After their final show at Candlestick Park, the band took a three month break from recording so they could catch their breath. During that time Paul McCartney died in a car crash, and the resulting cover up required them to stay off the road and in the studio. So it was that in November of 1966 The Beatles found themselves in Abbey Road Studios beginning work on what some have called the greatest album of all time: Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band.
The first two tracks to come out of the sessions were Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever, released as a single in February of 1967 to hold people over until the new album was released. The album was shaping up to be not only one of the most innovative releases by the band, but also one of the most innovative in the history of popular music. The psychedelic influences on the band brought their creative impulses out in force, resulting in a densely layered album unlike anything heard before. It was given the Grammy for Album Of The Year in 1968 (the first rock album to receive such an honor) and was the number one album for 27 weeks in the UK and for 15 weeks in the US. To say it was well received would be an understatement.
Sergeant Pepper presented an entirely new vision of who The Beatles were and what they were capable of, starting with the name. "Paul McCartney" came up with the idea of presenting the band under the name Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band as a way of allowing the band to create outside the mythology that hovered around The Beatles. At least that's how the story goes. Could it be that they were actually operating outside the mythology because they were no longer truly The Beatles? Did the band even consider themselves truly The Beatles since McCartney had died? Perhaps this is why the clues revealing the truth about Paul McCartney's death came on hot and heavy with the release of this album.
Looking at the album cover, it looks like it could represent a funeral scene. We see the current Beatles dressed colorfully at Sgt. Pepper's band, and next to them stand younger versions of the band looking mournful. Is this to represent the changing artistic vision of the band, or is it to mourn the passing of what was once the Beatles? The Beatles are also shown for the first time with facial hair. It is believed that "Paul" grew his moustache to cover the plastic surgery scars that were part of completing his transition from William Campbell (lookalike) to "Faul". The rest of the band grew moustaches to make "Faul's" moustache less conspicuous.
Looking closer at "Faul", we see that a hand is held over his head, seemingly singling him out. As stated in the article published in the Drake University newspaper, the hand held over someone's head is believed to be a symbol of death.
The decoration at the bottom of the "funeral scene is filled with clues. First let's look at the drum head. At first glance it's simply a colorful announcement of the band's name. But when you get a mirror out and hold it up to the drum, you get something eerie.
Letters, numbers, and roman numerals appear, and it gives us an announcement of Paul's death date.
1 One IX HE DIE
1 ONE = November, IX = the Roman numeral nine, HE DIE = Paul Died on November 9th.
Look at the floral arrangement of the musical instrument in the foreground. It seems to depict a left handed bass, with the four strings and the way it is laid out. Paul played left handed bass. If you look even closer at the flowers, you see that they actually spell out a name...
THEY SPELL PAUL! Is this actually a funeral for Paul? GAH! Now look at the strange doll on right of the cover.
On the leg of the doll you'll see a little white Aston Martin. Paul was allegedly driving a white Aston Martin when he was killed in the car crash.
On the left hand side of the doll you can see what appears to be a bloody left hand glove. Paul was left handed, so does the blood point to the fact that Paul died?
The clues don't stop at the front cover, just in case you were wondering. You can find even more on the inside and back covers! On the inside gatefold of the album The Beatles are shown sitting closely together.
If you look closely at Paul's left arm you can see a patch that appears to say O.P.D. Could this stand for Officially Pronounced Dead?
The back cover presents the lyrics to their songs for the first time in their career. Why? Could it be there was something important that needed to be seen?
Look at the band photo. Paul is the only band member not facing forward. Could it be because he isn't actually the real Paul McCartney?
Now look at George's hand pointing awkwardly up towards the line "Wednesday morning at five o'clock". Why is he drawing our attention to that lyric? Could it be because that was the day and time that Paul died?
BOOM. All kinds of evidence popping up on this record! The truth just kept coming over the next several years, though. Magical Mystery Tour was just around the corner...