Few albums will ever be as widely appreciated as the great Abbey Road, released by The Beatles on this day in 1969. From its iconic front cover to the sheer genius that exudes from every track, Abbey Road is a truly perfect creation, any way you look at it. For that, we have producer George Martin to thank.
The Beatles were, quite literally, the most popular craze in all of human history, spending the majority of the early ’60s touring the world.
Abbey Road was created from a collection of music that was all written and recorded individually. The music is incredible, amazing.
When you’re designing an album cover for “the biggest band in the world,” you don’t need to put their name on it.
So reasoned John Kosh, the former Apple Records creative director who designed the iconic “Abbey Road” album cover depicting the Beatles crossing the titular street in synchronized step.
“It was my decision that you do not need to put their name on the cover because who else could it possibly be?” says Kosh, 75. “And that got me into some hot water with the [Apple Records] parent company, EMI.”
Kosh also opted not to put the album’s title on the cover, so that all you see is the famous shot taken by the late photographer Iain Macmillan. But the whole thing ended up being a major rush job.
“I’m trying to work on an album called ‘Get Back,’ which became ‘Let It Be,’” Kosh recalls of the Beatles LP that would be released in 1970. “But ‘Abbey Road got in the middle of it and all of a sudden became very urgent. So ‘Let It Be’ was [temporarily] shelved.”
Kosh had only a couple of days to get the cover done a few weeks before the album’s release on Sept. 26, 1969.“There was a lot of pressure from the record company and from the printer,” he recalls.
The cover photo — based on a sketch by Paul McCartney — had only just been shot when Kosh got news of his deadline. “I guess it was [taken] the day before,” he says.
Kosh and Macmillan picked the final image out of only six photos. “We put the transparencies out on the light box,” he says. “We were looking at how good the Fab Four looked, poring over a loop looking at their facial expressions.
“Iain and I were really nervous at this point: ‘Are we doing the right thing for the biggest band in the world?’ … I was very worried about the cover, because I didn’t think it was good enough.”
In the end, he made some alterations to the photo.
“I decided that the sky in the background was way too dull and gray,” says Kosh, “and that’s when I decided to airbrush to pump the sky up.”
And for the “Abbey Road” 50th-anniversary deluxe editions being released tomorrow Friday, an original element of the photo has been restored.
“You’ll notice in the very early editions, Paul has a cigarette in his hands,” Kosh says. “In later pressings, it is missing. For the re-release, it’s back again.”