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Kino: The Winged Beatle

May

23

by

These two guys don’t look alike at all!!1

Constellations never made any sense to me. The stars are just randomly plotted around the night sky and it always seemed arbitrary to me to say that certain stars make up one constellation while others are separate. And all the shapes they were mean to represent were never apparent to me, even when other people tried to point them out and connect the dots.

The Winged Beatle reminded me of how I can be astrologically challenged in that sense. It’s a documentary which promotes the conspiracy theory that Paul McCartney died in a car accident in 1966 and has now been replaced by a doppelganger. This is “proved” by a series of unrelated anomalies and “clues” mostly hidden in Beatles music and the album artwork.

The reason I say this is like astrology is that the film avoids making any definitive conclusion like the plague. Like the astrologers, the filmmakers behind this leave it to their audience to connect most of the dots. This must be satisfying to the believers since it allows for a sense of interactivity with the movie.

This is demonstrated early on when the film gets close to making some kind of claim about The Beatles trying to establish themselves at the helm of a new religion. At first I had trouble figuring out of the filmmakers were complaining about this or just “exposing” a fun new facet to this band they loved, probably because I apparently live in some kind of atheist bubble and sometimes have trouble telling what’s offensive to religious people.

After poking around a few reviews and the comment sections that followed, it looks like those who buy into this stuff aren’t very happy about it. These people are so backwards that they’re still into this idea that normal rock music is part of Satan’s evil plan. They haven’t even caught up with the ignorant hicks who think punk, metal, and hip hop are Satanic plots to get kids to cast spells on their parents.

The details aren’t quite clear, but the basic gist of what they say happened is this: Paul McCartney died in a car accident. Instead of cashing in on the tragedy the way pretty much every other band that lost a member too early would, the Beatles hushed it up. They replaced Paul with someone else. Probably Billy Shears. The band would publicly deny this any time it came up during interviews or other public appearances, but would also leave maddeningly incomplete “hints.” According to those behind TWB, The Beatles were basically trolling their fans.

I think most of the “evidence” presented in the film can be lumped into two categories, and I’m going to illustrate the categories by using two examples. First would be some supposed backwards messages in the music, especially a bit in Strawberry Fields Forever which is supposed to be John Lennon saying “I buried Paul.” The Official Story from the Beatles is that he was actually saying “cranberry sauce.” Of course when this excerpt is played in the movie, the audience is primed with a caption suggesting that Lennon was saying that he buried McCartney.

This, along with another instance where someone close to the band said that Paul “isn’t the same guy” – a seemingly obvious reference to a sudden change in McCartney’s character – I think falls under the category of deception on the part of those spreading the idea that Paul is dead. Either they’ve fooled themselves or they’re consciously fooling others. And they do it by cherry-picking and misrepresenting evidence so that it fits with their theory.

The other category of evidence presented in TWB involves when I think the Beatles were trolling their more gullible fans as part of a marketing gimmick. I don’t have evidence to support this but what this interpretation has over the alternative (i.e. that McCartney really is dead) is that it involves less scheming and intense secrecy.

So let’s say you’re in a rock band and some people mistakenly believe your bassist died. This adds intrigue to your group and intrigue means money. So you feed into that by, say, using some death imagery in some of your album artwork. Like the flowers arranged in the shape of a bass at the lower left-hand corner of the Sgt. Pepper album cover, which is supposed to represent a grave.

Lots of bands have done this kind of thing since the sixties and it’s gotten to the point where it can all be very blatant and over-the-top. One of my favorite bands growing up was called the Mephiskapheles, whose debut album was called God Bless Satan. Lots of punk and heavy metal bands embraced Satanic and death imagery back in the 80s. Fans appreciated it when their favorite bands directly confronted the religious right’s hysteria over the supposedly degrading culture in that way.

To be sure, I’m not saying I have some secret memo from the Beatles manager where he pitched these ideas to the band. But this is just a simpler explanation for the data points TWB brings up that aren’t intentionally deceptive. So if you take out all the evidence TWB brings up that is deceitful and misrepresentative, and then you take out everything that would be better explained by simple opportunism on the band’s part, you’re left with, well, nothing at all.

But really what’s most frustrating about this stuff is in how so many questions are left unanswered. Why would the band give away this secret? What’s the point of that? The only thing close to an explanation is that Alesteir Crowley wrote a couple of sentences about how he liked backwards writing and backwards speech in one of his books once.

The Winged Beatle doesn’t deal with any of the obvious follow-up questions. It only focuses on pattern recognition, and we as a species are very susceptible to false positives when it comes to perceiving patterns where none exist. We’ve been doing it for a long time. Back when we lived outside and slept under the stars, we invented constellations. Now that we live indoors and fall asleep watching TV, we make nonsensical patterns with our pop culture.

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  • Manduka Springtime

    True story: the constellations don’t look like their descriptions because terrible light pollution and atmospheric pollution has made it impossible for us to see the brilliant, blazing night sky watched by ancient Greeks.

    Hell, we can’t even see what the night sky looked like to the naked eyes of the people who invented astronomy, or to those of Americans 50 years ago. Many observatories situated in ‘safe’ places for viewing are now unable to do what they were designed to do, because policy has ignored our ability to do good science (such as detecting rogue comets that might turn policymakers into cinders and ash).

    • http://www.buffalobeast.com/ Josh Bunting

      Yeah, those are good points. Also, some stars have just died out in the thousand or so years since astrology was invented and the Earth’s position relative to the entire galaxy has moved. But I remember having gone to a planetarium when I was a kid and they would correct for those problems and I’d still not see the patterns unless they connected the dots or pointed them out specifically.

  • Pan Demonium

    “Beetle with an A – Magic with a K”…

    Retarded with an R.

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