In front of Abbey Road Studios, a man in a hooded jacket passes under the webcam, hands thrust in pockets, ignoring the tourists who mill around at the gate. On the other side of the street a jogger goes by, followed a few moments later by an elderly woman walking her dog. A red London bus (number 139) rumbles past and takes a left turn at the intersection. A woman with a baby in a pushcart appears on the kerb, again on the left, and a car draws up to allow them to cross. Snatches of conversation emerge from the white noise of traffic. Foreign tourists, apparently unsure of the quaint British custom of not running people over at pedestrian crossings, hesitate for a moment then strike out boldly and freeze in mid-step, arms and legs flung wide. While this is taking place a renegade cyclist, coming towards the camera, nips through the narrow gap between the Beatle impersonators and the kerb on the right.

To be honest, I barely glanced at The Abbey Road Studios Crossing Cam to write the above, but I have done so often enough, and, though not true to the facts, my description is true to life.

As one might expect, the cam makes for very dull viewing. There is always that undertow of monotony, however busy things get, and no purchase for the mind in the random flow of life on the street. Even the Beatles imitations, more faint-hearted than inept, merely reinforce a sense of numbing banality.

For hours at a time, without knowing why, I struggled to put words on this experience, and it strikes me now that watching the Abbey Road Studios Crossing Cam with any degree of commitment is not unlike the hell of writer’s block, – or clinical depression, indeed, to which, perhaps, the former state is related. At last, however, despairing of my project, I understood what should have been clear from the start. There is nothing to say about the Abbey Road Studios Crossing Cam. The Abbey Road Studios Crossing Cam is what it is, and shows what it shows, which is simply the dross of everyday life.

So what, then, is it there for?

A webcam is basically surveillance technology, so it might serve to dissuade fans from looting the site (the vintage lolly pop signs or the gates of Abbey Road Studios), but it also shows us our clinging to the past – a malaise which is widespread today – as though, like Big Ben, it had become a symbol of permanence in an ever-changing world. Now indeed, thanks to this installation, whatever the time of day or night, and wherever we happen to be, we can visit the website to reassure ourselves that Abbey Road is still there. Ironically enough, if the street is where it always was, the same cannot be said of the pedestrian crossing. It turns out that the ‘original’ was moved, probably in the late 1970s, to a location nearer the junction, but, according to a spokesman for Westminster City Council, “the detail of exactly when and why the crossing was moved has been lost in the annals of time.”

The Abbey Road crossing is also a place of pilgrimage and the main reason, presumeably, for tourists making this stop, is to pay homage to the Beatles, but one suspects that many do so not because they are especially enamoured of the band or their music, but simply because they wish to partake in the modern cult of celebrity, and enjoy, in true Warholian fashion, their own taste of fame, since not only can you make the crossing on “live feed” for all the world to see, but the time segment in which you appear is viewable online for a period of 24 hours, and if you pull off an especially silly or lifelike or otherwise remarkable performance, there is every chance that yours will feature among “the best crossing shots” on the website’s “Wall of Fame.”

This is actually one of the reasons cited by English Heritage for granting the crossing grade II status. As Roger Bowdler, head of designations, put it at the time: “the crossing has international renown and the temptation to recreate that iconic 1969 album cover remains as strong as ever.” The point is a valid one, I suppose, and I am not denying the cultural impact of the Beatles in the second half of the 20th century. I do wonder, on the other hand, whether designating a few strips of white thermoplastic a “historic monument” and filming them 24 hours a day is the best way to celebrate the Beatles’ achievement? Surely what they and their music were about could not be more remote from the numbing banality of this urban thoroughfare and, to me at least, the white noise of car traffic evokes the tireless swish of a broom which day after day, and month after month, and year after year, sweeps away all trace of their magic.

The street, superficially at least, is much the same as it was. There are the same facades and front gardens. The same trees. There is the same bend in the road just before the vanishing point. However, vintage elements aside – the funny little van to the right of Ringo’s head, the Volkswagen Beetle to the right of George’s – much has changed. As we have seen, the crossing itself no longer exists. The road surface, which was once a biscuity brown, is now a dull black or dark grey, and the brick wall on the back of the album sleeve was demolished three decades ago. Moreover, quite apart from the wear and tear it sustains from day to day (the rub of car traffic, the treading of feet) or occasional surface or structural interventions (road and utility work, renovations to houses), the street, of course, is constantly changing, since, – as anyone with a GCSE in physics will know, – from the garden walls to the residential buildings, all the structures that compose it are fizzing with atoms, and their stable outward forms bely the forces that contend inside them to both hold them together and (ultimately, of course) to take them apart.

