The Lonely Hearts Club: The Abbey Road urban legend

Long before Becky Terhune created the “most adorbs cover and book design” (p. 289) for The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg, there was the album cover for Abbey Road by The Beatles, featuring the Fab Four walking across the actual Abbey Road near their recording studio. (See our cover comparison here.)

On first glance it looks simple enough, but Beatles fans and conspiracy theorists had a field day with it, alleging that the image hides clues into Paul McCartney’s 1966 death and replacement by a look-alike.

According to the folks over at

The legend hinges on supposed hints among the Beatles’ many recordings and presumed to be deliberately placed by The Beatles or others …. they include statements heard when a song is played backwards, symbolic interpretations of obscure lyrics, and ambiguous imagery on album covers. Some of these have become well-known, such as the fact that on the cover of Abbey Road, McCartney is the only barefooted Beatle and is out of step with the others.

Here’s what supposedly happened:

The most common tale is that on Wednesday, 9 November 1966 at 5 am, McCartney, while working on the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, stormed out of a recording session after an argument with the other Beatles and rode off in his Aston Martin which he subsequently crashed into a lamp-post, and died.

The Abbey Road cover was said to recreate a funeral procession that took place shortly afterward. John Lennon is dressed in white like a clergyman; Ringo Starr wore a black undertaker’s suit; McCartney was in a suit but barefoot, as if laid out in a casket; and George Harrison’s denim duds were similar to a grave digger’s.

There’s another connection with our beloved heroine, Penny Lane Bloom. More rumors allege that McCartney was replaced with the winner of a look-alike contest named William Shears Campbell, Billy Shears – the name of the fictitious leader of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

And you thought it was just a cute cover.

(If you want to know more, visit

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