At 11:30am Thursday, four long haired men tried to do what many music fans have done for decades: cross a London street made famous by a band from Liverpool.
One man was barefoot and held a cigarette in his fingers. Another sported round spectacles and was dressed entirely in white. A third wore a double-denim outfit, and the fourth flaunted a colorful scarf over a black suit.
But they were not alone: Hundreds of people surrounded them to commemorate the moment when, 50 years ago, four other long haired men crossed that same street and were immortalised in one of the most imitated music photos ever made: the album cover for the Beatles' Abbey Road.
"We are all here because they crossed a sidewalk and made it look cool," said Peter McCoid, a 22-year-old musician from Oregon, adding that one word characterized both the photograph and the band's music: timeless.
"The picture is iconic, timeless," he said, even in respect to the clothes the Beatles wore that day. "Everybody's got their own thing going," he added.
Abbey Road Studios, the nearby recording studio where John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr recorded almost 200 of the Beatles' songs, retold the story of how its most famous photo came to be, crediting the man who took it.
"A policeman held up the traffic as photographer Iain Macmillan took six shots of the group walking across the zebra crossing just outside the studio," the studio said in an anniversary tweet.
50 years ago today, @TheBeatles gathered at EMI Studios for one of the most prolific photoshoots of their career. A policeman held up the traffic as photographer Iain Macmillan took six shots of the group walking across the zebra crossing just outside the studio. #AbbeyRoad pic.twitter.com/ROgV1SE9d4— Abbey Road Studios (@AbbeyRoad) August 8, 2019
It also shared a photo of a page from the diary of Mal Evans, the band's road manager and personal assistant, in which Evans had written that he got to the location at 9:45am August 8, 1969.
"Ringo first at 10:15 with the others arriving just after eleven," he had written in his diary, drawing a photo of the musicians crossing below.
Fifty years later, fans of all ages and nationalities exuded joy on both sides of the street, taking photos outside the studio and at arguably the most famous crosswalk in the world (and likely the most famous "zebra crossing" in Britain). Many wore Beatles merchandise, hummed the band's songs or dressed in clothing more stylish in the summer of '69 than 2019.
McCoid, the American musician, left the West Coast for the first time for the anniversary, traveling with Anthony Pellico, his 23-year-old bandmate and one of the musicians who took out a guitar and played a few Beatles tunes from the album, including Golden Slumbers and Carry That Weight.
"It's for the Beatles today," Pellico told the fans and journalists who gathered to hear him sing.
Jamie Tait, a 43-year-old stage technician, took a photo at a pop-up version of the Abbey Road crosswalk set up in a parking lot nearby: a printout of the original photo without the four Beatles. Tait took his socks and shoes off for the picture, imitating McCartney — whose barefoot appearance in the photo was so famous that it inspired a Beatles conspiracy theory in which the photo supposedly re-created a funeral procession for a dead McCartney.
(McCartney, alive and 77, released a chart-topping album last year.)
Tait said Thursday that he felt emotional. "Not many physical landmarks remain," he said, adding that the band's music still resonates with so many people because of their artistic prowess and unpretentious persona.
"They were as good as Mozart, geniuses but also normal, common people who appealed to the man or woman on the street," he said.
Linda Sondell, 18, and Nicole Hedenborg, 19, who met through a Beatles fan club Facebook page, traveled from Sweden to be at Abbey Road on Thursday. They said the experience did not disappoint.
"It's wonderful; I've never been to anything like this before," Hedenborg said. "It's such a big community feeling; we have made so many new friends," Sondell added.
The celebrations, however timeless, were not immune to Britain's current heated political climate. The jovial mood was briefly interrupted when some protesters against Britain's exit from the European Union showed up with posters that featured lyrics of the Beatles and the bloc's blue-and-gold flag.
"We are here today to celebrate the message of unity, peace, of everyone being together, that the Beatles passed through their songs," said a protester, Lydia McKinnon, a 57-year-old writer from Winchester, about 60 miles southwest of London.
The brief demonstration displeased some fans, including Karen Donn, 51, who said that she had voted for Brexit and that the protest was "disgraceful."
"Today is about the Beatles; it has nothing to do with the EU," she said.
But soon a couple of musicians started singing another "Abbey Road" classic — Come Together — and it was again all about the music and a band that, almost half a century after its members parted ways, still draws crowds from every corner of the world.
Steve Rankine, a 63-year-old construction manager, and his wife flew to London from Canada for the 50th anniversary.
"You need to do something foolish or erratic once in your life," Rankine said, adding that he had been thinking about doing this for the last decade, ever since missing the 40th anniversary.
At that gathering, Hiran de Silba had to borrow another man's guitar to play a few Beatles tracks. This time de Silba, 66, brought his own and then let another man play it for a few songs. On Thursday, he described the music as essential to everyone.
"The Beatles are like bread," he said. "The Beatles are like oxygen."
Written by: Iliana Magra
© 2019 THE NEW YORK TIMES