I was 16, in 1976, when I first discovered the availability of bootlegs. After written requests to addresses in the back of a magazine, a few different catalogs arrived in the mail, and I stocked up on things like The Sweet Apple Tracks (still a favorite), The Beatles Christmas Album and a host of other Beatle related products of varying quality, from priceless to dubious.
One catalog promised something a bit different - reel to reel tapes featuring spoken word content involving or about the Beatles or the individual members. There were collections of Beatles press conferences, excerpts from the "Lennon Remembers" interview with Jann Wenner, a copy of a promotional interview released for a George Harrison album, and so forth. And so, long before I started deliberately collecting ephemera on this most magnificent of recording formats, I sent away for a half-dozen reels, perhaps the first reels I owned that were not pre-packaged releases from record companies or home-recorded tapes from my family's own collection.
The one that intrigued me the most promised to hold a radio documentary about the "Paul is Dead" rumors of late 1969. Every now and then I've thought about this tape, especially after a different program on the rumors was posted to the first 365 days project, several years ago.
This program is hosted by Christopher Glenn, who later went on to be the voice behind the iconic Saturday Morning "In the News" programs for kids, as well as the voice of the CBS World News Roundup, until just months before his death in 2006. The show features some of the early "clues", an interview with one of the people who broke the "story", other "expert" insight, and a lot of speculation.
I've always found the Paul is Dead stuff really fascinating - Iwhile don't believe for a moment that The Beatles were in any way behind the rumors, the sociology of it is quite compelling, and the lengths to which people went to imagine some of the clues is amazing. You can do the same thing with a lot of different ideas - I knew someone who came up with dozens of clues to show that The Beatles were trying to let us know that John had gone blind, just to show how easy it was to make unrelated lyrics and photos seem to mean something more important, and of course Charles Manson went in yet another direction with what he was sure was hidden in the lyrics. But that this particular group of clues spread so quickly and so completely is really something.
There is no indication within the program, as heard on the tape, as to its source, and the tape box was completely generic. But this program appears to date from very early in the spread of the rumors - I'm guessing late October or early November of 1969 - because many of the more obscure "clues" which were later taken as central to the "hoax" are not mentioned, and don't appear to have been "discovered" yet. What's interesting here is the almost complete acceptance of the exceptionally unlikely idea that The Beatles were involved in the hoax, on the part of everyone who is heard on the show.
Also interesting is that, despite being put together by a talented, respected newsman (and no doubt at least a few researchers), this program repeats the assumption that Paul wrote the music and John wrote the words, a description of their partnership that was never true, let alone by 1969. And finally, where would the report have come from in late 1969 that "The Beatles are known to be working on a new album"? By the time Abbey Road was released, John had quit the band, although this had been hushed up quite effectively, and although Let It Be was still awaiting release, no one at that time would have been reporting that the Beatles were recording together.