Little Bits of History

Abbey Road

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 8, 2014
Abbey Road cover

Abbey Road cover

August 8, 1969: Iain Macmillan takes some pictures. Iain was born in 1938 in Dundee, Scotland. He moved to London in 1958 to study Photography at the Regent Street Polytechnic. His first job after completing his studies was as a cruise photographer. He returned to Scotland and began to photograph street scenes. Both The Sunday Times and the Illustrated London News commissioned work from him in the early 1960s. He went on to create a book entitled The Book of London (1966). In this book, a picture of Yoko Ono appeared. On page 181, she and three others appeared in a picture called the “Handkerchief Piece” where all of them were wearing the cloths over their mouths. She went on to commission him to photograph her exhibit at the Indica Gallery in St. James’s, London.

On November 9, 1966 John Lennon met Yoko One at the Gallery and she later introduced him to Iain. In 1969, Lennon invited the photographer to shoot some pictures for an upcoming album cover. The Beatles had recorded most of their music at the EMI Studios on Abbey Road, St. John’s Wood, London. They agreed to meet outside the studio around 11:30 AM on this day. Paul McCartney had given the photographer an idea of what was wanted. The four men would cross the street. In the background was an abandoned Volkswagen Beetle which had been left there while the owner was on holiday. Iain stood on a stepladder placed in the middle of the road while a policeman blocked traffic. He took six pictures.

In the first picture, John was in the lead and followed by Ringo Starr, Paul, and George Harrison. They would remain in this order for all six pictures. In this first picture, they were heading from left to right. They turned around and walked back, from right to left. In this picture, the spacing was good, but only John had a full step. In the third picture, they were again left to right but there was a traffic jam; Paul lost the sandals he had worn in the first two pictures and was barefoot. The fourth photo was again right to left and John was the only one not in mid step. The fifth photo, they are in perfect step going from left to right. It is the only picture in which Paul was smoking. It was the one chosen for the cover of the album. The sixth picture was again out of step.

After getting these six pictures, Iain went to photograph a road sign for the back cover. He found the sign he was looking for on the corner of Alexandra Road. While taking a picture, a girl in a blue dress walked past, photo bombing it. Although upset at the time, it was the picture chosen for the back of the cover. Before the album was released, John had unofficially quit the group. Paul left, officially, the next year. Iain went on to work with Yoko and John on several more projects. He continued to work with photography and in 1993 was back at the same street taking a picture of Paul and an Old English Sheepdog which was used as the cover on McCartney’s album, Paul is Live. Iain died in 2006 from lung cancer.

Abbey Road was like a freak. It was an effort trying to produce something that we used to produce, because it was already disintegrating on the White Album because there was so much material. – John Lennon

The second side of Abbey Road is incredible! The White Album, ninety-nine percent of it is very good. If I had Desert Island Discs, I’d take the White one or Abbey Road, I think. I like the boys playing together, you know. I like a group. – Ringo Starr

I don’t like people explaining albums. The only way you can explain it is to hear it. You can’t really use words about music, otherwise we’d do a talking album. The album is the explanation, and it’s up to you to make sure what you want of it. There is no theme to Abbey Road. – Paul McCartney

It all fits together, but it’s a bit like it’s something else. It doesn’t feel like it’s us. We spent hours doing it, but I still don’t see it like us. It’s more like somebody else. It’s a very good album. – George Harrison

Also on this day: Great Train Robbery – Another One – In 1963, another train is robbed.
Around the World – In 1929, the first Zeppelin began a trip around the world.
Inhumanity – In 1938, construction began on Mauthausen Concentration Camp.
High Up – In 1786, Mont Blanc was first climbed.


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