Monday, July 28, 2014

Would You Believe..?

As if there wasn't enough else to worry about in the mid-to-late 1960s, people liked to sit around inventing crazy stories, one of which was that Paul McCartney had been slain in a bloody car crash.  That story amused swingin' London for a week or two in 1967, buttressed by shreds of facts (McCartney's car was in a wreck, but it was being driven by someone who worked for him, and he did wipe out on his moped, chipping a tooth and scarring his otherwise stiff upper lip.  He grew a mustache to hide the scar) and people's natural love of pure bullhockey.

And then came 1969, when a fool named Tim Harper (who had like totally, heard all about Paul being dead from a friend who knew a guy who knew the coroner...) wrote a "news story" which appeared in the Times-Delphic, the student newspaper of the Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Next thing you know, a DJ who should have known better, one Russ Gibb, on WKNR-FM, took a call from a listener who said that Paul was dead, and if Gibb would simply play "Revolution 9" backwards, everyone could hear the Beatles chant “turn me on, dead man.” And then, someone wrote an article in another college newspaper about this great plot to cover up the death of Paul McCartney, and Russ Gibb, seeking an easier way to turn a quick couple of dollars than doing one more teen dance, produced a radio documentary, laying out all the made-up facts.   For weeks, an anxious nation - yea, the world - awaited confirmation that the man who later wrote "Silly Love Songs" was alive to sing them.  Clues were discussed - he was the only one walking barefoot on the Abbey Road album! - the license tag was 28IF, meaning he would have been 28 IF he had lived! - Lennon mutters "I buried Paul" because who would mumble the words "Cranberry sauce" on a record?!

As was often the case, nothing was clear until LIFE magazine came out in November, with proof that Paul was alive and well and living among many sheep on a farm in Scotland.  In the magazine, McCartney told fans that “Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” paraphrasing Mark Twain. “However, if I was dead, I’m sure I’d be the last to know.”

You can add "the last to know" to the people in our town who choose to believe and spread ridiculous myths, the two most often-repeated of which are that a politician and newscaster got busy and had a baby, and that a ballplayer beat up an actor in a jealous rage.  You ask for evidence, and all you get is "I knew a guy who talked to a guy whose uncle was like totally there!" People who believe and retell these stories always quote a high-ranking police officer as the source of their veracity.

Sergeant Pepper.

No comments: