In the summer of ’69 the Beatles were working on what turned out to be —and what they later claimed they knew would be— their last album. Paul had drawn a stick figure sketch of the band walking across a street, demonstrating his idea for the album’s cover art. When the time came to take the photograph for the cover —on Friday morning 8 August just before lunchtime, as it happened— the lads simply went outside their studio and into Abbey Road, in the St. John’s Wood section of London and walked back and forth several times over the stripes of the zebra crossing.
As a policeman held up traffic, photographer Iain Macmillan climbed a stepladder and shot several frames for each direction. At one point, Paul, who had been wearing sandals, kicked them off and walked barefoot. The shoot lasted about fifteen minutes.
Apple Corps’ creative director John Kosh insisted that the photograph would be sufficient and that the cover required no printed copy —the Beatles were, after all, probably the best known people in the world. So Macmillan’s shot was printed unadorned in what quickly became an cover (and which, before very long, became the subject of extensive, and ultimately tedious, interpretation and speculation). The album’s title (visible only on the spine and back cover) was Abbey Road.
Above: the iconic front cover of the Beatles’ 1969 (and last) album, Abbey Road. Below: the less familiar back cover.
Here’s the first part of the medley of several songs —opening with “You Never Give Me Your Money”— that concluded Abbey Road. The second part (opening with the gorgeous “Golden Slumbers”) is here.