There’s nothing like a great photograph

The Story Behind the Famous
‘Abbey Road’ Photograph

AbbeyRoadalbumWhat many people consider to be the best album cover photo ever, is the Beatles “Abbey Road.”  It’s been studied, diagrammed, dissected and discussed for more than 40 years.  What were they trying to tell us?  What was its meaning?  Or was it just a stroke of luck that the Fab Four seemed to have the right look, at the right place at the right time?  According to Chris Willman of, photographer Iain Macmillan stood on a step ladder, and took just a handful of shots of the band walking across the lane before the Beatles got back to work.  In only one of them did all four appear to be strolling in symmetry, so it was easy to pick the best shot.  Macmillian recalled, “I remember we hired a policeman to hold up traffic while I was up on the ladder taking the pictures. The whole idea, I must say, was Paul McCartney’s. A few days before the shoot, he drew a sketch of how he imagined the cover, which we executed almost exactly that day.”

Do you see the guy in the background, standing on the sidewalk?  You can see him between Ringo and John.  Who is this man on the most famous album cover in history?  And how did he get on an album cover that’s probably been framed and hung more than any in history?  Willman identifies him as Florida resident Paul Cole, who died in 2008 at age 95.  According to Willman’s article, “Four years prior to that, he was tracked down by Scripps and told how he came to accidentally be part of one of the most famous photos of the previous century. “I told (my wife), ‘I’ve seen enough museums… I’ll just stay out here and see what’s going on outside. I like to just start talking with people. I walked out, and that cop was sitting there in that police car. I just started carrying on a conversation with him… I just happened to look up, and I saw those guys walking across the street like a line of ducks. A bunch of kooks, I called them, because they were rather radical-looking at that time. You didn’t walk around in London barefoot.”

Everyone’s seen that photo a few thousand times, and those of us who have the album have pretty much stared holes into it.  So here are a few more looks into the Beatles’ world a few moments before that iconic photograph was snapped on August 8, 1969.


Of course there have been dozens of parodies of the album cover.  Random tourists stage photos at the Abbey Road crossing every day, traffic permitting.  My favorite is the Sesame Street version.


Abbey Road crossing even has a live web feed: Odds are, you’ll see a few tourists attempting to re-enact the scene, hoping for a quiet day in London traffic.  I just logged on, and saw a few people barely avoid getting hit.  If they’re really, really lucky, there might be a classic Volkswagen parked on the curb.

About David Carroll

David Carroll grew up surrounded by the sights and sounds of broadcasting. As a teenager, David began his radio career in South Pittsburgh, Tennessee before making it to the “Great Jet-Fli,” WFLI, the 50,000 watt rock ‘n roll voice of Chattanooga. David was the first voice on the city’s powerful KZ-106 rock station before switching to TV. Since 1987 he has anchored the evening news on WRCB Channel 3, the NBC affiliate. Since April 2013, he has blogged purely for his own amusement, but hopes others enjoy it as well. To contact David, Email:

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