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Friday 22 October 2004

Interviews with Paul Cole

These are two interviews with Paul Cole from 2004, which I have decided to preserve here, because they have now vanished from the original sites where they were published.


By Anthony Harwood Us Editor In New York

HE wasn't a fan and still doesn't know any of their songs, but Paul Cole can now be revealed as part of Beatles history.

The retired American salesman, 92, has finally admitted he was the "extra Paul" on one of the group's most famous album covers, Abbey Road.

Taken in August 1969, the photograph enjoys iconic status - and Mr Cole is the one next to the black police van, just behind John Lennon's head.

He said: "I was on holiday in London with my wife and I told her, 'I've seen enough museums. You go on, take your time and I'll see you later'.

"I saw this police van and I went over. I must have been talking to the policeman for about half an hour.

"I then saw these four guys walking across the street like a line of ducks.

"A bunch of kooks I called them because they all had long hair and one of them was even barefoot."

Mr Cole had no idea who they were or that they were being photographed.
It wasn't until six months later, back at home in America, he found out.

"My wife used to play the organ and a couple wanted her to play a song off the album at their wedding.
"I saw the album and I recognised myself right away. I had a new sports jacket on and I'd just bought new shell-rimmed glasses. I said to my children, 'get a magnifying glass out and you'll see me'." Mr Cole, who lives in Florida, used to tell his friends that "my picture is in millions of houses".

But no one else had a clue who he was - until now. Yet despite being forever linked to the album, he has never actually listened to Abbey Road.

"It's still brand new in its sleeve," he said. "I couldn't name a single song."

At the time, though, his children were delighted. "They blew up pictures for their bedroom walls which they got me to sign as a joke," he said.

The famous shot was taken by photographer Iain McMillan.

The Fab Four were pictured on a pedestrian crossing outside their studio in Abbey Road, North London. It was the last album they recorded.

When it appeared, the picture sparked rumours that Paul McCartney was dead. As well as being barefoot he was out of step with the rest of the group.

Fans also pointed to the number plate of a Beetle car parked on the left which ended: "28IF". McCartney would have been 28 if he had died that year.

But Mr Cole does at least know Macca is very much alive. "If you ever see the Beatle, tell him he's a wonderful guy."

BAREFOOT BAY - Paul Cole was in one of the most famous photographs of the 20th century, and yet he wasn't famous.

Cole, a longtime Barefoot Bay resident, died Wednesday in Pensacola at age 96. He is clearly seen in the famous shot of the Beatles walking across London's Abbey Road, used as the front cover of the group's classic 1969 album, "Abbey Road." Over the years, the picture has been reproduced in books, on posters, coffee mugs, T-shirts and hundreds of other places.

The retired salesman is standing on the sidewalk, just behind the Beatles. Gawking at them.
In a 2004 interview with Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers, Cole explained how he came to be there at that precise moment.

On a London vacation with his wife, Cole - then a resident of Deerfield Beach - declined to enter a museum on the north London thoroughfare.

"I told her, 'I've seen enough museums. You go on in, take your time and look around and so on, and I'll just stay out here and see what's going on outside,'" he recalled.

Parked just outside was a black police van. "I like to just start talking with people," Cole said. "I walked out, and that cop was sitting there in that police car. I just started carrying on a conversation with him. I was asking him about all kinds of things, about the city of London and the traffic control, things like that. Passing the time of day."

In the picture, Cole is standing next to the police van.

It was 10 a.m., Aug. 8, 1969. Photographer Iain McMillan was on a stepladder in the middle of the street, photographing the four Beatles as they walked, single-file, across Abbey Road, John Lennon in his famous white suit, Paul McCartney without shoes. The entire shoot lasted 10 minutes.

"I just happened to look up, and I saw those guys walking across the street like a line of ducks," Cole remembered. "A bunch of kooks, I called them, because they were rather radical-looking at that time. You didn't walk around in London barefoot."

About a year later, Cole first noticed the "Abbey Road" album on top of the family record player (his wife was learning to play George Harrison's love song "Something" on the organ). He did a double-take when he eyeballed McMillan's photo.

"I had a new sportcoat on, and I had just gotten new shell-rimmed glasses before I left," he says. "I had to convince the kids that that was me for a while. I told them, 'Get the magnifying glass out, kids, and you'll see it's me.'"