Tuesday, April 02, 2013

When Did Paul McCartney Chip His Tooth (and When Did He Get It Fixed)?

Q: Paul's bike accident in '66. I know he hid his chipped tooth during filming of 'Paperback Writer' and 'Rain' and was a reason (apparently) for growing his mustache in late '66.

My question is, 'When did he get his tooth fixed..?' Did he receive a cap in early '67 or what..? It seemed like it looked perfectly natural, and dentistry back in '67 could not have been THAT good, especially in England.

This is an interesting question, as it brings together a few aspects of Beatles history. Paul was visiting his father on December 26, 1965 in Wirral, near Liverpool, when he fell off his moped and suffered a minor laceration to his lip and chipped one of his front teeth. This event later served as a jumping-off point for the Paul Is Dead rumors, though they didn't get the date right (most started looking for clues as early as Sgt. Pepper and not Revolver).

Paul later described the accident as follows:
"I had a very good friend who lived in London called Tara Browne, a Guinness heir - a nice Irish guy, very sensitive bloke. I'd see him from time to time, and enjoyed being around him. He came up to visit me in Liverpool once when I was there seeing my dad and brother. I had a couple of mopeds on hire, so we hit upon the bright idea of going to my cousin Bett's house.

"We were riding along on the mopeds. I was showing Tara the scenery. He was behind me, and it was an incredible full moon; it really was huge. I said something about the moon and he said 'yeah', and I suddenly had a freeze-frame image of myself at that angle to the ground when it's too late to pull back up again: I was still looking at the moon and then I looked at the ground, and it seemed to take a few minutes to think, 'Ah, too bad - I'm going to smack that pavement with my face!' Bang!"
According to John Lennon, a news story in the Daily Mail about Tara Browne dying in a car accident later became the inspiration for him in writing the opening lines to "A Day in the Life."

This event was far from a secret at the time, with Brian Epstein in 1966 mentioning the accident and saying that "I told him three times he should do something about it. It is in a place where there are no nerve ends, so there is no pain. Paul assured me that he would have the tooth capped, but -- unfortunately -- he has not done so. (Could he be afraid of the dentist?) It is my opinion that he will just let it be."

You can see Paul's chipped tooth in the promo videos below (shot May 19-20) for "Paperback Writer" and "Rain," as he had not capped them by this point.

By June, Paul had capped the tooth, with the NME's Alan Smith reporting that "I looked but I couldn't see anything. A perfect mend. Only a small scar remains on his lip as a souvenir." Apparently dentistry back then was that good.

As you noted, the scar on his lip was behind his growing a mustache, which in turn inspired the other Beatles to grow theirs. According to Paul, "It was pretty embarrassing, because around that time you knew your pictures would get winged off to teeny-boppery magazines like 16, and it was pretty difficult to have a new picture taken with a big fat lip. So I started to grow a moustache - a sort of Sancho Panza - mainly to cover where my lip had been sewn. It caught on with the guys in the group: if one of us did something like growing his hair long and we liked the idea, we'd all tend to do it. And then it became seen as a kind of revolutionary idea, that young men of our age definitely ought to grow a moustache! And it all fell in with the Sgt Pepper thing, because he had a droopy moustache."

Paul McCartney's tooth was in the news again nearly 40 years later, in 2005, when the cap fell off and required dental care.


david_b said...

WOW. Thank you SO much for the answer.. I know I had posted it a while ago, and was just thinking about it again.

I looked on Google to hunt down some site which may have had the answer, and behold, it was 'In the Life Of..'.

Thanks much, you always have the most comprehensive answers and follow-up..!

Blessings, David B.

lotb said...

Thanks for your question and the kind words.

Boo said...

Re: "dentistry back in '67 could not have been THAT good, especially in England".

Dentistry was as advanced in '67 as it is now, and what makes you think England, home of some of the finest dentists in Europe, would have inferior dental techniques than anyone else? Are you perhaps an American, confusing Britain's lack of orthodontic obsession (a uniquely American trait I believe) with bad quality of dental surgery?