020 8530-8443Monday to Friday 10.30am to 4.30pm

THE BEATLES ABBEY ROAD CROSSING

ALL YOU NEED IS AN OYSTER CARD

BE A DAYTRIPPER IN NORTH LONDON

By Richard Jones

Every hour of every day Beatles fans from all over the world make a pilgrimage to a sleepy north London thoroughfare to set foot on a crossing that has become an international tourist attraction in its own right thanks to the fact that, in 1969, the fab four had the bright idea of having themselves photographed walking over it for what has now become one of the most iconic album covers of all time.

Indeed, such is its status as a location of international interest and importance that, in 2010, the ultimate seal of official approval was bestowed upon this humble north London zebra crossing when it was awarded Grade II listed status, an honor normally reserved exclusively for buildings of historical or architectural importance.

FRIDAY 8TH AUGUST 1969

It was on the morning of Friday 8th August 1969, that John, Paul, George and Ringo gathered at the EMI Studios, on Abbey Road, and began making the final preparations for a photo shoot that was destined to become one of the most famous - if not the most famous - of their entire career.

The photographer was to be Iain Macmillan (1938 - 2006), a Scottish freelancer who was a friend of John and Yoko.

Paul McCartney had given him a sketch a few days before showing him how he envisaged the look of the finished article and, having studied it closely, Macmillan added his own sketch to the top left corner, just to confirm that his idea of the finished product was the same as Paul's.

Once all the preliminaries had been agreed, at around 11.30am, Macmillan clambered to the top rung of a 10 foot high step ladder that had been placed in the middle of Abbey Road for the occasion; a policeman stood in the middle the road and, holding up his hand, halted the traffic; and the Beatles stepped off the kerb and were photographed six times going back and forth over the crossing.

THE WHITE VOLKSWAGON BEETLE - 28IF

The shoot was, famously, photo bombed by a white Volkswagen Beetle that a resident of Abbey Road had parked on the nearby pavement.

Iain Macmillan later recalled, "The car just happened to be standing there. It had been left there by someone on holiday. Nobody with any connection to The Beatles. A policeman tried to move it away for us, but he couldn't"

The car's number plate, 28 IF, would become central to the bizarre conspiracy theory that grew up around the album cover that Paul McCartney had, in fact, died in a car crash, and the Beatles had replaced him with an imposter. Paul, so the theory went, would have been 28 IF he was still alive!

NUMBER FIVE PHOTO USED

The whole shoot took around ten minutes, and Paul then chose the fifth photograph in the sequence as the image that would appear on the album cover, since this was the only one on which the legs of all four Beatles were in perfect formation.

NOT THE ACTUAL CROSSING

However, there is one minuscule problem that goes unnoticed by the thousands of fans who make the pilgrimage to this Beatles Mecca, day in day out, year in year out - the crossing has, in fact, moved slightly since the famous album cover was photographed on it!

The original zebra crossing, on which the photograph was actually taken, was moved several meters for traffic management reasons more than 35 years ago, and none of the original features remain.

A spokesman for Westminster Council, commenting on the move at the time when it was awarded its Grade II listing tackled the problem in poetic terms:-

"The detail of exactly when and why the crossing was moved from its original location has been lost in the annals of time.

But, by comparing photographs with the Ordnance Survey maps, we believe that the crossing might have been further north nearer 3 Abbey Road, which was the front house of the EMI Studios, because the steps of Neville Court appear to the right of the crossing in original photographs of the crossing, whereas the present crossing is near the junction of Abbey Road and Grove End Road."

The iconic Abbey Road Crossing made famous by the Beatles.

DOES IT REALLY MATTER?

But, then again, does it really matter where the actual crossing was located at the time of the shoot?

From the thousands of Beatles fans who make the short journey out here from Central London the answer is, evidently, a resounding "NO!"

For the fans, many of whom weren't even born - heck, many of their parents weren't even born - on that long ago August day when Iain Macmillan scrambled up the step ladder, and the Beatles stepped off the kerb to make rock history, it is enough that they can this close to the four lads' from Liverpool who had, well and truly, changed the world.

And, even the nearby Abbey Road Studios get in on the act by training a CCTV camera on the crossing and putting out a live feed 24 hours a day so that any one, anywhere in the world, can keep an eye on the toing's and froing's on the world's most famous and iconic pedestrian crossing. You can access it here.

THE FANS VERSUS THE MOTORISTS

Back and forth over the Abbey Road crossing the fans go, much to the chagrin on the motorists who have long since grown used to just accepting that this crossing is going to take a little time to pass. Every so often, an impatient car driver honks his, or her, horn and attempts to manoeuvre round the fans who are posing themselves to recreate the album cover.

But, on the whole, the majority of the motorists are happy to just let it be. After all, it isn't everyday you get to be held up at a crossing that has Grade II listed status!