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Why Was Paul McCartney Barefoot on the Cover of Abbey Road?

It’s coming up on almost half a century since The Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover was shot on August 8, 1969, and the conspiracy theories about Paul McCartney’s bare feet are still alive.

In the late 1960s, the rumor started circulating among Beatles fans that the Cute One had died in a car crash in 1967. Because they didn’t want to impact the popularity of the band, managers and handlers allegedly hired a McCartney look-alike as a replacement. The band felt bad about lying to loyal fans, however, and began leaving clues in the album artwork to tip them off.

One such "clue" was the entire cover of the Abbey Road album. Fans deduced that a simple picture of the band crossing the road was actually meant to depict a funeral procession. John, in white, was the clergyman. Ringo’s black attire showed that he was the mourner, while George’s casual jeans meant he was the gravedigger. Paul’s bare feet were the kicker: He didn’t need shoes, because he was the dearly departed.

If you’re not one of those conspiracy theorists, here’s the real story: It was hot. In some other pictures that were taken at the shoot, you can see McCartney making a fashion statement by wearing sandals with his suit. At some point during the brief shoot, he kicked them off. They didn't have much time to get the shot—because photographer Iain Macmillan had to perch on a stepladder in the middle of the very busy street, while police had to help stop traffic. So the Fab Four crossed the road one way, and Macmillan snapped three pictures. They let some traffic go by, then crossed the other way for another three pictures. Six pictures—that was it.

McCartney and Macmillan chose the picture they did because it was the only one that showed the Beatles with their legs all mid-stride in a “V” shape, though McCartney is famously out of step (another "clue," of course).

“On Abbey Road we were wearing our ordinary clothes. I was walking barefoot because it was a hot day,” an exasperated McCartney told a LIFE magazine reporter who “waded through a bog in Scotland” to reach the Beatle at his farm in 1969. “Can you spread it around that I am just an ordinary person and want to live in peace?” He no doubt regretted suggesting the cover to begin with.

Though the photo arrangement was his idea, it was intended to show the Beatles walking away from the studio where they had spent so much time for the better part of a decade—not fuel more rumors.

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Pop Culture
How Phil Collins Accidentally Created the Sound That Defined 1980s Music
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Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Unless your technical knowledge of music runs deep, you may have never heard the phrase “gated reverb.” But you’ve definitely heard the effect in action: It’s that punchy snare drum sound that first gained traction in music in the 1980s. If you can play the drum beat from “I Would Die 4 U” by Prince or “Born in the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen in your head, you know what sound we’re referring to.

But that iconic element of pop might not have emerged if it wasn’t for Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins. As Vox lays out in its new video, the discovery was made in 1979 during the studio recording of Peter Gabriel’s self-titled third solo album (often called Melt because of its cover art). Gabriel’s Genesis bandmate Phil Collins was playing the drums as usual when his beats were accidentally picked up by the microphone used by audio engineers to talk to the band. That microphone wasn’t meant to record music—its heavy compressors were designed to turn down loud sounds while amplifying quiet ones. The equipment also utilized a noise gate, which meant the recorded sounds were cut off shortly after they started. The result was a bright, fleeting percussive sound unlike anything heard in popular music.

Gabriel loved the effect, and made it the signature sound on the opening track of his album. A year later, Collins featured it in his hit single “In the Air Tonight,” perhaps the most famous example of gated reverb to date.

The sound would come to define music of the 1980s and many contemporary artists continue to use it today. Get the full history of gated reverb below.

[h/t Vox]

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entertainment
‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ Could Have Been a Meat Loaf Song
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Keystone/Getty Images

Imagine a world in which Bonnie Tyler was not the star performer on the Royal Caribbean Total Eclipse Cruise. Imagine if, instead, as the moon crossed in front of the sun in the path of totality on August 21, 2017, the performer belting out the 1983 hit for cruise ship stargazers was Meat Loaf?

It could have been. Because yes, as Atlas Obscura informs us, the song was originally written for the bestselling rocker (and actor) of Bat Out of Hell fame, not the husky-voiced Welsh singer. Meat Loaf had worked on his 1977 record Bat Out of Hell with Jim Steinman, the composer and producer who would go on to work with the likes of Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand (oddly enough, he also composed Hulk Hogan’s theme song on an album released by the WWE). “Total Eclipse of the Heart” was meant for Meat Loaf’s follow-up album to Bat Out of Hell.

But Meat Loaf’s fruitful collaboration with Steinman was about to end. In the wake of his bestselling record, the artist was going through a rough patch, mentally, financially, and in terms of his singing ability. And the composer wasn’t about to stick around. As Steinman would tell CD Review magazine in 1989 (an article he has since posted on his personal website), "Basically I only stopped working with him because he lost his voice as far as I was concerned. It was his voice I was friends with really.” Harsh, Jim, harsh.

Steinman began working with Bonnie Tyler in 1982, and in 1983, she released her fifth album, Faster Than the Speed of Night, including “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” It sold 6 million copies.

Tyler and Steinman both dispute that the song was written specifically for Meat Loaf. “Meat Loaf was apparently very annoyed that Jim gave that to me,” she told The Irish Times in 2014. “But Jim said he didn’t write it for Meat Loaf, that he only finished it after meeting me.”

There isn’t a whole lot of bad blood between the two singers, though. In 1989, they released a joint compilation album: Heaven and Hell.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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