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Peter Blake

Updated on June 22, 2015
Peter Blake - graphic designer
Peter Blake - graphic designer | Source

Was Peter Blake part of the conspiracy?

Well, before we get onto that, let's find out exactly who Peter Blake is.

This article is part of my series about designers you may not have heard of, but whose work you are likely to know very well indeed. Others are Klaus Voorman and Joe Ephgrave and yes, the three are strangely connected. (See below for details).

Like the other two designers, British artist Peter Blake produced at least one piece of artwork that I'm sure will be familiar to you. During the nineteen sixties he was at the height of his fame as a pop artist.

He created what is more than likely his most famous work in 1969. It was typical of his style of the day. But this artwork also became the root of a huge hoax or conspiracy theory that persists to this day. Was he a part of it?

Images © BritFlorida. Image below is from Wikimedia Commons.

Sgt.Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Sgt.Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band | Source

Was Peter Blake aware of the way this would be interpreted?

Yes, this is the piece of artwork for which he is famous.

Since he is a respected artist who was knighted for his work in 2002, that might be a little galling to him, but the fact remains.

What's interesting is that a couple of years later a rumour started in America that persists to this day.

There are many people who seriously believe that Paul McCartney died in 1966 in a road accident and that his place was taken by a double.

These theorists invariably point to the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album - and its cover - as providing definitive clues. If this was the case, then was Blake in on the hoax?

Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney | Source

The Sgt Pepper's cover

The credit for the idea for the cover is generally thought to be Paul (or if you're a conspiracy theorist, his lookalike).

He knew Blake, having been introduced to him by mutual friend, a photographer.

Each member of the group suggested people they admired who should be portrayed in the crowd. (Evidently one of John Lennon's suggestions - more than likely tongue-in-cheek - of Adolf Hitler was vetoed by the record company).

For Blake, well-known as a pop artist, art was now truly meeting pop and it was a revolutionary design in many ways.

These are just a few of the clues that, a couple of years later, the theorists believed 'proved' to the world that the Paul we see here was stand-in and that the real McCartney was dead.

  • The flowers in the foreground are a grave
  • Paul is holding a black instrument
  • He has a hand over his head symbolizing a religious blessing
  • He is facing forwards whereas the others are slightly angled
  • The yellow flowers supposedly spell 'Paul'
  • On the waxwork Beatles, Ringo looks distressed
  • There is a bloodsoaked doll

.

There are many more but the clincher - for the theorists - is the drum. See the article about Joe Ephgrave to learn more.

Some of the more bizarre clues and assertions

It wasn't just Blake's cover that attracted attention from the theorists. Subsequent covers did too. But the aspect that truly amazes me is that, if this conspiracy was true, how is it that everyone kept quiet about it for so many years? I find it incredibly hard to believe that not a single friend or family member would notice the substitution.

Is Paul McCartney dead?

  • It seems to me that once people have developed a theory, they will see almost anything as a clue. One that is always mentioned is that post 1966 photographs show Paul holding a cigarette in his right hand. 'Ah' they say 'The real Paul was left-handed.' It's true that he was but as a left-hander, I can assure you that most left-handed smokers use their right hand - they need the left for writing and so on.
  • I think that it's truly remarkable that the perpetrators (usually thought to be the Beatles themselves) managed to find doppelganger who looked the part, had the right voice, had great musical ability and also an excellent knowledge of Beatles history, going back to the 1950s. I find it hard to believe that not a single friend or family member noticed.
  • The cover of the Abbey Road album was a complete treat for theorists. Evidently the fact that Paul was wearing no shoes was highly suggestive to them. Also the registration number of a parked car was 28 IF - indicating that Paul would have been 28 if he'd lived. (Untrue, he would have been 27). The funniest is that there is a car in the distance that is heading straight for Paul - actually it's driving away, the British drive on the left.
  • Similarly, the 'huge' clue on the drum of the Sgt Pepper's cover suggests that Paul died on November 9th (see the Joe Ephgrave article). This is because, by a long stretch of the imagination, the figures indicated 11.9. But the British write the day before the month so in actual fact, it would be September 11th.
  • Probably one of the most peculiar assertions of the theorists is that Jane Asher broke of her engagement to 'Paul' after he had 'died'. (I know that makes no sense but you know what I mean). In fact, their relationship began in 1963 and Paul lived in her family home. Strangely, the lookalike was accepted by her, and her family. She went to India with Paul in 1967 (after he had 'died') and they remained engaged until the summer of 1968.
  • The Sgt Pepper album cover was the first to have a feature that has been commonplace ever since - the lyrics printed out. Theorists say that on the lyrics page, George Harrison is pointing to 'Wednesday morning at 5 o'clock' (from She's Leaving Home) and that's the time Paul died. And yet they also say that the accident happened in the evening when Paul drove away from a recording session after an argument. You can't have it both ways.
  • Where it gets really bonkers is when the urban legend 'the vanishing hitchhiker' is cited. The story goes that Paul picked up a young girl who was hitching. When she realised who the driver was,she flung herself at him, thus causing the accident. She too was supposedly killed.Who was she? What about her family and friends? No theorist has ever come forward with a missing persons report for the mythical hitchhiker.

