Who was the tallest Beatle?

Kieran McGovern
The Beatles FAQ
Published in
3 min readSep 20, 2019


A surprisingly controversial question

Shaky ‘evidence’ that Paul McCartney defied biology by growing taller in his 20s

One thing we can all agree on — none of The Beatles needed to worry about banging their heads on low ceilings or door frames.

The official record has Lennon, McCartney and Harrison as the same height: 5'11" with Ringo Starr 5'8". Some online commentators suggest that these figures are a little generous:

Paul looks at least an inch shorter than 5'10'’
Tom Jones only claims a peak height of 5"10.5 .. but he is at least an inch taller than them..
Paul was the tallest and he was never taller than 5'10" John and George were both about an inch shorter. Nobody seems to believe me when I tell them this.

The Fab Four were not alone in a little vagueness on this matter. For many years I convinced myself that I was just under six-foot. The tape measure stubbornly suggested 5'11 on tip toes. But what did it know?

Thankfully, my exact dimensions are of limited public interest. Unlike Paul McCartney, I am not at the centre of a bizarre conspiracy theory, which has doggedly persisted for over half a century.

Mysterious growth spurt?

Height disparity is one of the central pieces of ‘evidence’ for those who claim that the Fab Four became Three at the height of their fame. According to advocates of ‘the Great Hoax’ theory — which involves a fatal car crash and a switcharoo— the imposter Paul (Faul to his enemies) towers over the man he usurped. This, to put it politely, is a stretch — and not just a physical one to fool the official record.

It is true that early publicity photos emphasise a certain height uniformity. This harmonised with the identical suits and ‘Beatle’ hair styles. It was as if you could walk over their heads without breaking step.

That was excellent for merchandising but a little constraining for the young men being sold. After 1967 they famously tossed away their Nehru jackets and grew their hair long. They also stopped smiling for the camera and obeying the photographers’ instructions. They literally stepped out of line.

Late 60s photos tended to emphasise individual difference rather than collective branding. Paul, it now emerged, was fractionally taller than John and George.

Fake Paul?

Or was he? Some alleged that McCartney’s (apparent) mid-twenties growth spurt was in fact proof of what became known as the Great Hoax. This was ‘Fake Paul/Faul’ — the real guy was in the celestial Hall of Fame.

Not everyone was convinced. Deluded sheeple suggested that a left-handed McCartney doppelgänger — with a similar melodic genius — was something of a long shot.

A dogged minority has stuck to their guns, applying the full armoury of online science to debunk more prosaic explanations for the supposed height disparity. There have been heated debates about variations in camera angles and whether Paul’s Cuban heels gave him a sneaky height advantage.

Paul has somehow convinced himself that he is still very much alive — a line he has always stuck to. In an interview about the biopic, Nowhere Boy, he also tried to put the record straight regarding how he measured up to his songwriting partner.

‘I haven’t actually seen it, but I hear I’m OK in it. But you know what I’m slightly peeved about? My character, my actor, is shorter than John!’ he laughs. ‘And I don’t like that! I’m the same size as John, please. Put John in a trench! Or put me in platforms!’



Kieran McGovern
The Beatles FAQ

Author of Love by Design (Macmillan) & adaptations including Washington Square (OUP). Write about growing up in a Irish family in west London, music, all sorts