More to the point, as a product of culture, a creation and extension of human consciousness, a street, famous or not, is infinitely more than the sum of its material parts. It is also a mental construction of enormous complexity which, like the material world, is also subject to continuous change. I am not claiming here that “nothing is real,” or that Abbey Road is Strawberry Fields if that is your trip, but if there’s any truth in the saying “It’s all in the mind,” – which was already in use at the time but soon became a hippie mantra, – then the geographical location known today as N° 3 Abbey Road, London NW8, is quite unlike the place it was in August 1969.

I suspect that a majority of the tourists who flock to this crossing from all over the world would be unwilling to share these simple insights, but like any other “monument” of world culture, Big Ben, once again, or the Taj Mahal, they would prefer to believe it unchanged and unchanging, and refuse to experience it as it actually is.

To this extent it is more like a picture postcard than a real location. But more than of a postcard, I am put in mind of those transfer books I loved as boy,in which, by rubbing with a pencil, you could transfer images from a sheet of transparent plastic to an empty panorama or scene. In much the same fashion, visitors to Abbey Road replace the four missing Beatles, and animate the deserted pedestrian crossing with their own walk-on parts.

But how does one account for the iconic power this image continues to have all around the world?

The location, after all, could hardly be more pedestrian (feeble pun intended), and is as mundane today as it was at the time. Cars drove by incessantly and, then as now, commuters were liable to experience that very London inconvenience of waiting for buses that never showed up, although one in fact did on this occasion.4

This place, however, is also an important landmark in the group’s history. Abbey Road runs through St John’s Wood, a residential neighbourhood near Lords Cricket Ground, and it was here, hidden away from the world in this leafy urban backwater, that the Beatles created most of their music. Shooting the sleeve in front of EMI studios, and naming the album after the street, were acts of homage, therefore, and of retrospection, and generations of music lovers, poring over the famous picture, have followed suit, lingering on this hallowed curbside where, like a warm breeze in the lime trees, the Beatles’ muse so often made her visits.

The music is suggested most directly by the crossing itself, which not only looks like a piano keyboard, but also evokes a chord progression, the four band members like four beats in a bar, the measure most frequently used in pop and rock music. Likewise, the 3 visible hands, of George, Paul and Ringo, evoke a lilting melodic line or musical phrase, a gentle pendular motion which, beginning on the left, is stressed on the upswing by the tail of Lennon’s jacket and completed on the off-beat by his hidden right hand.

But aside from what it suggests about its contents, what makes the Abbey Road sleeve most compelling is the portrait we have of the Beatles themselves at their most productive and inspired. The apple, here, was at its ripest and most rounded, but the beautiful harmonies they were creating in the studio bely the tensions that would break them apart.

Paul, who’d had the idea for the cover, was clearly after something brisker, perhaps even regimental in spirit (think Sergeant Pepper’s), but, with the possible exception of Ringo, always the good soldier, the others look moody and tired. Harrison is visibly bored, McCartney himself looks groggy and greasy-haired, while Lennon, with his shoulders hunched up and his fists thrust deep in his pockets, looks like a pelican with a sore head. It’s a wonder, in fact, given how bad the vibes were at the time, how good they managed to look, and, kitted out for the occasion in their nice designer threads, their aura was as potent as ever. 50 years after it was taken, the picture has lost none of its vividness, and, despite its iconic status, it can still deliver – however remotely – that jolt of surprise, or thrill of recognition.5

And they didn’t just show up, but single-file and in step, their legs like calipers, they performed this little skit, a kind of music hall number, wowing their fans with one last turn before bowing out and leaving the stage for good. It’s actually quite a corny idea for an album cover, harking back to the early 60s, when the four would pose in naive configurations to stress their unity as a group, but on a simple, almost childish, level it works very well. Urban life is formless, for the most part, and dull, as a visit to the webcam will confirm any time, and the unexpected appearance of a regular pattern disrupts our perceptions, and creates a thrilling disjunction in our sense of the real.6

The Firebirds display team at Farnborough Air Show, UK, late 1960s.

