I’d originally intended to publish this in June last year to mark the close of a theatre-play in New York reportedly about the hiring of a double to impersonate Beatles-era Paul McCartney after he’s involved in a car-crash. Titled ‘Nowhere Man,’ it took its cue from the P.i.D. (‘Paul is Dead’) conspiracy-rumours/theories which, in whatever form they’ve come, I’ve never bought. The end of the ten-day run of the stage-production felt to me like a timely point to share a few of my reasons for this, to present a perspective, a point of view that I sense is rarely if ever highlighted or discussed when information is shared or discussed and debated on ‘Paul is Dead.’ And so I began to conduct some preliminary research in preparation for this, to add some meat (as it were) to what I already knew and what I wanted to convey here. However, as I dug and dug deeper, it slowly but surely dawned on me that this wasn’t going to be the short summary-article that I’d originally expected it to be. I was pulling out more and more branches of info, and a lot of which I wasn’t aware of and that – most time-consumingly of all – was very muddy and very contradictory. All those contradictions had to be cross-checked and back-referenced I felt, so that’s what I did to the best of my abilities. In the middle of the checking and digging I’d stop for a bit and go off researching elsewhere for unrelated articles that had to be written and published on this site, because, I felt they needed to be posted as soon as possible so as not to lose their topical flavour, and then I’d return and pick up tools again. But now at last, seventeen(!) months on, here it is.
Being based in the UK and having never been to New York let alone America, I personally never saw ‘Nowhere Man’ when it ran in 2017 from June 8th – 18th (Paul’s birthday). As a result, I thought it best to leave it to others with a better understanding of it to describe its plot for you. So, here’s what ‘Theatre for the City,’ the organisation that helped stage it, had at the time in terms of general plotline on its website:
After The Beatles stopped performing at the height of their success, some fans became convinced the singer had died in a car accident.
Rumours circulated that McCartney had crashed and the band concealed the fact, even hiring a double to keep going.
In fact, the band stopped performing and did studio work after the sounds of shouting fans began to drown out their music at concerts.
In Nowhere Man, the Beatles’ handlers, such as George Martin, the band’s arranger, and Neil Aspinall, their road-manager and assistant, orchestrate the hiring.
More of the plot is detailed by an individual by the name of James Wilson in a review published on the website ‘TalkinBroadway.com.’ He states:
The play begins… with a heated conversation between famed Beatles producer George Martin and the group’s high-strung road-manager Neil Aspinall. The future of the band is at stake: Paul McCartney has been in a car accident and is in critical condition. The accident, it seems, was caused by a young woman, who had been offered a lift by Paul and who subsequently went into a frenzy when she recognised the driver. Paul will need time and space to recover, of course, and in order to keep the Press and obsessed fans away, Martin and Aspinall hatch a plan to hire someone to appear as Paul coming and going from the recording-studio and for other public sightings. They decide upon Billy Campbell, a prize-winning Paul McCartney lookalike, to impersonate the singer, but he must be sworn to absolute secrecy.
Billy, a struggling musician and full-time bartender, is enticed by the money, but his acceptance means he will have to go into seclusion (in one of Paul McCartney’s palatial London residencies) and give up his own identity for at least three months. He accepts the ticket to ride, so to speak, but most difficult for the young man is cutting off regular contact with his increasingly suspicious fiancé. The plot becomes more complicated with the appearance of Michelle who has her own secret connection to the real Paul, and her boyfriend Tommy. The elaborate charade forces Billy to confront his own moral dilemma about the price of fame and the cost of not being true to oneself.
As you’ll most probably be aware, a couple or so of the ingredients in the plotlines outlined above, such as the presence of the McCartney look-a-like contest winner Billy Campbell, are pulled from the theories that first began to permeate into mainstream consciousness back in 1969 – although, in those versions of events of course, Paul is killed after he argues one night in November 1966 with his fellow Beatles at a recording-session at London’s ‘Abbey Road’ studios, storms out of the building as a result and gets into his car and crashes. In the years following the band’s split in 1970, countless other hypotheses have materialised, and especially after the internet became a widely-used part of our lives from the late ‘90s/early 2000s onwards, paving the way for the extensive variety of websites, pod-casts and blogs on the P.i.D. conspiracy that we have today. I’m not going to recount all of those in this article. Instead, I’ll note the words of Mark Devlin the UK’s leading speaker on the occult/conspiratorial elements within the music-industry. In a ‘FaceBook’ posting last year and that I was contributing to, he nicely summarised the position that he thought we’d reached with regards to the sprawling, complex web of theories, counter-theories, opinions and observations in the ‘Paul is Dead’ mystery. He said the term ‘P.i.D.’ should perhaps be changed to ‘P.A.P.’ (‘Paul Ain’t Paul’) because whilst there are a huge amount of folk who do believe McCartney died and was replaced, there are others (including myself) who are of the view, or at least suspect, that this isn’t the case, but, that he has nonetheless undergone a transformation of some esoteric nature. I veer towards the possibility that his so-called ‘death’ may, in part, be allegorical and not literal – perhaps suggesting some form of possession by a dark entity, or, with the aid of LSD, the loss of his ego (dying through Acid). I won’t expand on that idea here in this article, but some other time perhaps. So, leaving that aside for now, another school-of-thought within the P.A.P. camp is those who hold or at least sympathise with the view that Paul is indeed still alive but has employed a double (or doubles) to fill in for him at times including, perhaps, in a not too dissimilar way from the scenario that was set out in Nowhere Man. Actually, on the entertainment-casting site, ‘Backstage’ there was a page advertising for actors to come audition for the play stating that it “is designed to be a believable variation on a famous Beatles myth.” Interesting choice of words there, “myth” and “believable variation.” I’m thinking the makers of it might be PAPers. I mean, note that one of the above reviews of the stage-production mentions that McCartney has been injured in a car crash – not killed – and that the replacement has been hired to be a temporary not permanent stand-in.
