Design: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Sgt. Pepperis probably one of the most recognizable album covers ever. On the Beatles 8th LP they decided to go all out and not only create ground-breaking music but to make the packaging and promotion just as unique. This was an era where an album cover was usually a shot of the band with some interesting type and not much more. They chose to hire ‘pop’ artist Peter Blake along with Art Director Robt. Fraser to design and conceive the packaging of their newest work. According to artist Peter Blake “In my mind I was making a piece of art rather than an album cover. It was almost a piece of theater design. I offered the idea that if they had just played a concert in the park, the cover would be a photograph of them with the group who had watched the concert. If we did this by using cardboard cutouts, it could be whomever they wanted.”It was left to the Beatles to decide who that audience would be. Each of the four Beatles was told to compile a list of people they admired, and their choices would all be featured on the album’s cover. Ringo, always the least pretentious of the four, declined right off the bat. Whoever the others wanted was okay with Ringo. John Lennon’s – being John (and a bit of a dick) came up with, among others,  Adolf Hitler and Mohandas Gandhi. Hitler was immediately nixed for obvious reasons. Incredibly, a paper cutout of Adolf Hitler was actually made and appears in some outtakes of the shoot.  Gandhi got the axe by EMI executives, believing it would hurt album sales in the region. George, of course, chose four Indian gurus. Bob Dylan was a clear choice by all the Beatles. Fred Astaire was a Paul choice. The legendary dancer was an easy sell and was reportedly delighted to be featured. However, several of the chosen figures gave EMI some trouble. Shirley Temple asked to hear the finished product produced before giving her consent (she’s on the cover but obscured). The Beatles all wanted Mae West to be on the cover, but she was apprehensive. “What would I be doing in a lonely heart’s club band?”. To placate the legendary sex symbol, all four Beatles wrote and signed a letter to Mae, and she finally agreed. 
Leo Gorcey of The Bowery Boys was chosen along with his comic side-kick Huntz Hall. Gorcey demanded the sum of $400.00 to appear and was denied. It is still easy to see where Gorcey was airbrushed out on the final cover. Huntz, proved more cooperative, and can be found hovering in the top row.

The oddest choice? probably Sonny Liston, the boxer who was twice defeated by Muhammad Ali. Liston had attended a Beatles concert that same year (1964), hated the boys, and was quoted as saying, “My dog drums better than that guy”. Most curious omission? Definitely Elvis Presley. Where’s the King? Elvis was one of all four Beatles’ supreme hero, especially in their early, formative years and no one really knows why he was forgotten.

Both the music and the artwork have weatherd nicely (though “When I’m 64” is even more sugary then it was 43 years ago).

Final Cover

Gatefold Interior

Alternative Gatefold

The Set – Note Hitler Cut-Out

The Beatles and a Kid

Before Airbrushing – Note Leo Gorcy, 3rd to the left of Dylan, top row right and Ghandi, above Dianna Dorrs wax figure – bottom right

The Wax Beatles (which is a great name for a band)

Lenny Bruce getting a touch-up

Behind the Scenes


Hitler next to Huey Long – A very tiny Bette Davis as Queen Elizabeth


Announcing the Release















Posted on August 17, 2012, in Graphic Design, Music, The Art of Packaging and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: