The Beatles are probably the most famous band that ever made music, and nearly half-a-century after their breakup, numerous details from their career are still the subject of hotly-contested debates among Beatlemaniacs and conspiracy theories alike. Among those, the cover of their 11th studio album, Abbey Road, has a special place. Shot in front of EMI’s Abbey Road studios in London, the iconic cover was unprecedented in 1969 and continues to intrigue fans today, many of which take pilgrimages to the famous pedestrian crossing.
1. The missing title
Although many artists have done it since, not putting the band’s name on the album cover was shocking and radical at the time. Although the Fab Four’s record company, EMI, was far from pleased with the decision, the cover’s designer John Kosh said “we didn’t need to write the band’s name on the cover… they were the most famous band in the world.”
2. The police van
Around the time of the album’s release, an elaborate conspiracy that Paul McCartney had died and been replaced was gaining traction. For some fans, the police van on the right side of the photo has somehow added credence to the theory.
The truth is far more prosaic, with the police van being a necessary prerequisite for the unglamorous process that preceded the legendary shot. Cameraman Ian Macmillan stood on a stepladder in the middle of the street to take the picture, while a police officer stopped traffic. The crew only had 10 minutes to wrap up the shooting.
3. Paul barefoot?
The bass player is the only one without any footwear. Additionally, McCartney is also out of step with the other band members. Both of these details have also been adopted by the proponents of the “Paul is dead” conspiracy as hidden clues revealing that Paul had been replaced with a lookalike.
The official story is that the songwriter took the sandals he was wearing because of the heat. Some fans also believe that Paul being out of step was a nod at him being left-handed.
4. The tourist
A shadowy figure on the right side of the cover also became part of Beatles folklore, with speculation about his identity abounding, most of which turned out to be wrong.
Years later the man was identified as American businessman Paul Cole, who was visiting London and stopped to watch “a bunch of kooks” cross the street. The next year, he was shocked to see himself on the cover of the best selling album on the planet.
When asked about becoming part of musical history in such a spontaneous manner, Cole seemed quite unfazed.
“I’ve seen the Beatles on television and have heard a few of their songs,” the former businessman admitted.
“It’s not my kind of thing, I prefer classical music.”
5. The Beetle
You guessed it right: fans theorized that the white Volkswagen Beetle on the left side of the cover held a hidden message about Paul McCartney’s death.
In fact, the car belonged to a man who lived across the street from Abbey Road Studios. His license plate was reportedly stolen multiple times by fans of the band, and he eventually sold the car in 1986. Today, it can be seen at the Volkswagen Museum in Wolfsburg, Germany.