In the history of iconic music, so many decisions emerge as the result of total accidents. Longstanding plans are broken, courses are diverted, and even mistakes become ingrained into legend as genius choices. So much of the process relies on chance, that it's a wonder anything genius exists at all.
The Beatles themselves were no strangers to this process. When it comes to unforgettable landmarks and staples of English culture, most Americans know two things: Big Ben and Abbey Road.
But it wasn't always supposed to be this way. In fact, the working title for 'Abbey Road' was Everest, and the legendary cover was never in the plan at all. Why Everest? Because of Everest cigarettes, of course!
Engineer Geoff Emerick was always smoking Everests in the studio, and the band eventually took a liking to the stark image of their silhouettes against a white mountain. Everest became the working title of their then-unnamed eleventh album, which would feature such all-time classics as Come Together and Here Comes the Sun.
However, the Everest plan didn't last. By the time the album was finished, the band was not exactly thrilled to fly over to the Himalayas just for a single photograph.
John Kurlander, who was a sound engineer for The Beatles and on the first Lord of the Rings film, was quoted on the decision to change the album cover in a book called The Beatles Recording Sessions:
"It was around July, when it was very hot outside, that someone mentioned the possibility of the four of them taking a private plane over to the foothills of Mount Everest to shoot the cover photograph. But as they became more enthusiastic to finish the LP someone – I don't remember whom – suggested, 'Look, I can't be bothered to schlep all the way over to the Himalayas for a cover, why don't we just go outside, take the photo there, call the LP Abbey Road and have done with it?' That's my memory of why it became Abbey Road: because they couldn't be bothered to go to Tibet and get cold!"
I'm sure some alternate universe exists out there somewhere, where Abbey Road doesn't exist, and instead, gaggles of fans find themselves posing in the snow of Mount Everest to imitate the cover. That's probably the same alternate dimension where Princess Diana and JFK are still alive, and Russia wins the Cold War.
So, in the end, Abbey Road just so happened to be the nearest crosswalk available to the band outside of their studio. Young artists can take that as a blessing and a curse - chance and circumstance can make your work iconic, but it also leaves a lot up to the moment. You can never fully plan ahead.
However, there was a small degree of planning. Once the group decided that Nepal was out of the question, Paul McCartney sketched four stick figures striding along a zebra crossing, specifically the one on Abbey Road. The rest of the band members approved, and figured that it should be the album title as well.
Iain Macmillan snapped the photo on August 8, 1969, and the rest, as they say, is history.