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Reference Library: Crossing Abbey Road

From: saki@evolution.bchs.uh.edu (saki)
Subject: Why does a Beatles fan cross the road?
Date: 8 Aug 1995 19:15:49 GMT
Keywords: Apply :-) as required

Well, this a big day, as all you fans of the "Abbey Road" cover should know.

It's 8 August. Just 26 years ago today, at 11:35am (previously reported to be 10am, but now corrected by accurate research), four guys crossed and re-crossed the "zebra crossing" (crosswalk) outside Abbey Road Studios. Thousands of fans have replicated this event since, at great personal peril---Abbey Road being a fairly busy boulevard.

Well, I thought it would be fun to replicate it myself, on the very *day* of the event...and better yet, to take off my sandals and walk a la mode de McCartney, as the French put it. Not only would this be a superb way to honor the artistic vision of those who engendered this photographic classic, but I could also assess, once and for all, just how blasted *hot* it might be on the pavement on a midsummer's day...thus to put to rest all those questions about why Macca would have walked barefoot across the street when everyone *knows* his feet would be uncomfortably seared (and thus strengthening the theory, held by some, that Macca's intent was beyond a desire for mere comfort... something to do with clues, as I've heard it told).

Now naturally the best plan is to do this at the actual street. Can't quite fathom why my request for an NSF grant to fly myself to England to study this conundrum was turned down flat---something about frivolity, foolishness, money wasted on non-serious scholarship.

Heavens. When was I ever *not* serious?

So lacking the ability to be at the actual site, I'm replicating it here, in Los Angeles, on the grounds of a major university, where I happened to locate a zebra crossing of the same approximate design and configuration as that crossing Abbey Road. I even made sure it was similarly oriented to the one in London. Now those of you cartographically inclined will point out to me that there is a slight difference in latitude for Los Angeles and London, and I can only agree. This will inevitably affect the heat absorption rate for asphalt (black and white portions) but will actually give us a better idea of how one could walk barefoot over a hot street...since, by simple logic, one must conclude that it would have been far more comfortable to walk in London, where the intensity of the summer sun is not so pronounced.

I have also taken pains to measure air temperature at the test site. Thanks to Jim Lyons' excellent research, we know that the high temperature in London on 8 August 1969 was 84 degrees...considered *quite* hot by London standards (though cool in the American southwest).

Remarkably, today at precisely 11:35am at the test site, the air temperature (measured by a device never known to deviate from an accurate rendering... and after all those years submerged in an aquarium, too) measured---84 degrees! A serendipitous happenstance!

Are you ready for the results?

Selecting the moment with care, at 11:35am and 34 seconds (as near as we can calculate the actual moment of Paul removing his sandals) I did the same, and launched forward across the street.

Speaking as objectively as possible, I can say without a doubt that the street surface was perceptibly more hot than the air temperature, and there was indeed a minimal pain factor if one lingered on the road (something McCartney did not do)...but if one crosses at a comfortable pace, one can very easily withstand the surface temperature and still have a pleasant stroll sans footwear. As Bob Stahley has pointed out in some of these debates, there is indeed a distinct temperature variation between the black asphalt and the white painted lines, but it is not a sufficent distinction to warrant more enhanced research, in my humble opinion (though the curious are welcome to try).

Frankly, there remains a great deal more scholarship to be done. A colleague has pointed out to me that some more accurate surface measurements could be done with advanced equipment, perhaps more accurately calibrated than the device used today. Another highly esteemed net denizen has suggested that McCartney may well have learned something other than meditation practices when in Rishikesh in early 1968; walking over hot coals may well have been a part of his daily regimen, and if so, it would seem to me that it remains to unearth the appropriate documentation to prove that this was McCartney's technique when traversing Abbey Road as well!

Truth to tell, I would be pleased to see Beatles fans (or certainly members of rec.music.beatles) celebrating *every* August eighth in just this fashion. Wouldn't that be a sight to behold? Hundreds if not thousands of people leaving their desks at 11:30, no matter where they might be in the world, and crossing barefoot over the nearest crosswalk? What better way to honor a day whose visual, artistic product remains iconographically burned (no pun intended) into the heated (no pun intended) consciousness of Beatles fans everywhere?

Or maybe we ought to just sit down and listen to "Abbey Road" itself, from start to finish, for the best possible experience of all. :-)

--
"Fads don't last, but it should be clear by now that
the Beatles are no ordinary fad."
----------------------------------------------------
saki@evolution.bchs.uh.edu


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