It was 42 years ago today that the Beatles posed for the Abbey Road album cover. The cover designer of Abbey Road was Apple Records creative director John Kosh. The cover photograph was taken by photographer Iain Macmillan, at John's suggestion. Iain Macmillan was given only ten minutes on Friday, August 8 1969 around 11:30 that morning to take the photo on the zebra crossing on Abbey Road.
|Iain was given this sketch by Paul McCartney a couple of days before the shoot showing where and what the picture should look like and Iain added his own sketch in the top corner to confirm the layout.|
Let's start with the six photos that photographer Iain Macmillan took, while standing on a stepladder in front of the crossing.
|Photo 3 - one of several London buses and a taxi appears. Paul has left his sandals.|
|Photo 4 - another bus is waiting for The Beatles to cross the street. Composite.|
Here's the photographer, Iain Macmillan pictured with this photo:
|Iain Macmillan pictured with photo 4|
|Photo 5 The iconic cover photo, where they are walking in step. There's that police van. This photo has been colour improved for use on the cover. The unaltered original has not been published.|
|This is the same as above, but slightly differently coloured. This is how the original UK 1969 cover looked like. The 1987 CD release had far duller colours, whereas the 2009 remastered CD version had a green hue.|
|Photo 6. And the van is still there in the final photo. The last bus approaches.|
Part 2 - The "Mystery man"
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.
|Paul Cole's story|
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 the "mystery man".
|This is a reenactment from the recent The Beatles:RockBand commercial, the scene seen from the "mystery 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.
Part 3 - Beatles and bystanders
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."
The 2011 exhibition "Beatles and bystanders" was a small one, with just the six Macmillan photos. So to expand the theme a bit, the exhibition focused on the bystanders that close scrutiny of the blown up original photos reveal.
Part 4 - Candid snapshots
Linda McCartney and Mal Evans were around for the photo shoot and took a lot of pictures themselves during the proceedings, many of which are still unpublished. But some are available.
Here's a bird's eye view of the Abbey Road crossing as it is today, with the three photo locations indicated by numbers. 1 marks the stairs outside Abbey Road studios, The Beatles are walking from 2 to 3 on Macmillan's photos 1, 3 and the famous cover photo, no 5 and from 3 to 2 on photos 2, 4 and 6.
The following are photos where The Beatles are standing around location 2:
|Linda's photo: Ringo picks his nose... Paul has sandals on, so this is before photo 1|
|Mal Evans: Composite, pieced together from versions of this image in various qualities.|
|From the Anthology book, part of a bigger photo?|
Seems to have been taken at the same moment as Mal's first photo.
|Mal: Probably snapped from location 3|
|Linda: Paul is still wearing his sandals, so this is immediately before photo 1, similar traffic going on as well.|
|Linda: Published in "Club Sandwich", the official Paul McCartney fan club magazine. Before photo 5, as Paul has his cigarette.|
|Linda: From the Anthology book. Part of a bigger photo?|
The following are photos where The Beatles have crossed the street at least once, and are standing on the other side, waiting to go back.
|Taken almost from Iain Macmillan's p.o.v., several bystanders are also seen - some with cameras. Mal is seen sitting on the wall behind the Beatles - between Paul and George. "Mystery man" also appears.|
|This modern day photo ought to be sufficient evidense that all those rumors about the Abbey Road zebra crossing having been moved since the sixties is just someone's imagination. Or bad research. The streetlight pole has been moved further away from the crossing, though.|
|Linda: A nosey lady chats with the boys, George and Mal are sitting on the wall.|
|Paul and Ringo are talking with that lady again, and George gets company.|
|Linda zooms in on the boys from her side of the street|
|Paul notices Linda|
|Paul, hams it up for Linda, Mal still in the background.|
|Ringo joins in on the fun|
Finally, some shots from the Abbey Road stairs. We don't know if these are taken before or after the photo session, but before is more likely - waiting for Macmillan to rig his stepladder. After the session, they probably didn't hang out outside the studio.
|This is a brighter version of the same photo that occupied this space earlier|
|Still photo from the George Harrison documentary "Living in the Material World"|
|Brighter than the others|
|Taken by Mal|
|This one Linda titled "four strangers"|
|By now, Linda was a McCartney, but her handbag carried her previous initials L.L.E. Linda Louise Eastman.|
|Linda is in this photo, so must be one of Mal's..|
|One of Linda's photos|
|Also one of Linda's|
|Four individual shots|
Since this was posted, some photos have appeared,and some of the ones in the original post have been replaced by better versions of the same photo. Feel free to send me updates so I can keep improving this post!
Improvements so far:
- The photo of The Beatles with several spectators taken from Macmillan's p.o.v. was sent to me by a reader. Inserted and updated with the same in higher resolution from Miss Tammy's site.
- A still photo of the four Beatles on the Abbey Road stairs has been captured from the recent trailer for the new George Harrison documentary
- Macmillan's photo 6 has been replaced with one that was bigger and better.
- The "Ringo joins in on the fun" photo replaced with a composite in better resolution.
- The Club Sandwich photo replaced by a bigger version.
- Macmillan's Photos 2,3 and 4 replaced by better versions.
- Two alternate versions of Macmillan's Photo 1 removed.
- The Abbey Road album cover miniature replaced with a "greener" one.
- Added a map with locations numbered
- Arranged the post into sections
- Added some captions
- Replaced Macmillan's photo 6 again with a more colourful one
- Added Mal Evans to the storyline, details provided by Eric Bourgouin
- Added Paul McCartney's layout drawing
- Added a news story about Paul Cole
- Replaced the "mystery man" photo with a bigger one.
- "Ringo picks his nose" replaced by an improved version of the same photo
- Modern day photo showing streetlight pole relocation added.
- New Ringo & Paul photo by Linda McCartney added
- The brighter stairsteps photo is new
- The first John/Paul photo replaced by a brighter version (and without a caption)
- Solo John photo added near the end
- Four individual shots, from the Kenwood blog added.
- Linda's "Club Sandwich" photo replaced by a better version from Paul McCartney's facebook page.
- Paul McCartney's website featured 13 of Linda's photos, several of which were previously unpublished. I made use of them to insert where appropriate.
- The "Ringo joins in on the fun" photo replaced by one in a higher resolution.
Photo credits: © 1969 Iain Macmillan (the six variations of the Abbey Road front cover)
© 1969 Linda McCartney (all other photos taken around the cover photo session, except)
© 1969 Mal Evans (photos taken from Mal's point of view and one from the Abbey Road steps with Linda McCartney in view).