Wednesday 13 May 2015

Will The Real Sergeant Pepper Please Stand Up?

John Lennon was the walrus, or at least that's what he sang. But in Glass Onion he told us he had another clue for us, and that the walrus was Paul. Or was Paul really dead, making William Campbell the walrus?

In 1966 (some say 1964), according to the supposed clues in the music and album covers, Paul McCartney died in a car accident and was replaced by a lookalike and soundalike named William Campbell. (Or was it William Shepherd, or even William Shears?) Heck, there was even a photo of the real William Campbell on the poster included in The White Album. And because it wasn't the real Paul, the other Beatles called him Faul, shortened for fake-Paul. George Harrison even slipped and said it in public. But then Paul McCartney was never really Paul, was he? He was James McCartney, and simply used his middle name. He was also Paul Ramon, Apollo C. Vermouth, Percy 'Thrills' Thrillington, Bernard Webb, and later The Fireman.

In 1967 John was well on his way to fusing himself to Yoko at the hip, thus becoming Johnandyoko. He was born as John Winston Lennon, which later was changed to John Ono Lennon, before he dubbed himself Dr. Winston O'Boogie. John proudly possessed more pseudonyms than the others, including John O'Cean, Reverend Thumbs Ghurkin, Captain Kundalini, Dwarf McDougal and Dr Dream. Just check through his and Yoko's discographies.

It would be another couple of years before George jumped on stage with Delaney and Bonnie under the moniker L'Angelo Misterioso. But for now George was just George. Or was he the Mystic Maestro, the Hare Krishna so famous he never even had to cut his hair. And then there was Arthur Wax, Bette Y El Mysterioso, Carl Harrison, George Harrysong, George O'Hara, and Hari Georgeson. Finally he was Nelson Wilbury and Spike Wilbury.

Ringo Starr was in disguise all along, having been born as Richard Starkey, and was so famous he really never needed to use his surname after 1964. There was only one Ringo, and he was a Beatle. Unless you read old cowboy comics. For a time he was Ognir Rrats and even Ritchie Snare. Now, of course, there's a whole generation of kids who think he's a tank engine named Thomas. 

But back in the summer of love he was Billy Shears. Paul introduced him as such at the end of the opening track on Sgt. Pepper, and Ringo later confirmed it in 1973 on his self-titled album. Not only was the cover a homage to Sgt Pepper, but in I Am The Greatest he declared that he was indeed Billy Shears, and had been for so many years.

Last week I was examining the cover of the Sgt. Pepper album and for the first time wondered who Sergeant Pepper actually was.

I mean the band is supposedly The Beatles but not The Beatles. An alter-ego permitting musical freedom, without rules, expectations and responsibilities. This was exactly how Paul originally envisaged the concept. Not The Beatles, but Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The leader of the band is supposedly Sergeant Pepper. But who exactly is he? 

I know.

It's Ringo.

He's the only one who has three chevrons on his uniform sleeve, the insignia designating a sergeant. None of the others appear to have any rank at all, although Paul is wearing his Ontario Police patch, the one that for many years people presumed meant Officially Pronounced Dead.

 So Ringo is Billy Shears is Sergeant Pepper.

Or is he? And are we really sure who they all were anyway?

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