The shot is remarkable, however, for its realism, for the way it captures a time and a place, – the local topography, prevailing light conditions, and the slow ebb of life in this neck of St John’s Wood.7

London is basking in sunshine, and hot dry air is wafting through the neighbourhood. The lime trees have long since shed their fragrance, but there is an odour of tar, and of curbside dust and motor oil. It is a perfect day for re-painting one’s garden railings, and on Grove End Road just around the corner sticky black paint is sparkling in the sun.8

At Lord’s a little further South the groundsmen are rolling the pitch for the afternoon game, while on Edgware Road the traffic noise is loud, and heat shimmers over the asphalt. You can taste exhaust fumes on the air, but also Wimpy buns and John Player Specials.

Many, however, are taking things easy at this time of year, and on Primrose Hill, a mile or so East of EMI studios, office workers have loosened their ties and are resting on the grass in their shirt sleeves. They can feel the burn of the sun on their arms and necks, and horn-rim glasses are starting to slide down their noses. Secretaries too are enjoying the sun, and warm breezes might ruffle their perms. Some, this being the late 1960s, at a time when sexual liberation was reaching the masses, have even removed their shoes and are feeling the cool of the grass between their toes.

The previous Summer Don McCullin had photographed the Beatles mingling with the crowd in a public garden, but they themselves inhabited a pop Parnassus far removed from the lives of most people. However, despite their celebrity and transcendent talents, they never denied their modest origins, nor turned their backs on lesser mortals,and even a song as trippy as A Day In The Life is grounded in mundane reality.

Many of us idealise the 1960s, – always suffused, it seems, in that warm Kodak yellow – but the lives of most people were far from glamorous, and often depressing. The ordinary Britons mentioned above most likely worked in offices that had brown carpetting on the walls and were filled with acrid clouds of cigarette smoke and the nerve-jarring clatter of manual typewriters. As I remember it – but these are childhood memories – the country felt shabby and materialistic, and anyone who knew this period will remember the nauseating smell of Woolworths supermarkets, redolent of rain-sodden clothing, Right Guard anti-perspirant and Cadbury’s milk chocolate. England was then, as it is now, a land of stodgy food and lowering skies, of places so sad they are an affront to the soul, – soot-blackened terraces that went on for miles, run-down council estates, and concrete shopping developments rattling with discarded beer cans and reeking of piss.

It was a nicer place, one suspects, in the late 1920s but DH Lawrence had this to say on returning to England after several years abroad:10 “It begins the moment you set foot ashore, the moment you step off the boat’s gangway. The heart suddenly, yet vaguely, sinks. It is no lurch of fear. Quite the contrary. It is as if the life urge failed, and the heart dimly sank. ( …) And the first half-hour in London is really a plunge of misery. The strange, the grey and uncanny, almost deathly sense of dulness is overwhelming.”

He admitted elsewhere in this article that after years of traveling in sunnier parts “the climate was against (him),” and the context, of course, is quite different, but despite a dramatic rise in living standards since the end of stamp rationing in the mid-1950s, the Orwellian austerity of the post-war years was still the dominant mood when the Beatles broke onto the national scene.

Their music was an opiate that infused British society, bringing colour to a world where even grass can seem grey, and populating everyday reality with figments of the imagination. Most of us, however, are dullards, and like the motorist driving away down Abbey Road – wondering for the umpteenth time, no doubt, if he shouldn’t quit his job or leave his wife – we have no idea what we are missing, but go about our lives oblivious of the wonders that dwell in our midst. Abbey Road too has stories to tell, and the album sleeve itself seems full of visual signs, as though, in the intervals of light and shade, or amid the dashes of light in the leaves, one might glimpse a girl groupie climbing through a bathroom window (protected, needless to say, by her silver spoon), the appalling Mr Mustard with that 10-bob note up his nose, or the unarguably groovy but revolting and disease-ridden character we encounter in the album’s opening track and who, on reflection, is surely not so hard to see.

The Beatles were true artists, of course, but they also saw themselves as entertainers purveying a sense of optimism and gentle anarchy to the laboring masses.11

They were not overtly political, although boredom, as the Paris revolutionaries proclaimed in ’68, was a political problem, and to this pathology their music was a potent remedy, but their refusal to condone political violence or the dialectics of ideological warfare elicited contempt from the likes of Jean-Luc Godard – who as One Plus One, his film about the Stones12 suggests, had little obvious sympathy for pop culture – and was quite likely baffled by it.

Jean-Luc Godard on the set of Weekend (1967). One Plus One = Zero?

