John Kosh, the Beatles’ in-house art director with their Apple Records company, recalled a phone call in which he was told he was going to “destroy” the band with his Abbey Road sleeve design.

The angry message came from Sir Joseph Lockwood, boss of E.M.I., who’d just discovered that the LP was going to press without the band name or title on the front cover.

Abbey Road replaced Let It Be on the Beatles’ release schedule just two days before it was set to be manufactured. “We had a deadline,” Kosh told Rolling Stone in a new interview. “We had to go to press and the album was late and you just had to deal with it.” He made the decision that the cover photo, featuring the band members on the zebra crossing of Abbey Road in London, could speak for itself. “We thought, if you didn’t know the Beatles by now, where have you been?” he explained, adding that the band had all approved the idea.

However, Lockwood didn’t share their confidence – he called Kosh at home late at night. “I heard a string of invectives that was stunning. He was saying I would destroy the Beatles because I didn’t put their name on the cover and no one would buy the album. I was shivering after that call.”

Next morning, he told George Harrison about the exchange, but Harrison told him not to worry and the album was released as Kosh had designed it. One of the side-effects was that the image of Paul McCartney without shoes helped fuel the rumor that he’d died and been replaced by a lookalike. Kosh said he was in the Apple offices when an executive called McCartney in France to check that he was still alive – only to receive the response: “Fuck off.”

 

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