Forget the ‘Paul Is Dead’ conspiracy and boring sales figures, here are 10 things you actually, legitimately, quite possibly do not know about The Beatles’ brilliant 1969 record Abbey Road – turning 52 today!
1. There’s a webcam set up at the Abbey Road zebra crossing in London where the album’s cover image was shot, which has been live streaming continuously since 2011. Go take a peep at it right here.
2. Ringo’s track Octopus’s Garden was inspired by a meal the drummer ate on a boating holiday. As Ringo was enjoying his squid and chips, the captain explained to him how octopi collect the shiniest items from the seabed to build their own gardens.
3. Here Comes the Sun was almost included on the Voyager Golden Records – the two phonograph discs sent into space in 1977, which contained sounds and images depicting culture on Earth, and are intended for discovery by future humans or extraterrestrial creatures. Sadly, copyright issues meant the song wasn’t cleared for inclusion before lift-off.
4. The final, hidden track – Paul McCartney’s Her Majesty – is the shortest song the group ever recorded. It’s 23 seconds long. However, it’s far from the shortest song every recorded by anyone – Napalm Death hold that honour. The British grindcore band’s track You Suffer lasts 1.316 seconds.
5. In 1973, Chuck Berry’s publishing company sued the band over Abbey Road’s opening cut, Come Together. The firm contended that it sounded similar to Berry’s song You Can’t Catch Me, particularly the lyric couplet “Here comes ol’ flat top, he come groovin’ up slowly” – Berry’s version is “Here come a flat top, he was movin’ up with me.” The case was settled out of court.
6. Come Together was actually an expansion of a track Lennon wrote for good pal Timothy Leary, when the psychologist and advocate for the therapeutic benefits of psychedelic drug-use was running for Governor of California against Ronald Reagan. Leary’s campaign was cut short when he was jailed for cannabis possession.
7. The track Maxwell’s Silver Hammer was hated by every member of the band except its writer, Paul McCartney – mainly because Paul insisted on perfection during its recording, which tired his bandmates out. Lennon reportedly left the studio for two weeks to hang out with Yoko Ono and wait for the track to be completed.
8. The album’s iconoclastic use of the Moog synthesizer delighted most listeners, but attracted derision from many other critics, who didn’t like the artificiality of its sound. The instrument can be heard most clearly in the middle portion of track Because.
9. The man in the cover’s background, standing on the right-hand side of the road, is an American tourist named Paul Cole. He was waiting for his wife, who was visiting a museum on Abbey Road, and struck up a conversation with the officers in the police van (who were holding up traffic for the purposes of the photoshoot). He had no idea he’d been captured in the image until months later, admitting he’d not only never listened to Abbey Road, he’d never heard of it. He later described the Beatles as “a bunch of kooks.”
10. The three fellas in the background on the other side of the road are Derek Seagrove, Alan Flanagan and Steve Milwood. They’re in white because they’re painter/decorators, who were taking a mid-morning smoko from their work inside the studio when the pic was snapped.