40 years ago, the world's best-known rock festival was being planned when on the other side of the Atlantic, a photo-shoot was taking place that would give us one of best-known pictures in pop culture. (Also in the Times)
I have never really found a satisfactory answer as to why so many people are drawn to this photograph. (It remains one of the most parodied photographs.) To be clear, I am talking about its composition and the story it tells us.
Maybe I should try and remember why I fell in love with this image.
Was there an air of mystery about it when I first saw it? It is, in a away, a shot of a group of men marching toward a fantastic journey into the future.
There were all the obvious questions: why are they all dressed so differently? Where are Paul's shoes? Who are those people in the background? Could they have known this would be the band's final album?
Maybe it was the composition (Photography/art geeks: feel free to chip in with your own ideas). A converging point in the background and the subjects walking, not toward the convergence, but across the frame, defying some rule. That's what rock bands are supposed to do: defy rules, and this band, more than any other, defied nearly ever rule in the book even as they wrote them.
Another aspect of the cover that makes it interesting to me, composition-wise, is that it is a realistic picture (unlike, say, Revolver) and shows one of the most gifted teams in music in simple, bright and cheerful light, that seems to harmonize well with the music inside.
But you also realize, upon hearing the album several times, that it hides more complexities than "Sgt. Pepper", which has a busier, cluttered, pop-obsessed cover photo. That contrast creates an element of surprise.
Such a simple cover, it's practically the opening line of a joke or an absurd play. Four men are crossing the street. Thirty minutes later, nothing happens. The love you take is equal to the love you make. The end.