Category Archives: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

The 50th Anniversary Box Set of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” – a set I didn’t think I needed.

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The deluxe 50th anniversary box set of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” with all the ‘goodies’.

It seems I’ve been writing a lot about “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” since it’s 50th anniversary on June 1st. In March, I heard about the projected release of an upgraded version of the stereo version of the album together with a variety of previously unreleased alternative takes of the songs (including “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane“, which had not been included on the final album) on double vinyl, double CD and a four CD, Blu-ray and DVD box set which included a 144-page LP-sized book, and 2 posters as well as a reproduction of the original cutout from the LP.

I decided that I already had the original LP (actually TWO copies) and didn’t think I needed to shell out £30 for the double LP or over £100 for the box set as I am not particularly interested in hearing alternate takes. And I felt I didn’t need to listen to a third re-mastering of the original, though I listened to the new stereo version on Spotify and definitely heard a new, clearer mix. My main interest in “Sgt. Pepper” extends to the cover design.

But on a visit to my favourite record store I saw a copy of the box. What first caught my eye and made me take it off the shelf was the lenticular version of the cover image, which made it appear three dimensional. Now, that was a version of Peter Blake’s & Jann Haworth’s cover that I hadn’t seen before. Then, on opening the clamshell inner box I found what I thought was a copy of the LP–but the box clearly stated that it didn’t include the LP only 4 CDs, a Blu-ray and a DVD. There were three posters and the book which had a chapter devoted to the story of how the cover came about. Now, THAT did interest me. So I decided I’d try it and the offer of a 10% discount clinched the deal!

When I got home, I removed the plasticwrap from the LP sized album and from the book. On opening the gatefold I saw the CDs, Blu-ray and DVD were housed in separate LP-style covers. Only when I started to upload the CDs onto my computer did I notice that each CD had a different version of the classic “Sgt. Pepper” photo, with the Beatles in different poses in front of the Blake/Haworth montage.

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Four different variations on the original “Pepper” cover. The one at top left is is the standard photo.

The book tells Paul McCartney’s version of how the cover art came to be. He tells that he had the idea of the “Sgt. Pepper” theme while on a flight back from America. He says that Mal Evans asked for him to pass the salt and pepper and he misheard it as Sgt. Pepper, which immediately inspired him to create an alter ego for The Beatles. He says that he mad some sketches for a possible cover scene and took them to his friend, gallery owner Robert Fraser, who proposed Peter Blake and Jann Haworth as artists to realise his ideas.

There is no mention of John Lennon’s discussions with design group “The Fool”, though the chapter ends with an interview with Marijke Koger who tells of the visits by The Beatles to their home, which inspired them to commission a design for the planned “Sgt Pepper” album cover. However, only The Fool’s design for the red, pink and white inner sleeve was used.

I have also now listened to the re-mastered stereo version included in the set as well as the original mono version. There really is a new clarity in the stereo version. But–I have lived with the original stereo version for just over 50 years and it still remains the one I probably will listen to on vinyl.

Anyway, no I can add the lenticular cover of the Blake/Haworth design and the alternative Michael Cooper photos of the “Sgt. Pepper” set to my cover collection.

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Some Record Covers Influenced by the Sgt. Pepper Cover.

The 50th anniversary of the release of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” has caused considerable interest in various aspects of what came to be called “the summer of love”; 1967’s glorious pop year. It was also the time of “Swinging London” and Carnaby Street’s first heyday.

That the cover of the “Sgt. Pepper” album would become a classic had been foreseen by Beatles manager Brian Epstein who wanted a “proper” artist to design the cover rather than the original psychedelic ideas suggested by fashion designers The Fool. From an idea by Paul McCartney via his friend and gallery owner Robert Fraser, Peter Blake and Jann Haworth were recruited and with some input from Jann’s father, Ted, the couple set to work.

It didn’t take long for the first of many pastiches of the cover art to appear. The Mothers of Invention’s album “We’re Only in It for the Money” released in March 1968, was one of the earliest. Frank Zappa wanted the cover (designed by Cal Schenkel) to be a copy of the “Sgt. Pepper” cover and asked Paul McCartney for approval. Apparently McCartney wished that Zappa’s and The Beatles’ mangers discussed the suggestion. Zappa went ahead but Verve Records, who would release the album, would not allow Schenkel’s copy of the “Sgt. Pepper” montage to appear on the front so the band’s portrait, photographed against a yellow background became the outside of the gatefold.

The lyrics, printed against a similar red background to those on the “Sgt. Pepper” cover appeared on the inside of the gatefold opposite Schenkel’s montage.

Release of “We’re Only in It for the Money” was delayed five months because of the record company’s anxiety over a possible infringement of copyright. In the event there was no reaction as the front cover only revealed four band members.

