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#askNat – concerning the Abbey Road photo shoot, a Magical Mystery Tour “sound” and those pesky “Paul is Dead” clues

This time around on #askNat it looks like I have a couple questions from Brian Cornish. Brian did not give me his location but I don’t think that will keep me from getting his two questions answered. Brian’s first message goes like this:


I’m curious about the back cover of the Abbey Road album. Is there any background you can share about why the shot includes a ‘walk-by’ and where exactly is this block lettering located?  


Okay Brian – fair enough. If I didn’t know better I’d say you were fishing for a discussion concerning the Paul McCartney “death clues.” I can almost smell these things ahead of time. I’ve heard and read of hundreds of these and many are quite a stretch. In fact it seems to me that nine times out of ten – if it is a discussion about the Abbey Road cover, this “death clue” topic is going to come out. In any event, I’ll start out here by just telling you what I know about the photo session, including a few details about the front cover.

Abbey Road front cover, 1969

Abbey Road front cover, 1969


The photographs used for both the front and back shots were taken by Scottish photographer Iain Macmillan on August 8, 1969. Prior to the shoot, Paul McCartney had sketched his ideas for the front cover on paper and explained his idea to the photographer. For the front cover shot the image chosen shows the four Beatles walking across the crosswalk just outside Abbey Road Studios. One bit of symbolism that has nothing to do with any sort of “clues” about Paul’s death is that the specific image used for the front cover shows The Beatles walking away from the studio where they had spent most of the past seven years. You may say it’s appropriate since this album’s sessions would be the last time the four of them would record together.

As for the back, Iain Macmillan took a photo of a tiled street sign that was located at the corner of Abbey Road and Alexandra Road. The sign has since been replaced and, in fact, the junction no longer exists since the road was removed as part of the development of the Abbey Road housing estate between Boundary Road and Belsize Road.

Back cover of Abbey Road album, 1969

Back cover of Abbey Road album, 1969


Brian also asks why a woman in a blue mini-skirt is walking by in the photo. Could it be that this is Jane Asher, Paul’s one-time fiancée, running from the scene of the alleged car crash that killed him in 1966? I’m just kidding there and couldn’t resist. The reason that someone is passing by in the photo is simply because they happened to be there when the photo was taken. The only further info would have to come from Iain Macmillan himself, but he died in 2006.

Okay now…on to Brian’s second question:

Hi Nat,

In all the “clues” about Paul’s death, I have never hear this one that I’ve always been curious about. In the song “Magical Mystery Tour,” when the chorus is sung for the second time and the car zooms by, if you listen closely, you can hear that it skids and crashes. No one seems to mention that one. What can you tell me about that “clue?”  


Okay, that does it Brian. Now I KNOW you want to start up a “death clue” discussion. Well… What can I say here?

The funny thing is that Brian is not just imagining this. If you listen to the original stereo mix of “Magical Mystery Tour” at 0:47 seconds in you’ll hear what Brian is calling the car zooming by (actually that IS imagination, it’s really just a drum roll) and immediately afterwards, at 0:50 seconds, you hear a skidding/screeching type noise. The drum roll is apparent in the mono mix but not the screeching sound. Curiously, in the recently remastered BluRay/DVD Magical Mystery Tour film the drum roll and screeching sound are both completely mixed out. Using headphones, this screeching sound could very well pass for the sound of a car’s tires on pavement after a sudden slamming of the brakes. Something to think about…

Magical Mystery Tour cover art, 1967

Magical Mystery Tour cover art, 1967


The thing about these “death clues” on The Beatles albums and within the music is this – they are there if you are looking for them. Do I think the real Paul is dead and that he was replaced by an impostor? Of course not. Did The Beatles put little messages in their music and cover art from time to time to get people thinking crazy thoughts? Yes, I think so. Beatles will be Beatles.

A real discussion about the “death clues” is really beyond the scope of this post. Knowing what I already know about it, I realize that to do it justice would take an entire book, so I really don’t want to get into it here. For further info though I can recommend a book on the subject that has already been written. I read it myself a few years back and it is quite interesting in its own way, with literally hundreds of “death clues” listed and discussed in detail. If you are into this kind of thing, I’d say it’s well worth the $10 or so to get it. It’s by R. Gary Patterson and is called The Walrus Was Paul. I have a link below for reading more about it and ordering a copy for yourself if you like.

Thanks for two interesting questions Brian, wherever you happen to be. If anyone has anything to add – or if you want to have a “death clue” listing party – I invite you to do just that in the comments section below.

Thank you to everyone who has sent in their questions! Keep #askNat going by sending your questions to me in any of the following ways:

1) There is a designated form that you fill out right on the website where you can give your name, location, email address and submit your question. The form is right here and is the same form used to submit requests for BROWs (Beatles Rarity Of The Weeks), but modfied to do both BROW requests and #askNat questions.

2) If you are a Facebook user, you can submit your question right on TheBeatlesRarity FB wall at www.facebook.com/beatlesrarity. If you think about it, try to remember to flag your question with “#askNat”.

