I had a lot of fun on this project, and may just keep this one for myself. The idea was documented in my previous blog, but at that point, I didn’t realize the amount of mystique that surrounds this historic photo. Perhaps I shouldn’t say anything, but I just can’t keep a secret; hidden in this painting, are seven Beatle figures in action, a shadow portrait of Paul, and the Blue Meanies hand from Yellow Submarine. I’m sure you will notice now that I’ve brought them to your attention. The clues in this picture should get you started, but be aware some shapes are inverted or rotated.
Rumours without Twitter or Facebook
As you may know, the original album cover for Abbey Road caused quite a stir, back in the days before social media and the internet. Rumours spread the old fashioned way, and the rumour was: Paul McCartney was dead! With the collective imaginations of millions of young fans running wild, the so called evidence was mounting. What made things worse, was that the Beatles were in the process of breaking up in 1969, and Paul wasn’t making many public appearances.
So, why did people think that Paul was dead and replaced with a clever double? There was, of course, the old standby trick of playing a song backwards, where you could hear whatever you wanted to hear. “I buried Paul”. Don’t laugh, this was a big deal back in the 60s! As for the album cover, Paul isn’t wearing any shoes, so he is obviously the corpse in this symbolic funeral procession. John is dressed in white, so he represents the heavenly afterlife. Ringo is in black for mourning, and get this – George is dressed informally, so he must be the grave-digger!
Then there’s the licence plate on my favourite Beetle: LMW 281F. Linda McCartney Weeps, and Paul would be “28 if” he had lived. That last bit might have been a stretch, especially since he was 27 when the picture was taken. But, hey – maybe plate number LMW 271F was already taken at the time. Anyway, people took this seriously, and of some significance, the sale of all Beatles albums went up that year!
So, what’s this sandal all about?
As mentioned in my earlier blog, I found a link to the rest of the photos taken that day. This was helpful in filling in missing details – George’s head blocks out part of the VW on the original, for instance. My real discovery, however, was Paul was wearing sandals in the earlier shots. This was the missing piece in my mind. First of all, adding a sandal made a perfect anchor for a balanced triangle in the composition: the car, the apartments and a lone sandal lying on the road. More important, I think it adds to the mystery, the idea of time passing and even sadness. A single lost glove or shoe has always evoked a strong sense of loss for me.
While I’m at it, I may was well explain the contrails. Sorry, conspiracy crowd, they have nothing to do with the government secretly spraying us with chemicals. Besides the fact that I just like airplanes, it ‘s a reference to the Battle of Britain; spitfires crossing the sky. In the 1960s, I heard all about living in London during the war, from my dad, and there is now a weird connection to the Beatles in my sub-conscious imagination.
Haven’t found the hidden images yet?
Okay, here are some more clues. In 2015, Paul is still alive, and performing to sold out crowds. However, the ghost of his face can still be seen at Abbey Road. Look on the left-hand side of the painting; his face appears in an inverse of the branches and leaves.
In the loose section of leaves at the top right-hand corner, look to the extreme left side to find 3 Beatles from the “Twist and Shout” album cover. To the right, and down to the right, you will also find another two Beatles from “Help!”
The Blue Meanie hand from “Yellow Submarine” is hiding in plan sight…its the entire sunlit tops of the trees on the right, pointing down and towards the street.
Even though I have never been to this particular street, there is a wonderful familiarity here. The warm summer’s sun, the shadows from the gently rustling leaves; these are the stuff of comforting memories. I lived through the excitement of the Beatles, and although it was a long time ago, I can’t help but feel that it’s all still there…perhaps hiding in the leaves.