Beatlemania has returned to Abbey Road, 50 years on from the camera clicking on the image that would go on to become one of the most famous album covers ever created.
Tribute act Fab Gear followed in the footsteps of their heroes Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison to re-enact the iconic zebra crossing photograph as about 2,500 fans cheered them on.
Traffic stopped, musicians played and sang their favourite Beatles hits – and there was even a proposal of marriage from one of the Fab Four.
Such was the sense of occasion for lifelong Beatles fan Joe Kane, who performs as Paul, he decided to get down on one knee, right in the middle of the crossing, to pop the question to his now fiancee, Lindsay Humphreys.
“This is one of the best days of my life because The Beatles have been my favourite band since I was a kid and I learned to play music because of them,” he told Sky News. “To do this is incredibly special.
“We drove up and we were mobbed with photographers, which doesn’t happen every day. I’m still taking it in. As a Beatles fan, to be involved is just mind-blowing.
“And I proposed to my girlfriend and she said yes!”
Fans travelled from all over the world to mark the anniversary, with one man saying he had travelled on a plane for the first time to make the journey from Canada, while others from America, Mexico, Argentina, Japan and Australia also joined the crowds.
Ruben Mata, 39, made the Abbey Road pilgrimage with his parents Rodolfo and Dolores, all the way from Mexico City.
“This is my second time visiting but it is the first time for my father,” he said. “I’m a fan of The Beatles because of my father.
“Abbey Road is the best Beatles album and this is the most famous picture of them.”
Ray Atkins, who lives in nearby Queens Park, claimed he was there when the famous picture was taken 50 years ago.
Abbey Road was a lot quieter back then, he said – nothing like the busy tourist attraction it is now.
“I was working in Blenheim Terrace in a grocery shop, off-licence, nearby” he told Sky News. “I came down the road and they were just coming back on the crossing when I saw them. I didn’t give it that much thought at the time. It was just happening then, the ’60s. There was a lot going on.
“There wasn’t too many people around then. It wasn’t like it is today. I think it was done on the spur of the moment. I’ve met Paul McCartney, I’ve met Ringo Starr, they’re great guys.
“I was here and that’s why I’ve come today, to reminisce.”
Anthony Pellico and Peter McCoid, who travelled from Portland, Oregon, in the US, sang Beatles hits on the pavement as the crowd grew next to the crossing.
Members of the band Hot Company said they always play a few Beatles covers at their gigs.
“It’s timeless, it’s iconic,” Mr McCoid said of the Abbey Road cover. “The clothes they’re wearing, everyone’s got their own thing going on. It’s hard to put it into words. It’s just beautiful.”
“The Beatles are a cultural phenomenon,” Mr Pellico said. “We’re all here because they walked across a road and made it look cool. Every day people come here to take pictures of themselves walking across. You can’t overestimate the power of their music.”
David Minchin and Mervin Johns, who perform as George and Ringo in Fab Gear, said it was interesting to get just a small taste of Beatlemania as the crowds surrounded them.
“It gave me a strong sense of what it would have been like,” said Mervin. “For them it was real. To be in the middle of that must have been thrilling but frightening as well.”
“The Beatles are no longer but the music is forever, it brings happiness to the world,” said Mr Minchin. “And we’ve seen from the recent film, Yesterday, a world without The Beatles would have been a miserable world to be part of.
“For them to have survived it and stay such normal people and still create music years afterwards is an incredible indication of their talent and importance. To be inside it would have been a crazy thing. George Harrison used to say, ‘it wasn’t reality – the world went mad and we were normal’, and that’s sort of true. It’s incredible experiencing a small bit of that.”
While the anniversary saw huge numbers of people attempting to recreate the famous photo, staff at Abbey Road Studios say fans make the trip every day to say they have stood on the same spot.
Isabel Garvey, managing director of the studios, said of the album cover: “In principle it’s not that complicated a concept but I think it’s the visual language. It’s their last album walking away from the studios, so I think it’s about that point in time.”