Music History

The mystery of the Beatles’ Abbey Road photobomb SOLVED

Take a very close look at the cover of the Beatles Abbey Road album. Notice the gentleman in the suit and tie on the sidewalk on the right-hand side of the photo?

That could be the most famous photobomb in the history of album artwork. Who is that guy? What’s he doing there? Were the Beatles trying to send us some sort of message?

Back in university, I had a friend who was a Beatles autodidact. He claimed that everything we see in the photo was carefully staged. His theory was that he is the equivalent of Satan standing on John’s left shoulder, symbolic of the whispering John was getting from Yoko(?) to leave the band. (Let’s not even get into why Paul is barefoot and out of step with the other guys. Look up the “Paul is dead” theory.)

The truth is that photographer Ian Macmillan was hired to take a series of pictures of the Beatles walking across the street just south of EMI Studios (now called Abbey Road after the album and the street; it’s behind the white fence on the left side of the photo) at 10 am August 8, 1969.

Because the street is very busy, the Beatles could only get the police to close the route to motorists for ten minutes. Macmillian had the band walk back and forth across the street while he stood on a stepladder.

The Volkswagen? Just happened to be there–and don’t read anything into what the license plate number means. Same with the black cab on the right side.

But back to the in the brown sport coat. What’s his story?

We know who it is. His name is Paul Cole, an American tourist who was waiting for his wife. He’d grow tired of sightseeing, so he decided to hang around outside while his wife was off doing something else. For the record, he thought the men crossing the street were “a bunch of kooks.”

Read the story of the photobomb here.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38164 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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