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Friday, August 8, 1969

The “Abbey Road” photo session


Last updated on April 2, 2022


  • Location: Abbey Road, London, UK


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On this day, at 10 am, The Beatles gathered at EMI Studios to walk across the zebra crossing of Abbey Road, and photographer Iain Macmillan took the iconic photo which would serve as the cover photograph of their album “Abbey Road“.

The crossing was right outside, and we said, ‘Let’s just go out, get a photographer and walk out on the crossing. It’ll be done in half an hour.’ It was getting quite late and you always have to get the cover in ahead of the sound. So we got hold of the photographer Iain Macmillan, gave him half an hour and walked across the crossing.

Paul McCartney – ​From “The Beatles Anthology” book, 2000

In 1993, Paul McCartney would recreate this photograph, still with Iain Macmillan, for his “Paul Is Live” live album.

The only hint they gave me or anybody [that “Abbey Road” would be their last album] was on the album cover, where they’re walking across the street. For people who don’t know the geography, they’re actually walking away from the EMI Studios – or Abbey Road, as everybody knows it now. This was intentional on their part – they didn’t want to be seen as walking toward the studio. When I saw that photo, I did think to myself, ‘They’re sending a message.’

Geoff Emerick (engineer on Abbey Road) – From MusicRadar, 2014 interview

From Abbey Road Studios, August 8, 2019:

All four Beatles gathered at EMI Studios on the morning of Friday 8 August 1969 for one of the most famous photo shoots of their career. Photographer Iain Macmillan took the iconic image that adorned their last-recorded album, Abbey Road. Iain Macmillan was a freelance photographer and a friend to John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

A policeman held up the traffic as Macmillan, from a stepladder positioned in the middle of the road, took six shots as the group walked across the zebra crossing just outside the studio. […]

From Facebook – 50 years ago today, The Beatles gathered at EMI Studios for one of the most iconic photoshoots of their career. A policeman held up the traffic as photographer Iain Macmillan, from a stepladder positioned in the middle of the road, took six shots as the group walked across the zebra crossing just outside the studio. Shortly after the shoot, Paul McCartney studied the transparencies and chose the only one where all four Beatles were walking in time.

It was a hot day in London, a really nice hot day and I wore sandals. I only had to walk around the corner to get to the crossing because I lived nearby… for the photo session, I thought, ‘I’ll take my sandals off.’ Barefoot, nice warm day, I didn’t feel like wearing shoes. When the album came out, people started looking at it and they said, ‘Why has he got no shoes on? He’s never done that before!’

Paul McCartney, from “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman

Paul McCartney, being barefoot, would serve as a clue to justify the “Paul Is Dead” rumour which grew in popularity after the release of “Abbey Road“.

From Mojo and Abbey Road – Norwegian Wood

From Abbey Road Studios, August 8, 2019:

[…] The original working title for Abbey Road was Everest, and the legendary cover was never in the plan at all. Engineer Geoff Emerick was smoking Everest cigarettes in the studio, and the band eventually took a liking to the stark image of their silhouettes against a white mountain. Everest became the working title of their then-unnamed eleventh album.

However, the Everest plan didn’t last. Once the group decided that Nepal was out of the question, Paul McCartney then came up with the idea to take a photograph outside of EMI Studios on a break from recording. Pictured below is an original sketch from Paul depicting his ideas for what he wanted the album cover to resemble, to which Iain Macmillan added a more detailed illustration in the top right.

Shortly after the shoot, McCartney studied the transparencies and chose the only one where all four Beatles were walking in time. It also satisfied The Beatles’ desire for the world to see them walking away from the studios they had spent so much of the last seven years inside.

From Twitter – As we approach the 50th anniversary of when the iconic Beatles’ photograph for ‘Abbey Road’ was taken, take a look at @PaulMcCartney’s original sketch depicting his ideas for the album cover, to which Iain Macmillan added a more detailed illustration in the top right.
From Facebook – “Up at 8:30am, arriving at 9:45am. Ringo first at 10:15 with the others arriving just after eleven. Policeman gets quite excited at a few people, and Iain missed the picture.” – A page from The Beatles’ road manager and personal assistant Mal Evans’ 1969 diary, describing the day of the ‘Abbey Road’ photoshoot, including Mal’s sketch of the album artwork. #AbbeyRoad – Photo: Mal Evans / Mal Evans Estate.
From Facebook – Photo shoot for The Beatles ‘Abbey Road’ album cover at Abbey Road Studios. Photo taken by Linda McCartney
From Paul McCartney reveals the stories behind his greatest hits | The Sunday Times Magazine | The Sunday Times (thetimes.co.uk) – A conversation during the Abbey Road cover shoot © PAUL MCCARTNEY/PHOTOGRAPHER: LINDA MCCARTNEY
From Linda McCartney (@lindamccartney) • Instagram photos and videos – The Beatles outside Abbey Road Studios, London, 1969

On the 8th August, the Beatles assembled in Abbey Road at the unusually early hour of 10 o’clock in the morning for the photo session for the cover of their Abbey Road LP.

After they had finished being photographed, they decided it was much too early to start recording, so Ringo went shopping, Paul took John back to his home for a cup of tea, and George and Mal went to visit the Regent’s Park Zoo. They spent several hours wandering around the cages and animal houses and afterwards walked around Regent’s Park.

The extraordinary thing was that during the whole morning absolutely no one recognised George Harrison. Perhaps there are so many similar haircuts in London these days that no one spares a second glance for anyone with long locks.

From The Beatles Book N°74, September 1969
From The Beatles Book N°74, September 1969

Going further

The Beatles Diary Volume 1: The Beatles Years

"With greatly expanded text, this is the most revealing and frank personal 30-year chronicle of the group ever written. Insider Barry Miles covers the Beatles story from childhood to the break-up of the group."

We owe a lot to Barry Miles for the creation of those pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - a day to day chronology of what happened to the four Beatles during the Beatles years!

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Solid State: The Story of "Abbey Road" and the End of the Beatles

Acclaimed Beatles historian Kenneth Womack offers the most definitive account yet of the writing, recording, mixing, and reception of Abbey Road. In February 1969, the Beatles began working on what became their final album together. Abbey Road introduced a number of new techniques and technologies to the Beatles' sound, and included "Come Together," "Something," and "Here Comes the Sun," which all emerged as classics.

Shop on Amazon

If we modestly consider the Paul McCartney Project to be the premier online resource for all things Paul McCartney, it is undeniable that The Beatles Bible stands as the definitive online site dedicated to the Beatles. While there is some overlap in content between the two sites, they differ significantly in their approach.

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[…]  Iain Macmillan’s outtake photos from the Abbey Road album photo session, including Paul’s original concept drawing. […]

[…] or picture tampering has a long history. One notable instance is the tampering of the iconic Beatles Abbey Road album cover. In the original photo, Paul McCartney was depicted hold a cigarette in the third position of the […]

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