Forty years ago this week a rumor raced around the world that Paul McCartney was dead. He was 27. The main evidence, apparently, was the message heard by teenage fans who played Revolution 9 backwards. McCartney had also been photographed walking ominously barefoot on the cover of Abbey Road, and there was that hand of benediction over his head on the cover of Sgt. Pepper. How could anybody doubt it?
The rumor began in September with an article in a student newspaper at Duke University. Then on October 12, a listener called WKNR FM in Detroit, announcing that "Paul is dead", and supplying elaborate evidence, including the phrase "Turn me on, Dead Man" on Revolution 9. Two days later an article spelling out more details appeared at the University of Michigan. On the 21st, an overnight disc jockey discussed it incoherently and at length on WABC in New York. Celebrity lawyer F. Lee Bailey hosted an hour-long television program exploring the evidence, but nobody went to the effort to pick up the phone and call McCartney. If Paul wasn't dead, though, the Beatles were. The band had broken up, and Paul verified the fact in an October 24th magazine interview. The interview appeared in LIFE magazine. Paul McCartney appears seven times in A Book of Ages.
(I remember hearing this rumor, just as I remember hearing about the Kennedy assassination and the murders committed by the Manson Family, on the school bus.)