Burst of Beatlemania marks 50th anniversary of ‘Abbey Road’ photo
LONDON—Around a thousand Beatles fans came together in London on Thursday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the band making their iconic zebra crossing picture for the “Abbey Road” album cover.
Beatlemania broke out as fans mobbed the pedestrian crossing outside the Abbey Road Studios, exactly five decades on from the moment when Britain’s legendary Fab Four walked over it for the sleeve of their final studio album.
The photograph of John Lennon leading bandmates Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney and George Harrison over the crossing is instantly recognized worldwide.
Beatles tribute band Fab Gear pulled up in a psychedelic Rolls-Royce and recreated the moment, as fans brought the traffic to a standstill.
Beatle fans gathered round guitars to sing songs and there were peace signs a-plenty.
Mary Anne Laffin, 66, flew in from New York to be at what she called a “holy shrine.”
As a youngster, she ran on the pitch when The Beatles played at New York’s Shea Stadium in 1966. “I was 12 years old, saved up $5.50 to get a ticket and it was like being in heaven for 38 minutes,” the midwife said.
“I was overcome, climbed over all the seats and ran, trying to get to the stage. I got carted off by the police.” She added: “It’s exciting to see all these people who also love them, and how much they’ve meant to the world.”
Six shots, six stripes
The cover idea stemmed from a McCartney sketch of stickmen on the zebra crossing.
The picture was taken around 11:35 a.m. on Aug. 8, 1969, by Scottish photographer Iain Macmillan. In a 10-minute shoot, Macmillan took six frames, of which the fifth one was used—the only one with the band stepping in unison over the six white zebra stripes.
Macmillan stood on a stepladder in the street, while a policeman stopped the traffic. Publicist Tony Bramwell was holding the stepladder.
“They needed a picture for the album sleeve. Paul had this vague idea of what it should be like,” he told Agence France-Presse (AFP), a few meters from where he stood 50 years ago.
“The day before, Macmillan did some test shots. The Beatles crossed the road three or four times and that was it.
“It’s an iconic photo, it’s an iconic record,” he said.
The album’s final recordings were done 12 days later on Aug. 20. “Abbey Road” was released on Sept. 26, six days after Lennon privately told his bandmates he was quitting the group.
The album contained 17 tracks, including Harrison’s “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun,” Starr’s “Octopus’s Garden,” Lennon’s “Come Together,” and the closing medley of scraps of unfinished songs largely by McCartney.
The record that rounded off their career, and its eye-catching sleeve which, unusually, did not feature the name of the band or the record became all-time classics.
“The Beatles, socially, politically and historically are much more significant than people realize,” said David Minchin, Fab Gear’s Harrison. “Without the Beatles music, we probably would have had world wars. Their songs have changed the course of history.”
Some 190 of The Beatles’ 210 songs were recorded at Abbey Road, the world’s first purpose-built recording studio. It has drawn Beatles pilgrims from across the world ever since, with countless fans having walked over the zebra crossing, replicating the picture.
The crossing is also continuously livestreamed on the studio’s website.
The crossing gained Grade II protected status in 2010, meaning that it is recognized as nationally important and of special interest.
London Beatles Walks guide Richard Porter, who had a hand in the anniversary gathering, said the photo’s brilliance was in its simplicity. “It’s just four guys on a road. So easy, simple everyman and universal. Anyone can do it,” he told AFP. —AFP