A ‘backwards’ version of The Beatles’ ‘Abbey Road’ cover image – featuring the band crossing from right to left – was auctioned off for £16,000 last week. Seems a good time to examine the sleeve’s history and look at some of the wealth of parodies over the years.
For 1993 live LP ‘Paul Is Live’, Paul McCartney copied his band’s famous sleeve and lampooned the ‘Paul is dead’ myth that infused interpretations of the original image.
In 2006 Kanye West released ‘Late Orchestration’, a live album recorded with full orchestra at Abbey Road Studios. It would’ve been rude not to step onto that crossing.
The sleeve has been constantly pored over for clues and mysteries since 1969, and has provided rich pickings for bands looking to hitch their wagon to The Beatles’ star. British vocal troupe The King’s Singers had a go on ‘The Beatles Connection’ in 1986.
Plenty of bare feet on The Community Of St Saviour’s Monastery’s ‘Franciscan Road’. Macca’s shoeless state on the original was believed to confirm the rumour he had died in 1966 – referencing the old tradition of corpses being buried without shoes.
The practice has made it to cartoons as well. Here Ren and Stimpy take the short walk for ‘You Eediot!’
Peanuts got in on the act too, this time starring Snoopy as the barefoot impostor.
J-Rocks became the first Indonesian band to record at Abbey Road in 2008, and made the only sleeve they could for ‘Road To Abbey’.
More bare feet – and conveniently placed socks – for the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘Abbey Road E.P.’ in 1988. But bare feet weren’t the only clues to Macca’s demise. That cigarette in his right hand was a coffin nail, apparently, and he was out of step just like Anthony Kiedis.
More Macca clues included a car further down the road, said to be pointed directly at him in an echo of the accident that “killed” him. Here’s Argentine band Kapanga with their own version for ‘Un Asado En Abbey Road’.
A stark take for the 2005 chillout compilation ‘Beatles Regrooved’.
It was only a matter of time before Jive Bunny And The Mastermixers got in on the act, but they’ve got the attire all wrong. According to the ‘Paul is dead’ theory, John Lennon was all in white as the preacher in McCartney’s procession, Ringo Starr was the dark frockcoated undertaker, McCartney the corpse and George Harrison the denim-clad gravedigger.
US/German prog rock band Percewood’s Onagram offered their own eerie take for 1971’s ‘Lessons For Virgins’.
Belgian band Sttellla with their lurid 2008 take on the sleeve. Here the VW Beetle is a tasteful violet. The original car can now be found in the Autostadt museum in Wolfsburg, Germany after going for £2,530 at auction in 1986.
No collection of ‘Abbey Road’ sleeves would be complete without Sesame Street‘s interpretation, featuring Bert and Ernie as two of the mystery decorators pictured left. The originals were later identified as Alan Flanagan, Steve Millwood and Derek Seagrove.
A 2005 bluegrass reimagining from The Grassmasters. That cow is surely a crucial link in the ‘Paul is dead’ theory.
The Silver Beatles take it bang up to date with a snap of Abbey Road now. It’s lacking something though.
Country and Western German-style with Truck Stop’s ‘Immer Geradeaus’.
Admit it, you’d been waiting for Beatles songs with a Cuban twist.
Arch Beatles parodists never actually made ‘Shabby Road’ but they needed this shot in their locker. Note sometime Beach Boys drummer Ricky Fataar bringing up the rear in forgotten-trousers situation.
Joey Lennon, Rat Harrison, Sid McCartney and Markey Starkey made up The Punkles in 2006, here proudly presenting ‘Punkles For Sale!’.
One of the Babies Go series of “reinterpretations” for kids, this is the perfect arena for ‘Golden Slumbers’. ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ might not fly quite as well.
New York City’s effort sees the VW Beetle present and correct, but no police van. According to the ‘Paul is dead’ conspiracy theorists the police van on the original sleeve represented the authorities keeping schtum about McCartney’s ‘death’.
South African jazz band The Heshoo Beshoo Group offer a stark contrast.
Los Minitronicos’ ‘Proyecto Beatles’ introduces the delightful prospect of kids (with briefcases) covering Beatles songs. Schoolboy errors include them all looking at the camera and one of them not even on the crossing.
La Fragua’s ‘De Los Andes A Los Beatles’ is another Argentine slant on The Beatles’ music, the sleeve here vaguely reminiscent of The Beatles’ original plan to name the album ‘Everest’ and shoot the cover photo in the foothills of the Himalayas.
Benny Hill’s ‘The Best Of’, featuring ‘Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West)’ and, um, other stuff.
That’s Bob Kevoian and Tom Griswold, US radio DJs. Hard to tell here, but the VW numberplate should read LMW 28IF – which of course means Linda McCartney Weeps (because Paul would be) 28 IF (he was still alive). Of course.
New York rapper Chubb Rock’s 1997 album ‘The Mind’, with Chubb himself taking on all four Beatle roles: preacher, undertaker, corpse, gravedigger. Not that you can tell.
You can probably gather that Dave Maclean and Montana Country play country music. ‘Country Beatles’ reworks tracks from throughout The Beatles’ career.
Jazz guitarist and singer George Benson released ‘The Other Side Of Abbey Road’ in 1970, covering tracks from ‘Abbey Road’, some in medley form.
It had to be done: Four Bitchin’ Babes, a fluid quartet of comedy singer-songwriters, released the smartly titled ‘Gabby Road’ in 1997. Is that red car pulling towards them a hint that one of the members died three years earlier in a crash that was hushed up? We may never know.