Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Behind The Scenes of The Iconic Abbey Road Cover Photoshoot

Abbey Road is the 11th studio album released by the English rock band the Beatles. It is their last recorded album, although Let It Be was the last album released before the band's dissolution in 1970. The album was released amid tensions within the band. Although it was a commercial success, it received mixed reviews from music critics who found its music inauthentic and criticized the production's artificial effects. Since its initial reception, the album has been viewed by many critics as the Beatles' greatest work and is ranked by several publications as one of the greatest albums of all time. Abbey Road remains their best-selling album.

Abbey Road album artwork

The front cover design, a photograph of the group traversing a zebra crossing, was based on sketched ideas by McCartney.

On 8 August 1969 outside EMI Studios on Abbey Road. At around 11:30 that morning, freelance photographer Iain Macmillan, who was a friend to John Lennon and Yoko Ono, was given only ten minutes to take the photo whilst he stood on a step-ladder and a policeman held up the traffic. Using a Hasselblad camera with a 50mm wide-angle lens, aperture f22, at 1/500 seconds, he took six shots as the group walked across the zebra crossing just outside the studio.

Abbey Road, taken on the morning of The Beatles' album cover shoot, 8 August 1969

The Beatles crossed the road a number of times while Macmillan photographed them. 8 August was a hot day in north London, and for four of the six photographs McCartney walked barefoot; for the other two he wore sandals. Shortly after the shoot, McCartney studied the transparencies and chose the fifth one for the album cover.

Picture one from the Abbey Road photography session

Picture two from the Abbey Road photography session

Picture three from the Abbey Road photography session

Picture four from the Abbey Road photography session

Picture six from the Abbey Road photography session

After the road-crossing photo was finished, Iain Macmillan set off to find a good "Abbey Road" street marker sign to use for the back cover of the album. He found it at the junction of Alexandra Road and started taking photos of the sign. Much to his chagrin, while he was busy shooting an oblivious woman in a blue dress walked right in front of his viewfinder. While reviewing his shots later that day, however, he decided that the "blue dress" photo was the most interesting of the bunch, and he ended up using it in the final composition.

The other photos that exist were taken by Linda McCartney. Here are some of the alternate out-take photos taken that day before and during the photo shoot…

Here’s some photos of The Beatles sitting on the steps of EMI Abbey Road Studios waiting for the photo session to start...

Here’s a few more of the boys waiting to cross the street.

This unseen photo below taken by Linda McCartney of Paul & Ringo from the Abbey Road photo sesssion was just released by paulmccartney.com on May 10, 2012.

According to Wikipedia, in the scene, 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. With the exception of Harrison, the group are wearing suits designed by Tommy Nutter. To the left of the picture, parked next to the zebra crossing, is a white Volkswagen Beetle motor-car 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. The man standing on the pavement to the right of the picture is Paul Cole (c. 1911 – 13 February 2008), an American tourist unaware he had been photographed until he saw the album cover months later.

(via WikipediaThe Beatles Bible and feelnumb)

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  1. Everything you could ever want to know about this famous photo session. I wonder if there's any more photos in existence from this day? And I wonder if anybody living in the flats across the street shot any photos from their windows?

  2. What is interesting to note is on the day of this shoot, August 9th, 1969, the ages of the Beatles were in consecutive order: Ringo turned 29 in July, John would still be 28 until October, Paul turned 27 in June and George was 26 in February. This only happens each year between July 7th (Ringo's birthday) and the day before John's birthday on October 9th.

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