In particular, to all P.i.D.ers reading this, I’m proposing that Paul McCartney is still of this mortal coil but has, perhaps, employed over the years, a temporary double or two or more in order to divert the attention of the general-public away from an unwelcome truth (such as a car accident for example) or to enable him to live a peaceful, private existence free from the attention of fans and the media. We know from the mainstream version of history (even) that well-known figures are indeed said to have used replacements for one reason or another during their lifetime, including Saddam Hussein and senior British World War II army commander Field Marshal Bernard ‘Monty’ Montgomery… And, there’s also information to show that McCartney – as well as the rest of his fellow-Beatles – used decoys years before Paul’s ‘death’ in late 1966 in order to escape the hordes of stampeding fans who were out to grab them at public appearances during the ‘mania’ phase of their early career. And how well known is that? Perhaps not enough? I do feel that, after years of having read countless blogs, articles and forum/social-media postings about P.i.D., that – and, of course, I might be wrong – a lot of people who lean towards this theory are largely or completely unaware that the band had actually been tricking the general public with stand-ins prior to the ‘death’ in 1966. Please. I apologise for any offence in that presumption. I don’t mean to offend, or to patronise, but, a lot of the info that you’ll see if you continue to read this article, I’ve never seen mentioned or presented in amongst the theorising, pontificating or commenting within the world of ’Paul is Dead.’ As a result, to me, that suggests there are a significant number sympathising with P.i.D. who haven’t done their homework on the history of The Beatles. Surely then, when all the facts and data aren’t taken into account when a theory is being formulated or discussed or presented, what does that do to its credibility? I’m not stating unequivocally that what I’ve got to offer in this two (or three)-parter is going to debunk ‘Paul is Dead.’ Oh no… far, far, far from it. No, what you’ll see, I think, is a lengthy presentation of information rarely-if-ever acknowledged within the arena of P.i.D. but that, I feel, should be perhaps even if none of it turns any amount of folk away from believing or strongly suspecting that Paul did indeed shift off this mortal coil many years ago, and, indeed, I must add here, if that’s what you think happened to him, and the info I’m presenting doesn’t inevitably result in you changing your view on that, well, that’s cool with me because what I’ve collected together for this article in all its instalments, however long and large that’ll be, will, if not encourage anyone reading it to alter/reverse what may have been a supportive or responsive attitude towards the ‘Paul is Dead’ hypotheses, or to re-asses/reconsider that position, then at least, it’ll, I hope, be an informative, enjoyable if not useful read for everyone concerned including those supportive or warm to P.i.D., who might actually, for whatever reason, find some of the info I’ve laid out to be valuable in their own line of enquiry or research, as contrary as it is to my own personal take. What this two (three?)-parter does for sure is present a compilation of rumours, reports, allegations and first-hand accounts from pre-1966, and after too, on look-a-likes, “doubles,” disguises and, as I mentioned earlier, decoys, who are said to have been used during that ‘mania’ live-touring phase of The Beatles’ career between 1963 to ‘66 in order to divert the fans’ attentions, to make them look the other way as the band made haste into or from a concert-venue or a TV or recording-studio or film-set where hundreds if not thousands of their admirers would be waiting, ready to chase after them given half the chance. Not all the methods of distraction used by the group required the need for fake versions of them as the bait though. Motor-vehicles proved to be an effective ruse according to some who were in close proximity to the band back then. In the summer of 1964 for example, Ivor Davis, then a young reporter for the UK’s ‘Daily Express’ newspaper, travelled with The Beatles to cover their tour of the US and Canada and was also the only British writer to accompany them throughout. In his book, ‘The Beatles and Me On Tour,’ he states that “decoy limos were used with great effect. Several times I was trapped in our follow-up limo, with its tinted windows, as fans swarmed all over us, threatening to overturn it because they thought they had cornered The Beatles.” Having not lived through the 1960s myself, all I have to go on are the accounts of others who did, such as Ivor, and if I’m to believe what they’ve claimed, the sheer scale of the mania and the frenzy was gigantic and sometimes terrifying and did require The Beatles to use such tactics. “I understood why they went to such extremes,” declares Davis. Remembering one particular decoy-vehicle incident, when he was being driven away from an arena in the American city of Milwaukee following a performance there by the band, Ivor writes, “scores of fans descended upon us like a swarm of locusts, rained blows on the roof of the car and almost upended us. Terrified, I waved and screamed, ‘we’re not The Beatles’ at the batterers as we rocked and rolled, but it was like shouting in the wind.” In his book ‘The Beatles Diary Volume 1: The Beatles Years’ meanwhile, Barry Miles, a close friend of McCartney’s in the 1960s, informs us about a chain of scenes that veered into the chaotic during the band’s tour of Australia in 1964 and that initially greeted them once they flew in to the city of Melbourne. He writes, “they arrived at Essendon Airport to a frenzied welcome from a crowd of 5,000. The crowd outside the hotel was so large that army and navy units had been called in as reinforcements when shed-barriers were knocked down and the casualties began to mount up. Their route into the city was lined by 20,000 fans, most of whom moved on to the hotel which was under a state of siege. Protected by 12 motorcycle outriders, the group neared their hotel… and were driven into a garage entrance while a dummy police-car with siren blaring pulled up at the hotel’s front-door as a diversion.” He goes on, “in front of the hotel, 300 police and 100 military battled with the crowd, cars were crushed, people broke bones, fell from trees and more than 150 girls fainted. Fifty people, many of them adults, were taken to hospital with injuries sustained in the crush.” Not all the decoy attempts using motor-vehicles were a success it seems. Tony Barrow, The Beatles’ Press-officer between 1962 and ‘68 – and the man credited with coining the phrase, ‘the fab four’ – is quoted as saying of the band’s concert appearance at LA’s Dodger baseball-stadium during their third tour of the US in August ’66, “we were driven to the stadium in an armoured car that was parked immediately behind the stage. At this late point in the tour I suspect that the fans’ grapevine had circulated full detail of the boys’ act, giving everyone prior warning of the songs that would end the set… By the time The Beatles left the stage and we were ready to pull away, many hundreds if not thousands had positioned themselves across our path. For two hours we were imprisoned in a team dressing-room for our own safety while extra cops came in to start clearing the hysterically boisterous crowd. The getaway-car we hoped to use was severely damaged and put out of action. Two girls even ran off with the ignition-key as a souvenir! Two further unsuccessful attempts were made to get us out using decoy limousines and the third try was equally disastrous. We were put into an ambulance that managed to crash into a heap of broken fencing, after which it couldn’t be driven any further. Extra squads of police from the sheriff’s department eventually escorted us away to safety in an armoured car.” As Barrow is quoted as saying there, it wasn’t just limos that were used as tools of distraction to ferry The Beatles away right under the fans’ noses, other forms of motor-vehicles were employed. There’s an account of the band escaping from their hotel in Miami in the back of a butchers truck during their first tour of the US in ‘64 whilst police brought decoy guitar-cases out through the front-lobby. John Lennon’s then-wife, Cynthia, who went along on that American trip, shared a similar memory of sorts in her 2005 book, ‘John.’ In it, she recalls a plot that was hatched during that visit to smuggle her and The Beatles away from the constant mania so that they could all grab some private quality leisure-time. “Our cars were followed by Press and fans every time we left the hotel, so the police came up with an original if bizarre plan: we would leave through the hotel’s kitchen entrance and travel in an enclosed meat-wagon,” claimed Cynthia. “The break-out was worth it. We were taken to a gorgeous villa next to the sea, with its own pool, where George Martin and his wife, Judy, were waiting for us. Free of the fans and the restrictions of the hotel, we partied all day, swimming in the pool and enjoying an enormous barbecue.”
