The Man On The Beatles’ Abby Road Album

While going to the craft store can be a pain if you are a guy, I recently went with my wife and found something that I had to have. They were frames that were made to specially fit my old vinyl LPs. I was able to take some of my favorite album artwork and put it on my home office like they were artwork, which to me they were.

While listening to music during my teen years I would hold the 12×12 cardboard home of my new record and study it. The cover served 3 main purposes:

The 1969 Beatles LP Abby Road-

* To advertise the contents of the music product.
* To convey the artistic aspirations of the original.
* To serve as a primary image in the promotional efforts surrounding the product or as an identifiable image associated with it.

Also, in the case of vinyl records, it also served as part of the protective sleeve. Many also had a place for the musician to ‘speak’ to their fans. ( Long before the days of websites or MySpace pages.)

Among the most noted covers are those by Pink Floyd, especially The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here (album), The Grateful Dead’s Steal Your Face, Jimi Hendrix’s Axis: Bold as Love and The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I remember my brother getting Wish You Were Here and it having a dark purple plastic on the LP instead of the normal clear one. I also remember playing with the cut-out faces of John Lennon on his Wall and Bridges or fantasizing over the girl on the Herb Albert’s Tijuana Brass LP Whipped Cream.

I often wonder with people moving to downloads for their music will the artwork for music be lost?

One of my favorite album cover I bought twice. Once as for the record and a second time at a yard sale just to put it on my wall. This was The Beatle’s Abby Road. On it is has one of the most famous photographs of the 20th century. The Fab Four are walking across a street in a straight line and dressed their ‘normal ‘attire’ for the time.

Also in this famous shot of the Beatles walking across London’s Abbey Road is a man staring at them in the distance. That man was Paul Cole. Cole, a longtime resident of Barefoot Bay, Florida, has taken his Final Taxi at the age of 96

Cole explained in 2004 how he came to be there at that precise moment for the front cover of the group’s classic 1969 album.

On a London vacation with his wife, Cole declined to enter a museum on the north London thoroughfare.

“I told her, ‘I’ve seen enough museums. You go on in, take your time and look around and so on, and I’ll just stay out here and see what’s going on outside,'” he recalled.

Parked just outside was a black police van. “I like to just start talking with people,” Cole said. “I walked out, and that cop was sitting there in that police car. I just started carrying on a conversation with him. I was asking him about all kinds of things, about the city of London and the traffic control, things like that. Passing the time of day.”

In the picture, Cole is standing next to the police van.

It was 10 a.m., Aug. 8, 1969. Photographer Iain McMillan was on a stepladder in the middle of the street, photographing the four Beatles as they walked, single-file, across Abbey Road, John Lennon in his famous white suit, Paul McCartney without shoes. The entire shoot lasted 10 minutes.

Close up of Paul Cole on the Beatles' 1969 LP Abby Road

“I just happened to look up, and I saw those guys walking across the street like a line of ducks,” Cole remembered. “A bunch of kooks, I called them, because they were rather radical-looking at that time. You didn’t walk around in London barefoot.”

About a year later, Cole first noticed the “Abbey Road” album on top of the family record player (his wife was learning to play George Harrison’s love song “Something” on the organ). He did a double-take when he eyeballed McMillan’s photo.

“I had a new sportcoat on, and I had just gotten new shell-rimmed glasses before I left,” he says. “I had to convince the kids that that was me for a while. I told them, ‘Get the magnifying glass out, kids, and you’ll see it’s me.'”

How many years did I stare at Paul Cole’s picture wondering who that guy was?

Do you think we will lose images like this as we move toward downloading more music than buying it?

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5 Responses

  1. I love the story about Cole’s purely coincidental appearance on what has become a very famous album cover. Hard to believe that he wasn’t chased out of the shot by a production assistant, or at least been made to sign a release form. Guess those really were different times.

    And I know what you mean about the future of albums and album art. Who knows? Over time, there may be a backlash (if only a temporary one) against pure digital media. Fortunately, album art can still exist through the Internet (and portable media players). But it’s not the same as what you’d get with a vinyl album.

  2. There is a growing interest in the “warmth” and “unique” sound of recordings on vinyl. I recently saw a news special on a company who is betting that people will revert to the old lp.

    I for one miss exactly what you describe, the studying of the album cover, photos, lyrics and liner notes. Its like a multi-media experience that way. I even miss the pops and hisses, but realize that might be nostalgia.

    I have been lucky enough to design a few cd covers, as a designer and I lament the small real estate available to create images and impart information.

    I also wonder about those who decide to download rather than purchase the art and credits to read over.

    Some things are NOT better in the digital age.

    I just bought a couple of albums at the used bookstore the other day. Earth Wind and Fire and Hotel California. And…I have no turntable!

  3. Hello,

    Could I have a large file of the abby road cover to make a card for our summer party? Let me know where I can get one. Thanks….

  4. Album covers became as popular as the songs contained within on the records. Details on records, such as liner notes, etc. are part of what makes so many albums famous. Few CDs will hold such interest in future years.

  5. First time I noticed the”guy”…i thought it was…get this…Buddy Holly! apart from the signature horn rimmed glasses,I have photos of Buddy wearing an identical sports jacket…scary Huh?

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