Where’s Brando: Sgt. Pepper photo session anniversary remembered.

It seems that the photo session that produced the cover for the Sgt. Pepper’s album is celebrating an anniversary this week.  We can all heap superlatives on this one I suppose, iconoclastic, groundbreaking, innovative….the list could go on and on.  Not only was the music completely new, but the album artwork was innovative and envelope-pushing too.  All in all, the whole package managed to represent the apex of the psychedelic movement.  Even today it still is as impressive as ever.

Hopefully the folks at Apple have enough sense to celebrate the album’s 40th anniversary properly with a boxed-set remastered release this summer.  Time will tell. 

What do you think Apple will do with the Sgt Pepper anniversary with the remasters looming?  Give us your thoughts in the comments section.

Here’s what we’ve read.

It was (nearly) 40 years ago today. On the evening of March 30, 1967, four young musicians gathered with a large group of artists and assistants in a London studio to shoot a photograph for an album cover.

The album, to be called “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” would, of course, become synonymous with the creative revolution of the 1960s. The cover artwork, a photomontage of the Beatles posing for photographer Michael Cooper among a gallery of several dozen celebrities (“People We Like,” as the crew took to calling them) was itself a radical departure, with its elaborately designed “gatefold” layout, bonus insert, and printed song lyrics — the latter a first in pop.

Behind the real-life Beatles, who were dressed in candy-colored military-band costumes and sported newly cultivated mustaches, the “crowd” was actually made up of wax figures and cardboard cutouts of singers, actors, writers, artists, athletes, and critical thinkers — some of them (Marlon Brando, Bob Dylan) as familiar as the Beatles themselves, others (Bobby Breen?) now as obsolete as monaural recording.

The cover concept was originally conceived by Paul McCartney and London art dealer Robert Fraser as a tableau for a fictitious Salvation Army-style brass band. But in the hands of its designers, then-husband-and-wife Pop artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth (who ended up choosing more than half of the faces), it became a droll satire of celebrity and influence. While many of the famous figures in the gallery were heroes to the Beatles, others were chosen out of sheer, Beatlesque audacity. The group’s record company, EMI, rejected three of John Lennon’s suggestions — Jesus, Gandhi, and Hitler.

Inspired by Victorian-era composite photographs, Dada collage artists, and Pop artist Richard Hamilton’s surreal cut-and-paste suburban scenes, the “Sgt. Pepper” cover has become a visual touchstone. Haworth, now living in Utah, still has the Grammy she and her ex-husband shared for the graphic design: “I let the children play with it,” she says with a laugh. “The trumpet fell off, and the dog chewed on it. It’s been destroyed in an iconoclastic way.”

1. Sri Yukteswar Giri: Indian guru, one of four chosen for the cover by George Harrison.

2. Aleister Crowley: Notorious mystic, polymath, and drug user chosen, designer Jann Haworth says, by John Lennon.

3.Mae West: “What would I be doing in a lonely hearts club?” she reportedly joked. Ringo Starr appeared in her 1978 film “Sextette.”

4.Lenny Bruce: By 1967, the Beatles shared some of the late comic’s persecution complex.

5.Karlheinz Stockhausen: Avant-garde composer who (though chosen by McCartney) once credited Lennon as the crucial link between pop and “serious” music.

6.W.C. Fields: Wisecracking actor, apparently chosen by Peter Blake.

7.Carl Jung: Psychoanalyst who famously dreamed of “dirty, sooty” Liverpool (the Beatles’ hometown), where he discovers Self in the form of a blooming magnolia.

8.Edgar Allan Poe: Chosen by Lennon, who would soon write the line “Man you should have seen them kicking Edgar Allan Poe” (“I Am the Walrus”).

9.Fred Astaire: McCartney, a big fan, has said “Here, There and Everywhere” was inspired by “Cheek to Cheek.”

10.Richard Merkin: Self-proclaimed “literary painter” chosen by Haworth and/or Blake.

11.Vargas girl: Iconic pinup. Haworth now finds the cover’s preponderance of blond bombshells (and lack of other influential women) “scathing, terrible.”

12.Leo Gorcey (missing): Actor who starred in 1930s-’40s comedy-drama serials “Dead End Kids” and “Bowery Boys” asked for $400 for permission to use his image and was painted out.