By August 1966 the phenomenon that was Beatlemania and that had followed the band around for almost three years non-stop had soured. The fan adulation had been poisoned with hate and vitriol and, if accounts are to be believed, decoys and distractions were required not necessarily to deflect the attentions of an intensely adoring crowd, but in order to save the group-members from the anger and the potential violence of baying mobs. After all, this was the month that John Lennon’s ‘Beatles bigger than Jesus’ remarks were causing a furore in America and when the band were in the country on a concert-tour. Not a good combination if you value your personal safety. Most of the uproar is said to have come from the traditionally Christian-heavy deep-south of the US. Radio-DJs there were reportedly organising public bonfire burn-ins of Beatles records and the Ku Klux Klan are said to have been picketing their concerts. But perhaps the scariest moment occurred when the group were performing at the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, Tennessee. We’re told death threats had been made already, so when someone let off a firecracker on the stage at that gig, there was a split-second moment when it was thought it was an assassin’s gun. Lennon recalled, “somebody let off a firecracker while we were on stage… There had been threats to shoot us… Someone let off a firecracker and everyone of us – I think it’s on film – look at each other, because each thought it was the other that had been shot. It was that bad.” The tried and tested decoy ploy failed to save them from the protestors who were waiting for them at that concert appearance apparently. In ‘The Beatles Diary Volume 1,’ Barry Miles states that “decoy cars were used to fool the protestors, but The Beatles’ coach was still surrounded by hordes of Christian demonstrators screaming abuse.” Paul McCartney says in the official biography/documentary, ‘The Beatles Anthology’ that the ‘Jesus’ controversy helped convince him and his fellow band-mates that it was time to stop playing to the mania. “It made us wonder about touring,” he recalls. “It was a case of how much of a good thing can you have? How long can you sustain things? Every tour had gone great, marvellous, but we were becoming a bit fed-up anyway because we’d been at it so long – and it gets gruelling.” The Beatles quit concert-touring for good after their performance at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park on August 29th 1966, the last date on their controversial and sometimes frightening North American jaunt. However, given the hairy moments that the band are said to have experienced during their fan-dodging days on tour, all in all, Ringo Starr is one member of the group at least who’s looked back on it with much fondness. In the Anthology, he says, “I found the tour madness exciting. I loved it. I loved the decoy cars and all the intricate ways of getting us to the gigs.” And those ‘intricate ways’ didn’t only call on the use of cars, trucks and also vehicles belonging to the emergency-services of course…
According to a 2014 article on ‘History.com,’ when the band were in the Washington Coliseum venue in February ‘64 for their first-ever US concert appearance, their management-team, in a bid to distract fans’ eyes for enough time to allow the group to make it to the stage, donned Beatles ‘mop-top’ wigs (a novel item of head-dress being sold across America back then as a fast cash-in on the mania). I haven’t come across any information to back this website’s claim up but I have found a relevant article on the blog ‘Mixed Metaphors, Oh My!’ which is run by US-based writer and editor Linda Lenzke. In a piece titled ‘Beach Boys, Beatles, Bob Dylan & The Byrds,’ she recalls a similar incident as described by History.com and that she herself claims to have witnessed after she and her friend went to see The Beatles’ performance at the Milwaukee Arena in September ’64. She states, “following the concert, throngs of fans raced to the entrance of the Milwaukee Arena where it was rumoured The Beatles were leaving in a limousine.” Because Linda had been situated near the back of the venue for the concert, she recounts that she “was able to quickly get in front of the mob and able to reach the limo.” However, she was in for a disappointment. “We leaned in to look in the windows and saw four ugly boys in cheap black Beatle wigs and a driver in a tuxedo. They were decoys. We were tricked. We learned later that The Beatles escaped through the back entrance in a milk-truck.” In an interview for the newspaper and website the ‘Express’ last year, none other than Michael Caine’s former long-standing movie-double, a guy by the name of Johnny Morris, explained how he’d served as a fan-diverting decoy at public appearances The Beatles made during the filming of ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ the band’s 1964 debut big-screen debut and that he’d worked on as John Lennon’s stand-in, which, the Express informs us, “usually involves taking up the star’s positions on the set or stage so that the crew can make sure the lighting and camera angles are right before they arrive.” He recalled, “whenever we were shooting on location, especially at theatres, we used to be decoys. There was always such a lot of people standing outside that The Beatles could not go through so they used to go out the back entrance and we went out the front entrance disguised as them.” Pictured below is Johnny with three of The Beatles, but, from what I can make out from the scenery and the clothes that John, George and Ringo are wearing, this was taken during location-shoots for the band’s 1965 movie, ‘Help!’…
And on the subject of Help!, here’s The Beatles, with their stunt-doubles, during location-shoots for the movie in snowy Austria… According to info on the website ‘BeatlesBible.com,’ the hired “doubles were Cliff Diggins, Mick Dillon, Peter Cheevers and Joe Dunne,” although I can only make out three in the picture…
And now I’ll turn your attention briefly to a Scottish music-group who, after playing on the bill together with John, Paul, George and Ringo back in 1964 at a theatre in Edinburgh, Scotland, acted as decoys for them too. “They were just back from their famous American tour… and were working on the film A Hard Day’s Night,” recalled one of the members of that band in an interview in 2010. “At the end of the night, the management asked if we would be decoys to allow The Beatles to slip out the back door. We were told to pull our suit-jackets over our heads and rush to the waiting car. When we got outside, it was bedlam, with about 5,000 screaming lassies. Never again.”
Here’s a photo of that band…
Take note of the guy situated bottom left-hand corner in the above pic… Personally, I think he bears a slight resemblance to Ringo. Yeah, okay… not hugely, sure, but certainly enough I think for him to have been a convincing decoy for The Beatles in a scenario such as he found himself back in ’64, when all that was required of him was to run out of a theatre and into a waiting car, to fool the band’s expectant fans in an exercise of distraction that, dare I suppose, wouldn’t have been designed to have him getting into too much close, sustained facial contact with any of the thousands of “screaming lassies” in case he ended up being identified by them as not being who he was passing himself off to be. Resemble Ringo he might, but he ain’t no Beatle doppelganger for sure.
And, would you believe, the moniker of this band from Scotland who decoyed for The Beatles was… Johnny and The Copycats (!)… Well, I should imagine the group chose to call themselves this as a nod to their front-man John Stewart, and it’s most certainly, certainly not a reference to stuntman and fellow decoy Beatle – a copycat-Beatle, if you like – Johnny Morris, or, as far as I’m aware, John Lennon. Yet, I can’t help but entertain the thought that, on the contrary and as unlikely as it might be, this little collection of what many would describe as ‘a set of coincidences,’ is actually part of some deliberately-designed form of occult message, whatever that might be, I don’t know. I’m just throwing this to you as a suggestion, off the top of my head, as it were. Also, the name of the previously-mentioned Ringo ‘resemble-a-like’ is Billy. The alleged replacement for Paul McCartney following his ‘death’ in 1966 was a ‘Billy’ of course – Billy (William) Campbell – a Scot. The Billy in The Copycats is Billy Cameron – I thought I’d give it a mention out of interest. Actually, the guy standing behind him in the group-photo above looks a little like The Beatles’ drummer too. Below, a better representation perhaps… His name’s Iain Lyon, by the way…
You’ll find as you read on through the rest of this article in its two (or three) parts that there’s going to be a few more ‘coincidences.’ And, in case you’re interested, here’s some more links and commonalities between the two Johns’ bands… Johnny and The Copycats formed in 1962, the year The Beatles released their first record following a long apprenticeship playing the clubs in Liverpool and, of course, Hamburg, Germany where they performed a residency at the ‘Top Ten,’ this was back in the days before Ringo was with them, when the line-up of the group consisted of John, Paul and George plus Lennon’s then-fellow art-college friend Stuart Sutcliffe, and Starr’s predecessor on the drums, Pete Best. In the late Sixties, Johnny and The Copycats played at the venue too and it was whilst they were there that they were offered the chance to record and, as a result, ended up signing to EMI’s ‘Parlophone,’ the label that had been home to The Beatles from that first record of theirs in ‘62 and through to ‘68 when they moved to their own ‘Apple Records.’
