Unseen angles of the Beatles most famous cover

Unseen angles of the Beatles most famous cover


norman lebrecht

October 15, 2014

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This is the iconic cover picture of the Abbey Road album. Noi surprises there.

But there were six other shots from which the ultimate cover was selected.


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Reverse, for instance.

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With London bus. And best of all…

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(Recognise her, anyone?)

The set are about to be sold off. Press release below.


London – Rare outtakes and the final cover shot for The Beatles Abbey Road album will be auctioned at Bloomsbury Auctions’ Photographs & Photobooks sale on Friday 21st November 2014.


The set of six photographs commissioned from Scottish photographer Iain Macmillan (1938-2006) as possible designs for the album’s front cover – together with the Abbey Road street sign used on the back cover – is of legendary rarity on the art market.


This is believed to be the first time that a complete suite of the signed and numbered photographs has ever been offered at public auction. The collection will be on view to the public in central London from Sunday 16th November, before going under the hammer on Friday 21st November where they are estimated to achieve £50,000 – 70,000.


On 8th August 1969 Macmillan, a close friend of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, climbed a ladder in the middle of Abbey Road and in the next ten minutes took six photographs of the Fab Four walking back and forth across a zebra crossing. The fifth of his six shots, selected by Paul McCartney, would become the album cover for the Beatles’ last-recorded album and one of pop music’s most famous and recreated images.


In 1989 Iain Macmillan was quoted saying; “That photo’s been called an icon of the 60s. I suppose it is. I think the reason it became so popular is its simplicity. It’s a very simple, stylised shot. Also it’s a shot people can relate to. It’s a place where people can still walk.”


With his Hasselblad camera storing the six images, Macmillian set off to photograph a road sign to use as the back cover. To Macmillan’s annoyance, whilst he was photographing the sign on the corner with Alexandra Road, a girl in a blue dress walked through the shot, however it was this image that was later chosen as the back cover.



At the time the front cover shot advanced speculations in the ‘Paul is Dead’ conspiracy, a theory that suggests Paul McCartney died in 1966 and was replaced with a body double.


Bloomsbury Auctions sold an individual ‘outtake’ print of The Beatles walking ‘backwards’ for £16,000 in May 2012, however, this is believed to be the first time that a complete suite has been offered at auction.


Sarah Wheeler, Head of Photography at Bloomsbury Auctions said; “To see the full collection of photographs together is a rare and fascinating opportunity for fans of the Beatles, Music and Photography. We are delighted to be offering them at auction and anticipate worldwide interest for this famous and timeless suite.”


The Photographs & Photobooks sale will be held at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions saleroom in London’s Mayfair on Friday 21st November. The full catalogue will be available to view and download at www.bloomsburyauctions.com