There have been innumerable pastiches of the “Sgt. Pepper” cover since the Mothers of Invention’s album; ranging from albums by the Muppets and Simpsons to more “serious” artist like The Ruttles. An Internet search turns up literally hundreds. Probably only the cover photo from The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” has been copied/parodied more often.

My collection includes only three pastiches of the (probably) hundreds out there, collected because of their originality (and possibly rarity). The oldest, from 1969, is Jack O’Reilly’s “You Can Be a Ventriloquist” (subtitled “Constable O’Rourke’s Wooden Hearts Club Band“, just so that no one would miss the reference to “Sgt. Pepper“). An instructional album that was probably privately pressed and thus in relatively limited numbers. O’Reilly went to inordinate expense to put together a background of forty ventriloquists’ dummies for the cover photograph.
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The second example is a Japanese album by Jun Fukamachi called (not so strangely) “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band“. Fukamachi plays several of the “Sgt. Pepper” songs rendered as jazz tunes. I like the cover for the idea of reversing the whole scene. It must have taken weeks to paint!

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The cover of Jun Fukamachi’s “Sgt. Pepper” album painted by Fumio Tamabuchi.

And the final parody that I have collected is another Japanese release–Junichi Masuda’s “Pokèmon” LP from 2015. This is an unoffical release on the Moonshake record label. Masuda, who is programmer and director at Pokèmon also makes the music to video games. The “Pokèmon” album was released in several versions. The “standard” album came in four variations of coloured vinyl housed in a cover that is a parody of the “Sgt. Pepper” design.

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The Cover of Junichi Masuda’s “Pokèmon” LP. A just recognisable “Sgt. Pepper “pastiche.

Oh, and I have been guilty of plagiarism, too. In 2009 I curated an exhibition of Peter Blake’s record cover art at Piteå Museum. Together with my friends at In the Cold bureau we designed a cover for the exhibition catalogue, of course modelling it on the “Sgt. Pepper” design, but with all the artists that Blake had made record covers for.

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The catalogue cover for the “Pop Art” Exhibition of Sir Peter Blake’s record cove art at Piteå Museum, July 22nd–August 31st 2009.

In 2010, I showed my collection of Peter Blake’s record covers at the A and D Gallery in London, and Sir Peter Blake signed m catalogue. I wonder if it didn’t inspire him to produce his 2012 update of the Sgt. Pepper cover…

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Vintage Blake–a limited edition print by Sir Peter Blake to celebrate his 80th Birthday in June 2012.

I don’t have this print, though it would make a nice addition to my collection of Sir Peter Blake’s record cover art.

Anyway, I really hope I won’t be tempted to buy any more “Sgt. Pepper” pastiches.

 

 

It Was Fifty Years Ago Tomorrow…

This is a year of musical anniversaries. One could say 1967 was the year popular music became ART – in capital letters. Seminal albums by The Velvet Underground, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, The Who, The Doors, Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band, The Jefferson Airplane and Traffic to name just a few of my favourites were released that year, but none had the advanced expectations of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. The album, released on June 1st 1967 had been preceded in February, by the double A-sided single “Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever” and the Beatles, despite rumours of drug-taking, could seemingly do no wrong.

May had been a musically exciting month. I had been to The Saville Theatre on the 7th to see the Jimi Hendrix Experience (they played eight songs and I wrote the playlist into my programme). Five days I went to the Pink Floyd’s “Games For May” concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall–the first time I smelled the sweet smell of hash being smoked. I still have the ticked stub from that concert; unfortunately my Hendrix programme was sold to help finance my move to a flat.

I used to take time off from my studies and visit One Stop Records in South Moulton Street, where they sold records imported from America. An imported LP would set med back £3/15/0d–an enormous sum for a student. The guys behind the tiny counter suggested albums I might like and, at the end of May, put a copy of The Doors first album into my trembling hands and sent me to the listening booth to hear it. Even the cover design fascinated me. I was totally floored by the album and bought it on the spot.

The BBC had announced that the whole “Sgt. Pepper “album would be played at midnight and many sat glued to their trannies to hear it. I listened together with my flatmates. I don’t remember exactly when I bought “Sgt. Pepper”; probably in Moorlands record shop across the road from our canteen, but it would have been within a few days of its release. I was careful to buy a stereo copy as my parents had bought me a stereo gramophone for my 21st birthday, the previous year.

The album had an interesting side effect. It introduced me to pop art. I had seen articles on poster design from San Francisco and had started to design my own posters for college dances and lectures. These were heavily influenced by the psychedlic art used my artists such as Wes Wilson, Victor Moscoso, Stanley Mouse and Rick Griffin. I started going to art galleries and exhibitions–and buying records with great cover art.

So, I suppose I could say that “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was the start of my addiction to record cover art. I am thrilled to own a copy autographed, not by The Beatles, but by both Sir Peter Blake and his co-designer Jann Haworth.

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Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band cover signed by Jann Haworth and Sir Peter Blake.