Billy, Iain and their fellow band-mates split in September ‘72 after having released a number of singles that didn’t go quite far enough to make any real significant, widespread impression. However, they’ve since reformed and have resumed performing and recording.
And so… delving more now into doubles, and by that I don’t mean stunt-men stand-ins or four dodgy-looking blokes in mop-top wigs sitting in limos, or indeed members of Johnny and The Copycats, but actual people who to some degree or another bore a striking likeness up-close to one or more of The Beatles. Were they ever used during the years John, Paul, George and Ringo were touring together, when they were, in Starr’s words, using “intricate ways” of dodging the fans? I won’t have been the first to ask if such a thing occurred of course, many of you guys reading this will have speculated along similar lines. But as for answers to the speculation? Well. Myself? I don’t know, although, I now turn your attention to an intriguingly-worded question that was put to the band during a Press-conference in America on August 24th 1966, just a few days before playing San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, the final date on their last ever live concert-tour. They were asked, “have you ever used or trained Beatle doubles as decoys on a…” at which point both Ringo and John jumped in quickly but quietly with the reply, “no.” Forgive me if I’m about to state the painfully obvious here, but, then again, on the other hand, maybe I’m reading it wrong but, to me, what the wording of that question is not asking is whether the band had ever escaped from fans with the help of anything that comes close to ‘four dodgy-looking blokes in mop-top wigs.’ Maybe what it’s enquiring, is whether they’d ever recruited actual people who were almost identical look-a-likes (and who, I’d like to add, could provide the potential for better, more elaborate forms of deception upon the fans of course). It really looks that way to me, you see, I think it’s fair to assume that most if not nearly all the media-journalists who were to some degree following The Beatles’ career back then would’ve been familiar by 1966 with the fact that the band had used decoys. That is, they would’ve been aware of – to put it rather loosely – the ‘four dodgy-looking blokes in mop-top wigs’/‘stuntman stand-in’-type methods of deception, the kind of fan-deflecting distraction-tricks as referenced here earlier through the recollections of those who claim to have either witnessed or experienced instances of it, whether that be according to stuntman Johnny Morris, or blogger Linda Lenzke, or former Daily Express reporter Ivor Davis and his decoy limo accounts, or members of Johnny and The Copycats. It would’ve been a fairly open secret in media-journalists’ circles. Indeed, it was actually made public knowledge prior to ‘66 in at least one mainstream newspaper report, a report that included input from one of The Beatles themselves and that you can read later in this article. So, with that in mind, why would John and Ringo be so quick to jump in with their denials at the Press-conference in August ‘66 if they were denying something that, I’ll assume, they knew was already out in the open, and that had been put there with a bit of a contribution from their band? And, any way, why would there have even been the need to ask them about this given that it was this, as I described it earlier, ‘open secret’? What’s the point in that? Well, okay, one explanation could quite possibly be because the person who’d asked the question was new on the scene and unfamiliar with all of this? But… no, I‘m not so sure. Remember how it was worded: “Have you ever used or trained Beatle doubles as decoys.” It’s not enquiring whether The Beatles had used decoys, but whether actual look-a-likes had ever been recruited and/or taught to carry out that task. And getting a bit more specific now… by the word “doubles,” was the person who asked the question referring to what we might describe a ‘doppelganger’ which, according to dictionary description is: someone who looks exactly like someone else but who is not related to that person… Double? This is a bit of a difference from getting the members of Johnny and The Copycats to pull their jackets over their heads as they run from the theatre to a waiting car. This is something that takes us into the realms of what the play ‘Nowhere Man’ was reportedly about, Billy Campbell, a man who relinquishes his home and his loved one to take on someone else’s identity and to give up his own. If, let’s say for argument’s sake, The Beatles did have access to doubles that could pull off a deception of that size for them, they wouldn’t risk jeopardising it by blabbing openly to reporters would they? Well, perhaps that’s why John and Ringo cut off that question at the Press-conference, stopped it dead before it could get into full flow. But, what prompted it to come in the first place? Where did it originate from? I don’t know, but from what I’m being led to understand, the talk amongst the mainstream media of Beatles doubles in 1966 wasn’t only confined to that one instance in August of that year. There’s a post I came across from a contributor by the handle of ‘Valis’ on the web-forum, ‘Nothing is Real: Paul Was Replaced’ and that includes what – we’re informed – is an English translation of a magazine-article printed in Dutch and dating back to “either September or October 1966.” Further on down the site’s page, there’s what I assume to be a scan of that very piece – I’ve added it below. Not speaking that lingo myself, I can’t make head nor tail of it and so I can’t tell one way or another what it’s about. Point is, according to what Valis has translated, there was a “society” in America that deployed actual look-a-like doubles of John, Paul, George and Ringo, to act as their diversions within situations where hordes of over-excited fans were expected to be present. This “society” was new to me up until researching for this two-maybe-three parter. I’d never come across any mention of it before then, and of course it is most interesting, open to any number of possible theories of an occult/conspiratorial nature. Okay, but there do appear to be just a few discrepancies here. First off, the translation refers to a Beatles concert where these decoys were present and that happened “a month ago at the Baltimore Theatre.” I did a bit of digging into this and failed to find any reference to the band ever playing any place called ‘the Baltimore Theatre,’ and no venue with such a name appears to have even existed. Yes, they did perform in Baltimore, the US city that is, on two occasions, but both times were at the ‘Civic Center’ (now renamed ‘Royal Farms Arena’). Well okay, perhaps there’s been a bit of a mis-translation on the part of Valis? Maybe the quote, “the Baltimore Theatre” should actually be read as, ‘a (and not ‘the’) Baltimore theatre,’ in other words, it’s not referring to the actual name of a specific theatre only that the band had played at a music/performance-venue somewhere in Baltimore? Yeah, but, as I mentioned earlier, there’s a few apparent discrepancies, of which this is only one. I have a question regarding the look-a-like decoys actually being present at a Beatles concert in that city “a month ago” as according to what Valis has translated from the Dutch magazine-article published in “either September or October 1966.” By my casual reckoning, all of that doesn’t add up together, because, if I’m not mistaken, the band only ever played live there in September ‘64, not ‘66. That was it. They never performed in Baltimore again after those couple of shows, both of which took place on the same day. Perhaps this piece that’s been translated has been dated wrong – it’s, lost in translation, as it were? It might have been published in October 1964? That would correlate with the part of it where, according to what Valis informs us, it mentions the look-a-likes’ attendance at the Beatles’ concert having occurred a month earlier to its publication? Well yes, when looked at like that it makes sense. Problem is though, there’s another discrepancy and, again, it‘s to do with dates. I won’t bog you down with that yet. First, take a look at the translation… It starts…
The Real and the Fake Beatles
America has its own Beatles. They look like the real ones 100%, are just as tall and behave in the same way as John, Paul, George and Ringo.
The translated piece goes on to list-out the members of this “fake” band; There’s Ron, Keith, Tim and… wait for it… Bill. Together, they are “The Beatle Decoys.”
What is going on here?
In America exists The Beatles Protection Society, also called The Beatle Bobbies, whose job it is to protect The Beatles against the hysteria and idolatry of the fans on their American tours.
Recently the society realised an amazing plan; to form fake Beatles who have to camouflage the arrival and departure of the real Beatles at their concerts.
