The Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover story


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September 26, 2021, 08:00

The Beatles – Abbey Road album cover: photo by Iain Macmillan, design by John Kosh.

Image: Press / Apple Records


One of the most famous photographs of all time was taken in August 1969. Here is the story behind the Abbey Road album cover.

Abbey route was the last album The Beatles recorded and it was released on Friday September 26, 1969 with a truly iconic cover photo. It represents the four men – George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and John lennon – walk a zebra crossing located on Route de l’Abbaye, outside of EMI studios in London, where the band had spent the majority of their groundbreaking recording career.

The LP and its memorable cover art put the location on the map – previously known as the old EMI studios, the building became known as the Abbey Road Studios in the light of this flagship album. Millions of people made the pilgrimage of the crossing to have their photos taken and pay tribute to the genius of the Fab Four and dozens of artists have parodied the cover, The simpsons to the Red hot peppers.

Abbey Road during coronavirus lockdown on April 16, 2020

Abbey Road during the coronavirus lockdown on April 16, 2020.

Photo: Barry Lewis / InPictures via Getty Images


And everything was shot in a few rushed minutes on Friday August 8, 1969 …

That day John, George and Ringo were working on I want you (she is so heavy) and The end inside the studio, while Macca worked on Oh! Dear, but before they got down to business, they exited Abbey Road Number 3 to be photographed for the cover. Here are some facts about that 1969 summer day that you may never have heard before …

  1. Where exactly is Abbey Road intersection?

    Before the arrival of the Beatles, Abbey Road’s main claim to fame was being a stone’s throw from Lord’s cricket ground. The crossing is located at the southernmost point of Abbey Road, at the junction with Grove End Road, in the St John’s Wood area of ​​north-west London. The postcode for Abbey Road Studios is NW8 9AY – if you are looking for the crossing near the Abbey Road Station on the London Underground map, you would be far away. It’s actually a Docklands Light Railway station in east London, miles away!

    Abbey Road Studios in 2006

    Abbey Road Studios in 2006.

    Image: Brian Rasic / Getty Images


  2. The album wasn’t going to be called Abbey Road at all

    At the end of the album sessions, the four Beatles discussed a title for the record. One idea was to call her “Everest” after the cigarettes that the engineer Geoff emerick smoked during the sessions. When a plan was proposed to take a cover photo in the Himalayan foothills to illustrate the title, the group abandoned the idea and instead opted for the simplest plan possible: having the photo taken by the outside the studio and call it Abbey Road!

    For the only time in their career, The Beatles presented the world with an album cover that did not bear their name or the LP title at all. Designate John kosh claimed the EMI bosses were furious, but argued, “The biggest group in the world, you don’t have to say who they are – everyone knows who they are.”

  3. The four Beatles are pictured walking away from the studio

    The Beatles’ So be it The album was released in May 1970, but the material had been recorded over a year earlier, meaning that Abbey Road was the last set of material to be produced by the Four Beatles. In fact, the last shoot to see John, Paul, George and Ringo together in the studio was on August 20, 1969. So it is significant that the photo chosen for the cover shows the four crossing the road with Abbey Road Studios behind. them. – it’s the white building on the left of the photo. Lennon leads the group – which is also important as he was the first member to leave The Beatles for good.

    The zebra crossing at Abbey Road, London in 1996

    The zebra crossing at Abbey Road, London in 1996.

    Photo: Brian Rasic / Getty Images)


  4. Only six photos were taken by photographer Iain Macmillan

    Road traffic was not the same 50 years ago, but Abbey Road was still a busy thoroughfare, which meant the photographer Iain macmillan had little time to take his picture with his Hasselblad camera. A police officer cut off traffic as Macmillan climbed a stepladder in the middle of the road. The Fab Four crossed the road three times as Macmillan landed a shot each time. Paul McCartney looked at the contact sheet and it was decided that frame five was the best, with the four musicians walking boldly across the road.

  5. The back cover photo is taken at the other end of Abbey Road

    Anyone looking for the road sign pictured on the back of Abbey Road will have a tough job. First, the Beatles scholars Piet Schreuders, Mark Lewisohn and Adam Smith established that the location of the sign was at the OTHER end of the road, at the junction of Abbey Road and Alexandra Road, near South Hampstead station. Second, the area was redeveloped in 1972 to make way for the Alexandra and Ainsworth subdivision, which opened in 1978.

    One of the few remaining originals

    One of the few remaining original “Abbey Road” signs photographed in 1998.

    Image: Brian Rasic / Getty Images


  6. Why is Paul McCartney barefoot on the cover of The Beatles’ Abbey Road?

    According to designer John Kosh, “The reason he took off his shoes was because they were too tight.” August 8, 1969 was a particularly sunny day and Macca lived around the corner in St John’s Wood, so he walked around the studios in sandals. For a classic McCartney prank, he crossed the road several times without the shoes on – it had nothing to do with being a “clue” that Paul McCartney was dead (see below).

    The Abbey Road Billboard on Sunset Strip, LA, December 1969

    The Abbey Road billboard on Sunset Strip, LA, December 1969.

    Photo: Robert Landau / Corbis via Getty Images


  7. What are the “Paul Is Dead” clues on the cover of Abbey Road?

    By the end of 1969, a crazy conspiracy theory began to swirl around that Paul McCartney was actually killed in a car crash in 1966 and was replaced by a lookalike. Besides that Paul was out of step with his band mates and walked barefoot, there were other “clues” on the sleeve that the Beatles had “planted” to get the message across to their fans.

    White Volkswagen Beetles that carry a license plate saying “28IF” – Paul would have been 28 years old IF he had survived (he had actually just turned 27); the police van on the cover is commonly seen in traffic accidents; and the four Beatles represent a funeral procession: George is the gravedigger, Paul is the corpse, Ringo is the congregation, and John is the priest.

    McCartney parodied the whole affair in the title and cover art of his 1993 concert album Paul is live.

    Paul McCartney's Paul Is Live album (1993)

    Paul McCartney’s album Paul Is Live (1993).

    Image: Press


  8. Three of the Beatles wear designer costumes

    John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr all wear costumes from the Welsh designer Tommy Nutter. George, however, has always been her own man and rocked that day in double denim. Nutter went on to conceive Jack Nicholson ‘s costume when he played The Joker in the 1989 Tim burton version of Batman.

    Tommy Nutter in his shop in November 1969

    Tommy Nutter in his shop in November 1969.

    Image: Jones / Evening Standard / Getty Images


  9. It wasn’t the last Beatles photoshoot

    Although Abbey Road was the last time The Beatles were together in the studio, the filming of the album cover was not the last piece of the Beatles’ pictorial activity. The four reunited two weeks later on Friday August 22, 1969 at John’s home in Tittenhurst Park in Ascot, Berkshire, for one final photoshoot. Yoko Ono and Linda McCartney joined them that day. One of the images was then used on the cover of the Hey jude LP compilation.

Be sure to visit the official Abbey Road Studios accounts for more great photos of this iconic rock spot.


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About Elizabeth J. Swartz

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