The Real Reason Paul McCartney Was Barefoot On The Abbey Road Cover

Let's get one thing out of the way before proceeding further — Paul McCartney did not die in a car crash in late 1966. And no, he was not replaced by a lookalike named William Shears Campbell, who you may know as the Billy Shears of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band fame. Now more than six decades into his legendary career as a musician, McCartney has reached a point where he can laugh about the fan theories about his supposed death, but back in 1969, shortly after the Beatles released "Abbey Road," Macca was more than a bit miffed when pressed about one supposed death clue on the album's cover.

In case you need a little more context, the "Abbey Road" cover featured all four Beatles crossing the street while supposedly dressed like people at a funeral. John Lennon's all-white outfit suggested he was a preacher, George Harrison's denim attire made him the gravedigger, Ringo Starr's black suit looked like that of a bereaved friend or relative (or an undertaker), and McCartney going barefoot hinted that he was the person being buried. Of course, it was all a coincidence, and if you come to think of it, one of the other purported clues — the license plate reading "28IF" — is completely dubious, because McCartney was actually 27 at the time "Abbey Road" was released. Furthermore, the singer-bassist had a valid reason to go barefoot during the photoshoot for the album cover, and it wasn't because he was cosplaying as a dead man.

It was simply too hot for McCartney to keep his shoes on

As noted by Beatles Bible, the shoot for the "Abbey Road" cover took place on August 8, 1969, and the photos were taken by freelance photographer Iain Macmillian, who was friends with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The concept for the cover was McCartney's idea, and while Macmillian was getting things ready, Paul's wife Linda took a few photos of her own, including one that shows her husband clearly wearing a pair of sandals. Likewise, he donned the footwear for two of the six pictures Macmillian snapped, but in the other four, he chose to go barefoot. These included the image the Beatles ultimately chose for the cover, and as Mental Floss pointed out, they picked it because it was the only one of the six photos where everyone in the band had their legs in mid-stride.

So why did McCartney take off his sandals? It had everything to do with the weather, and nothing to do with "William Campbell" and the other Beatles trying to subtly push the "Paul is dead" narrative. When LIFE magazine approached McCartney about the death rumors later that year, he seemed annoyed when the publication brought up the fact he went shoeless on the "Abbey Road" cover. "On 'Abbey Road' we were wearing our ordinary clothes. I was walking barefoot because it was a hot day," he explained. "Can you spread it around that I am just an ordinary person and want to live in peace?"