Like a month ago at the Baltimore Theatre: thousands of fans blocked the artist-exit, waiting for The Beatles.
Suddenly Ringo Starr (a.k.a Ron Rictor) and Paul McCartney (a.k.a. Bill Davis) came outside and while they were under attack the real Beatles left through another exit.
The Beatle Decoy’s are happy with their (double) life.
Ron, the leader, told us: “We even play the same instruments as The Beatles. Paul, I mean Keith is even left-handed just like McCartney. We even wear the same clothes.”
The fake Beatle that looks the most like the original is Keith Allison, who plays Paul.
He looks so alike that they even started a fan-club for him, the Keith Allison Fanclub.; he receives- as being Keith -1000 fan-letters a day (!).
Keith Allison used to be bass-player for The Crickets and was “discovered” by The Beatle Protection Society when he was a guest, sitting at a table, in the ‘Whiskey A Go Go (TV) Show.’
After the broadcast hundreds of people called in to the show to ask: “Was that Paul McCartney?”
The producer, Dick Clark, was also struck by the resemblance and contracted the imitation Paul for 12 episodes of ‘Where the Action Is.’
Intriguing information… Very intriguing – but, how reliable is it, if at all? Assuming that it has been translated right enough, how truthful are its contents? Did this “society” actually exist or was it a made-up story, some bizarre PR stunt to push the hopeful Pop careers of the musicians in ‘The Beatle Bobbies’ (as, I‘ll point out, Valis kinda suspects)? There’s a discrepancy with dates as well, as I mentioned earlier. This translation of what’s said to be a Dutch-language magazine-article from “either September or October 1966” can’t be because The Beatles didn’t perform in Baltimore that year as we’re being led to understand it reports. But neither can it be from September of ‘64, the only time the group appeared there. That’s due to, from what I can gather, the fact that the ‘Where the Action Is’ TV-show and the “Whisky A Go Go (TV Show)” that – Valis informs us – the piece claims the ‘fake Beatle Paul’ (Keith Allison) was said to have been recruited from by The Beatles Protection Society, didn’t begin screening until 1965. The ‘Whisky A Go Go’ reference is, actually, slightly misleading. This was a club where one of the episodes was shot that year, not the name of a television-programme. Well, that’s according to veteran song-writer Bobby Hart in his book ‘Psychedelic Bubblegum: Boyce & Hart, The Monkees, and Turning Mayhem Into Miracles.’ He went along to the venue on the day of that shoot to see Tommy Boyce, his musical partner, perform his latest record for it. Also there visiting was Keith Allison, unknowingly on his way to becoming a ‘Where the Action Is’ regular. He’d turned up with his pay-cheque in hand, specifically looking for either one of those two guys to sign it for some guitar work he’d done on a recording-session for them. “As Tommy performed for the ‘Where the Action Is’ cameras,” recalls Bobby, “Keith and I stood in the crowd along the wall, watching from the sidelines. Well, it turns out that when the camera panned by to capture the crowd and the dancers, we were included in some of the shots. This ‘cameo’ appearance would have absolutely no impact on my own career. But Keith Allison? Well now, that’s another story. In the next few days,” he goes on, the producers of the show were “flooded with thousands of letters from all over the country. The viewers wanted to know ‘was that really Paul McCartney in the audience?’” Hart claims he then put Allison in touch with the programme’s makers who “told him… his appearance sparked the biggest fan response they ever received. When they learned that he sang and played guitar, they signed him to appear as a regular guest-member…” He was “an overnight sensation.” He “began dominating the pages of the fan-magazines and soon signed with ‘Columbia Records.’” In a 2014 interview, Allison gave a similar recollection. He claims he was desperate to get paid for that session work (“I needed to pay my damn rent, or I was gonna get evicted.”), so he needed to get that pay-cheque signed by either Hart or Boyce as soon as possible, so he went looking for them and was told they were both at “a television taping. A new show… down at the Whisky a Go Go. So I went down to the Whisky… And a stage-manager said, ‘we need butts in seats!’ So I sat down. The camera did several shots of me, about four or five seconds each.” Then later “what had happened was, they got bags of mail after that show aired…” This impromptu appearance on the TV-show, he claims, occurred in “April or May 1965.” And, below, Keith in photo-form accompanied by a similar telling of events in a magazine-article. It dates from October 1965, and it informs us that, a few months before its publication, he’d “happened one day to wander” into the Whisky “in search of a friend who was then appearing at the club.” It doesn’t reveal who the “friend” was that he was looking for, but it could well have been either Boyce or Hart. Almost matching what Allison said in his 2014 interview of being roped-in whilst at the club to appear in the shooting of Where the Action Is because “butts in seats” were needed, the article claims that the production-executive of the show “asked him to sit down” as she was “desperately in need of people to fill the club’s chairs and act as an audience for the show.”
So, taking into account Hart’s and Allison’s personal recollections of that day at the Whisky and what came about because of it, and the fact that Where the Action Is began screening in 1965, what gives with the translation of the article Valis posted on the ‘Nothing is Real’ forum? The information in it doesn’t add up whichever way I’ve tried. Has it been translated wrong perhaps? I don’t know personally but I can’t see how, the discrepancies are perhaps too complex to have been solely caused due to that. The errors are factual, not grammatical. I’ll leave my supposing there because, as I mentioned earlier, I don’t speak or read Dutch. Now, apparently, and as promised earlier, here’s the article itself in its original, non-English worded form…
A search on the internet for more information about this so-called ‘Beatles Protection Society’ brings up nothing except for the post on the Paul Was Replaced forum. Furthermore, with regards to Keith Allison, of the interviews I’ve read of his that are available online, he talks quite extensively about his career in the 1960s, which included session work for The Monkees, live tours with Buddy Holly’s Crickets, a regular almost weekly performance stint on Where the Action Is until it came to an end in 1967, and time as a member of the band Paul Revere and The Raiders, but makes no reference within any of them to this ‘society’ or having acted in any other shape or form as a look-a-like decoy for The Beatles – and you would’ve thought he’d talk about that, right? Well, maybe so – unless it’s not to be mentioned perhaps? Here’s a photo of him – or, is that Paul?, we’re asked – next to a photograph of John, on the front-cover of a US teenagers’ magazine dated March 1966, six months before McCartney ‘died’ in the ‘car-crash.’ Incidentally, I can’t help spare a thought for the caption on the cover that reads ‘THE REAL JOHN LENNON.’ I suppose by “REAL,” the writers of the mag are letting us know that, if we look inside the pages, we’ll get a lowdown on what makes Lennon tick, some of his private, innermost thoughts, his personality and his life away from the glare of publicity – right? But, given that this ‘REAL’ tagline features alongside the headshot of Allison, an alleged ‘fake Beatle,’ you might be tempted to conclude that this was, also, a deliberately placed subliminal suggestion about something we mustn’t really know about. (Doubles? Decoys?… Just a thought).
