The Beatles – The Abbey Road Set “Frame 5” by Iain Macmillan

The Beatles – Abbey Road-Set “Feame 5” The actual cover

Archival limited edition photograph Outtakes by Iain MacMillan Size: 20,2″ x 16,2″

The Abbey Road sessions

8 August, 1969. A Friday. The date of one of the most famous photo-shoots in rock ‘n’ roll history. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr walk over the zebra crossing next to Abbey Road studios. There and back. Three times. Six clicks of the shutter. Just six photographs, and the shoot was over. Three frames showing the Beatles crossing from left to right, and three walking from right to left. The same order in each of the six frames – John Lennon first in white, then Ringo Starr in black, Paul McCartney in grey, barefoot, holding a cigarette in his right hand (all three in Tommy Nutter suits) and at the back, a denim clad George Harrison.

The fifth frame of six, showing a left to right traverse, was chosen as the actual cover. Abbey Road (the first British Beatles LP without the name of the band or the title of the album on the front) was released in the UK on 26 September 1969 and debuted at number 1. Rolling Stone magazine voted it number 14 of the top 500 albums of all time.

Rare photographs for sale

During his lifetime, Iain Macmillan produced and signed a number of colour prints of each of the Abbey Road session alternates, made to the highest archival standards from the original transparencies. Iain passed away on 8 May 2006 and signed examples of his work, made during his lifetime, are finite and very scarce. As such they are highly prized amongst Beatles collectors. Individual examples of each of the photographs come on the secondary market from time to time, and, occasionally the holy grail – a complete suite of front cover variants and the back cover photograph becomes available. The prices of these iconic images reflect their importance in the photographic history of The Beatles.

The photographer – Iain Macmillan

The man behind the camera that hot August day was Scottish photographer Iain Macmillan (20 October 1938 to 8 May 2006). He had worked with Yoko Ono in 1966 – he included a photograph of her in The Book of London, a collection of his photographs published that year. She then commissioned Iain to document her exhibition at London’s Indica gallery, and as a result, Iain was introduced to John Lennon – establishing the Beatles connection. Subsequently, John Lennon invited Iain to photograph the Abbey Road cover. Paul McCartney had already developed the initial concept of the shoot, and in a meeting with Iain, they discussed Paul’s early sketches.

On the appointed Friday, Iain only had a short time to nail it. He reportedly spent less than 15 minutes up a ladder, and they had to give way to traffic. Because of time constraints, the shoot had been very carefully planned. Iain knew exactly what he was trying to achieve. His hand drawn sketch of the intended result shows the Beatles in step, the vanishing point in the centre of the image, the viewer’s eyes drawn in by the converging lines of pavements and trees.

The bystanders

The Beetle, Paul Cole, three decorators…

The Abbey Road cover photograph is of course one of the most recognisable rock ‘n’ roll photographs of all time. The Beatles are the main event, rightly taking centre stage. They are not alone though. Other peripheral characters appear stage right and stage left on the actual album cover, and get their own fifteen minutes of fame. The man standing on the right pavement watching proceedings is American tourist Paul Cole. If you look at your Abbey Road LP or CD you’ll see him, just to the left of John Lennon’s head. On the left pavement, further back, On the left pavement, further back, stand three decorators, one of whom has been subsequently identified as Albert Duffy. They were all captured for posterity on the cover photograph.

It wasn’t just human bystanders that became famous through an appearance on the album cover. Let’s not forget the fifth Beatle. Well, Beetle. The white Volkswagen Beetle, LMW 281F, parked up on the left achieved cult status after appearing on the album, and after selling at auction, was displayed at the Volkswagen museum in Germany.

The cover shot has been discussed and analysed in depth over the years, even to advance theories of the death of Paul McCartney. But what of the five other front cover session photographs taken that day: the three right to left and two left to right passes that weren’t used? They have been reproduced sparingly in publications over the years, but the opportunity to view them together on a wall in a gallery setting allows careful study of the contrasts and comparisons between them. How do we actually know the order that the photographs were taken? Simply because Iain MacMillan made a set of prints showing individual frame numbers alongside the images.

At first glance, there are some interesting differences. Although Paul McCartney was famously barefoot on the cover, he actually appears in sandals in the first two of the six frames. He only appears with his cigarette in one frame – the actual cover. Interestingly the second Paul, Paul Cole, very nearly didn’t make it onto the cover. In the frame immediately preceding the cover image, and the frame straight after, he simply isn’t there.


Category Photo Prints
Artwork year 1969
Size 51.3 x 41.15 cm
Medium Archival limited edition photograph
Edition Not part of an edition
Edition number A/P
Signature Signed by Iain Macmillan
Keywords Album Art,The Beatles,ABBEY ROAD,JOHN LENNON,Paul Mc Cartney, George Harrison,RINGO STARR,Iain MacMillan

Price CHF 18'000.00

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