3) Similarly, if you are a Google+ user, you can submit your question on TheBeatlesRarity Google+ page at www.gplus.to/beatlesrarity. Google+ supports hashtag searchability so it will be helpful if you preface your question with “#askNat” here too.

4) For you Twitter users, www.twitter.com/beatlesrarity gets you to the right place. Post your question and be sure to add “#askNat” somewhere in the tweet.

Here are some links to Amazon to read more or purchase some of the music related to this post:

1) The Walrus Was Paul: The Great Beatle Death Clues – More than you’d ever want to know about the “Paul McCartney death clues” in the cover art and music of The Beatles.

2) Abbey Road (Remastered) 2009 stereo CD remaster of original 1969 album by The Beatles. Contains booklet with additional photos from August 8. 1969 photo shoot by Iain Macmillan.

3) Magical Mystery Tour – 2009 stereo remastered CD of original 1967 album. Contains the title track “Magical Mystery Tour” mentioned above.

4) Magical Mystery Tour [Blu-ray] 2012 stereo/5.1 remaster/remix of original 1967 film Magical Mystery Tour by The Beatles (DVD also available). Contains added scenes and lots of bonus material.

5) More of your favorite Beatles-related music: The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

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  • Elliott Marx says:

    I like R. Gary Patterson who is a frequent guest on the syndicated late night conspiracy-minded talk show Coast to Coast AM. I have read a couple of his books, pretty fun stuff.

    I must say, I prefer the second Paul to the original one.

  • Pat says:

    What can you tell me about the cover of “Red Rose Speedway?” I always thought the Rose in Paul’s mouth was his answer to critics (including John) that said he was dead (musically). The other Beatles had red flowers in “Magical Mystery Tour” but Paul had a black flower which was one of the many “Paul is dead” clues. Was the rose Paul’s way of saying ‘I am not dead. I have a red flower just like the others!’? Paul’s first 3 albums were panned (unfairly)but “Red Rose Speedway” was thought to be his best to date (though not as good as his next).

  • Adam Kincaid says:

    In reply to Brian Cornish’s question, “when the chorus is sung for the second time and the car zooms by, if you listen closely, you can hear that (the car) skids and crashes. ”
    As I was reading this article, a possible reason (other than Paul’s death) for it came to mind.
    A day in the life, remember, mentions the man who “blew his mind out in a car”. Tara Browne, acquaintance of the Beatles, who had fatally crashed his Lotus Elan in December of 1966. If John Lennon was moved by the ivar crash enough to reference it in perhaps the Beatles greatest song, could he not have taken the idea further on Magical Mystery tour (recorded roughly around the same time as Day in the Life) and recorded the actual sound of an car accident to insert into the song? It makes perfect slightly skewed sense to me.
    The two things, idea of car crash evoked, and actual sound of car crash (possibly evoking music concrete, early Cage/Stockhausen references), I imagine could easily drift into the acid speckled brain of one or four Beatles at some point..

  • In every way across all lines The Beatles were controversial. This was just another layer.

  • Joel Glazier says:

    Glad to read someone raised the question of the ‘girl in blue’ on the back of the Abbey Road cover. I agree this weekly site is not the place for a long discussion on the “Is Paul Dead?” clues. But thank you Happy Nat for giving the correct details of that wall.
    In January 1970 I found that wall and embedded street sign and duly photographed it. On a return visit to London in January 1971, I went back to Abbey Road for a sunny day of pictures and the wall had been torn down. Some friends and I squeezed through the temporary fence and dug thru the mud and found some chips of the tiles on which Abbey Rd. NW8 had been printed. Yes we did take some of these muddy stones with the small tile chips still cemented in.
    Just to add another nice stroke of luck as we then waited on the corner for a bus, Paul, Linda, Heather and baby Mary rode up on their bikes to wait for traffic. I got to take his picture (with his permission) and did not tell him I had some muddy “Abbey Road sign” stones in my pocket. Ahh those were the days….and my little Instamatic camera came through!

    • Happy Nat says:

      Amazing Joel! How coincidental that Paul and family came along after that. Glad you got the photos (would love to see ‘em sometime) and thank you so much for sharing.

  • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

    I just checked my sources and it appears they are bus sounds from the movie. I have another version which was taken from the movie itself and it has bus sounds of tires squealing and drive-bys. They actually appear at different times in the mix used in the film.

    The version I have has the John Lennon interlude, “When a man buys a ticket for a Magical Mystery Tour, he knows what to expect. The trip of a lifetime! And that’s just what he gets – the incredible magical mystery tour!”

    The drive-bys in this version happens at 1:53 and squealing tires with drive-by happens at 2:03. They also have crowd applause from the scene with the entire cast – a photo of which is used as the last page of the booklet which accompanies the CD/album. I’d say they probably sync up with whatever was on-screen at the time. (Too lazy to dig out a copy on DVD/LD/VHS/Beta to find out).