13.Huntz Hall: Gorcey’s fellow actor in “Dead End Kids” and “Bowery Boys” series.

14.Simon Rodia: Immigrant construction worker who created the Watts Towers in Los Angeles.

15.Bob Dylan: The man who introduced the Beatles to marijuana.

16.Aubrey Beardsley: Influential Victorian-era illustrator whose work enjoyed a ’60s revival.

17.Sir Robert Peel: UK prime minister of 1830s and ’40s who reformed the police force.

18.Aldous Huxley: Author of “Brave New World,” advocated psychedelic drug use.

19.Dylan Thomas: The Welsh poet, who died in 1953. As a child, Lennon took comfort in stories about artists such as Thomas and van Gogh, who “seemed to see things other people didn’t see.”

20.Terry Southern: Novelist and satirist. Ringo starred in 1969 feature film of his novel “The Magic Christian.”

21.Dion: Besides Dylan, the onetime heartthrob was the only pop music figure in the gallery.

22.Tony Curtis: The actor, a family friend of the Haworths, inspired a generation of hairstyles in late ’50s England.

23.Wallace Berman: West Coast collage/assemblage artist chosen by designers Haworth and Blake.

24.Tommy Handley: BBC comedian of the Beatles’ childhood eulogized by the bishop of London for his “satire without malice.”

25.Marilyn Monroe: Famously sang “Happy Birthday” for JFK; contrary to popular belief, McCartney does not own the rights to the song.

26.William S. Burroughs: Experimental writer, influenced McCartney with his cut-up tape recordings.

27.Sri Mahavatara Babaji: Indian guru.

28.Stan Laurel: British-born comic actor, one half of the duo Laurel and Hardy.

29.Richard Lindner: “Mechanistic Cubist” painter chosen by the designers.

30.Oliver Hardy: Laurel’s comic partner.

31.Karl Marx: Though an avid reader of his work, Lennon was an uncertain revolutionary (“Don’t you know that you can count me out”).

32.H.G. Wells: Science fiction pioneer (“War of the Worlds,” “The Time Machine”) and utopian thinker.

33.Sri Paramahansa Yogananda: Harrison liked to give away copies of his “Autobiography of a Yogi.”

34.(Window dummy)

35.Stuart Sutcliffe: Ex-Beatle whose premature death haunted Lennon.

36.(Window dummy)

37.Max Miller: Risque comedian of McCartney’s beloved music hall era.

38.Petty girl: Like Vargas’s, George Petty’s pinup girls were World War II icons.

39.Marlon Brando: In “The Wild One,” the rival biker gang is called the Beetles.

40.Tom Mix: Early Western film star.

41.Oscar Wilde: Another of the artists who “suffered because of their visions,” as Lennon once told Playboy.

42.Tyrone Power: Hollywood star of the Beatles’ formative years.

43.Larry Bell: American sculptor who worked as a bouncer at the Unicorn in LA.

44.Dr. David Livingstone: Scottish explorer and African missionary.

45.Johnny Weissmuller: Movie Tarzan whose famous whoop preceded McCartney’s.

46.Stephen Crane: “Red Badge of Courage” author who died at 28 after living the last years of his life in England.

47.Issy Bonn: British comic and singer whose raised right hand just behind Paul’s head — an Eastern death symbol? — was seen as a clue to the rampant “Paul is dead” rumors.

48.George Bernard Shaw: Playwright, critic, socialist, vegetarian.

49.H.C. Westermann: American sculptor and printmaker, chosen by the designers.

50.Albert Stubbins: Midcentury English footballer whose best years were with Liverpool.

51.Sri Lahiri Mahasaya: Indian guru.

52.Lewis Carroll: Lennon, a big fan of the “Alice” author, took Carroll’s verse “The Walrus and the Carpenter” as inspiration for “I Am the Walrus.”

53.T.E. Lawrence: “Lawrence of Arabia” famously portrayed by Swinging Londoner Peter O’Toole.

54.Sonny Liston: Wax image of the former heavyweight champ, whose nemesis, the future Muhammad Ali, posed for photos with the Beatles.

