The Beatles FAQ

Fun stuff about the Fab Four. Linked to The Beatles Teaching Pack

Thursday, 8 August 2019

What were the 'clues' on the Abbey Road cover?

So here’s another clue for you all/The Walrus was Paul
The Beatles Glass Onion (The White Album)

There were conspiracy theories long before the internet. The Beatles, with their unprecedented fame and influence on popular culture, were particularly prone to them. Perhaps the most notorious began on  the night of January 7, 1967, when  ‘a rumour swept London that Paul McCartney had been killed in a car crash on the M1’. It became so widespread that the February 1967 issue of The Beatles Book fanzine felt obliged to reassure worried fans. 
The article appeared to confirm that Macca was alive and kicking, with three more years of Beatle in-fighting to look forward to. That part was true but the rest was inaccurate and misleading.

This — as Sixties folk liked to say — is what really went down.
McCartney’s Mini Cooper was involved in an accident on the M1 motorway outside London, as a result of which it was written off. However, the car was being driven by a Moroccan student named Mohammed Hadjij, and McCartney was not present.
Hadjij was an assistant to London art gallery owner Robert Fraser. The pair turned up at McCartney’s house on the evening of 7 January, and were later joined by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones and antiques dealer Christopher Gibbs.
The party decided to head to Jagger’s home in Hertfordshire … McCartney travelled with Jagger in the latter’s Mini Cooper, while Hadjij drove in McCartney’s Mini.
The two cars became separated during the journey. Hadjij crashed McCartney’s Mini and was hospitalised with injuries. The heavily customised car was highly recognisable, so rumours began circulating that McCartney had been killed in the incident. Source
So far from being ‘safely locked up in the garage’ Paul’s ‘highly recognisable’ black Mini Cooper had been out on the town with its owner and some Rolling Stones. By the end of the night it was a mangled wreck and a mysterious young Moroccan was licking his wounds in Accident & Emergency.

Meanwhile the pop stars slipped quietly into the frosty night.

Pretty low rent rock n roll hell-raising then, but the image of Paul McCartney tearing around London with the rough boys was not one The Beatles’ management wanted publicised. Hence the False Rumours press release.

The problem was that enough witnesses had seen Paul’s Mini that night to fuel well-founded rumours of a cover up.

Secret messages

On 12 October, 1969 a bizarre on-air phone call to Detroit radio station gave new life (!) to the controversy. A caller, identified only as ‘Tom’, had some startling new information. He revealed that The Beatles had been sending secret messages through their recorded songs.
‘Play ‘Revolution 9’ backwards,’ he said mysteriously. ‘And you’ll hear what I mean!’

The DJ duly spun the disk (backwards). After somehow deciphering discordant wailing, he pronounced judgement. ‘Wow! John is saying “dead man!” He’s trying to tell us that Paul McCartney is dead!’


In 1969, the story got a new lease of life. A Michigan University student published an article: “McCartney Dead; New Evidence Brought to Light”. The article built a pretty spooky — if not quite legally watertight — case for suspicious minds.

Most famously it drew attention to ‘Paul’ crossing Abbey Road on the album cover barefoot. And walking barefoot — as every conspiracy theorist agreed — was a scientifically proven symbol of death. McCartney later would protest that he was shoeless because of the August heat. The photographer - who took the photo standing on a stepladder while they held up the traffic -  confirmed Paul's explanation. But by this point nobody was listening.

Other 'clues' are also problematic:
  • The licence plat number on the white VW Beetle in the background ended 28IF. Another message! Paul would have been twenty-seven had he lived to record Abbey Road. That stood for Paul's age IF he had not died, right? But a glance at Paul’s birth certificate confirms that he was twenty-seven on the day he walked across Abbey Road. Or didn’t walk across….
  • The black prison van symbolizes the police role in the cover-up. So they were in on it too...
  • In the background a small group of people dressed in white are on one side of the road. They represent the surviving Beatles. A single figure in black stands alone on the other.  Dead Paul, of course. 
  • Why does Paul have a cigarette in his RIGHT hand? Everyone knows Paul McCartney is LEFT handed! How do you explain that, eh?

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