During a 1974 interview published in Rolling Stone Magazine, Paul McCartney discussed the many hidden meanings in The Beatles’ work that consumed obsessive fans. He mentioned that some people believed the cover of Abbey Road to contain clues revealing that he died. He pointed out that it’s easy to see hidden meanings in things if you were looking for hidden meanings.
He also discussed backmasking. Backmasking is the phenomenon in which artists will put backward messages in their songs. (See my backmasking page). While there are some examples of intentional backmasking, other times fans hear messages in songs played backward the artist did not intentionally put there. For example, Paul admitted that one of the songs from Sgt. Pepper sounds like it included the f-word when played backward even though he wasn’t aware of this until after the album’s completion.
From the 1974 interview with Paul McCartney (also Linda) in Rolling Stone Magazine:
[Paul:] Once you get analyzing something and looking into it, things do begin to appear and things do begin to tie in. Because everything ties in, and what you get depends on your approach to it. You look at everything with a black attitude and it’s all black.
This other idea of Paul Is Dead. That was on for a while. I had just turned up at a photo session and it was at the time when Linda and I were just beginning to knock around with each other steadily. It was a hot day in London, a really nice hot day, and I think I wore sandals. I only had to walk around the corner to the crossing because I lived pretty nearby. I had me sandals on and for the photo session I thought I’ll take my sandals off.
Linda: No, you were barefoot.
Paul: Oh, I was barefoot. Yeah, that’s it. You know, so what? Barefoot, nice warm day, I didn’t feel like wearing shoes. So I went around to the photo session and showed me bare feet. Of course when that comes out and people start looking at it they say, “Why has he got no shoes on? He’s never done that before.” OK, you’ve never seen me do it before, but, in actual fact, it’s just me with my shoes off. Turns out to be some old Mafia sign of death or something.
Then the this-little-bit-if-you-play-it-backwards stuff. As I say, nine times out of ten it’s really nothing. Take the end of Sgt. Pepper, that backward thing, “We’ll f— you like Supermen.” Some fans came around to my door giggling. I said, “Hello, what do you want?” They said, “Is it true, that bit at the end? Is it true? It says ‘We’ll f— you like Supermen’.” I said, “No, you’re kidding. I haven’t heard it, but I’ll play it.” It was just some piece of conversation that was recorded and turned backwards. But I went inside after I’d seen them and played it studiously, turned it backwards with my thumb against the motor, turned the motor off and did it backwards. And there it was, sure as anything, plain as anything. “We’ll f— you like Supermen.” I thought, Jesus, what can you do?
And then there was “I buried Paul.”
That wasn’t “I buried Paul” at all, that was John saying “cranberry sauce.” It was the end of “Strawberry Fields.” That’s John’s humor. John would say something totally out of synch, like “cranberry sauce.” If you don’t realize that John’s apt to say “cranberry sauce” when he feels like it, then you start to hear a funny little word there, and you think “Aha!”
When you were alive and presumed dead, what did you think?
Someone from the office rang me up and said, “Look, Paul, you’re dead.” And I said, “Oh, I don’t agree with that.” And they said, “Look, what are you going to do about it? It’s a big thing breaking in America. You’re dead.” And so I said leave it, just let them say it. It’ll probably be the best publicity we’ve ever had and I won’t have to do a thing except stay alive. So I managed to stay alive through it.