A reader asked me recently when the mirrored message "I ONEIX ♦ HE DIE" on the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band drum was first discovered. I answered that the first time I heard of putting a flat mirror horizontally in the center of the words "Lonely Hearts" on the drum was in the 1979 article by Joel Glazier that appeared in the Beatles Fanzine "Strawberry Fields Forever." However, after a trip back through my archives, I have found strong evidence that the discovery was made a decade earlier.
On Volume One, Disc Two of the bootleg "Miss Him Miss Him Miss Him," there is a rebroadcast of the "Paul Is Dead Special" from WPLJ-FM in New York City. The show focused on the debunking of "Paul Is Dead" theories. The tone of the host, Bob Lewis (aka Bob-a-Loo) was rather insulting to those who found clues in the Beatles music. He called them "cluesters" and "clue freaks" throughout the broadcast. Some of his explanations to discredit Paul is Dead theorists were more bizarre than the sinister interpretations of the clues.
The liner notes indicate the date of the original broadcast was 1969, but a rebroadcast from the mid 1970s is what served as the master for the CD. The mid-1970s introduction of the rebroadcast dates the original from the fall of 1969. The web site Gary Pfeifer's Radio Airchecks identifies the original air date as November 14, 1969. If that is correct, then the mirrored drum was in fact discovered during the initial wave of "Paul Is Dead" hysteria. Bob Lewis dismissed the drum clue by suggesting that there was a Beatle who died on the cover, and his name was Stu Sutcliffe.
The rebroadcast was followed by a much more sympathetic review of the major clues and had no input from Bob Lewis, who had apparently moved on by then. So, I am convinced that the Sgt. Pepper drum clue was part of the original broadcast. That proves that the mirrored drum was discovered in 1969, but it doesn't identify who found it. Lewis credited the discovery to those "Paul Is Dead" freaks, but doesn't give a specific source.
If the drum clue was known in 1969, it is surprising that it did not come up in the RKO television special "Paul McCartney: The Complete Story, Told For the First And Last Time." This TV Special, which aired Thanksgiving weekend of 1969, was in the form of a mock trial to determine the truth behind the McCartney rumors. The show featured an amazing group of "witnesses" including Russ Gibb, Peter Asher, Allen Klein, and Fred LaBour. Audio clips from the special can be found on Brian Moriarty's Excellent Web Site. The drum clue also did not appear in a "Paul Is Dead" Special from WKBW-AM, Buffalo, NY, despite the fact that it included a lengthy segment on the Sgt. Pepper cover art.
Bob Lewis must have heard that clue somewhere in 1969, but it doesn't seem to be available in any of the recordings known to still exist from that time period.