If I’d have gone ahead and read what’s been written about Keith Allison over the years without knowing what he actually looked like, I’d believe that he was an uncanny, breath-taking ringer for Paul McCartney. But, of course, I do know and, well, I don’t see it myself. Yeah sure, there’s a likeness, certainly enough for him to serve as a decoy of the ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ type for The Beatles if required, but not much else. He couldn’t act as a long-term stand-in such as portrayed in the Nowhere Man play let’s say. Reports and headlines of the two men’s striking resemblance of one another are overstated in my opinion. Maybe those stories of phone-calls flooding into the offices of the Where the Action Is television-show is a myth or was a PR stunt at the time dreamt up to boost audience-ratings? Or maybe the camera that was panning that day in ‘65 at The Whisky didn’t stay long enough on Allison for the viewers to realise that, actually, who they were looking at wasn’t Beatle Paul? As Keith himself has said, “the camera… shots of me” were “about four or five seconds each.” That’s all.
I don’t know what the real deal is with regards to this ‘Beatles Protection Society,’ but just because information regarding the existence of something is scant, such as it is with this, and just because whatever info there is, and as rare as it might be, is somewhat shaky, like with what Valis has put forward, doesn’t mean it never existed. It’s worth a closer look, and if it did exist then what was The Beatles’ own personal involvement in it? I’m wondering, would the so-called ‘Beatle Bobbies’ have been – as it were – a team of outside contractors who put up their services for hire to the band’s manager, Brian Epstein, or, actually, created by him and/or his inner circle of trusted fixers and helpers, an in-house production? Either way, John, Paul, George and Ringo would very most likely have been aware of what was happening back then in some shape or form. Keith Allison is as good a place to start as any for clues or answers to the possible existence of this ‘society,’ even if he wasn’t McCartney’s – pardon the pun – dead ringer. From looking around on the internet very briefly at some of the folk who follow and comment on P.i.D., I see there’s at least one who’s suggested that, whilst the Where the Action Is star’s facial resemblance to the ‘authentic Paul’ who ‘died’ isn’t passable enough for doppelganger status, he might have been used at least as a sometime stand-in for Beatles photo-shoots. It’s also been proposed that he might have undergone plastic surgery, a fairly minor touch-up, to attain a convincing likeness for the real, but ‘deceased’ one, but that’s a possibility that I don’t personally subscribe to. However, I think it’s worth noting that on one occasion whilst looking for background info on Allison via ‘Google’ for this article, when I typed-in the name, ‘Keith Allison,’ the search-engine’s ‘predictive’/‘autocompletion’ feature suggested, ‘Keith Allison plastic surgeon’… How intriguing!, I thought. So I clicked it, and this came up… Well (!)…
No, well of course it’s not the actual Keith Allison of Paul Revere and The Raiders fame, it’s a younger – much younger – Keith Allison, a British-based ‘NHS’ (’National Health Service’) plastic-surgeon …
Make of that what you will, and ‘Beatles Protection Society’ or not, there’s certainly some very interesting connections, both personal and professional, to The Beatles and Keith Allison (the musician – not plastic surgeon!). According to the website ‘Internet Movie Database’ (‘IMDb’), the Where the Action Is star “won a ‘Paul look-a-like’ contest” in 1965, a contest sponsored by Dick Clark as well as “the American teen magazine ‘Tiger Beat,’” and “The Beatles.” However, I’ve been unable to locate any info about this other than on IMDb in order to back it up. I will note however that Tiger Beat was a magazine that The Beatles’ long-time and trusted Press-officer, Derek Taylor, regularly contributed articles to sometime around the mid/late 1960s, this would’ve been from about 1964 when he’d stopped working for the band following an argument with Brian Epstein, but not after 1968 which is when he went to work for the group at their then new company, ‘Apple.’ During that period, when he wasn’t in the employ of John, Paul, George and Ringo, he was a PR-man for a number of other music-acts including The Byrds, The Beach Boys, The Doors, Captain Beefheart, and, Paul Revere and The Raiders, who Allison joined in 1968 and who he’d been on personal terms with long before. He and the band had been friends and fellow recurring/permanent cast-members on Where the Action Is (Allison reportedly clocked in 90 episodes of the 459 of the show that were screened, and Paul Revere and The Raiders, 173). Another returning attraction on the show, although nowhere near as frequently as Keith, was (on 12 episodes) Peter and Gordon, the British duo who enjoyed a number of hits during the 1960s and, of course, included in its line-up, Peter Asher, whose sister, Jane Asher, was Paul McCartney’s girlfriend between 1963 and ’68. Here’s a photo of her brother (on the right) with Allison (middle) in 2015…
And from Allison’s FaceBook page, here’s a photo of Keith with ex-Beatle Paul – or, alternatively, depending on your point of view – it’s Faul with Keith, or Paul with ’fake’ decoy Beatle Bobbie Paul, or Faul with Faul, or whatever (take your pick)… And, incidentally, should I be suspicious that, in the image of the two, one of them has his face largely obscured from the shot, and so we don’t get a side-by-side comparison of their facial features?…
As I mentioned earlier, Keith has regularly played on stage with The Crickets. One of the founder-members of the group is none other than his cousin, the drummer, Jerry Allison – he co-wrote the classics ‘That’ll Be the Day’ and ‘Peggy Sue’ with the band’s famed front-man Buddy Holly who died in 1959, and the publishing rights of these two compositions, years after his death, were bought by, and currently in the ownership of, ‘MPL,’ the company owned by Paul McCartney, who’s often talked about the influence the bespectacled singer/song-writer had on him during his pre-fame formative period in Liverpool – indeed, as noted elsewhere on this site, the word, ‘Beatles’ (‘Beetles’) has been attributed, partly, as having been inspired by the band-name ‘The Crickets.’ In the 1980s the former Beatle produced the track ‘T-Shirt’ on The Crickets’ album of the same title. It was released as a single, and the B-side was the cut, ‘Holly Would,’ co-written by Jerry Allison (and featured on the album also).
From his FaceBook page, here’s Keith with The Crickets sometime during the mid-Sixties. The moustachioed guy is his cousin, Jerry…
According to IMDb, Keith has appeared in a number of movies over the years, and here too we see varying connections worthy of note between him and The Beatles. For one, there’s his appearance, as miniscule as it is, in the big-screen musical version of the band’s album ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.’ Released in 1978 with – as far as I can gather – no personal input from either John, Paul, George or Ringo although their one-time regular producer, George Martin arranged and directed the music, it’s a star-studded feature partly centred around the fortunes of a small town that’s called Heartland, a wholesome, happy, peaceful place that’s then thrown into turmoil after the malevolent Mr. Mustard (played by British comedian, Frankie Howerd) breaks into the City Hall and steals a tuba, saxophone, cornet and drum, all of which have the power to make dreams come true and that were bequeathed to the local community by the now-deceased owner of them, Sergeant Pepper who, with his Lonely Hearts Club Band, had, in the past, generated so much happiness in the music they played that it even caused troops in World War I to stop fighting. As long as the instruments remain in the town’s care, humanity will live happily forever after. But following the theft, Heartland is transformed into a depraved, deprived environment, paving the way for a takeover by Mr. Mustard’s bosses, the evil music-group, ‘FVB’ – the ‘Future Villain Band’ (played by Aerosmith) – who want to poison young minds and herald in a dictatorship. Their plans however are thwarted by a young band of musicians led by the English Pop/Rock-star Peter Frampton, who stars in the film as Sgt. Pepper’s grandson who goes by the name of – here we go again – Billy. That’s Billy as in Billy Shears (‘Billy Shears,’ name-checked on the opening track of the ‘Sgt. Pepper’ album and, according to P.i.D.ers of course, is otherwise known as William Shepherd, Paul’s ‘replacement’ after his ‘death’). Keith’s appearance in this movie is so small that I’m not absolutely certain where he actually is in it, and I have watched it too, from beginning to end. From what I can gather (thanks to IMDb and ‘Wikipedia’), he’s one of the dozens upon dozens of ‘special guests’ singing along at the end of the film to the reprise of the ‘Sgt. Pepper’ album theme and is joined by a huge host of well-known names including Tina Turner, Donovan, Robert Palmer, and Curtis Mayfield. Below is a screen-cap from those closing scenes. Now – okay, I might be wrong – but I’ve placed a red circle around the guy I think is most likely Keith Allison. He has been known to sport a beard at times over the years (as the photo I’ve imposed into the cap shows), so – I’m thinking – that might be him. It’s the closest that I could find to a likeness to the guy from all the assorted ‘special guests.’
