The cover picture of the Beatles’ Abbey Road has been called an icon of the 1960s.
“It’s a very simple, stylised shot and is a shot people can relate to…” says Sarah Wheeler, at Bloomsbury Auctions, where a rare shot showing the Beatles walking in the reverse direction was auctioned. See ‘Backwards’ Abbey Road Beatles photo up for auction
As for the crossing itself, many sources thought it had been moved and so not the original.
A couple of blogs on the internet begged to differ. The crossing had not been moved. Time to investigate….
But first, why was this particular crossing chosen? The simple reason was that at the time, the Beatles were recording their penultimate album at the studios of the same name. The crossing outside the studios provided a ready-made photo opportunity.
Clearly in becoming one of the world’s most famous icons, one would have assumed had the crossing been moved Beatles’ fans would be outraged. None. Zilch. So had the crossing in fact been moved? No.
The actual photography session is somewhat important in determining the crossing’s authencity….
8th August 1969: Whilst a policeman held up the traffic for about ten minutes, photographer Iain MacMillan stood on a ladder and took a series of images of the fab four walking across.
MacMillan describes the session’s work in the Guardian.
Many of the shots were cropped. Why? Because no-one wanted the drain in the middle of the crossing sticking out like a sore thumb on a famous band’s album. The uncropped photographs were mostly on the Beatles ‘backwards’ shoots.
The lighting was not so good for those shots taken of the Beatles heading westwards over the crossing, so it is assumed this is why the eastwards shots got more credence. Yet the reverse shots crucially provided the ultimate proof that the crossing had indeed not been moved.
As noted earlier, many assert the present zebra crossing is not the original. This myth emerged around the time the crossing was given world heritage status. Who generated the myth? Many websites give this information for example see here.
The BBC’s report deem the current crossing is further south, citing a City of Westminster spokesman who confirmed the crossing was now slightly nearer the junction and “detail of exactly when and why the crossing was moved from its original location have been lost in the annals of time.”
Above: The Fab Four on east side of Abbey Road where it meets Grove End, showing the crossing’s location by the octagonal extension to the flats.
The crossing’s status remained in doubt until the full uncropped set of reversed shots westwards emerged in 2012. However, the proof has been there since 1969 in fact. The above shot was included in the album and it gives clear proof of the crossing’s authenticity Yet it has taken claims of the crossing’s having been moved to get people scrambling to prove this.
As seen in the image above, the crossing clearly aligns with the end of the octagonal section of the flats behind. Google maps aerial confirms it is in the same location as 1969, as shown below. A red line is drawn, depicting this alignment.
My own investigations clearly show the crossing has not moved. Three of the kerbstones on the Grove End side seen today can be seen in the 1969 shots. The one nearest the drain has distinctive surveyors markings and this is evident in my pictures taken during the summer of 2012:
In both the 1969 picture and the 2012 picture at least four kerbstones can be identified as being original. They clearly are the same in terms of colour and texture.
Similar comparisons of the 1969 and my 2012 picture.
It appears the lamppost on the right was moved so as to allow the ramp to be placed, this clearly is the same for the belisha beacon on the left which is now somewhat further north. The apparently same four kerbstones are evident in both pictures.
The leftmost and the rightmost (outside the red area) have unusual surveyors marks discerned in both images. The four kerbstones are slightly better in line with each other in the 2012 image than in the 1969 image which tells us they have been righted at least once – but not moved from their original position.
The above image shows the three main elements which immediately confirm the crossing is in its original location. The green marks a cover that was there in 1969, whilst the red shows the drain cover marked at the bottom of the wrong-way Abbey Road picture.
The centre drain can be seen in this black and white picture said to be taken later on the same day as the Abbey Road crossing session. Further proof!
The drain at right hand bottom is perhaps the most prominent feature of all, as we have already discussed. Its seen once again in this other perspective of the images produced from the Abbey Road crossing session. This picture is the only one from the originals to have remained uncropped and included in the Abbey Road album’s photomontages.
C’est la vie! The crossing is the original without a doubt. Claims it has moved are just pure & utter crap.