While it was well-known that The Beatles recorded most of their music at EMI Studios in Abbey Road, the release of the album made the building, and the street on which it stands, world famous. In the early 1970s the company officially changed the studio’s name to Abbey Road Studios, to acknowledge the legacy bestowed upon it by The Beatles.
The zebra crossing outside the studio, too, is a favourite destination for tourists, with countless photographs being taken of fans following in The Beatles’ footsteps. A webcam was later installed to give fans outside London a chance to see the crossing at any time.
The artwork has been much-mimicked and parodied in the years since Abbey Road’s release, by musicians including Booker T and the MGs, Kanye West, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. In 1993 Paul McCartney even adapted the original artwork for his album Paul Is Live.
The sleeve of Paul Is Live was adapted by CGI artist Erwin Keustermans. In place of The Beatles was Paul McCartney with his dog Arrow – whose mother was Martha, the inspiration for the 1968 song ‘Martha My Dear’.
Another key difference was the numberplate on the VW Beetle, which was changed from LMW 28IF to 51 IS – a reference to McCartney being alive and well, and aged 51 at the time of the album’s release.
Advance orders in the UK were more than 190,000. The album entered the UK albums chart at number one on 4 October, and remained there for 11 consecutive weeks. It spent a further six weeks at the top from 27 December, having briefly been displaced by The Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed, and spent a total of 81 weeks in the charts.
Abbey Road was the UK’s best-selling album of 1969, the eighth highest-selling of 1970, and the fourth highest-selling of the entire 1960s.
In the US it débuted at number 178, then climbed the following week to number four, before topping the chart in its third week on sale. It spent 11 non-consecutive weeks at number one, and was in the top 200 for 83 weeks until May 1971. It was America’s fourth best-selling album of 1970.
In the first six weeks four million copies of Abbey Road were sold worldwide, with a further million by the end of 1969. It was the first Beatles album to sell more than 10 million copies, a milestone which was passed in 1980.
A double a-side single, ‘Something’/‘Come Together’, was released in the US on 6 October, and in the UK on 31 October. It was the first time a song by George Harrison received top billing on a Beatles single.
In America it was common practice to count sales and airplay of a- and b-sides separately, allowing both sides of a single to chart separately. Both songs were popular, which threatened The Beatles’ chances of topping the charts, but from 29 November the Billboard chart compilers began combining both sides.
As a result the single topped the chart for a week; converseley, on the Cash Box chart, which counted the songs separately, ‘Something’ peaked at number two, while ‘Come Together’ topped the chart for three weeks.
In the United Kingdom it was the first Beatles single to feature songs already available on an album. The group had previously avoided this, believing it represented poor value for money. The arrival at Apple of Allen Klein changed this, and the release was a brazen attempt to bring in more money for the group and their company.
Such a move was evidently unpopular with record buyers: the single peaked at number four in the UK, and spent 12 weeks on the charts.