THE Beatles are the most recognised bands of all time. You would be hard pressed to find someone who hadn’t heard of them or didn’t know at least one of their songs.
Their Abbey Road album cover is probably the image that comes to mind when most people think of the band and it turns out this iconic picture may also hold the best photo bomb of all time.
Die hard fans were able to pick out a number of small details that may have gone unnoticed in a less-famous shot, like Paul McCartney not wearing any shoes, the VW Beetle parked on the street with the license plate LMW 281F and, perhaps most mysterious, the shadowed man standing in the background.
Once this detail came to light a number of people came forward claiming they were the mystery man in the photo.
It is difficult to say with complete certainty who we should be applauding for pulling off the world’s best photo bomb, but most people believe it was an American tourist named Paul Cole.
Mr Cole was tracked down by reporters years after the release of the Abbey Road album, revealing that he wound up in the background of the shoot by complete chance.
In a 2004 interview with the Daily Mirror, Mr Cole said he was standing on the street waiting for his wife to finish exploring a museum.
“‘I’ve seen enough museums. I’ll just stay out here and see what’s going on outside’,” he recalled telling her.
“I like to just start talking with people. I walked out, and that cop was sitting there in that police car. I just started carrying on a conversation with him.”
The band had hired a policeman to block traffic while they completed the photo shoot, with the whole thing taking roughly 10 minutes, according to the photographer Iain Macmillan.
“I took a couple of shots of the Beatles crossing Abbey Road one way. We let some of the traffic go by and then they walked across the road the other way, and I took a few more shots.”
He said the photo that was eventually chosen was number five of six, the only one that had their legs in a perfect ‘V’ formation.
With all the planning that went into the photo the idea that Mr Cole just stumbled into the back ground is amazing.
“I just happened to look up, and I saw those guys walking across the street like a line of ducks,” Mr Cole said.
“A bunch of kooks, I called them, because they were rather radical-looking at that time. You didn’t walk around in London barefoot.”
What is almost as astonishing is Mr Cole, aka photo bombing professional, had no idea who they were until six months later when he was back home in America.
“My wife used to play the organ and a couple wanted her to play a song off the album at their wedding,” he said.
“I saw the album and I recognised myself right away. I had a new sports jacket on and I’d just bought new shell-rimmed glasses. I said to my children, ‘get a magnifying glass out and you’ll see me’.”
Ironically, Mr Cole said he has never even listened to the album and “couldn’t name a single song”.
He died in 2008 aged 98 and there is still speculation around whether he really was the “mystery man” in the famous photo. But it is pretty safe to say, whoever it is, it is going to be hard to top that photo bomb.