World’s Famous Street Crossing

posted on November 24th 2009 in Observations with 0 Comments


Recently, I saw a TV commercial that starred The Beatles. Not the two remaining members, but all four, walking across the Abbey Road intersection. It was a spot promoting The Beatles:Rock Band for PS3 and X-Box 360. I must admit it was a little creepy, seeing all those people interacting with the fab four in St. John’s Wood, London, as if it were some sort of Back to the Future sequel. Nevertheless, it’s still a cool commercial.

It got me thinking, though. I’ve always been curious about the Abbey Road shoot. It’s so plain, yet so famous. That little casual stroll across the street became one of the most famous photographs in history. I wonder, did they plan that shot? As a graphic designer, I have to question the concept behind it, but after researching the session, I found it was even more interesting than I thought. I wonder if The Beatles knew, that on Friday the 8th of August, 1969, they were not simply shooting another album cover, they were making history and adding another tourist attraction to London.

So how did it go down? Here’s the scoop: The Beatles had been wondering what to do for their next album cover for some time. All their previous cover shots had been groundbreaking, from the simple (but nevertheless classic) posing on the stairs of EMI house in Manchester square for Please Please Me, through the darkly lit four faces of With The Beatles, the filmstrip style adopted for A Hard Day’s Night, the solemn look of Beatles For Sale, the semaphore signs of Help!, the distorted Rubber Soul cover, the award-winning collage of Revolver, the meticulously arranged splendor of Sgt Pepper and the stark contrast of The Beatles (White Album). You can just close your eyes and picture them all, can’t you?

At one point, what we refer to as Abbey Road was going to be called Everest (after a brand of cigarettes, smoked by the Beatles’ engineer, Geoff Emerick), and the Beatles were going to be photographed at the foot of this famous mountain in the Himalayas. In the end, they couldn’t be bothered. One of them (probably Paul) said: “Hey, why don’t we just have our picture taken as we walk across the crossing just outside here and call the LP Abbey Road?” All having agreed on this, John contacted a photographer friend of his and Yoko’s, Iain MacMillan, and a photo shoot was set up. At 11:35 am, MacMillan stood on a stepladder and took six photos of the group walking across, while a policeman held up traffic. Some time later, Paul McCartney studied the negatives under a magnifying glass and chose the image (no.5) that is now so familiar. The album came out, became the world’s no. 1 selling LP, Abbey Road became a household word, the cover inspired countless of other hopeful bands to imitate the sleeve, and even EMI’s recording studios were instantly renamed.

I’ve got 2 treats for you. First, one you’ve probably seen. here’s the Rock Band commercial spot.

The other, is a collection of photos from the actual shoot. A rare set of images for die-hard Beatle fans. Enjoy.

Wait. Just one more for the “road”…

Sorry, but I couldn’t resist. And if you’re addicted to this post as I am, you can get a deeper experience of the Abbey Road phenom by clicking HERE.

Web/Graphic instructor & designer, illustrator & recovering fontaholic.

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