The photo that stopped traffic: 50 years since The Beatles’ iconic Abbey Road shot

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The Beatles shot their famous Abbey Road cover on the street of the same name just outside their recording studios. Source: Instagram/@youngdiplomats2.

Fifty years ago, history was made and London gained yet another tourist attraction as four men crossed what is now known as the most famous pedestrian crossing in the world.

This week marked the 50th anniversary of the creation of one of the most famous album covers in history, The Beatles’ Abbey Road. The lasting image of John Lennon in a white suit leading a smartly dressed Ringo Starr, a barefoot and out of step Paul McCartney and a denim-clad George Harrison across the pedestrian crossing on Abbey Road has become a symbol of the musical genius of the band and a marker of their unparalleled success.

Although Let it Be was the last album The Beatles released, Abbey Road was the last that the four artists recorded all together, and from this collaborative process, several undying classics were birthed such as George Harrison’s ‘Here Comes the Sun’, John Lennon’s ‘Come Together’, Paul McCartney’s ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ and Ringo Starr’s ‘Octopus’s Garden’.

However, the public went just as crazy for the music on the album as they did for the photo on the cover. And while it might be one of music’s most memorable images, the process of getting the right photo was not as intense as one would think.

Irish photographer, Iain Macmillan was responsible for the iconic shot, although he told The Guardian, the whole idea was originally McCartney’s, who sketched out his vision beforehand.

With just a camera and a step ladder in tow, Macmillan snapped six quick shots of the band walking across the road as a local policeman held up traffic. The photo was taken on the street in front of their studio, EMI Recording Studios, which was later renamed Abbey Road Studios in honour of the monumental landmark just outside.

However, no one could have anticipated the chaos that one simple photo could cause. Endless swarms of tourists continue to visit the crossing daily, but unlike other tourist hot spots, acting out The Beatles’ cover causes a whole lot of problems for local traffic and residents of the area. The car in the background of the original photo (ironically, also a Beatle) even had it’s number plate stolen multiple times before it was auctioned off at a reasonable price to an American collector.

Still to this day, the crossing is inundated with tourists looking to recreate the iconic stroll across the road. It’s become a staple for anyone heading to London, however if you’re looking to visit anytime soon, be prepared for long lines and a whole lot of waiting as every Beatles’ fan and their dog are currently celebrating the Abbey Road phenomenon.

But, whether they’re fans or not, music lovers all around the world have always been able to appreciate the genius that was the Abbey Road album. From the smooth transitions and strong running theme to the iconic photo that graced the cover, everything came together in the end to prove how The Beatles had truly become masters of their craft.

Do you remember when this album came out? What’s your favourite Beatles’ album?

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