“Paul Is Dead” Clues on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

In the “Paul is dead” mythology, if Abbey Road is the funeral procession, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the burial. The Beatles had decided to stop touring and focus on experimenting with new sounds in the recording studio. It was Paul’s idea that the Beatles immerse themselves in an alternate identity for this 1967 release. The name “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band” was a play on verbose hippie-era band names. As Paul explained in The Beatles Anthology,

It was at the start of the hippy times, and there was a jingly-jangly happy aura all around in America. I started thinking about what would be a really mad name to call a band. At the time there were lots of groups with names like ‘Laughing Joe and His Medicine Band’ or ‘Col Tucker’s Medicinal Brew and Compound’; all that old Western going-round-on-wagons stuff, with long rambling names. And so in the same way that it ‘I Am The Walrus’ John would throw together ‘choking smokers’ and ‘elementary penguin’, I threw those words together: ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’. I took an idea back to the guys in London: ‘As we’re trying to get away from ourselves – to get away from touring and into a more surreal thing – how about if we become an alter-ego band, something like, say, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts”? I’ve got a little bit of a song cooking with that title.’

The cover photo, then, shows the Beatles assuming this new identity and laying to rest their earlier image as the Fab Four. People looking for clues of Paul’s death, however, interpreted the cover of Sgt. Pepper as representing Paul’s burial and the end of the Beatles as we had known them. With its iconic cover featuring so many images from popular culture, Sgt. Pepper is rife with “Paul is dead” clues.

The new psychedelic Beatles stand at the center while wax images of the younger Beatles look mournfully on the gravesite because the Beatles were no longer the same band.


Looking at the older, psychedelic Beatles, you’ll notice a couple of odd things. While the rest of the Beatles are standing at an angle, Paul is facing the camera as though he were being supported by his bandmates standing at his sides. While the rest of the Beatles are holding brass band instruments, Paul’s pid_HandOverHeadcor anglaise is black (death) and wooden (coffin). A hand is over Paul’s head, as though he were being blessed by a priest before being interred. In Strawberry Fields Forever #51, Joel Glazier points out that this hand belongs to Stephen Crane, who wrote a short story called “The Open Boat” based on his experience of surviving a shipwreck. He and three other men made it to a lifeboat, but one of the men drowned when the boat capsized. In his fictionalized version of the story, though Billie (the only character referred to by name) is the strongest of the four men in the boat, he drowns when they try to swim to shore. Glazier also notes that Stephen Crane died in his 20s, and a number of the other figures depicted on the cover died tragic deaths, as well, including Jayne Mansfield who was decapitated in a car crash.

Across the gravesite is a bass guitar oriented the way Paul, who waspid_HyacinthBass left-handed, would play it. The strings of the instrument are made of sticks but there are only three sticks rather than four, just as there would only be three Beatles without Paul. With a little imagination you can see that the yellow hyacinths spell out “PAUL?” or, looked at another way, the flowers form the letter “P”.

Joel Glazier points tpid_HeDieo perhaps the most imaginative interpretation of an image on the cover of Sgt. Pepper. If you hold a mirror across the middle of the words “LONELY HEARTS” written across the center of the bass drum, you will see “IONEIX HE<>DIE”. When arranged as “I ONE IX HE <> DIE,” this image suggests the date (11-9, or November 9, 1966) that Paul died, as the diamond between the words “HE” and “DIE” points directly at Paul. One problem with this interpretation is that the British write dates as day-month-year rather than the American month-day-year, which would make this date September 11th rather than November 9th. You could read this, then, as “1 ONE 1 X”, meaning that one of the four is gone, and then the “HE DIE” points to Paul as the missing Beatle.


