From the 1960s to the 1980s, Robert Landau photographed the rock and roll billboards over Los Angeles's famed Sunset Strip, images collected in his book Rock ’n’ Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip. Over at Collectors Weekly, Hunter Oatman-Stanford interviews Landau as the photographer prepares for a large exhibit of his work opening later this month at L.A.'s Skirball Cultural Center.
Landau quoted in Collectors Weekly:
When “Abbey Road” came out in 1969, there were all these rumors going around that Paul McCartney was dead. People were playing their records backward, looking for clues, and even claimed that the image on the cover of “Abbey Road” was like a funeral procession. Realizing this helped sell records, the Beatles didn’t do anything to squelch the rumors. They just let it fly. At some point, while that billboard was up on Sunset, a couple of kids got up there with a saw and cut Paul’s head off the billboard.
At the time, Foster and Kleiser called Capitol Records, and their art director was a guy named Roland Young. Young went out to look at it and he said, “You know what, just leave it like that, it’s going to get more attention.” And in fact, it did. There were pictures in the papers all over the world. Nobody was too upset that the head went missing.
When my book came out, I posted on my Facebook page, “I’ll give a free copy of the book to anyone who could tell me what happened to Paul’s head.” The next day, I get a call from a guy named Robert Quinn, who is in his 60s now, and on his 16th birthday, he had climbed up there and cut the head off. He still has it hanging in his living room somewhere in the San Fernando Valley.