Abbey Road

Beatles - Abbey Road

Cover Artist
Kosh (design), Iain Macmillan (photography), Paul McCartney (concept)

Abbey Road is the eleventh studio album by English rock band the Beatles, released on 26 September 1969 by Apple Records. The recording sessions were the last in which all four Beatles participated. Let It Be was the final album that the Beatles completed and released before the band's dissolution in April 1970, but most of the album had been recorded before the Abbey Road sessions began.

Packaging Edit

The album's cover features the four band members walking across a zebra crossing outside Abbey Road Studios and has become one of the most famous and imitated images in popular music.

The cover was designed by Apple Records creative director Kosh. It is the only original UK Beatles album sleeve to show neither the artist name nor the album title on its front cover, which was Kosh's idea, despite EMI claiming the record would not sell without this information. He later explained that "we didn't need to write the band's name on the cover ... They were the most famous band in the world".

The zebra crossing, with EMI Studios in the background in 1969

The front cover design was a photograph of the group on a zebra crossing based on ideas that McCartney sketched and taken on 8 August 1969 outside EMI Studios on Abbey Road. At 11:35 that morning, photographer Iain Macmillan was given only ten minutes to take the photo while he stood on a step-ladder and a policeman held up traffic behind the camera. Macmillan took six photographs, which McCartney examined with a magnifying glass before deciding which would be used on the album sleeve.

In the image selected by McCartney, the group walk across the street in single file from left to right, with Lennon leading, followed by Starr, McCartney, and Harrison. McCartney is barefoot and out of step with the others. Apart from Harrison, the group are wearing suits designed by Tommy Nutter. A white Volkswagen Beetle is to the left of the picture, parked next to the zebra crossing, which belonged to one of the people living in the block of flats across from the recording studio. After the album was released, the number plate (LMW 281F) was stolen repeatedly from the car. In 1986, the car was sold at auction for £2,530 and in 2001 was on display in a museum in Germany. In 2004, news sources published a claim made by retired American salesman Paul Cole that he was the man standing on the pavement to the right of the picture. On the original cover, McCartney holds a cigarette; in 2003, several US poster companies airbrushed the cigarette out of the image without permission from Apple or McCartney.

Shortly after the album's release, the cover became part of the "Paul is dead" theory that was spreading across college campuses in the United States. According to followers of the rumour, the cover depicted the Beatles walking out of a cemetery in a funeral procession. The procession was led by Lennon dressed in white as a religious figure; Starr was dressed in black as the undertaker; McCartney, out of step with the others, was a barefoot corpse; and Harrison dressed in denim was the gravedigger. The left-handed McCartney is holding a cigarette in his right hand, indicating that he is an imposter, and the number plate on the Volkswagen parked on the street is 28IF, meaning that McCartney would have been 28 if he had lived – despite the fact that he was only 27 at the time of the photo and subsequent release of the record. The escalation of the "Paul is dead" rumour became the subject of intense analysis on mainstream radio and contributed to Abbey Road's commercial success in the US. Lennon was interviewed in London by New York's WMCA, and he ridiculed the rumour but conceded that it was invaluable publicity for the album.
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