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Ringo Starr Finally Clears Up the Biggest Beatles Conspiracy Theory

He also named this particular theory his favorite in a new interview.

When you're the biggest band in the world, people are bound to gossip about you. But, in the case of the Beatles, at the height of their fame, talk about the band included some wild conspiracy theories spun by fans listening for secret messages in their music. In a new interview, Beatles drummer Ringo Starr opened up about the dark conspiracy theories surrounding the band and explained how one of them came to be. Read on to find out which fan theory is the 83-year-old musician's "favorite" and to learn the true story behind it.

READ THIS NEXT: See Ringo Starr's Granddaughter, Who's Also a Musician.

Fans thought the Beatles were sending secret messages through their songs.

The Beatles at London airport in 1963
Daily Express/Archive Photos/Getty Images

The Beatles used a technique called "backmasking" in their music, in which a message can be heard if a song is played backwards. As reported by The Independent, John Lennon spoke with Rolling Stone about using backmasking in 1968 and explained that he tried it on the song "Rain" by accident.

"I got home about five in the morning, stoned out of my head, I staggered up to my tape recorder and I put it on, but it came out backwards, and I was in a trance in the earphones," Lennon said. "What is it—what is it? It's too much, you know, and I really wanted the whole song backwards almost, and that was it. So we tagged it on the end."

Because of this experiment, fans began listening for other backwards messages in their other songs, which helped fuel the "Paul is dead" theory. This theory supposes that Paul McCartney died in 1966 and was replaced by a lookalike. Some people have claimed to heard messages suggesting this by playing Beatles songs backwards.

Starr explained what really happened.

Ringo Starr at the "Echo in the Canyon" premiere in 2019
Eugene Powers / Shutterstock

In a new interview with Vulture, Starr was asked to name his favorite conspiracy theory about the band.

"We only ever had one that stuck," Starr said of Beatles conspiracy theories. "That was 'Paul is dead.' And there were some songs people pointed out as being 'secret.'"

He continued, "John, by accident, learned how to play a tape backwards, and we put that to full use. So we'd just do something silly at the end of a track and it'd be all over the newspapers and on the radio. They're actually singing, 'Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.' It just made us all laugh. All of those interesting things we said were not that interesting. We had a great laugh about that. Look at what they're saying now."

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Fans took the messages more seriously than the band intended them to.

Paul McCartney at a press conference circa 1965
Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

As Starr noted, listeners found messages that were more "interesting" than the nonsense that was actually recorded. As noted by The Independent, one claim is that the phrase "turn me on, dead man" can be heard when "Revolution 9" is played in reverse. Another example is the phrase "I buried Paul" supposedly being hidden in "Strawberry Fields Forever." The Independent explains that this one can also be heard as the words "cranberry sauce." The alternate interpretations can be explained by the human brain's tendency to try to find patterns in nonsensical sounds.

McCartney has said they had a spooky experience listening to a backwards recording.

Paul McCartney performing in Uniondale, NY in 2017
Debby Wong / Shutterstock

In 2005, McCartney spoke to The Guardian about the 1995 song "Free as a Bird," which was recorded by McCartney, Starr, and George Harrison, using a demo Lennon had recorded prior to his 1980 death. McCartney said that he and his bandmates felt Lennon's presence while working on the song—including when they decided to include backmasking just for fun.

"We even put one of those spoof backwards recordings on the end of the single for a laugh, to give all those Beatles nuts something to do," McCartney said. "I think it was a line of a George Formby song. Then we're listening to the finished single in the studio one night, and it gets to the end, and it goes 'zzzwrk nggggwaaahh joooohn lennnnnon qwwwwk'. I swear to God. We were like, 'It's John. He likes it!'"

The message they actually included can also be heard as "turned out nice again."

He's poked fun at the rumor.

James Corden and Paul McCartney during "Carpool Karaoke" in 2018
The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

McCartney has had some fun with the theory that he died in 1966 and was replaced. When he was featured on the cover of Life magazine in 1969, the headline read, "Paul is still with us." And the musician titled his 1993 live performance album Paul Is Live.

More recently, while appearing on a "Carpool Karaoke" special in 2018, James Corden asked McCartney for his thoughts on the long-running conspiracy. As reported by USA Today, he said, "We just kind of let it go."

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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