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

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 didnt 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. 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 abut 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 appeard 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.
Jack O'Reilly-fr

The second example is a German 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 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.

I hope I won’t be tempted to buy any more.

 

 

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.