Revolution 1 is about as close as the Beatles came to a manifesto, but they, too, had a plan. However, rather than change the world by direct political action they sought to “free (our) minds instead,” through psychedelia and formal experimentation, flower power and transcendental meditation, – and, last but not least, through the laid-back inducement of Bop Shoobie-Doo Wop.

Through their musical recordings and media presence the Beatles did more than any of their peers to bring the sixties counterculture into the mainstream, and the Abbey Road crossing evokes a virgin shoreline, the band like anti-war conquistadores filing off their ship to spread the hippie creed. But the Summer of ’69 was never the Summer of Love, and if the music on Abbey Road is sunny and warm, the bad blood between the group members makes the yellow light in the picture appear more jaundiced than mellow.

As it happens, the group’s internal history ran parallel to the changing mood of the times.

On the very next day after the Abbey Road photo shoot, the 9th of August,1969, members of The Manson Family murdered the actress Sharon Tate and three of her friends at the Beverley Hills mansion she shared with Roman Polanski, and at his trial in 1971 Charles Manson would famously claim that inspiration for the murders had come from his twisted personal take on The Beatles’ White Album.

Woodstock which would begin one week later, on the 15th of August,1969, easily lived up to its billing – “3 days of music and peace” – and was certainly the biggest party ever organized, but it is hard to escape a sense of gloom when watching the last half hour of the film. By the time Jimi Hendrix comes on to close the festival it is 8 am, and in the pale morning light the crowd that was once “half a million strong” has dwindled to a smattering of sleepless derelicts. Beyond the area in front of the stage the 600-acre grasslands of Max Yasgur’s dairy farm have become a muddy scab strewn with trash and sleeping bodies, and although Hendrix tries on all his voodoo chops the music only really transcends when he plays The Star-Spangled Banner and the feedback from his guitar screams across the sky like the mother of all hangovers.13

The hippie dream would soon be floundering in the mud of Woodstock and the mud of Vietnam, and many felt that the Brotherhood of Man, which the Beatles had done so much to promote, was beginning to look like a pie in the sky. In its cool-eyed realism and embrace of the mundane the sleeve of Abbey Road surely reflects a desire on their parts to come down to earth, and, as spelled out by the street-name tiles on the back cover of the album, to make the return journey from 60s idealism and universalism to the local and parochial. The point might also be that if you want to change the world, start where you are and carry on from there. In the case of the four band members this meant walking away from EMI studios and going their own separate ways. It meant starting again from square one. But if this is where it all ended it was also here at N° 3 Abbey Road, London NW8, that it all began.

The problem today is that nothing is local any more, and Abbey Road is a non-place like any other. As I write this the live audio of the Crossing Cam is playing on my desktop, so that the hiss of London traffic mingles with the hiss of Parisian traffic, and when a car beeped its horn a moment ago there was no way of telling whether it was just beneath my windows or 200 miles away, on the other side of the English Channel.

Quite conceivably, it is this dissolution of distance, – places everywhere merging into a greyish and homogenized no man’s land – that makes us so powerless to effect positive change.14

No place you could mention is the centre of anything any more, and video monitors lend a weird remoteness to the actual street we are standing on, watching over our public spaces night and day as if to confirm their barrenness, or to ascertain that nothing threatens to happen there, the gestation, that is, of an actual event.15

Surveillance cameras and webcams are ubiquitous (drones – flying eyeballs – are next),16 but these ogling devices are merely the latest extension of our culture’s ‘scopophilia,’ traceable perhaps to the dawning of the television age. Modern humans absorb most of what they know about the world (or think they know) through visual media (‘live’ or otherwise) and dwell more in the drizzly light of video than they do in the clear light of day. So addicted are we to static or moving images – the ‘iconic’ album cover and the Abbey Road webcam being obvious examples of this -, we are increasingly unwilling or unable to perceive things as they actually are, and so much of our experience is mediated by screens that we risk losing our connection to the tangible world on our doorstep. That IT is empowering cannot be denied (information being power, as the saying goes), but if we dwell in virtual reality too much of the time, in our minds – or head space – alone, we cease to be actors of our lives, and become mere spectators. Modern technology, by keeping us busy with an array of petty tasks, creates the illusion that we are in control, and, unwilling to lose that illusion, fearful of embarassment or failure, we are reluctant to fully engage with the world.

