Return To Feature Stories

Abbey Road Brush Off


United States poster companies have airbrushed the classic Beatles Abbey Road album cover to remove a cigarette from Paul McCartney's hand.

The move was made without the permission of either McCartney or Apple Records, which owns the rights to the image.

The original copy shows a barefoot McCartney third in line on the famous road crossing holding a cigarette.

But politically correct US poster companies have airbrushed out the offending cigarette, to the delight of anti-smoking campaigners.

"We have never agreed to anything like this," said an Apple spokesman. "It seems these poster companies got a little carried away. They shouldn't have done what they have, but there isn't much we can do about it now."

All of the Beatles were heavy smokers during the 1960s and 70s.

The 1969 image has been a poster classic since it was taken near Abbey Road studios in north London, where the group recorded most of their music.

The shot is one of pop's most controversial album covers.

Photographer Iain Macmillan was given just ten minutes to take the picture outside the studios.

This poster from seems to be missing something.

He balanced on a stepladder and took six photographs of the four walking across a zebra crossing.

It was McCartney who selected the cover shot. He had, in fact, come up with the original idea for the sleeve and had presented Macmillan with a sketch for it.

A myth suggesting that Paul McCartney had died in a car crash and been replaced by a look-a-like grew up around the picture soon after it was released.

Clues could supposedly be found in the image.

The white-suited John Lennon symbolised the preacher heading the funeral procession, while the bare-footed McCartney was the corpse.

According to the rumours, proof positive of the impostor theory was the fact that Paul was holding a cigarette in his right hand, despite being left-handed.

This is not the first time that a cigarette has been airbrushed from Paul's hand. In the 30th Anniversary Reissue of "I Want To Hold Your Hand" in 1984, the cigarette that Paul is holding on the cover sleeve is magically gone.

The picture sleeve to "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was the first Beatles picture sleeve, even though other companies had released singles prior to its release. There are no authentic picture or title sleeves to "Please Please Me" (Vee Jay 498) or "From Me to You" (Vee Jay 522).

The Original Cover

The 1984 ReIssue



Return To Feature Stories


Please Send E-Mail

Abbey Road Brush Off is a creation of
The Beatles On Abbey Road
The Beatles On Abbey Road
Return To Main Page