The Paul is Live cover manages also to allude to at least two tidbits of Beatles lore. First, it hearkens back to the resilient rumor, which started in 1966 and was still going strong in some circles as late as 1970, that said that McCartney was dead.
The Abbey Road cover was introduced as evidence for this assertion. (One probably believed by the same folks who think that UFOs are here from other planets, the Cubans or the Mafia killed Kennedy, and Milli Vanilli were talented.)
The four Beatles crossing the street by the EMI studios where they’d recorded from the beginnings of their careers, were said to be forming an Indian funeral procession with Lennon as priest and Starr as undertaker. The bodies of the dead in India, we were told ominously, were always left shoeless in such processions. Note: Paul is barefooted! Harrison, in his jeans, was also said to represent lower-caste mourners for the departed.
No, in fact, Macca was saying in 1993, “Paul is [a]live and performing live.” (As he told Chris Farley in one of those wonderful faux talk shows Farley used to do on Saturday Night Live, “I wasn’t really dead.”)
# September 17, 1969: Tim Harper, student at Drake University in Des Moines, IA, pens an article titled "Is Beatle Paul McCartney Dead?" for the Drake Times-Delphic student paper. Harper, who does not believe in the rumor, nevertheless reports the latest West Coast college gossip -- that Paul McCartney has died in a car crash, perhaps as far back as 1966. Six days later, Barb Ulvilden recounts the rumor in Northern Illinois University's Northern Star.
# October 12, 1969: Tom Zarski, a student at Eastern Michigan University, calls WKNR in Detroit, MI, and informs DJ Russ Gibb of the rumor, on-air. Zarski tells Gibb that by playing a section of the band's "Revolution 9" backwards, a clue emerges: the phrase "Turn me on, dead man." Gibb proceeds to do just that. Listeners are stunned.
# October 14, 1969: Fred LaBour, entertainment reviewer for the University of Michigan student newspaper The Michigan Daily, turns his assigned review of the new Beatles album, Abbey Road, into a satirical piece headlined "McCartney Dead; New Evidence Brought to Light." In the article, LaBour repeats the musical "clue" and adds several of his own. He also invents the name "William Campbell" as Paul's "replacement." This finally causes the mainstream press to take note, and when contacted by other media outlets, LaBour furthers what he thinks is a joke by validating every rumor within the rumor.
# October 21, 1969: The London Times publishes its own report on the rumor. The very next day, both The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times cover the story