As Kara mentioned this morning, Saturday marked the 40th anniversary of the taking of the iconic photo that graced the cover of the Beatles' Abbey Road album and it was celebrated with all the crazed enthusiasm that a band that once claimed they were bigger than Jesus can still inspire.
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to head down there for the mayhem "“ I was engaging in another British passion, "walking," and was out in the country on a 10-mile hike "“ but I have been able to catch up on some of the goings on. According to published reports, it was a madhouse: Hundreds of Beatles fans, some in costume, flocked to the famous crosswalk (called, quaintly enough, a "zebra crossing" here), singing along to the St. Pepper's Only Dartboard Band covers and stopping traffic for a few hours. From photos and TV news coverage, it looked to be an awesome party and no doubt the remaining Beatles are still smiling.
In honor of the occasion, here's a bit of Abbey Road trivia, of all sorts:
The album was originally going to be called Everest, after the brand of cigarettes the band's sound engineer, Geoff Emerik, smoked. That idea was nixed when they realized that actually going to the Himalayas to do the photo shoot would be a bit prohibitive, and they tried to think of something closer to home. Ultimately, Paul McCartney sketched out a picture of four little stick figures in the zebra crossing, and the idea was born.
Abbey Road was the final album recorded by the band, though not the final one released (that would be Let It Be).
The album, in order, included:
- John Lennon's "Come Together," which was inspired by a campaign song he wrote for Timothy Leary's bid for governor of California
- George Harrison's "Something," one of his first successful songwriting efforts
- Paul McCartney's "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"
- "Oh! Darling" also by McCartney
- The trippy "Octopus's Garden," written by Ringo Starr
- "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" is one of the Beatles' longest songs "“ it cuts out at 7:44, leading some people to believe there was actually something wrong with the recording
- "Here Comes the Sun," also by Harrison
- "Because" by Lennon and inspired by Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata"
- The medley "“ it's a collection of several short songs, strung together. There's "You Never Give Me Your Money," "Sun King," "Mean Mr. Mustard," "Polythene Pam," "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window," "Golden Slumbers," "Carry That Weight" and "The End."
- "Her Majesty", which was originally part of the medley
It was recorded mainly on an 8-track tape, featured the Moog synthesizer, and the was one of the most successful Beatles' album ever, debuting at number one on the UK charts. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine named Abbey Road the 14th greatest album of all time.
Virtually every tourist who crosses Abbey Road has had their photo taken in the pose (much to the chagrin of drivers), but there have been other, more famous folks, who have imitated the famous photo: The Red Hot Chili Peppers for their Abbey Road EP, naked, but for a few strategically placed (and somewhat optimistically large) socks; Homer Simpson's barbershop quartet The Be Sharps, with their album, Bigger Than Jesus; The Simpson family on the cover of Rolling Stone; Benny Hill, for his Best of Benny Hill album; Booker T and the MG's; Kanye West's Live Orchestration DVD; even SpongeBob SquarePants did it, with an episode called "Krabby Road."
Abbey Road is in NW8, the St. John's Wood section of town, and northwest of Regent's Park. There are rumors that the original zebra crossing, the one the actual Beatles' touched with their actual feet, has been removed and is now in some bunker somewhere for safekeeping. How this would even be possible is unclear, but hey, the album inspired even stranger rumors than that (see "Paul is dead").
But it is true that because of the crossing's popularity with tourists, officials have long been trying to move the crossing, claiming that it's a "death trap." Councillors from the neighborhood have cited the 22 accidents at the crosswalk since 2000 and say that it would be safer to move the crossing to a less auspicious location; fans have vowed to protest.
You can watch the crossing, any time, night or day, via the Abbey Road webcam. It's a bit weird to watch an intersection, no matter how famous, but keep your eyes peeled for tourists re-enacting the photo and angry cab drivers cursing at them.
See Also: Miss Cellania's 'Many Views of Abbey Road'