Saturday, August 08, 2009

Abbey Road

It turned out to be an iconic moment in rock 'n' roll history, but, at the time, it was something of a rush job.

Forty years ago today, photographer Iain Macmillan was given about 10 minutes to shoot the photos that would include the shot that became the cover of the Beatles' "Abbey Road" album. So he ascended a 10–foot step ladder shortly before noon and photographed the Beatles walking, single file, across the street crossing.

It was a Friday. Even for 1969, the street seems fairly empty — for the middle of a workday.

See the fellow standing on the curb on the right? His name was Paul Cole, a tourist from America who was in his late 50s at the time. Apparently, he was unaware that he was being photographed and didn't realize that he had, in fact, been included in the album cover until he saw it several months later. He may not have known that the four men who were crossing the street that day were the Beatles.

And maybe I'm somewhat dense, but I only recently noticed that there is an actual Beetle parked on the left. Kind of ironic, don't you think? As I understand it, the car belonged to someone who lived in an apartment across the street from the studio. I've heard the vehicle was sold at an auction in the 1980s and currently is on display at a Volkswagen museum in Germany.

Well, "Abbey Road" remains my favorite Beatles album. Nearly six years ago, when Rolling Stone published its "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list, "Abbey Road" was 14th. Four of the albums ahead of it were also Beatles albums. I could quibble about the rankings, but I won't. Still, "Abbey Road" is my favorite.

And, apparently, it is a common occurrence for visitors to Abbey Road to re–enact the Beatles' street crossing while someone shoots their picture. Sort of a souvenir. Even four decades later.

Half of the Beatles are gone now. But the surviving half of the famous songwriting team of Lennon and McCartney — Sir Paul McCartney, now 67 years old — is currently on tour. He will be in Atlanta a week from today, Tulsa a week from Monday and Dallas a week from Wednesday. I don't know what concert tickets sell for these days, but if I could spare it, I wouldn't mind seeing Sir Paul in concert. I've heard he puts on quite a show.

In the meantime, would you like to see what's happening on Abbey Road right now? Click here.