LONDON — Mark Kramer is a huge Beatles fan. Just hours after stepping off his overnight flight from Florida to London, he is not bleary-eyed but brimming with energy as he savors his time at the world’s best-known pedestrian crossing.
Beside the streaks of white paint that mark the zebra crossing on Abbey Road — a site protected since 2010 for its cultural and historical importance — he rattles off Beatles facts, talks about the band’s musical journey and grows ever more excited.
Kramer, 40, is here because of “Abbey Road,” the seminal album the band released on Sept. 26, 1969 — 50 years ago Thursday.
Named after the street where it was recorded, it got mixed critical reviews but was an immediate commercial hit, topping the charts in the U.K. for 17 weeks and the U.S. for 11, and selling 4 million copies in six weeks.
It would prove to be the last studio album the group made together (“Let it Be,” which came out in 1970, had already been recorded), as John Lennon had broken the news to his fellow band members that he was leaving shortly before its release.
To mark the special occasion, an anniversary edition of “Abbey Road” will be re-released on Friday.
Produced by Giles Martin, whose father, George, was the Beatles’ friend and producer, it will contain out-takes and additional material.
Giles Martin said his father thought that “Abbey Road” would be the group’s final album.
“I think they (The Beatles) knew things were changing,” he said. “I think they were looking for a way out and they had all become more individual. Because creative people want to be creative and they all wanted to do different things.”
The otherwise unremarkable tree-lined street in the upscale London neighborhood of St. John’s Wood lends its name to the 1969 album.
Half a century on, “Abbey Road” continues to grip music lovers the world over.
Tourists from Puerto Rico, Italy, the Philippines and the U.S. mill around the crossing.
Most of them seize the opportunity to walk out into the street to try to recreate the famous album cover — one suspects to the annoyance of the drivers whom they keep waiting.
But the much-loved photograph of the four band members strolling across the road — taken from a stepladder by Iain Macmillan, a friend of Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono — might never have happened.
The album was originally going to be called “Everest,” after a brand of cigarettes. If it had been, tourists would now have a very different journey on their hands.
Richard Porter, a mega-fan who has run tours called “London Beatles Walks” since 1992 and has met every Beatle except Lennon, knows Abbey Road better than most.
On his weekly tours, which have spiked this year because of the anniversary celebrations, he has witnessed members of his group propose to their partners mid-crossing — so far to 100% success.
He has also seen people lie down in the middle of the road and others walk across naked, as the Red Hot Chili Peppers on the cover of their “Abbey Road EP.”
One of the guide’s favorite stories involves a North Korean tourist who had managed to defect to South Korea, where he discovered the Beatles and got hooked.
“When he got to Abbey Road he just burst into tears — it was too much for him. (It was) the symbol of freedom I suppose,” Porter said.
“Abbey Road is the place that everybody wants to see. … You can’t do a Beatles tour in London without seeing Abbey Road.
“It’d be like doing the royal tour and not doing Buckingham Palace.”