If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time (there’s a couple of you out there, aren’t there?), you know that there are a few topics, near and dear to my heart, that I write about frequently. These are, in no particular order, Kevin Smith, zombies, Star Wars, and the Beatles. well today I’m going to talk about another of my longtime passions that I really haven’t mentioned yet, and tie it in with one of these others. I love documentary films.
Its true. When I’m looking at what’s available on Netflix, I will often skim straight to the documentary section altogether, without even looking at horror. After all, how many times can one watch Zombie Strippers (starring two of the biggest whores in Hollywood: Robert Englund and Jenna Jameson, what’s not to love?) anyway? Its how I discovered a recent wonderful and horrible little film (okay, really Tara told me about it) called Paul McCartney Really is Dead. I recomend it highly because I don’t care if Netflix suddenly gets everything ever produced by Monty Python, the Three Stooges, and the Zucker Brothers (Airplane!, The Naked Gun), you will never find anything funnier on the video streaming site.
Paul McCartney Really is Dead offers the premise that famed Beatles bassist and half of the most successful songwriting duo in rock history, Sir Paul McCartney, died in a horrific automobile crash in late 1966 and the man we’ve known for all these years is actually an impostor hired to pose as McCartney in a joint cover-up by the Beatles and the British government.
Are you laughing yet? It gets better, I promise.
The film opens by recounting the December 1999 attack on George Harrison at his home in Henley, England and then states that the producers received a package at their Hollywood offices shortly thereafter containing two cassette tapes labeled “The last Testament of George Harrison.” The tapes purportedly featured the former Beatle telling the fantastic story of how Paul was killed in a car crash after storming out of a recording session in 1966 and how the remaining Beatles were approached by a mysterious MI5 agent identified only as “Maxwell” who told them that the news of McCartney’s death must never be made public for
fear it would cause a worldwide spike in suicides among young girls, the Beatles’ primary fan base in those days at the height of “Beatlemania.” Forced to keep the secret under threat of the penalty of death (revealing the truth would go directly against an order from the British government and therefore be considered treason) and to allow the false Paul into their midst (the film’s Harrison states that the other Beatles started calling this guy ‘Faul’ for ‘false Paul’), the remaining Beatles decide to include little clues to the truth in their music and on their album covers, so that if the truth ever did come out they could show that they had made attempts to let their true fans know what was really going on.
Okay, now its funny, right?
In all fairness, it’s supposed to be. The blurb on the film’s official web site (http://paulreallyisdead.com/home.html) states, “The “Paul is Dead” urban legend that exploded worldwide in 1969 was considered a hoax. In this mockumentary spoof of “Paul-Is-Dead,” a voice on mysterious tapes reveals a secret Beatles history, chronicling McCartney’s fatal accident. A package arrives from London with no return address. Inside are two mini-cassette audio tapes dated December 30, 1999 and labeled THE LAST TESTAMENT OF GEORGE HARRISON. A voice identical to Harrison tells a shocking story: Paul McCartney was killed in a car crash in November of 1966 and replaced with a double! British intelligence, MI5, had forced the Beatles to cover up McCartneys death to prevent mass suicides of Beatle fans. However, the remaining Beatles tried to signal fans with clues on album covers and in songs. What follows is a cover up, dozens of unknown clues, and a dangerous cat and mouse game with Maxwell, the Beatles MI5 handler, as John Lennon became increasingly reckless with the secret.” Okay, it says “mockumentary spoof.” This is Spinal Tap was a mockumentary. Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind are mockumentaries. There’s a definite difference here though. The audience pretty much knows going into those flicks that the subject matter is made up and the people you see on the screen are really actors. Christopher Guest (Saturday Night Live) and Michael McKean (Laverne & Shirley) are in all three of those movies, for chrissakes!
This movie plays it very straight and the filmmakers present their “evidence” in as unapologetic a way as Michael Moore ever did. Of course the voice on the cassette tapes claiming to be George Harrison clearly is NOT Harrison at all and, in fact, sounds like someone trying to do an impression of Harrison based on his appearances in A Hard Day’s Night and various television interviews of the mid 1960’s. It was, in fact, the phony Harrison voice (the “tapes” are used to narrate most of the film) that first tipped me off that something was amiss. I remember thinking (and I probably said out loud to Tara) something like “They can’t really expect us to believe that’s George Harrison.” In addition to the faux-Harrison voice (“Forge” for Fake George? “Farrison,” perhaps?), there was one bit of “evidence” that immediately struck me as too phony to be believed.
As the fake George is recounting the “clues” provided in the Beatles mid-career songs and album covers, he eventually states, “Our next album was Yesterday and Today…” and starts talking about how the disturbing original cover art was yet another “clue” for the fans that the cutest Beatle had died a grizzly death. The songs on that record too were supposedly riddled with clues. Act Naturally was all about how the remaining Beatles were putting on a show that everything was as normal as can be. Nowhere Man referred directly to Paul (the REAL Paul, of course). Being deceased, he was in fact a real Nowhere Man, sitting in his nowhere land and making all his nowhere plans for nobody. Doctor Robert was the doctor who had performed plastic surgery on Faul in attempts to make him look more like the real McCartney. The lyrics to Yesterday originally said “why HE had to go, I don’t know…” and so on.
The thing is, Yesterday and Today was never a “real” Beatles album. That was a hard lesson for me to learn because, growing up, it was one of the Beatles albums that my mom had for as long as I could remember. She also had Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road on 8-track. The copy of Abbey Road didn’t work. Too bad. Today I consider that their best album (and perhaps THE best rock album of all time). Anyway, by the time I was twenty, I’d listened to Yesterday and Today more times than I could hope to count. when Beatles albums started appearing on CD in the late eighties, I was astonished that Yesterday and Today was never among them on the shelves at Tower Records or, well, anywhere. Its not on iTunes either, and they just got the Beatles catalog about two years ago. why no Yesterday and Today, “butcher block” cover or no?
In the 1960’s, the Beatles’ record label only released their music in the UK. American releases were handled by an American company, Capitol Records. And, like any red-blooded American company, Capitol wanted to milk as much money out of the British commodity known as the Beatles as they possibly could. To this end, they got into the habit of
culling songs off the US versions of Beatle albums, When they had enough of these “throw away” tunes, they would release them in a single collection. One such collection was entitled Yesterday and Today and was made up of tunes that originally appeared on the UK versions of Rubber Soul and Revolver. When the Beatles albums were remastered and released on CD in the 1980s, they put a stop to the Capitol Records butchery of their albums and all current versions of Revolver and Rubber Soul have the missing tracks intact, rendering Yesterday and Today a bit useless and redundant. If you do happen to come across a copy with that original cover, though, grab it up as it’s worth quite a bit in good condition. You’re not likely to see one at a yard sale or thrift store though. I’ve been a Beatle fan for most of my life and I’ve never even seen one in person.
So, anyway, George Harrison would never have said “Our next album was Yesterday and Today, because it never was a Beatles album. At least not in the same way that Abbey Road was.
So, I do have to suggest you watch Paul McCartney Really is Dead, especially if you’re a fan of the Beatles or of documentaries (ahem, mockumentaries) or of shit that is just to silly to be.
Join me again next time when I’ll talk about, well, whatever happens to pop into my head between now and then.