The doll at the right side of the picture–the cloth figure of Shirley Temple–wears a sweater that reads “WELCOME THE ROLLING STONES”. Joel Glazier asserts that the Rolling Stones helped to cover up Paul’s death and the reference on the cover was a thank you from the Beatles. This message also suggests that without the Beatles the Rolling Stones would have been the undisputed leading rock and roll band. A model of an Aston-Martin, the type of car that Paul was supposedly driving at the time of his fatal accident, is leaned against the doll’s leg. The interior of the car is red, symbolizing Paul’s bloody accident. Also, the cloth grandmother figure, on whose lap the Shirley Temple doll is resting, is wearing a blood stained driving glove.

The Japanese stone figure at the feet of the wax images of the younger Beatles has line on its head, representing the head wounds that Paul sustained in his fatal accident. The four-armed Indian doll at the front of the picture is Shiva, symbol of both destruction and creation. Two of the doll’s arms are raised, one pointing at the wax image of the younger Paul and the other pointing at Paul himself. The television set on the ground to the right of the Beatles is turned off, suggesting that the news of the tragedy had been suppressed.

The album cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band was innovative in several ways. It was one of the first to feature a gatefold sleeve, which allowed the Beatles an especially large space for a band photo.


In the photo Paul is wearing a patch with the letters “O.P.D.”, interpreted as “Officially Pronounced Dead.” In his article in Life magazine, John Neary reported that this phrase is the equivalent of “Dead On Arrival” in British police jargon.


In the same Life magazine article Paul stated, “It is all bloody stupid. I picked up the O.P.D. badge in Canada. It was a police badge. Perhaps it means Ontario Police Department or something.” This explanation didn’t help to clarify anything, however, because there is no such thing is the Ontario Police Department (well, except in California, that is). The badge Paul was wearing actually reads “O.P.P.”, which stands for the Ontario Provincial Police. The angle of the photograph makes the final “P” look like a “D”.


Another distinguishing feature of Sgt. Pepper was that it was the first album to have the song lyrics printed in full on the album cover. On the original LP the song lyrics are printed on the back cover over a picture of the Beatles. Unlike the rest of the Beatles, Paul has his back turned to the camera, the three black buttons on the back of his coat representing the mourning of the other Beatles. Though John, Paul and George were all about the same height, Paul appears taller than the other Beatles, suggesting that he is ascending. Next to Paul’s head are the words “WITHOUT YOU” from the song title “Within You Without You”.


Also, George appears to be pointing at the words “Wednesday morning at five o’clock as the day begins”, which was supposed to have been the time of Paul’s fatal accident.


George positioned his hand in this way not to point to the printed lyrics, but to make the letter “L”, the first letter in the wordpid_JohnV “LOVE”, as the Beatles appeapid_RingoEr to be spelling out the word “LOVE” with their hands. In addition to George pointing his fingers in the shape of an “L”, John’s hands are arranged in a “V” shape, and Ringo’s clasped hands form an “E”. The “O” is missing as Paul’s hands are not visible.
The lyrics themselves seem to be revealing information about Paul’s death and replacement by a lookalike. The title song introduces Billy Shears, who then tells the audience in “With a Little Help from My Friends” “Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song/And I’ll try not to sing out of key”. Paul’s replacement, William Campbell, but here referred to as “Billy Shears,” was still working on perfecting his singing voice. Several songs have references to a tragic accident. “Good Morning, Good Morning” opens with the line “Nothing to do to save his life call his wife in.” One story of Paul’s fatal accident was that he had picked up a woman named Rita and she became so excited when she realized she was in a car with Paul McCartney that she threw herself on him. As told in the song “Lovely Rita,” “I took her home/I nearly made it”. In “A Day in the Life” John sings ominously of a car crash. “He blew his mind out in a car/He hadn’t noticed that the lights had changed/A crowd of people stood and stared/They’d seen his face before/Nobody was really sure if he was from the House of Lords”. Paul McCartney Dead: The Great Hoax asserts,

On the album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” one of the songs, “A Day in the Life,” has been interpreted as Paul’s official death announcement. In the lyric of the song is the phrase: He blew his mind out in a car. This is to support the theory that Paul did die in an automobile accident in November, 1966-more precisely, that he was decapitated.

