10 Beatles Urban Legends: True Or False?

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When you're a band like the Beatles - who first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show on Feb. 9, 1964, 47 years ago today - tall tales and urban legends spring up all around... mostly because when a band is a worldwide cultural phenomenon, anything can seem possible or even plausible.

Some of the following ten items were just miscommunications, others were deliberate hoaxes, and still others are just nuttier than squirrel doo delusions. Amazingly, some of them are even true!

The answers are after the jump... let's see how you do.


1. Despite not containing a single performance by John, Paul, George or Ringo, an album called Best of the Beatles was released in 1965. There was nothing the band could do to stop it.

2. Even after all these years, four Beatles songs remain unreleased: "Colliding Circles," "Left is Right (And Right is Wrong)," "Pink Litmus Paper Shirt" and "Deck Chair."

3. John Lennon's song "Because" is Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" played backwards.

4. George Harrison does not play lead guitar on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."

5. Paul McCartney died in a car crash in 1966, and was replaced by lookalike William Campbell to keep the band going and stave off fans' grief. Clues to the switch are hidden in lyrics and album artwork.

6. An early Beatles compilation was accidentally called a copulation instead of a compilation.

7. During the band's famous Sullivan appearance, the crime rate dropped dramatically.

8. "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" is a veiled reference to LSD.

9. The Beatles (The White Album) inspired the murders perpetrated by Charles Manson and his family.

10. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are planning a concept project with Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of The Who.


1. TRUE. Original drummer Pete Best was kicked out of the band in 1962 so the Beatles could hire Ringo. A little bitter about it, Best capitalized on The Beatles' success by releasing Best of the Beatles just in time for Christmas 1965. A lot of duped fans in the thrall of Beatlemania were supremely pissed, but there was nothing anybody could legally do. The album was exactly what it claimed to be.... Best, formerly of The Beatles.

2. FALSE. Trust us, no Beatles tracks are left unaccounted for. EMI preserved everything the group did except their earliest session jams. Sometimes bootleg hunters are fooled when working titles get swapped with released titles, and other times songs by other artists are just accidentally or deliberately mislabeled as Beatles tunes. These four particular tracks that keep popping up were deliberate inventions of humorist and Beatles fan Martin Lewis to spruce up a bootleg list he was compiling for Disc magazine.

3. FALSE, BUT... Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" is like the "Total Eclipse of the Heart" of classical music: Everyone knows it. One day, as Lennon was working on "Because," Yoko Ono was playing "Moonlight Sonata" nearby. Lennon asked her to play it backwards, and then copied the basic chord structure for "Because." However, almost no song in Western music can just be transposed backwards and sound anything like real music. At best, "Because" is inspired by "Moonlight Sonata" reversed.

4. TRUE. The lead guitar on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" was actually played by Harrison's then-buddy, Eric Clapton. This was before Clapton started banging Harrison's wife.

5. FALSE. The man we know as Paul McCartney is the same lad who started out with the Beatles. The legend got started after McCartney was in a minor car wreck, and just sort of built from there. Rock stars being declared dead is nothing new. Jim Morrison and Peter Steele were declared dead dozens of times each before actually dying.

The legend's most laughable part is the idea that clues exist in the lyrics and artwork of post-switch albums. Why exactly would you leave clues to a truth you wanted kept secret?

6. TRUE. Despite the fact that the Beatles were making No. 1 hits in Britain like campers make homemade wallets, the American subsidiary of their label EMI, Capitol Records, thought they would never sell in America. This forced the band to release their first four singles through the tiny indie label Vee-Jay. Eventually, Capitol realized they were ham stupid, and put all their money into "I Want to Hold Your Hand," launching the band's incredible success in this country.

Capitol also sued Vee-Jay for the masters of the first four singles. Vee-Jay responded by cobbling together a weird concept album that pretended to be a collaboration of "England's Greatest Recording Stars," which included The Beatles and Vee-Jay's only other British act, Frank Ifield. The album was a total gyp, since there were eight Ifield tracks, and just the four previously issued Beatles singles. In their rush to cash in on Beatlemania - something their faith in the young act totally deserved - the sleeve of the LP mistakenly claimed that the "copulation" was presented with pride and pleasure.

7. FALSE. The Beatles' Sullivan appearance was seen by 38 percent of the entire U.S. population at the time. Washington Post editor B. F. Henry snarkily said that the only good thing about the performance was that during the hour-long show, not a single hubcap was stolen in America. He meant it as a dig against the Fab Four, but it somehow got twisted into a tale of the Beatles' amazing draw.

8. FALSE. John Lennon was doing a lot of acid then, but the title came from the title his son Julian had given to a school drawing he made of his classmate, Lucy O'Donnell. The pun was accidental.

9. TRUE, BUT... Charles Manson really did believe that The White Album was full of coded messages by the Beatles urging Manson to record an album to spread his message - or, barring that, kill a bunch of rich white people in hopes that blacks would be blamed and thus begin the race war that would ultimately result in Manson being king of the Earth. However, his real motivation was the fact that he was a fucking loony.

10. FALSE. That's just something Dr. Milo Pinkerton III of the Consortium of Genius said to us over the phone one day. Admit it, though, just for one second you really wanted it to be true. Sadly, we're not likely to ever see Whotlemania.

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