfection. Not only did sales for “Abbey Road” take off, but people began buying “Sgt. Pepper,” “Magical Mystery Tour” and “The White Album” to see and hear the clues. Paul hid away at his farm in Scotland to further fuel the hoax. When a reported from “Life” magazine finally caught up with him, Paul dead-panned, “If I were dead, I’d be the last to know.”

The Beatles and their inner circle kept the clue caper a secret for over thirty years. Not only do we now know that the Beatles deliberately planted the clues, but we also know that it was part of a brilliant marketing plan formulated by manager Brian Epstein back in 1966. As for why Paul finally revealed the secrets behind the scheme, we may never know if it was an accidental slip up on his part or a plan to reignite sales of the Beatles catalog.

[stextbox id="black"]Bruce Spizer is a well-know Beatles author and historian who has not only written a series of critically acclaimed books on the group’s American records, but also has been known to tell a tall tale or two for April Fool’s Day. This article originally appeared in the April 1, 2004 issue of Goldmine Magazine.[/stextbox]