Also, according to Joel Glazier, toward the end of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)” you can a voice shouting “Paul is dead, yeah, really really dead!”. This one is very much open to suggestion, however, as Andru Reeve has the voice shouting, “Paul McCartney is dead, everybody! Really, really dead!”

Sgt. Pepper’s Loney Hears Blub Band (Reprise) [edit]

Sgt. Pepper’s Loney Hears Blub Band (Reprise) [edit]

Another bit of audio that has been subject to scrutiny is the “Sgt. Pepper Inner Groove”. The Beatles produced a few seconds of gibberish that would play on indefinitely for those with turntables that did not shut off automatically. Here it is played forward:

Sgt. Pepper Inner Groove [forward]

Sgt. Pepper Inner Groove [forward]

And here it is in reverse:

Sgt. Pepper Inner Groove [reversed]

Sgt. Pepper Inner Groove [reversed]

A variety of interpretations of this bit of audio have been put forth, some relevant to the “Paul is dead” story but most not. Long after the release of Sgt. Pepper, Paul McCartney, frustrated by all the rumors of secret messages, reported in Rolling Stone that he played “Sgt. Pepper Inner Groove” backwards, “And there it was, plain as anything, ‘We’ll fuck you like Supermen.’ I thought, Jesus, what can you do?”

47 thoughts on ““Paul Is Dead” Clues on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

  1. I’ve been a Beatle fan since I was 12 and now I’m 57. I don’t know why it took me so long to google this but I knew the album had to be about Paul is dead because there are so many clues in the songs like he blew his mind out in a car then nobody was really sure if he was from the house of Lords. Then the end of the song when they say Paul is really dead, service for the villian. Thanks for filling in all the holes.

    • You need to put the mirror horizontal covering the bottom half of the letters and make it reflect the top half upon the mirror

    • That’s all red herrings IIIX ~the real looking glass treat is placing the mirror from the upper left hand corner to the lower right so that the drumskin reduced to a lens shape ..this is the vescis symbol of crowleys OTO, even down to the chalice and dove ..the newly symmetrical image is of a human pyramid with a double faced Aleister atop and a crimson phallus at the base .. this is the True album cover

  2. I’m pretty sure John and George are dead, Paul is just really, really old looking and your guess is as good as mine on Ringo.

  3. Try to read the book The Memoirs of Billy Shears, by Thomas Uharriet who supposedly wrote it with Sir Paul McCartney, who was originally William (Bill) Shepherd, who replaced Paul McCartney when Paul died on Sept 11, 1966 in a car crash (the Brits put the day first, Americans put the month first – it’s NOT Nov 9, it’s Sept 11.). If you read the book, I’m pretty sure you’ll all be convinced. It’s hundreds of pages of info that cannot possibly be a fiction, there’s far too much detail and the book holds together. Apparently Shepherd would like the info to get out but doesn’t want to violate his non-disclosure agreement – for his sake & his kids, grandkids. There’s a new addition coming out, may already be out. It’s worth the money esp if you can split the cost with another Beatles fan or two. I’m telling you – you will be convinced.

  4. November 9,1966 was a Wednesday just like the song goes Wednesday morning at 5 o’clock when the day begins.She’s Leaving Home.It is strange ain’t it.
    Who was leaving home?Rita as the song Lovely Rita is referring to.
    She is a real person.

  5. Crazy how Linda never skipped a beat when William “Billie Spears” Shepherd moved right in to Paul’s old spot in her devastatingly broken heart. She gets Paul’s looks and Ringo’s voice. A twofer! baaaah hahahaha

  6. Johnny Weissmuller appears to be commiserating with “paul” ..he played Tarzan, a peerage bloke who undergoes a mystical transformation in Africa

    ..see where I’m going with this ?

