Why Was Paul McCartney Barefoot on the Cover of Abbey Road?

It has been half a century since The Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover was shot on August 8, 1969, and the conspiracy theories about Paul McCartney’s bare feet are still alive.

In the late 1960s, the rumor started circulating among Beatles fans that "the Cute One" had died in a car crash in 1967. Because they didn’t want to impact the popularity of the band, managers and handlers allegedly hired a McCartney look-alike as a replacement. The band felt bad about lying to loyal fans, however, and began leaving clues in the album artwork to tip them off.

One such "clue" was the entire cover of the Abbey Road album. Fans deduced that a simple picture of the band crossing the road was actually meant to depict a funeral procession. John, in white, was the clergyman. Ringo’s black attire showed that he was the mourner, while George’s casual jeans meant he was the gravedigger. Paul’s bare feet were the kicker: He didn’t need shoes, because he was the dearly departed.

If you’re not one of those conspiracy theorists, here’s the real story: It was hot. In some other pictures that were taken at the shoot, you can see McCartney making a fashion statement by wearing sandals with his suit. At some point during the brief shoot, he kicked them off. They didn't have much time to get the shot—because photographer Iain Macmillan had to perch on a stepladder in the middle of the very busy street, while police had to help stop traffic. So the Fab Four crossed the road one way, and Macmillan snapped three pictures. They let some traffic go by, then crossed the other way for another three pictures. Six pictures—that was it.

McCartney and Macmillan chose the picture they did because it was the only one that showed the Beatles with their legs all mid-stride in a “V” shape, though McCartney is famously out of step (another "clue," of course).

“On Abbey Road we were wearing our ordinary clothes. I was walking barefoot because it was a hot day,” an exasperated McCartney told a LIFE magazine reporter who “waded through a bog in Scotland” to reach the Beatle at his farm in 1969. “Can you spread it around that I am just an ordinary person and want to live in peace?” He no doubt regretted suggesting the cover to begin with.

Though the photo arrangement was his idea, it was intended to show the Beatles walking away from the studio where they had spent so much time for the better part of a decade—not fuel more rumors.

London Calling: The Clash Is the Subject of a New Exhibition at the Museum of London

The Clash, YouTube
The Clash, YouTube

On September 21, 1979, when British punk legends The Clash tried to amp up the crowd at The Palladium in New York, security guards pushed fans back into their seats.

According to guitar-makers Fender, this frustrated Clash bassist Paul Simonon so much that he smashed his cherished Fender Precision bass on the stage, creating possibly the most famous rock ’n’ roll photo opportunity of all time—which would also serve as the cover art for the Clash's groundbreaking third album, London Calling.

To celebrate this December’s 40th anniversary of its release, the Museum of London has curated a free exhibition that features many of the band’s belongings, images, music, and even Simonon’s surprisingly well-preserved broken bass.

It’s not the only iconic instrument on display—you can also see Mick Jones’s 1950s Gibson ES-295, which he used to record the album and the music video for its titular track, and Joe Strummer’s white 1950s Fender Esquire from the same era. And, if you look closely at Topper Headon’s drumsticks, you’ll notice that they’re stamped with the words “Topper’s Boppers.” According to NME, it’s the only item of Headon’s that’s still around from the London Calling days.

The exhibit also includes sketches from artist Ray Lowry that depict scenes from the London Calling tour, photos taken by Pennie Smith (who snapped the London Calling cover image), a doodle-heavy track listing for the four-sided double album written by Jones, and many other items.

And, of course, any rock ’n’ roll display wouldn’t be complete without at least one leather jacket—the Museum of London is showcasing Simonon’s jacket from the late '70s.

If you’re a little farther than a train ride away from London, there’s time to make some travel plans: The exhibit is open until April 19, 2020.

[h/t NME]

What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?

Tevarak/iStock via Getty Images
Tevarak/iStock via Getty Images

Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.

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