After readings Alfy’s comment this morning about the ‘School of Athens’ featured artwork, it got me thinking about modern pictures that show groups of influential people. The first that came to mind was the Solvay Conference photograph of physicists and chemists that has now become somewhat iconic. Then there are a number of famous paintings from the Founding Fathers, the opening of parliament through to the ‘Discussing the Divine Comedy with Dante‘. Which then lead me to remember the Beatles album ‘Sgt. Peppers’ which I detail here. Can you think of any others? – Deskarati
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (often shortened to Sgt. Pepper) is the eighth studio album by English rock band the Beatles. Released in June 1967, the album, which included songs such as “With a Little Help from My Friends”, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, and “A Day in the Life”, now has over 30 million albums sold. Continuing the artistic maturation seen on the band’s album Revolver (1966), Sgt. Pepper further departed from the conventional pop rock idiom of the time and incorporated balladry, psychedelic, music hall, and symphonic influences.
The Grammy Award-winning album packaging was art-directed by Robert Fraser, designed by Peter Blake and Jann Haworth, his wife and artistic partner, and photographed by Michael Cooper. It featured a colourful collage of life-sized cardboard models of famous people on the front of the album cover and the lyrics printed in full on the back cover, the first time this had been done on a rock LP. In the guise of the Sgt. Pepper band, the Beatles were dressed in custom-made military-style outfits made of satin dyed in day-glo colours. The suits were conceived by the Beatles and manufactured by the theatrical costumer M. Berman Ltd. in London, with some parts designed by Manuel Cuevas. Among the insignia on their uniforms are: MBE medals on McCartney’s and Harrison’s jackets, the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom on Lennon’s right sleeve and an Ontario Provincial Police flash on McCartney’s sleeve.
The centre of the cover depicts the Beatles standing behind a drum skin, on which are painted the words of the album’s title. The skin was painted by fairground artist Joe Ephgrave. In front of the drum skin is a series of flowers that spell out “The Beatles”. A collage depicts around 60 famous people, including writers, musicians, film stars, and (at Harrison’s request) a number of Indian gurus. The final grouping included: Mahavatar Babaji, Issy Bonn, Marlon Brando, Lenny Bruce, Lewis Carroll, Aleister Crowley, Marlene Dietrich, Diana Dors, Bob Dylan, W.C. Fields, Sigmund Freud, Oliver Hardy, Aldous Huxley, Carl Gustav Jung, Stan Laurel, T. E. Lawrence, Karl Marx, Marilyn Monroe, Sir Robert Peel, Edgar Allan Poe, Karlheinz Stockhausen, H. G. Wells, Mae West, Oscar Wilde, Paramahansa Yogananda and Yukteswar Giri. Also included was the image of the original Beatles’ bassist, the late Stuart Sutcliffe. Pete Best said in a later NPR interview that Lennon borrowed family medals from his (Best’s) mother Mona for the shoot, on condition that he did not lose them. Adolf Hitler and Jesus Christ were requested by Lennon, but ultimately they were left out. A photo also exists of a rejected cardboard printout with a cloth draped over its head; its identity is unknown. The final cost for the cover art was nearly £3,000 (equivalent to £46,104 today) an extravagant sum for a time when album covers would typically cost around £50. Via Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band