See for yourself

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Of course, if you don't have a copy of the album, you'll need one so that you can make your own mind up about these so-called visual clues.

As a bonus, to listen to when you're doing your detective work, you get some excellent Beatles music too :)

 
Joe Ephgrave
Joe Ephgrave | Source

Joe Ephgrave

This person - if he existed - created the major 'clue' that the theorists love so much. You'll have gathered by now that I think the conspiracy theory is a complete hoax, perpetrated by who knows who. ( It is said to have been started in the USA).

Some people say that it was the Beatles themselves who created the whole thing as a publicity stunt. It's true that if a doppelganger had been used, then the rest of the group would have to be in on the secret. It was Peter Blake and his wife, Jann Haworth, who supposedly employed him to do this job.

But who was Joe Ephgrave and why is there no evidence of his existence?

Read more

Klaus Voorman
Klaus Voorman | Source

Klaus Voorman

There is no doubt about the existence of this graphic designer who produced several album covers for the Beatles. The reason he is interesting though, when it comes to the subject of the hoax, is that he first met the group when they were performing in Hamburg at the beginning of the sixties.

He became a good friend and remained in touch with them - and still is. There is a relatively recent video on YouTube of him jamming with Paul McCartney.

As a close friend from the earliest days, wouldn't he have noticed over the years that his friend wasn't the real Paul? How amazing it is that the lookalike has all Paul's memories and was never caught out.

Read more

See the cover being created

If you've read the article about Joe Ephgrave, then you'll know that two drum skins were created; the one you see on the album cover and the one you see on this video (at 1.45, 2.37 and 2.47). I'd be willing to bet that the conspiracy theorists have studied this closely. What's significant is that there is no suggestion anywhere that this also contains a hidden message. Hmm.

Decide for yourself. Was there a conspiracy theory?

Turn Me On, Dead Man: The Beatles and the "Paul Is Dead" Hoax
Turn Me On, Dead Man: The Beatles and the "Paul Is Dead" Hoax

This is THE authoritative work on this urban legend. It lists over one hundred and forty clues - visual and aural - that theorists insist are true.They believe that the Paul McCartney we know today is simply a look-alike. How did this begin?

 
An Investigation Into The Beatles, Paul McCartney His Alleged Death and Cover-Up
An Investigation Into The Beatles, Paul McCartney His Alleged Death and Cover-Up

I'm going to say as little as possible about this book because ... well,you'll understand why when you read it.

 

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    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      Hi Barbara Kay - there are some people who still believe the theory. Once you start looking into it, it's easy to get really involved.

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Badder 3 years ago from USA

      I wonder what was going on with me at the time, because I was a big Beatles fan and must not have paid much attention to the theory. I had completely forgotten about it. Possibly I just didn't believe it and forgot about it.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @shay-marie: I know all about that rabbit hole! Every site contradicts the previous one :)

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @aka-rms: Thank you so much, Robin!

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Merrci: That's lovely, thank you.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Nancy Hardin: \thank you so much, Nancy. You can rely on the UK to provide interesting material :)

    • shay-marie profile image

      Shay Marie 3 years ago from Southern California

      I had heard of "Paul is Dead" years ago, but never gave it much thought. Only recently did I stumble across a website dedicated to the subject. Then... well, I fell down the Internet rabbit hole. People have dedicated so much time to this! If anything, it gives some of the die hard fans something to "play with" so to speak. Thanks for the fun article :).

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 3 years ago from USA

      Another highly interesting read from you. Thanks! Enjoyed it.

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 3 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      I loved for it all on the cover, but my eyes aren't that good. Ha! After all these years, it's fun to hear about. Enjoyed reading this, always with your lenses.

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Another great story from our "English Connection." I heard this story too, many years ago. Never believed it for one moment, because of all the drawbacks to its validity. Glad you wrote about it and I enjoyed it tremendously!