By Paris Foster
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was The Beatles’ eighth studio album and was released on May 26th, 1967. As a precursor to the youth movement known as the Summer of Love, this album explored many psychedelic themes continuing from their last acclaimed album, Revolver.
A full breakdown of this incredibly influential album would stretch through far too many pages appropriate for an article, so instead, a breakdown of the album cover art will be given. It speaks volumes on the conceptual nature of the record and is regarded as some of the best art to grace a cover in the history of vinyl.
First off, the creators of the cover. Pop artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth sought to encapsulate The Beatles’ signature charm and surreal humor with 60’s epithets and hippy imagery. Recalling the concept, Blake explained how he “offered the idea that if they had just played a concert in the park, the cover could be a photograph of the group just after the concert with the crowd who just watched the concert, watching them.”
This idea quickly came into fruition after Blake requested The Beatles make lists of characters dead, alive, famous, or obscure to put in the foreground of the cover. Hilariously, John gave a list, as did Paul. George suggested only Indian gurus- around six of them, and Ringo said, “whatever the others say is fine by me.” This was certainly an insight into the loveable personas of the fab four.
All kinds of people were suggested. Lennon, never one to shy away from some controversy, included Hitler, Jesus, and Gandhi in his lists. Interestingly, a cutout of Hitler is present in the photograph, however, it is heavily obscured behind the band; Jesus was never implemented, as it had only been a year since Lennon’s controversial statement regarding The Beatles as “more popular than Jesus.”
Gandhi was also left out due to fear that the record would then be scrutinized in India. Here are just some of the estranged selection of characters- Top Row: Bob Dylan, Edgar Allan Poe, Aleister Crowley. Second Row: Marylin Monroe, William Burroughs, James Joyce. Third Row: “a pretty girl”, Marlon Brando, Lawrence of Arabia, Oscar Wilde. Front Row: Wax models of The Beatles, The Beatles (decked out in Sgt. Pepper big band gear), Shirley Temple, Albert Einstein.
The Cover went on to win a grammy and the photograph holds the record for being the most expensive ever done, weighing in at about $75,000 dollars in modern-day money.
Besides the abominable cost, the cover acts as a nexus between high art and pop music that transcends its value on paper. Moreover, the “magic crowd” that was ingeniously envisioned acts as a pop-cultural buoy for which The Beatles use to elevate themselves as more than just a Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The Beatles were already hugely famous, but with this album, their status was likened to that of arguably, Jesus. Nevertheless, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band will forever hold a special seat amongst all music, album covers, and art in general.
Featured Image by Peter Blake and Jann Haworth