John Lennon on the rooftop of Apple Headquarters, 3 Savile Row, London, 30th January, 1969

One suspects that the Beatles, as their rooftop concert 6 months earlier suggests, were aware of this danger. Unlike Let It Be, however, recorded live with few overdubs, Abbey Road was lavishly produced, and, closeted in the studio for weeks and months on end, they were probably feeling cooped up. They look as if they haven’t seen the sun in days, and for the photo shoot were not only glad to step outside, but willing to do things with a minimum of fuss, and a very pure faith, typical of the 1960s, in the virtues of improvisation. Nothing was rehearsed. Iain Macmillan, a freelance photographer and friend of John Lennon, showed up with his Hasselblad camera, and a bobby was hired to hold up the traffic. The session took 10 minutes and Macmillan snapped six photographs from a stepladder as the group walked back and forth across Abbey Road. The picture that was chosen was the only one in which the four Beatles were walking in step.

This famous photograph, in other words, was something of a fluke. They knew of course what they were looking for, but had no way of telling how the picture would turn out, since no human eye – not even a trained photographer’s – could have caught that fraction of a second when all four pairs of legs would form inverted Vs, and all eight feet would be touching the ground. All Macmillan could do was click on the shutter and hope for the best.

There are also little accidents that enliven the scene, like the Volkswagen Beetle, an amusing pun on the name of the group.17

Or the onlookers, random passersby – who, staring out of the photograph towards the viewer, lend it a more open and spacious feel. Or the way Lennon, decked out in white, his hand already gone, merges into the radiance of the strip underfoot, his head, however, left behind, suspended aloft like the biblical John’s served up on a plate.18

The picture could be said to vindicate a verse in All You Need Is Love – a track often dismissed as a naive singalong, but which is actually an ode to letting go, and to the power of present moment awareness:19

“(There’s) nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be”

What the group were doing then, consciously or unconsciously, was laying claim to the here and now – the tangy, green-appleyness of the present moment – and everything in the picture emphasizes the group’s thereness at that time and in that place. Contrasting with the dark grey of the tarmac the white strips on which they tread are glaring in the sun, and do what zebra crossings are supposed to do, which is to heighten their visibility. But the sense of their physical presence is also re-inforced by pictorial means. From our vantage point, the crossing is comprised of 2 horizontal (discontinous) lines running parallel to the picture plane (the one nearest to us coinciding with the bottom edge of the sleeve), and of 11 diagonal lines converging on a distant vanishing point. What this means is that the second and third dimensions are stressed with equal force so that the white bands of the crossing seem hyper-tense, like springboards jutting out above the tarmac. So strong, indeed, is this effect, that the four band members seem like tin cut-outs, or raised silhouettes in a children’s pop-up book.

At a certain level, so intensely were they there in 1969 that they are still here today, but that is not really an honest statement, and if a pedestrian crossing was used to emphasize their presence in the photograph, I know of no better way to feel their absence than to visit the same place today.

What better, indeed, than a pedestrian crossing to symbolize the transitoriness of life? The Beatles, like the girl in the blue mini-skirt,20 were only there for a moment, and then they were gone. They were walking out of the most successful collective, – commercially, artistically – in musical history, out of the sixties and into another era, and, at an average age of 27, they were also making the crossing from youth into maturity.21

Much like a river, the flow of car traffic on Abbey Road might serve as a metaphor for the passage of time, its direction, like a river’s downstream, the one you’d be heading in were you sitting at the wheel of your car and had drawn up at the lollypops to allow the Beatles to cross. But this, to pursue the metaphor further, makes the pedestrian crossing like a ford or a bridge, an immovable structure over which, or under which, time ceaselessly flows, a symbol not of time without end, – the drudgery of everyday existence – but of its opposite, which is timelessness.

The Beatles’ last album, transcending as it does the context of its making, frequently affords such moments of grace, but, beyond the lasting fabness of their music, the importance of their legacy rests on how fusional they were with their own time and place. Everything fun or exciting about the Sixties (and very little that wasn’t) went into their melting pot, and out of it they fashioned a stream of musical artefacts that perfectly reflected the dreams and aspirations of their contemporaries.

 

The Sixties, to be sure, were a golden moment in our cultural history – and the Beatles were given, no doubt, as much as they gave – but “the dream (was) over” as Lennon put it a year or so later, and the group itself knew, even as they were making Abbey Road and a new decade was dawning, that this would be their final recording.

Their messianic visions had indeed lost much of their brightness, but it is testimony to their generosity of spirit that, even when the bitter end had come, they were able to create a body of music as warm and optimistic as anything they’d ever committed to tape.

