What is it:
A Simpsons homage to The Beatles Abbey Road photo from the November 2002 cover of Rolling Stone.
Why is it Awesome?
I’m a huge Simpsons fan, and I’m a huge Beatles fan. This combines the two brilliantly. I saw it this morning, and now it is my desktop. Long may it reign.
Finding this image also led me to a fascinating story that I imagine is little known to my generation: While researching this picture I came across an urban legend that Paul McCartney is actually dead, and the man in the original photo was an imposter foisted on the public to perpetuate the ridiculous amounts of money to be reaped from Beatlemania.
I love everything about this picture. I love Homer’s strut. I love Marge’s cravat. I love Lisa’s slouch. I love that Bart is barefoot, cigaretted, and out of step with the other three, just like Paul McCartney was in the original. Fun fact: The American version of the Beatles cover has the cigarette clumsily edited out. I find that a little laughable, but in my experience censors have no sense of humour. I wonder who really thought kids would take up smoking based on an album cover? The Beatles are already the poster children for drug use in the Swinging Sixties. Did they edit out all the psychedelic content on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band? What would possibly be left if they did? Not even Ringo’s moustache, I’d wager.
The original photo was taken by Iain Macmillian at 11:30am on August 8th, 1969. He was given ten minutes notice, and told to fetch a step ladder. He took just six photos, and this was the one everyone settled on. The original idea was to use a stock photo of the Himalayas and call the album ‘Everest,’ but I imagine that was just a place holder title until they thought of something better. Clearly they did. The original photo is so iconic, people constantly recreate it, given the chance. Abbey Road Studios has a live webcam feed of the pedestrian cross walk, and you can often see tourists setting up their shots.
Anyway, onto the Paul is an imposter rumour: The story goes that Paul died in 1966, and was replaced by a look-alike sound-alike. As time went on, though, the surviving Beatles began sending hidden messages to their fans about the truth. There’s a lot of kooky things people have said are clues, like when The Beatles inexplicably introduce Paul as Billy Shears on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, or that you can hear Lennon talk about Paul’s car accident when playing Revolution #9 backwards (which would probably be an improvement, in my opinion). But the big clues, so the conspiracy theorists maintain, are in this photo.
For one, there’s the suggestion that they are all dressed for a funeral: John Lennon is dressed all in white, like a clergyman. Ringo Starr’s black suit is worthy of an undertaker. George Harrison is dressed head to toe in denim, like a gravedigger. The clincher, though, is Paul McCartney’s bare feet. Corpses are often buried shoeless. Also, why is his cigarette in his right hand, when Paul is a famous lefty? Other than the fact that otherwise it wouldn’t be in the photo, of course. If that’s not proof enough for you (please tell me it’s not enough proof for you), the license plate in the background is 281F. Paul would have been 28 IF he was alive during the taking of this photo. Get it? For the record, the owners of that car kept getting their license plate stolen after this album was released.
McCartney put out a solo album in 1993 in which he set out to set the record straight. He’s wearing shoes, and he’s got his right foot forward like it should have been in the original. He’s walking the dog with the leash in his left hand. The ’28 IF’ message on the license plate has been updated to his current age ’51 IS’. He even called the album ‘Paul is Live,’ for goodness sake.
I would put it out there that the best argument that Paul survived 1966 is the several hundred songs he’s recorded since. At the zenith of their public scrutiny The Beatles found a look-alike, sound-alike, write-alike to continue what Paul McCartney started, and they managed to keep that search a secret? And then, after all that trouble, the look-alike, sound-alike, write-alike Billy Shears took his Paul persona into conflict with John Lennon and broke up the band within three years? Really? Come on.
Anyway, to wrap up, I love the original; I love the Simpsons version, and I love all that I discovered about this after deciding to turn my fancy into a blog post. Cheers!