Thursday, 1 October 2009
The Abbey Road photo session
In celebration of Abbey Road's 40th birthday (it was released on October 1st, 1969 in the USA), here are the six photos that Iain MacMillan shot of the fabs crossing Abbey Road on the morning of Friday, August 8th, 1969. They start by walking across from the Abbey Road Studios side of the street over to the other side, Paul is still wearing sandals. The beetle is there all the way through the session, but the police van is nowhere to be seen yet.
The same photo, a bit brighter and more close-up.
Paul keeps the flip flops on as they return, but he leaves them on the sidewalk for the remainder of the photo session.
Again they cross the street. One of several London buses and a taxi appears.
Another bus is waiting for The Beatles to cross over the street. Here's the photographer, Iain MacMillan pictured with this photo:
The iconic cover photo, where they are walking in step. There's that police van.
And the van is still there in the final photo.
In february 2008, news was that Florida resident Paul Cole, the man beside the police van had died, aged 93. But was he really that man? I don't think so, and here's why.
According to an interview he gave in 2004, Paul Cole was on the pavement while he was waiting for his wife, who was visiting a museum in Abbey Road. He was starting a conversation with the driver of the police van, and a bit later he realized that the police was there for a special occasion. When he looked over at the Beatles, he only recognized them as "A bunch of kooks, I called them, because they were rather radical-looking at that time. You didn't walk around in London barefoot."
I think he was telling tales, his story seems to prove that he has only seen the one photo that most people have seen, the actual Abbey Road cover. There's no museum in that part of Abbey Road. The police van was a late arrival to the photo session, as evidenced by the previous photos, so Paul Cole can't have had such a conversation with the driver. He was just a man who knew three things about the cover:
1. There's a police van there.
2. Next to the police van there's a man standing.
3. One Beatles was not wearing shoes and socks.
So, he invented a story, putting himself in the picture. Well at least he got a laugh when news media all over the world reported about it. It's even in the Wikipedia entry of the album.
Here's a close-up from photo #2 of what appears to be the same man. So, where was he in the mean time?
This is a reenactment from the recent The Beatles:RockBand commercial, the scene seen from that man's point of view.
Over the ages there are several people who have claimed to be the man on the Abbey Road cover. I have heard stories about people claiming to be or to know "the man on the cover" for as long as I have been a Beatles fan. One of them supposedly was a gay man who died in the seventies. Here's another, earlier claim: Jo Poole: "At 21, I was a dedicated Beatles fan, and bought the 'Abbey Road' album the moment it was released. As soon as I saw the cover, I shouted, 'That's my brother, Tony.' He was 33, and was very distinctive at six feet four inches tall. Tony Staples was his name and he lived in Scott Ellis Gardens, near Abbey Road, and regularly saw the occasional Beatle, though catching a glimpse of all four Beatles together was rare, even in Abbey Road. He was on his way to work as an administrative secretary for the National Farmers Union on the Friday morning when that photo was taken. I used to travel regularly from my home in Gloucestershire to visit Tony in St. John's Wood, and I remember him pointing out Paul McCartney's house."
Of course, since Paul Cole managed to get in the news, and because he was referred to as "the man on the Abbey Road cover" in an obituary that was widespread all over the internet, it's become almost impossible to google and find all those other, previous claims about the identity of the man.
The gang of three directly over McCartney's head seems to have been identified, too:
Mrs N. C. Seagrove: "It wasn't until years after the 'Abbey Road' LP was produced that my husband discovered he is on the album cover. Derek was 31, and working for the decorating firm Fassnidge, Son & Morris, based in Uxbridge, when the picture was taken. He's the one on the right of the three men in white overalls on the left-hand pavement. The other two are his work-mates, Alan Flanagan and Steve Millwood. They were doing a decorating job in Abbey Road studios and were coming back after a lunch break when the picture was taken. They hung around just to be nosey. Derek thought if it was used, he and his mates would be edited out."
You can see more Abbey Road photos in this post.