  7. Hyacinth : flower of the sun-god (“sun king” anyone?) Apollo = A-Paul-0 = Apple.
    The Jane Mansfield connexion is a complex one, because she died one month after the release of Sgt Pepper, unless we think of creepy predictive programming…
    September 11th (1966) is definitely the right date : George immediately flew to India (on 14 september), John to spain (18 september), where he wrote “strawberry fields”, clearly a mourning song… At melody maker awards, there was only Ringo and Faul, so we can suppose it was really on 19th september (some sources give the 13th september).
    The Ontario connexion is really interesting, as there was one rock band, Johnny and the Apologies, who made hits from 1964 to…1966. Of course, documents are rare but there is at least one photo of the band, now you can choose, the “bassist” in the center with the same chin as Faul, or the lefty guitarist at an angle where we sadly can’t see his face clearly…
    The Inner Groove in reverse is clearly “Will Paul be back as Superman?” Superman appears in Magical Mystery Tour booklet in connexion to “the driver” (Paul was the driver of the band).

  8. I get tired of Paul looking publicly fed up with the theories he died or was at least replaced. After all, there are not coincidences in their imagery and songs – they played around with the ambivalence of these images and wrote song lyrics hat fit very well into those theories.
    Why has nobody ever questioned Paul on that patch – the Sergeant Pepper costumes were expensive artistic creations and you put a patch you just picked up in Canada on yours, Paul? That makes no sense – affixing a patch to an expensive and beautiful item of clothing. Note the other Beatles didn’t have similar patches on their costumes.
    It doesn’t seem this was a restrospective move to create interest in the Beatles so younger generations would buy their music. It’s true there was a time in the later 70s and early 80s especially due to punk and new wave when younger generations weren’t really into the Beatles and their home city wasn’t thinking it was a great idea to capitalise off their music history for tourism.
    Nope, this was a deliberate move on the part of the Beatles but why we still don’t know. And yes, being the only Beatle putting a cheapie patch on an expensive costume and wearing a black flower in ‘Your Mother Should Know’, Paul, tell us that you were deliberately creating this mystery. And those are only two of many examples that can be given.
    It shouldn’t surprise anybody that John Lennon might have been mocking fans through songs like ‘Glass Onion’ – come on, saying that here’s another clue for you all fits in with Lennon’s sarcasm. But the fact remains that before this, there are significant images and song lyrics that point to something strange happening with Paul McCartney.
    Even in the alternative album cover to the atrocious ‘Butcher’ one, Paul is sitting inside a long box.
    I personally lean towards the McCartney was replaced with an unknown brother – his father was a musician and married late and World War 2′ s uncertainty resulted in many kids outside wedlock.
    The Paul McCartney promoting ‘Chaos And Creation In The Backyard’ looked like the old Paul people knew at first but for some other albums he seemed different and his familiar, broader nose was once again the thinner one with different nostrils. I think the original Paul was literally sick and tired and removed himself from the scene only to reappear sometimes.
    Whether he is still alive we don’t know – we’d have to look closely at the appearances of Paul McCartney in 2021 to see his facial features. And in this new year of 2022.

    • I agree with some of your summation. I also believe that the original Paul stepped away and reappeared from time to time. In a few Beatles’ photos taken subsequent to 1966, I have recognized (here and there) the broader nose and the heavier lashed eyes of the original Paul.
      In my opinion, the original Paul was very handsome. He appeared to be humorous, cool and collected. Paul’s replacement is awkwardly hip, jazzy, and a little corny. Also, he doesn’t seem to remember a great deal of early Beatle history in detail.

  9. Bill Shears here from Franklin, TN via Evansville, IN : I Agree ” So Let Me Introduce To You The One And Only BILLY SHEARS Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band “

  10. Creg Gentry qui a trouvé des preuves que contrairement à Paul, McCartney II [“Billy”] souffre de polydactylie, semble avoir un orteil supplémentaire et au pied gauche. John chante, ” Il a un ballon de football aux orteils ; Un plus un et un font trois ; parce qu’il est si difficile à voir. En recherchant un temps sois peu ,vous pouvez trouver ces indices mettons sur Pinterest. Photo.

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