Yes, even today there are still many ridiculous conspiracy theorists who claim that Paul is Dead, and that Faul (the fake Paul, geddit?) was replaced by one William Shepherd, a nascent singer and songwriter who previously led Billy Pepper and the Pepper Pots. It’s not a huge jump from Billy Shepherd to Billy Shears, and from Billy Pepper to Sgt. Pepper, after all.
The clues are out there: Paul’s mysterious wonky eyebrows and his ‘are they/aren’t they’ attached earlobes; the photo of Faul from the back on the cover of Sgt Pepper, and the barefooted march across the cover of Abbey Road; cranberry sauce… Sadly, the Billy Pepper/Shears/Shepherd these idiots promote as Macca’s replacement died himself in 1988, which kind of blows their theory out of the water, ne-c’est pas? Never mind that Billy Pepper’s own singing voice and compositional skills leave rather a lot to be desired. There is no way that this man could have ever written anything as sublimely beautiful as For No One.
No, it seems that our Billy Shepherd was the same composer and arranger who later went to work for the Bee Gees. Bill Shepherd was born in Surrey in 1927, and early in his career he worked with JoeMeek, when Joe was an in-house engineer at Pye. Shepherd first achieved notice in 1959 with his work as producer/composer on the Anthony Newley comedy Idle on Parade. He worked with Peter Sellers at Parlophone (with George Martin, Beatles obsessives!) and with the Shadows, penned the B-side to Jackie Lynton’s Over the Rainbow, and worked with Gene Vincent on his single The Beginning Of The End.
Shepherd had often been called on to produce quick knock off versions of TV themes and current instrumental hits, and in early 1964 he assembled a studio group, dubbed Billy Pepper and the Pepperpots, to record a clutch of tracks in the style of the Beatles for a couple of budget price cash in albums, Merseymania and Beat!!! More Merseymania. With each album featuring nasty cover versions of a couple of Beatles tracks, plus up to eight originals written in a similar style, the cheap discs were often picked up by gullible parents wanting something Beatle-y for their kids. Both albums sold well, and have been endlessly repackaged over the years, with the band often being renamed. Billy Pepper recordings have been released under the names the Beats, the Mersey Beats of Liverpool (not The Merseybeats) and the Liverpool Beats.
Shortly after the Merseymania recording sessions, Shepherd moved to Australia and joined Festival Records, where he began his relationship with the Gibb Brothers, a relationship they would renew after the group and the arranger both moved back to the UK – independently of each other - in 1966. He was responsible for many of their arrangements, and remained closely involved with all of the group’s work until 1973, when the Gibbs relocated to Los Angeles. During the same period he also worked with the Beatles protégés Grapefruit, Ritchie Havens, Gene Pitney, the New Seekers and Arthur Mullard. He died in L.A. in 1988.
Just to add fuel to the fire, a Billy Shepherd was also wrote one of the very first books on the Fab Four, The True Story of the Beatles, published in 1964 by Beat Publications, publishers of the Beatles Book Magazine. It seems that most of the conspiracy theorists have either forgotten or conveniently ignored that. But then again it has been conclusively proven that that Billy was not our Bill, (or Paul, or Faul either for that matter); that particular Billy Shepherd was, in fact, one of the many pen names utilized by Peter Jones, a music journalist who wrote for the Record Mirror and, later, Billboard. Jones, under the pseudonym Pete Goodman, would also write the first book on the Rolling Stones.
Anyway, enough of this nonsense; here is Billy, along with his Pepperpots, with their dreadful, atonal cover of I Want To Hold Your Hand and Bill Shepherd’s own composition, the frighteningly awful Seems to Me. Oo-wee-ee-oohh indeed! If you honestly think that a Beatle would have come up with a song as bad as this you need your bumps felt.
Turn me on, dead man!
Download Hand HERE
Download Seems HERE