In the movie, joining Billy Shears in his band are his friends, Mark, David and Bob Henderson – played by Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb AKA The Bee Gees who, at the time, were being managed by Robert Stigwood who, back in the 1960s, was approached by Brian Epstein and made a partner of his ‘NEMS Enterprises,’ the company that handled the careers of his stable of stars that included singer-entertainer Cilla Black, the group Gerry and The Pacemakers and, of course, The Beatles. It’s said that when news of the partnership began to filter out somewhere from about the autumn of 1966, it sent shockwaves and bewilderment throughout music-business/industry circles. No one was expecting this merger but, we’re told, the day-to-day running of the organisation had become too much of a pressure and a grinding chore for Epstein who wanted to relinquish responsibility and hand most of it over to someone else. According to his friend and a director of NEMS, Peter Brown, Brian offered to sell a controlling share of the company – 51% – to Robert for £500,000 and gave him a deadline of May 1967 – and later extended to September of that year – to raise the necessary funds to buy. Following Brian’s death in August however, the deal faltered and failed, largely thanks to The Beatles’ refusal to have Stigwood as their new manager. As a result, he went on his way, and took a very valuable asset with him because it was during his time at the company that he met the then largely unknown Bee Gees and started representing them, and it was at NEMS that the group’s rise to international stardom actually began (and much to Epstein’s chagrin, it’s said). When he left, they went with him. From there, Robert diversified into theatre and movies as a producer being the man behind the big-screen smashes ‘Saturday Night Fever’ (with its Bee Gees conceived soundtrack), ‘Grease,’ as well as the ‘Sgt. Pepper’ film in 1978. That same year saw the release in cinemas of his comedy-musical ‘Sextette’ starring a substantial amount of well-known names, including Ringo. Veteran Hollywood icon Mae West heads the cast playing the lead-role of Marlo Manners, a six-times-married screen-siren, sex symbol and occasional secret honey-trap for the US Government, and who, during a visit to London, inadvertently becomes embroiled in a geo-political crisis involving a world leaders‘ conference taking place at the hotel where she’s staying. Starr is Laslo Karonly, one of her numerous ex-husbands. Also appearing, to note just a few, there’s Alice Cooper (who also appears in the ‘Sgt. Pepper’ film, as the mind-controlling, brainwashing Father Sun), The Who’s Keith Moon, and – yep – the other Keith (Allison). As in the ‘Sgt. Pepper’ movie, Allison’s role in Sextette is brief – very brief – lasting around, by my estimations, eight seconds. Just below here, a scan of him in it. He’s playing a hotel waiter delivering a cake to the room of a Russian diplomat by the name of Alexei Andreyev Karansky, as played by Tony Curtis, whose back is facing us in the pic below, and who of course, is also one of the illustrious array of faces included on the front-cover of the ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ album, and Mae West is featured on that too, as you probably know, and, back in the 1960s, her publicist, for a short time, was none other than Derek Taylor. Incidentally, one of the songs performed in Sextette is The Beatles’ ‘Honey Pie’ from 1968’s ‘White Album.’
While Allison has never – to my knowledge, anyway – spoken about his alleged role in the so-called ‘Protection Society’ as a decoy/‘fake Beatle,’ he’s certainly chatted in some detail about his close friendship with Ringo. Keith says he was the musical director for Starr’s backing-band, and has recalled, “he and I were like real good friends. We shared a house together for several years, off and on in the ‘70s.” Also, he claims he got to meet Lennon, McCartney and Harrison during this time through his relationship with the ex-Beatles drummer.
Here’s Ringo and Keith, sometime in the 1970s I’d guess…
And here they are many years later (a pic posted on Allison‘s FaceBook page in July 2018):
Also, Allison is said to have been closely involved in the making of the 1978 one-off US TV-special ‘Ringo.’ He even appears in it, or so I’m led to understand anyway, I mean, I don’t know about you, but, having watched it myself more than a couple of times over the decades, I’m not sure where in it he shows up, but it must be brief by the looks of it… very brief. According to IMDb, he plays the part of, and I quote, “Ringo’s roadside attraction recording-engineer.” One blogger I’ve come across on the ‘net – and who’s as puzzled as me it seems as to Allison’s whereabouts in the TV-special – has scanned a shot of a person in it that might be him… Here it is…
For whatever reason it came to pass, it’s interesting (I think) that ‘fake Beatle’/‘decoy’ Allison had some personal involvement with the ‘Ringo’ television-show. After all, in this small-screen mini-musical in which Starr appears as, essentially, his real Rock-star/celebrity self – Ringo – he also plays the role of a character who’s his doppelganger and who replaces him. Featuring guest appearances from Carrie Fisher, Vincent Price, Angie Dickinson and John Ritter, the TV-special begins with a scene at a Press-conference where George Harrison provides us with the story’s premise. He tells us that Ringo and the double, a downtrodden loser by the name of Ognir Rrats (yes… that’s ‘Ringo Starr’ backwards), were apparently born at the “very same moment, the very same second, in the very same country – England, remarkably both children though born of different parents look exactly alike.” Said to have been based on the idea behind the 19th century novel ‘The Prince and the Pauper’ by Mark Twain and that tells the story of a young prince and a pauper who look exactly alike and who swap places as a result, ‘Ringo’ sees Rrats and Starr take on each other’s identities and, as a consequence, their respective lives also.
