Abbey Road: 40 Years - 40 Imitations

That unforgettable image of John, Paul, George and Ringo crossing a north London street is still inspiring artists to follow in their famous footsteps. Paul Bignell reports

It was 40 years ago (almost) today that the Beatles took the short jaunt, hastily captured on film, that spawned one of the most famous and celebrated record covers of all time.

More than 12 million album sales later, Abbey Road's famous cover picture (and indeed some of its songs) has – as you can see here – spawned dozens of imitations around the world.

Beatles fans are preparing to celebrate the album, with thousands expected to make a pilgrimage to the zebra crossing that John, Paul, George and Ringo bestrode outside the Abbey Road recording studios on 8 August 1969.

It's hardly a long and winding road: more a few yards of black and white tarmac in a nondescript north London high street. Photographer Ian Macmillan, who died in 2006, recalled that he had spent only 10 minutes up a stepladder snatching a handful of pictures of the band.

But it was a 22-year-old Londoner, John Kosh, Abbey Road's creative director, who made the final decision to use the particular image that has since become famous around the world. Speaking from his home in Los Angeles yesterday, he said: "It was a bit of a panic actually: EMI needed an album cover on Wednesday and it was Monday.

"My main claim to fame was insisting that we didn't need to write 'the Beatles' on the front cover – because they were the most famous band in the world. The record label were totally devastated. They said: 'We'll never sell any albums if you don't tell us who the band is.' But I got away with it."