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

It’s coming up on almost 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.

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Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?
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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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