So 50 years ago “Paul is dead” was, for lack of a better word, trending. The whole kerfluffle had been started by the October 12 broadcast of Detroit DJ Russ Gibbs, wherein he shared a number of clues indicating that Beatle Paul was deceased and had been for some time.

I don’t want to get into the details here; you are probably familiar with them already. What interests me is the speed and vehemence with which this rather esoteric conspiracy theory took hold. It seems to have had a lot to do with the fact that the actual Beatles had largely dropped out of sight at this point — especially Paul, who had gone into seclusion at his rural sheep farm, depressed over the dissolution of the band that had been his entire raison d’etre until now.

The rumors were, if nothing else, a colossal pain in the ass for the Apple press office. We now join, in progress, a coversation recounted in Richard “The House Hippie” DiLello’s The Longest Cocktail Party. Derek “The Debonair Drug Aficionado” Taylor is speaking:

“It’s happened before. The calls will stop coming in a few days.”

But the calls didn’t stop coming.

“What the hell is going on with all these goddamn calls?”

“You were the one who said they’d stop in a few days.”

“Well they did before—”

“The substance of the rumor is developing. It’s getting very intricate as it gets increasingly more ghoulish. They’re picking up all the minutiae from the records and album covers and shaping it into something real. The American radio stations are feeding the rumor by complicity. The very weird thing about it is that there are quite a large number of people outside the lunatic fringe who have genuinely been taken in by it….”

“Well, Paul’s gone off to his farm in Scotland and says to deny it which is all we can do, and our official statement is that Paul is alive and well and unconcerned about rumors of his death because he figures that if he were dead he would in any case be the last to know. We’ll use that one first and then if that doesn’t satisfy them we can get a little flip and plagiarize Mark Twain who said that ‘Rumors concerning my death have been greatly exaggerated.’ ”

“Is that what he said?”

“Close enough. We’ll give them the quote and that’s it! The mistake is to continue the dialogue. This fucking thing is taking up all our time.”

“It’s beginning to depress everyone—”

“It’s put ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ and ‘Sgt. Pepper’ back into the charts…”

“It’s still depressing.”

A week later.

“Now they’re saying that Paul’s been dead for three and a half years and we’ve been using a lookalike stand-in. How about that?”

“A rumor invented by a jackass and perpetuated by an out-of-work grave digger.”

“That disk jockey Russ Gibbs is the one who kicked this thing into national prominence, landing this whole bad trip into our laps—”

“Russ Gibbs? He’s downstairs in reception right now!”

We’ll pick up that story a little later. In the meantime, the press office would continue to fight an uphill battle to convince the world of Paul’s aliveness. It’s a good thing this outtake from Abbey Road wasn’t available then:

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