BAREFOOT BAY – Paul Cole was in one of the most famous photographs of the 20th century, and yet he wasn’t famous.
Cole, a longtime Barefoot Bay resident, died Wednesday in Pensacola at age 96. He is clearly seen in the famous shot of the Beatles walking across London’s Abbey Road, used as the front cover of the group’s classic 1969 album, “Abbey Road.” Over the years, the picture has been reproduced in books, on posters, coffee mugs, T-shirts and hundreds of other places.
The retired salesman is standing on the sidewalk, just behind the Beatles. Gawking at them.
In a 2004 interview with Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers, Cole explained how he came to be there at that precise moment.
On a London vacation with his wife, Cole, then a resident of Deerfield Beach; declined to enter a museum on the north London thoroughfare.
“I told her, ‘I’ve seen enough museums. You go on in, take your time and look around and so on, and I’ll just stay out here and see what’s going on outside,'” he recalled.
Parked just outside was a black police van. “I like to just start talking with people,” Cole said. “I walked out, and that cop was sitting there in that police car. I just started carrying on a conversation with him. I was asking him about all kinds of things, about the city of London and the traffic control, things like that. Passing the time of day.”
In the picture, Cole is standing next to the police van.
It was 10 a.m., Aug. 8, 1969. Photographer Iain McMillan was on a stepladder in the middle of the street, photographing the four Beatles as they walked, single-file, across Abbey Road, John Lennon in his famous white suit, Paul McCartney without shoes. The entire shoot lasted 10 minutes.
“I just happened to look up, and I saw those guys walking across the street like a line of ducks,” Cole remembered. “A bunch of kooks, I called them, because they were rather radical-looking at that time. You didn’t walk around in London barefoot.”
About a year later, Cole first noticed the “Abbey Road” album on top of the family record player (his wife was learning to play George Harrison’s love song “Something” on the organ). He did a double-take when he eyeballed McMillan’s photo.
“I had a new sportcoat on, and I had just gotten new shell-rimmed glasses before I left,” he says. “I had to convince the kids that that was me for a while. I told them, ‘Get the magnifying glass out, kids, and you’ll see it’s me.'”
By Bill DeYoung
[Editor’s Note: Just think of how much money Mr. Cole would have made had he signed a contract for just .01 per article of merchandise that photo was used on!]
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