    I believe these drive-bys were left in on purpose because it was the MMT bus sounds! It certainly was not a panned drum and it wasn’t jack the ripper…it was a shark! I mean, the MMT bus. ;-)

  • Lennonista says:

    I read this a while ago about some of the tiles from the original Abbey Road sign: http://wogew.blogspot.com/2012/08/4-abbey-road-letters-fetched-7000.html

    Does anyone know if the tiles were ever authenticated?

    • Happy Nat says:

      Interesting…no idea on if they were authenticated though.

    • Adam Kincaid says:

      I remember watching the auction programme ‘Four rooms’ when the Abbey Road tiles appeared. It was two or three years ago.

      The lady who sold them told how she’d lived in a block of flats across the road from the road sign in (I think) the 70′s when the wall the sign was on was demolished. She rushed over and grabbed some of the tiles and had saved them for all that time since.

      I assume they were authenticated somehow because the buyer was a canny guy and not easily convinced. Her address in the 70′s I guess she could have proved and possibly council records of street sign replacement.

      • Joel Glazier says:

        I am glad to read that possibly someone who lived near the “Abbey Rd” sign did salvage and save them. I always wondered why (if) some local person had not salvaged them when the wall was first taken down. I happened to be there on a university trip in early 1971 and found some small remnants in the mud. One would think if the original bigger pieces of tiles (even if glued back together) are around they deserve a place in some London or Rock and Roll museum. Thanks for that info about the Four Rooms auction. My own authentication are a few snap shops after I emerged from the ‘muddy’ area digging for the small fragments. No digital cams then so no date or photo shop was conceivable.

  • Russell Warner says:

    Great stuff Nat. The thing about the back cover that I’ve always wondered about is the tiles that say “Beatles”. No conspiracy theories, just curious to me as they match the official street tiles perfectly. Where did they come from? Who put them there? Did Neil Aspinall run down to public works and abscond with the needed tiles? Why is the “S” cracked? Obviously took some planning as this was well before the days of Photoshop.

    • Happy Nat says:

      Not sure who was behind getting the matching letters for “Beatles”, Russell. I imagine it wasn’t to hard to arrange. As far as the cracked “S” goes, I’ve always heard that the crack led to a cracked “O” in “ROAD.” Since Sgt. Pepper’s back cover shows us that Paul was represented as the letter “O,” a cracked “O” must mean that Paul is somehow flawed. Let me back up for a moment. On the back of the Pepper cover, George’s photo has him making an “L” with his hands. To his right, is Paul (or is it – it’s hard to tell for sure since unlike the others his back is to the camera). To Paul’s right is John, making a “V” with his hands and then Ringo is to John’s right forming an “E” with the fingers of his cupped hands. So we have “L * V E” but the round button on the back of Paul’s coat could very well be the “o” because the word is obviously “Love” as stated in the song on Rubber Soul. Since Paul is represented by the “o” and coincidentally is the only Bealte without an “o” in his name, the cracked “o” must mean that Paul is dead!! Especially since there is a number “3″ before the word “Beatles” (i.e. “3 Beatles”) that can be formed by connecting the dots in the photo. After all the bass drum head in the Magical Mystery Tour photo booklet also shows a “3″ before the word “Beatles.” Also if you look at the photo right you see the shadow of a skull and the woman in the photo most certainly must be Jane Asher running from the crash scene where the real Paul was killed.

      Okay, okay…enough silliness and absurdities. I don’t believe any of this but was just having fun. My truthful reply might be that the cracks were there just to make the letters appear to have been there as long as the others. Maybe since the crack was already in the brick, the letters look better showing the flaws too.

  • Clare says:

    Oh really, Nat.

    I love you but you’re wrong. But yes, Patterson’s book is a nice synopsis of many things. Some are likely misattributions, but there are many, many things.

    However, no matter what:

    The first reference was Feb 1967 in Beatles Book, in text (a disclaimer, or what claimed to be a disclaimer).

    The first rumour itself was in London late 1966 according to Beatles’ photographer from Help! movie, Emilio Lari.

    And on it goes.



    And though I prefer Paul himself to Sir Paul, I respect the good ideas Sir Paul had. He’s just way more repetitive within his songs, whereas Paul had Beautiful Boy naturalness to his singing, too.

    Anyway, even properly covering the rumour history would be a start. Much more is known now even about that.

    xo to you and yours.
    And yes, John drew Paul & broken head, ankles, Beatle boots, accurately and privately and with care. Why? A doodle of “anything, anywhere” or the most poignant direct depiction of the wounds? In context, including Sir George Martin’s coat of arms, with 3 Beatles and a white tire-tread, one might say … John was more a truthteller because he knew something was working on the public as a lie which he was part of. “A conspiracy of silence speaks louder than words” writes “Dr Winston O’Boogie” on his “Shaved Fish” album, for some reason. Could this particular rumour be a real conspiratorial coverup? How? Why?

    No matter what, the 1st reference was Feb 1967, in text, and Lari says he heard of a putative death of Paul already in London late 1966.

    • Happy Nat says:

      Again Clare – a REAL discussion about the death clues is beyond the scope of the post. Bottom line though – our Beatle Paul is alive and well and getting older all the time.

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