A driver stops his car for a group of pedestrians who begin to cross. They take long, unnatural strides, stretching their legs as far apart as possible. If that isn’t frustrating enough, they slow and then come to a complete stop for a photo op in the middle of the street. The group then continues to the other side. Soon after, another car, this time a truck, stops and the strange parade begins again with a different group.Despite these delays, there’s no irate honking, no shouted expletives. This isn’t the Twilight Zone, it’s just the Abbey Road.
The Abbey Road zebra crossing, a strip of asphalt on a quiet London street mythicized by the Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover a half century ago is today the destination for Beatles pilgrims from all over the world. “It’s been a dream of mine to come here and cross,” says Amanda Grimes, an Australian tourist. “It has really affected me more than I thought.” She is one of about a dozen fans lining the street, posing for photos and crossing the two-lane street. Dusk is falling, there’s a deepening chill in the air but more fans continue to gather.
The now famous strip of asphalt was chosen by Paul McCartney as the location for their next album cover while they were recording at the nearby EMI recording studio. The studio itself, now named Abbey Road Studios is a familiar site to many, having been the backdrop for countless ad hoc media interviews. Reporters hid and waited near the studio, knowing that the Beatles would have to show up for work there sooner or later.
When authorities agreed to stop street traffic for the shoot, they only gave photographer Iain MacMillian ten minutes to take the now iconic photograph. He actually took six, with Paul wearing shoes in some and going shoeless in others. Little did traffic officials know then that those ten minutes in 1969 would continue to affect street traffic today.
The British government recognized the importance of the Abbey Road zebra crossing in 2010, granting the crosswalk special status. By law, the zebra lines are repainted every three months and the street cannot be demolished as is deemed a site of historical importance — right up there with Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London.
The fiftieth anniversary for thel photograph will be at 11:35 am on August 8. If you can’t make it, you can always check out the Abbey Road Webcam at https://www.earthcam.com/world/england/london/abbeyroad/?cam=abbeyroad_uk
Find your way to the St. John’s Wood station. There is only one exit and you’ll find signs indicating the way to Abbey Road or just the follow the fans.