I try to avoid driving home through St John’s Wood.
Traffic always has to wait at the same spot while different groups of people cross the road.
They stop in the middle of the road and pose for a photograph.
It goes on seven days a week.
People come from all over the world to be photographed crossing the road at this spot.
Out of everywhere in the UK, what makes this particular spot unique?
It’s a zebra crossing.
But there more than ten thousand zebra crossing in the UK, why this one?
It’s because this zebra crossing was featured on the cover of the final Beatles album, and had them all walking across it.
For a photograph to be so iconic it must have taken them ages to think up the idea, right?
Nope, it took about thirty seconds.
By the time they made that album the Beatles were ready to break up, they were sick of each other and barely speaking.
But they had to come up with a name and an image for the album.
The sound engineer smoked Everest cigarettes so someone said let’s call it ‘Everest’.
Someone said “Yes and we can all go to Mount Everest for the photograph.”
No, that was obviously a problem.
Nobody wanted to travel to Nepal together just for a photograph.
Eventually Paul said let’s just name it after the studio: Abbey Road.
All we’ve got to do is walk outside and be photographed crossing the road.
There’s even a zebra crossing there.
And that’s what they did.
A policeman stopped the traffic for five minutes while they crossed the road.
A photographer on a stepladder took six pictures.
Paul picked number five, and that was that.
The cover and the image was done and the Beatles never had to see each other again.
But then people began reading things into the photograph.
The particular urban legend that grew out of it was that Paul was dead.
If you looked carefully at the photograph there were many different ‘proofs’.
One of the most convincing was that Paul was the only Beatle who was walking barefoot.
Everyone else had shoes: it clearly meant something ominous.
Except it didn’t.
After crossing the road once, Paul complained that his new sandals were hurting him.
The photographer offered to send for another pair of shoes.
Paul was so sick of the whole thing he just said “No, let’s just get it over with.”
So he took off his sandals and walked barefoot.
And the image became so iconic, people still travel from all over the world, nearly fifty years later, just to be photographed on that zebra crossing.
The crossing itself has been Grade II listed for “cultural and historical importance.”
And yet it didn’t take an entire strategic department to come up with it.
It didn’t take a creative department to perfectly execute it.
Proving that we aren’t in control of ideas as much as we think we are.
Ideas aren’t data driven: arrived at logically and scientifically.
Ideas don’t need trained sociologists.
In fact, often ideas don’t even happen in our heads.
Often they happen in the audience’s heads.