The Beatles’ Abbey Road Album Cover And How They Pulled It Off
In 1969 The Beatles were on the final leg of one of the greatest careers in music history. The band remains unparalleled in worldwide popularity, setting the benchmark for all that followed. Four young men starting a band hoping one day to be famous in the record industry. Eventually, becoming the most recognized bands and what seemed like the most popular people in the world. Already having produced artistic album covers in the past, none more noteworthy than The Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover.
By the late sixties it was hardly a secret an internal power struggle within the band was about to force The Beatles to explode. A group beginning the British invasion, jump starting rock and roll in the United states was about to die. The Let it Be sessions completed with members of The Beatles nearly coming to blows. Overwhelmed with rage, Ringo Starr left the studio altogether for two weeks. Yet, Let It Be was completed and considered one of their finest works.
The Long Walk Down The Beatles’ Abbey Road
Before The Beatles’ Abbey Road photo the band’s Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) and Revolver (1956) are also considered some of the bands highly regarded artistic album covers. Those albums required hours of work to complete, Abbey Road was far less complicated. Though there was artistic vision and some amount of planning required, perhaps the most famous Beatles photo was taken in about 10 minutes.
In 1989 photographer Ian McMillan, who took the famous photo in 1969, discussed the planning in an interview with The Guardian. “I remember we hired a policeman to hold up traffic while I was up on the ladder taking the pictures. The whole idea, I must say, was Paul McCartney’s. A few days before the shoot, he drew a sketch of how he imagined the cover, which we executed almost exactly that day.”
After The Beatles were in place McMillan goes on to say, “I took a couple of shots of the Beatles crossing Abbey Road one way. We let some of the traffic go by and then they walked across the road the other way, and I took a few more shots. The one eventually chosen for the cover was number five of six. It was the only one that had their legs in a perfect ‘V’ formation, which is what I wanted stylistically.”
EMI Chairman Says Night After Release, You Really ‘F—d this up’! By Using That Photo
After The Beatles’ Abbey Road photo shoot was completed, it was then handed off to Apple Records Art Director John Kosh. He believed the photo and the name of the band carried significant weight. Therefore, Kosh envisioned an album cover of just the photo taken on Abbey Road.
Knowing the worldwide popularity of The Beatles, he did not think the album needed the addition of the band name. Kosh discusses his decision in Rock Cellar Magazine, “I thought, well, this is the biggest band in the world – why would you need to do that? It was anticipated something coming out of the Beatles. So I decided not to put ‘The Beatles’ on the cover. They’re walking across the — if you don’t recognize them, you obviously live in a cave.”
In the middle of the night Kosh received a call from furious EMI director Sir John Lockwood, “You’ve f—ed this up. We’re never going to sell an album. You’re a prick.’ He said this really freaked him out, but the next day he went in to Apple Records and George Harrison was there, “Hey man, we’re the Beatles. Don’t worry about it.” The record flew off the shelves.
The album cover of The Beatles’ Abbey Road remains their most famous. Beatles fans reenact the famous walk on Abbey road everyday.