The cover photograph struck a dissonant chord. Portraying the Beatles as a band no longer, but four individuals striking out alone, it is notably down-in-the-mouth, but it also challenged their contemporaries to let go of the past and make their own way in an ever-changing world, since only in real and present time can we expect to change things as they are.

Instead of dreaming of a bygone era and sacralising zebra crossings, we too, perhaps – half a century later – would do well to consider this message, and if there is anything to be gained from watching the Abbey Road Studios Crossing Cam, it should be an incentive to transform our collective reality, as the Beatles – for a few short years – so dazzlingly did theirs.

 

1) The powers that be may even be worried that some daring couple might try to “do it in the road” but, then again, the presence of a camera might actually be a turn-on for exhibitionists.

2) I am reminded of a very old joke. Traveller to hillbilly: “Does this road go to Little Rock?’ Hillbilly: “Bin living here all ma life, and it ain’t gone nowhere yet!”

3) Empty skies above the plains of Flanders to fill with duelling Fokkers and Sopwith Camels; or jurassic landscapes to bring to life with careening pterodactyls, lumbering brontosauri, and carnivores on the prowl.

4) Just imagine the atmosphere in its dingy, smoke-hazed interior: “Where?! No! Oh my God, it is, it’s them!”

5) This, certainly, was the effect they intended, and it wasn’t the first stunt of its kind, but merely the latest instalment in a cat-and-mouse game they had often played with the public. This time was different, however, since not only were they stepping out and showing themselves in the open, they were also upping the ante by revealing their whereabouts, a hint, perhaps, that they would soon be breaking up, and need no longer fear the importunity of their fans.

6) It also works because the four appear so casual, as if they really were just crossing the road and minding their own business, – although it has to be said that Ringo’s stride is a bit like Johnny Walker’s, and Paul is clearly out of step (scurrying slightly to keep up, and understandably worried that Ringo might crush his toes with the heel of his (very handsome) black leather boot).

7) Its boxy, grid-style composition, sharp outlines, and emphasis on geometrial perspective suggest the kind of image produced by a camera obscura. According to the Hockney-Falco thesis, this device, an ancestor of the photographic camera, was key in the development of realism in western painting and was used by many artists, from the Rennaissance onwards, to achieve a new level of accuracy in their depictions of the visual world.

8) I have no way of proving this statement, but can anybody out there prove that it’s false?

9) Unlike Dylan, who sneered at ordinary folk.

10) An article published in the Evening News, 3 September, 1928.

11) The television film Magical Mystery Tour is tedious and puerile, an embarrassment to admirers of the group, but it does convey their message quite well. As Paul himself has explained, it was an attempt to combine the anarchic spirit of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters’ 1964 road trip across the USA – the purpose of which was also to spread the gospel of acid – and the kind of coach tours that were popular at the time among working class people. Life, then, should be freewheeling and fun, in a word a trip, and the Beatles surely endorsed that hedonistic call to arms from the barricades of the boulevard St Germain: “Sous les pavés, la plage” – ‘the beach is just beneath the cobblestones.’

12) And much else besides, but don’t ask me.

13) Altamont, less than four months later, is often viewed as the aborted child of Woodstock, when the hippie dream would finally succumb to the murderous blows of the Angels’ leaded billiard cues.

14 If anything significant occurs in the public sphere it is not so much an event per se, but a media event, soon confiscated from its protagonists and becoming mere spectacle.

15 This loss of the sense of place – more specifically, of our place – possibly accounts for the outbreaks of paranoia in social media and for the countless conspiracy theories that proliferate online.

16) Video cameras are so ubiquitous in modern cities that it is not uncommon for video cameras to film video cameras in a sterile mise en abyme of our modern reality.

17) The group’s manager sought to have it removed, but the car’s owner was away on holiday at the time.

18 John must have used too much shampoo that morning, and it looks like a heavily pregnant otter is squatting on his shoulders in lieu of his noddle.

19) The song was performed live before a television audience of 400 million and love, as Krishnamurti defined it, is PRESENCE.

20) Another happy accident. When Macmillan came to develop the pictures he’d taken earlier in the day he was annoyed to discover that the nameless girl had walked in front of his camera, but this was the shot that was chosen.

21) Adam Gopnik has written (in the wonderful anthology ‘In Their Life, Great Writers On Great Beatles Songs’) that the story of the Beatles “summed up… the decade’s surprising desire, which was not for revolution, but instead for renewed innocence.