It is one of the most iconic album covers in rock 'n' roll history: The Beatles' "Abbey Road" has been celebrated, analyzed and re-enacted by tourists (much to the chagrin of nearby motorists) for half a century. But the album cover was actually shot in a hurried few minutes during recording one summer afternoon.
Photographer Ian Macmillan only snapped six photos that day, the fifth shot being the one they chose. The album would be the last recorded by the group and was released Sept. 26, 1969. ("Let it Be" was released in 1970, but the material was recorded earlier).
Here are answers to five of the most asked questions about the Fab Four's iconic album.
For even more facts, check out radiox.uk.com.
Why did people think Paul was dead?
Crazy rumors started circulating in the late 1960s that Paul McCartney had actually been killed in a car crash in 1966 and that he was replaced by a look-alike. The rumor picked up steam after fans started theorizing about the symbolism of the "Abbey Road" album cover.
For one thing, they claimed the Fab Four were lined up like a funeral procession as they crossed the street — John Lennon was the preacher, Ringo Starr the congregation, McCartney the barefooted corpse and George Harrison the gravedigger.
Secondly, they said the license plate behind the men reading LMW 28IF meant McCartney would have been 28 if he had survived the car crash. (He, in fact, would have been 27). The conspiracy theorists noticed other things in the picture as well.
Of course, the rumor was absolutely not true as evidenced by McCartney's still very active career. So why was he barefoot? He says his shoes were too tight that day, so he took them off.
What are they wearing?
Three of the four Beatles were wearing suits by one of their favorite designers, Tommy Nutter from Wales. However, Harrison wasn't having it. He chose to be more casual and wear denim.
Who are the photobombers?
The three men in the back left were three decorators who were on a break from work when the photo was taken.
According to the Mirror, the man in the back right was an American tourist named Paul Cole who was waiting for his wife to come out of a nearby museum. He said: "I just happened to look up, and I saw those guys walking across the street like a line of ducks. A bunch of kooks, I called them, because they were rather radical-looking at that time. You didn’t walk around in London barefoot." When the album came out, he recognized himself right away.
Why was it called 'Abbey Road'?
It wasn't going to be. They had talked about naming the album "Everest" and taking a photo of the band in the Himalayas. However, EMI records was getting antsy for cover art, so the band punted and decided to make things easy by just going outside the studio and taking a picture on the street — Abbey Road. That's how the name happened. EMI Studio would later change its name to Abbey Road Studios following the iconic shot.
What was the biggest hit?
Actually two songs: "Come Together" and "Something." The song "Come Together" was one of John Lennon's all-time favorites because it appealed to his rock 'n' roll sensibilities more than some of the other highly produced numbers on the album. It would be released as a double A-side record with Harrison's ballad, "Something." Billboard says the two songs together were The Beatles' second highest charting tracks, behind 1968's "Hey Jude."
For fans craving more Abbey Road, a four-disc Abbey Road Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition featuring remixed tracks and additional session recordings and demos will be released on Friday, Sept. 27.