Here’s one if you’re into your occult symbols, another scan from the TV-special, it’s from towards the end of it when Ringo (not Ognir) performs on stage, under a pyramid. Joining him are his band, the one that Allison says he was musical-director for…
Perhaps in reference to his life during the Beatlemania years, in the TV-special, Ringo tells Ognir that he wants to swap places with him so that he can taste a carefree life away from the relentless, tiring treadmill of television appearances, concerts, recording-sessions and autograph signings. He wants to be like the regular, “average” folk who can “come and go as they please.” As George tells us at the beginning, the “fame and fortune did very little to make him happy.” Whilst I doubt that the real-life Ringo a.k.a. Richard Starkey would be willing to let go of the fortune that Harrison mentions, have there been times, especially during the Beatle years, when Starr felt as hemmed in by the fame as his fictionalised self does? Did it ever become, as he says in the TV-special, a “prison”? I have no idea who came up with the concept of the ‘Ringo’ show. It could well have been Ringo himself and based on his own life. To me, he always seemed to be the one who was most comfortable with his celebrity status within the band, but, of course, there could’ve been times when he may indeed have felt like swapping places for a bit with an Ognir. Maybe that’s what Paul – that’s the live, real, genuine – Paul McCartney has done in some way shape or form over the years when he’s seen fit? Just suppose that the 1978 TV-special was trying to tell us that in a subliminal/fantasy-fiction-type way? Is that a bit too far-out?… According to Peter Brown, who, following Brian Epstein’s death in 1967, eventually went on to work for The Beatles as Executive Director at their company, Apple, the reason the band nearly bought themselves a Greek island in the latter half of that year was in order to escape the prying eyes and the ever pervading attention brought by their fame. That’s a huge, and unusual extreme to take for some privacy. “I was in my office one day… when the Beatles’ private phone rang. It was John calling to say that The Beatles were moving out of England! The Beatles were talking about how sick and tired they were of notoriety,” states Brown in his book ‘The Love You Make.’ “John suggested they escape it all by creating their own little kingdom, like an island. On the island they would build beautiful houses and the best studio money could buy…” Following the phone-call, according to Peter, he and his team went about making the necessary enquiries to bag The Beatles an island, and soon John, Paul, George and Ringo were in Greece shopping for one. Eventually, however, they had a change of heart and gave up the idea altogether. In Barry Miles’ book ‘Many Years from Now,’ McCartney says it was “a good job” that they didn’t buy one in the end, “because anyone who tried those ideas realised eventually there would always be arguments, there would always be who has to do the washing-up and whose turn it is to clean out the latrines. I don’t think any of us were thinking of that.” One way – of many – in which all of the Beatles dodged the attentions of fans in their years together was by wearing disguises… As I mentioned earlier, there was a member of the band that had spoken publicly in the mainstream Press during the ‘mania’ period about having taken part in decoy tricks. That was George Harrison, who said he and John, Paul and Ringo had dressed up as policemen so that they could avoid any danger of getting noticed and mobbed by fans on their way to a concert that they were scheduled to appear at in Birmingham, the English city. In the newspaper report below, which I’m guessing is from 1963 (and that’s taken from the book ‘Early Beatles. In the News – Volume Four,’ a compilation of original newspaper and magazine clippings of the band from the Sixties and collected together by Colin Barratt), George says he and his fellow band-mates donned police-helmets as disguises after the van that The Beatles were travelling in on their way to the performance-venue broke down on the M1 motorway. Under the headline, ‘P-c (Police-constable) Beatles’ Dodge Those Fans, Harrison recalls that the vehicle was towed-off for repair by the British automotive recovery company, ‘RAC’ (’Royal Automobile Club’) and from there “we drove to the police headquarters in Birmingham, where they told us to put the helmets on. It was great fun.” According to the newspaper report, the band, “disguised as policemen,” were then “smuggled into a theatre past hundreds of their fans” by “wearing police-helmets and dark coats” and “taken for a ride in a Black Maria (a.k.a. police-van)… this ‘beat-the-Beatlemania’ operation was a complete success. A decoy police-van was driven down the street. Then a Black Maria arrived at the gates of the stage-door. A secret knock… and the Black Maria nipped through before fans realised what had happened”…
Furthermore, in 1963, according to the book, ‘Shout! The Beatles in Their Generation’ by Rock/music biographer, Philip Norman, Ringo dressed himself in disguise before checking-in to an English hospital with ear-ache. He was “rushed to the hospital disguised in an overcoat, hat and spectacles that, as one reporter noted, ‘made him look like’” the German playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht “‘being smuggled out of Germany’” during the Nazis’ reign of the country prior to and during the Second World War.
In the book ‘History with The Beatles,’ its author, Bradford E. Loker, reports that, one evening in October 1963, George Harrison “snuck out, in disguise, and attended a Rolling Stones / Everly Brothers / Bo Diddley concert” in London. What exactly he wore to evade attention and whether his disguise succeeded or not isn‘t mentioned, but what’s striking to me nevertheless is that he’s described as having ‘snuck out’ – of his apartment I guess. He couldn’t just walk out, open and close his front-door and make his way. Whether dressed incognito or not, he had to ‘sneak.’ Such was the Beatles’ stratospheric level of fame back then, especially during those ‘mania’ years it seems, that it must have been, at times, quite claustrophobic for them, to be stifled of free movement as they might well have been. In her book, ‘John,’ Cynthia Lennon, who first met John when they were art-students together in Liverpool long before he became a world-famous Pop-star, has included such a description of the band’s celebrity that, according to her, began to enter into the realms of the manic in October 1963, sometime around the release of their fifth UK single, ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ and their appearance on the hugely popular British TV-show ‘Sunday Night at the London Palladium.’ She recalled, “suddenly they couldn’t go anywhere without protection. Things they had taken for granted all their lives, like going to the pub, walking down the street or visiting a friend, were no longer possible. Just getting from a car to a door a couple of yards away was a major operation.” In January ‘64, she and John, and their baby son, Julian, moved into their first, real family home, a flat in an apartment-building in London, but it wasn’t long before the fans discovered their address and made their way there. “We woke one morning to find teenage girls camped on the pavement outside. After that they were always there, day and night. If any of the residents in the flats accidentally left the front-door open they would grab their chance and slip in. We’d find them camped… in the hallway, with sleeping-bags and Thermos-flasks. When I took Julian out in his pram fans would surround us, begging for a glimpse of him, and the pram would virtually disappear as they swarmed round it, clamouring, ‘oh, Cyn, isn’t he sweet? Can I touch him? Can I cuddle him?’ Or, ‘oh, Cyn where do you get your hair done? You’re so lucky to have John. Where do you buy your clothes?’ On and on it went. Most were well-meaning, and many were very young. The problem was that there were so many of them… It could be overwhelming and sometimes frightening. Inside the flat,” she recalled, she and John “were fine. With the fans down in the street below we felt safe and peaceful several floors up. But once the fans discovered us it was clear that we couldn’t stay there for long and we wondered where we could go to escape the attention.” Is it any wonder then, perhaps, that The Beatles should mask themselves in fake spectacles or whatever else just so they might get some form of, in Cynthia’s words, “escape” from the ever present crowds of fans? In the second instalment of this two (or three?)-part article, the emphasis on disguises will be expanded upon and will also, on the way, take us into the realms of what many would undoubtedly describe as ‘the weird,’ the unexplained, the slightly surreal, the uncanny (a bit) and the downright puzzling. And so, if you thought this here instalment you’ve just read had some intriguing little twists, turns and ‘coincidences’ in it, well, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Get ready for more of that and, as I mentioned right at the beginning of this in the opening paragraph, some head-scratchingly inducing info, muddy and covered in contradictions.
‘John.’ – Cynthia Lennon (pgs. 183 – 184, 169 – 170, 174 – 175)
YouTube: Johnny and the Copycats – Start Thinking About Me
YouTube: Beatles Los Angeles Press Conference 1966
‘As Time Goes By’ – Derek Taylor
‘The Love You Make. An Insider’s Story of The Beatles’ by Peter Brown and Steven Gaines. (Pgs. 205, 207, 212, 227, 229, 241, 242)
YouTube: Sextette 1978
YouTube: “Ringo”, a Ringo Starr US-TV special, aired April 26, 1978