Beatles fans mark 50th anniversary of Abbey Road photo

The Beatles cover band members on the Abbey Road zebra crossing in London on Thursday.
The Beatles cover band members on the Abbey Road zebra crossing in London on Thursday. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • At 11.30am on Thursday, four long-haired men tried to do what many music fans have done for decades: cross a London street made famous by a band from Liverpool.

One man was barefoot. Another sported round spectacles and was dressed entirely in white.

A third wore a double-denim outfit, and the fourth flaunted a colourful scarf over a black suit.

But they were not alone.

Hundreds of people surrounded them to commemorate the moment when, 50 years ago, four other long-haired men crossed that same street and were immortalised in one of the most imitated music photos ever made: the album cover for The Beatles' Abbey Road.

"We are all here because they crossed a sidewalk and made it look cool," said Peter McCoid, a 22-year-old musician from Oregon, adding that one word characterised both the photograph and the band's music: timeless.

Abbey Road Studios, a nearby recording studio where John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr recorded almost 200 of The Beatles' songs, retold the story of how its most famous photo came to be, crediting the man who took it.

"A policeman held up the traffic as photographer Iain Macmillan took six shots of the group walking across the zebra crossing just outside the studio," the studio said in an anniversary tweet.

It also shared a photo of a page from the diary of Mr Mal Evans, the band's road manager and personal assistant, in which he had written that he got to the location at 9.45am on Aug 8, 1969.

"Ringo first at 10.15 with the others arriving just after 11," he had written in his diary, drawing a photo of the musicians crossing below.

Fifty years later, fans of all ages and nationalities exuded joy on both sides of the street, taking photos outside the studio and at arguably the most famous crosswalk in the world.

Many wore Beatles merchandise, hummed the band's songs or dressed in clothing more stylish in the summer of 1969 than 2019.

McCoid left the American West Coast for the first time for the anniversary, travelling with Anthony Pellico, his 23-year-old bandmate and one of the musicians who took out a guitar and played a few Beatles tunes from the album, including Golden Slumbers and Carry That Weight.

"It's for The Beatles today," Pellico told the fans and journalists who gathered to hear him sing.

Mr Jamie Tait, a 43-year-old stage technician, took a photo at a pop-up version of the Abbey Road crosswalk set up in a parking lot nearby: a printout of the original photo without the four Beatles.

Mr Tait took his socks and shoes off for the picture, imitating McCartney - whose barefoot appearance in the photo was so famous that it inspired a Beatles conspiracy theory in which the photo supposedly recreated a funeral procession for a dead McCartney.

The celebrations, however timeless, were not immune to Britain's current heated political climate.

The jovial mood was briefly interrupted when some protesters against Britain's exit from the European Union showed up with posters that featured lyrics of the Beatles and the bloc's blue-and-gold flag.

"We are here today to celebrate the message of unity, peace, of everyone being together, that The Beatles passed through their songs," said a protester, Lydia McKinnon, a 57-year-old writer from Winchester, about 96km south-west of London.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2019, with the headline 'Beatles fans mark 50th anniversary of Abbey Road photo'. Subscribe