Abbey Road

Choose an appropriate image or text or object of visual culture and undertake an investigation into the context of this; look at the historical context and explore which other issues of the time, might have influenced its production.


The Beatles on Abbey Road (Friday 8th August, 1969.  Ian Macmillan, friend of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Cover concept by Paul McCartney)


The famous Beatles album cover, showing the four beatles crossing the road, outside of Abbey Road Studios, where they recorded their music.  Much has been said about this image, but here is my take on the cover.


Starting broadly, the image shows the historical fashions and hairstyles of the time, the vehicles that we used and, sneakily, a few onlookers, watching the proceedings; If this image were taken today, if anybody did manage to be lucky enough to be nearby, they would have taken a photo and uploaded it to Twitter in seconds.  To the finer details, we see the band walking from left to right – those in the know would be very aware that the band are walking away from the studio, a place they had spent the last seven years or more creating music that changed generations.  Was this a subtle nod to the rumours at the time that the Beatles were imminently about to split; they are walking away from the past, with John Lennon – arguably the leader but most provocative and publically seen as the driving force behind the potential split – of the band.  Taking this further, John Lennon is dressed all in white, with a long beard and hair, could be seen as a Jesus like figure, that he is a messiah for the future of music (and peace and love?), and his time with this band has been superseded by a higher calling.  We then have Paul McCartney, walking along bare footed, with a cigarette in his hand, adding fuel to the rumours of the time that Paul McCartney was dead.  He is walking without shoes as he has now passed on and is merely a ghost amongst us; smoking a cigarette to show that it doesn’t affect him, perhaps?  Could it more likely be, that smoking was more prolific then, and not seen as the stigma it is now; when was the last time that an artist was on TV or knowing photographed – not papped – smoking a cigarette?
The context then, initially is that of fashion and trends of the time – a less prim and proper version of the bands seen in the 50’s and 60’s, of which they were one, before they started to delve into acid and experimenting with different cultures – and a band that couldn’t have been more influential at the time, walking across a seemingly mundane road.  Dig deeper, however, and the true context, (in my opinion), comes to light: the rumours in the papers of the band splitting, saying goodbye to their time in Abbey Road, of John Lennon moving onto the next stage – the future – of music, of Paul McCartney’s death and this being a posthumous recording of his.  One thing I do know, is that the 8th of August, was an extremely hot day, and perhaps Paul McCartney was just too hot wearing shoes!


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