55.Petty girl

56.George Harrison (wax): Wax images of the youthful Beatles were provided by Madame Tussauds, which threw in Liston and Diana Dors for good measure.

57.John Lennon (wax)

58.Shirley Temple (hidden behind wax Lennon’s left shoulder): First of three images of the child star (including the doll wearing the Rolling Stones jersey), a bit of overkill for which Haworth blames herself.

59.Ringo Starr (wax)

60.Paul McCartney (wax)

61.Albert Einstein (hidden behind real-life Lennon’s right shoulder): Scientific genius who said, “I live my daydreams in music.”

62.John Lennon: “Sgt. Pepper” outfits designed by Manuel Cuevas, who still sews flashy costumes in Nashville. He hardly remembers it: “I made a bunch of funny outfits for them,” he says.

63.Ringo Starr: Declined to make any suggestions and doesn’t recall the photo shoot — “I suppose I must have been there because I’m in the photograph,” he has said.

64.Paul McCartney: Originated the “Sgt. Pepper” concept; chose most of the showbiz celebrities.

65.George Harrison: “Within You Without You,” his sole contribution to “Sgt. Pepper,” reconfirmed his interest in Eastern philosophy.

66.Bobby Breen: Child star of the 1930s.

67.Marlene Dietrich: Once shared the stage at the Prince of Wales Theatre with young Beatles.

68.Mohandas Gandhi (blacked out).

69.Order of the Buffalos Legionnaire

70.Diana Dors: British Marilyn whose second husband was Richard Dawson.

71. Shirley Temple

Source: Boston


10 Responses

  1. Apple will do nothing for he 40th anniversary, for several reasons. For one, Paul does not need any influx of cash at the moment. Two, its APPLE. When have they ever seized on the perfect moment? Or done something right? How many of us are still waiting on that Badfinger box set?

  2. It really is a shame that the album most polls chose as the best of all time will not get its proper due for its 40th anniversary.
    That being said, here is my wish:
    A box set fearturing three versions, stereo, mono and 5.1
    A DVD including The Making Of Sgt Pepper 1-hour TV show, Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane videos contemporary interviews and the complete footage of the party surrounding the recording of A Day In The Life (portions shown on the Making of Pepper TV show).
    A full sized poster (in 3-D?) of the cover and list of people represented.

    I really don’t understand why this concept is a mystery to EMI and Apple.

  3. Oh how i would love a pepper’s box set! Would love for stereo, mono and 5.1 mixes along with a disk of outtakes (to show the creative process) -all beautifully packaged.

    What will we probably get…….mono/stereo mix.

  4. Why should anyone do anything for Sgt Pepper? It wasn’t even their best album, let alone the “groundbreaking, etc…” some people claim it to be. Rubber Soul and Revolver were far more ahead the times in which they were released. While I admit that I do like it, very much, it falls far short of Pet Sounds, Blonde on Blonde, and even Between the Buttons.

  5. A digital remaster of Sgt. Pepper and re-release would be great!

  6. I was just wondering how long it will take for the folks at EMI/Abbey Road to realise the anxiety of a whole generation waiting to be fulfilled with a complete remastered Beatles catalogue… I am so sorry theses guys are so blind and all of us, in a sense, orphans…
    It is amazing that many other minor LPs were remixed and remastered with the new and improved existing technology and the most important band and music of all time were left apart… man, what a shame.

  7. […] George Harrison of the Beatles was a devotee of Yogananda, and Yogananda’s image appears on the cover of the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band [1]. Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya and Swami Sri Yukteswar, other gurus in Yogananda’s lineage, are also on the album cover. [2] Autobiography of a YogiHarrison liked to give away copies of his “Autobiography of a Yogi.” [3] […]

  8. Hi! i´ve seen diferent pictures of that photo session and i noticed that there are two more people behind George Harrison.Anybody knows who are they?

    • Behind George stand Timothy Carey as Niki Arcane from Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Killing’ and Bette Davis as Queen Elizabeth in ‘The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex’

  9. This post is actually the best on this deserving topic. I concur with your conclusions and will eagerly look forward to your coming updates. Saying thanks will not just be adequate, for the wonderful lucidity in your writing. I will immediately grab your rss feed to stay informed of any updates. Impressive work and good luck in your writing!

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