It was Friday, August 8, 1969, around 11:30 in the morning. The Beatles had wrapped up recording what was to be their 12th and final album a few days previously. Although it wasn't opened stated, all four pretty much knew and realized this would be the final-ever Beatle product.
In trying to name the album, the titles Four in the Bar and All Good Children Go To Heaven had been thrown around. The Beatles almost decided to call it Everest, not so much in reference to the famous mountain, but to the brand of cigarettes their engineer Geoff Emerick smoked. (Geoff puffed away on Everest ciggies during the Fab Four recording sessions.)
The idea went so far that the boys even toyed with the idea of flying to Tibet and posing for a cover photo at Mount Everest. It would have been a cool photo op, but Ringo Starr hated to travel and didn't want to go anywhere and it was the Beatle drummer who came up with the final title- Abbey Road, in reference to the address of the recording studios the Beatles had used for the past seven years.
Iain MacMillan, a freelance photographer and friend of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, had been chosen to snap the cover shot. A policeman closed off traffic at the crosswalk (called a "zebra crossing" because of the striped surface). MacMillan was given the extremely ungenerous time limit of ten minutes to snap a good shot.
Paul McCartney had the concept and had drawn up the original sketch of the four Beatles walking in line across Abbey Road. MacMillan had later added to Paul's original sketch. Linda McCartney, Paul's new bride, was also an ace photographer, and she stood by and snapped several candid shots of the boys getting really to amble across the zebra crossing.
Six shots were snapped by MacMillan, who climbed up a stepladder in the middle of the road to do his shooting.
Three of the Beatles- John, Paul and Ringo, wore snazzy dress suits designed by Tommy Nutter. Only George Harrison wore casual blue jeans and a matching denim shirt.
In four of the six shots, Paul was barefoot (he had come to the session wearing sandals, but as it was a hot day, Paul simply discarded them). Paul also is seen holding a cigarette in his right hand.
After the shots were taken, Paul studied the transparencies and chose #5 for the album cover. This was the only shot where all four Beatles were "in step" and looked symmetrical (although they were all walking "in time,” Paul leads with his right leg, whereas the others all are leading with their left leg in the shot).
A man can been seen in the distance, standing by a white Volkswagen Beetle. No pun or symbolism was intended. The car has the license plate "lmw 28if.” After the release of the album, the license was stolen several times. The car actually belonged to one of the people living in the block of flats across from the recording studio. It was sold at auction in 1986 and went on display in a German museum in 2001.
The man pictured in the shot had no idea of the significance of the photo. He was later identified to be Paul Cole (1911-2008). Cole just happened to be standing outside that day, he recalled: “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 the time. You didn't walk around London barefoot.”
Cole had no idea he was on the album cover until he happened to see a family copy of the Abbey Road album a few months later (Abbey Road was released in the UK on September 26, 1969).
A bizarre rumor that “Paul McCartney is dead" was in heavy circulation during this period of time. A few of the "clues" to Paul's "death" featured on the Abbey Road cover include Paul's being the only Beatle walking out-of-step, Paul's holding a deadly cigarette, and the car's license of "lmw 281f,” interpreted to mean Paul would be "28" years old "if" he made it to his next birthday.
The four Beatles figures were also included in the strange “Paul is dead" interpretation, supposedly symbolizing a funeral procession. John is clad in an all-white outfit and is “God,” leading the procession. Ringo, in a sporty dark suit, is the minister who gave the eulogy for Paul. Paul (his bare feet symbolizing death) was the corpse, while George, in his dungarees, is the gravedigger who buried Paul.
The back reverse side of the Abbey Road cover showed the Abbey Road street sign. Seemingly oblivious to the photo's significance, a young girl in a miniskirt walked right into one of MacMillan's shots of the sign.
MacMillan thought the sexy girl's miniskirt shot had ruined that particular photograph, but when the Beatles looked over the shots, they all agreed that the one with the miniskirted girl's legs in it was their definite choice for the album.
Although her legs are featured on one of the most famous rock albums of all-time, the young lady has never been identified, and indeed, although she is possibly still alive, she may not have a clue- to this day- that she was featured on the reverse side of a Beatles album.