The Beatles - can't cha take a joke?

 

original cover

replacement cover


Band: 

Album: 

Company:  

Catalog:     

Producer:  

Designer:   

Artist:  Photo:       

Release:   

Beatles, The

Yesterday and Today

Capitol

T-2553 (mono) ST-2553 (stereo)

George Martin

Robert Whitaker

not applicable

Robert Whitaker

1966

 

Band: 

Album:

Company:  

Catalog:     

Producer:  

Designer:   

Artist:  

Photo:       

Release:   

Beatles, The

Yesterday and Today

Capitol

T-2553 (mono) ST-2553 (stereo)

George Martin

Robert Whitaker

not applicable

Robert Whitaker

1966

 


Okay, before you get all bent out of shape, technically speaking this isn't a banned album.  Capitol Records elected to "withdraw" it prior to general release.  That technicality out of the way,1966's  "Yesterday & Today", commonly known as the "butcher" album is probably one of the world's most sought after record collectables.  People prize it, willingly paying hundreds, even tens of thousands of dollars for a copy (particularly for first state copy - explained below) even though it's a far more common item than generally recognized.

So what's the story behind this one?  More than willing to cash in on Beatlemania, Capitol Records decided to continue its program of squeezing out new Beatles product from previously released English material.  In this case the company pulled together a mixture of six tracks found on the two previous English released albums, but deleted from the American releases, a previously released British single and three tracks drawn from the in-progress "Revolver" album.  What was different about the product was the cover featuring the smiling Fab Four posed in butcher smocks surrounded by an array of raw meat, decapitated nude dolls and body parts.  Insensitive to the fact the cover was at best tasteless, Capitol printed up an estimated 750,000 copies of the cover, along with a wide array of promotional material.  Advanced copies and some promotional materials were provided to DJs and retailers, but in the wake of complaints about the gruesome nature of the cover, Capitol hastily decided to recall the albums and all of the promotional item.  

Destroying the promotional material, the original sleeves were modified by slapping a rather bland photo of the band in front of a steamer trunk.  Since the new covers were glued over the old, it didn't take people long to figure out they could peal or steam the new covers off in order to see the original sleeve.

So why'd they do it?  For years the rumor mill claimed it was a response to Capitol's ongoing "butchery" of their albums - as discussed above, the company literally carving up the English releases in order to generate additional product for the American market.  While the band were clearly unhappy with Capitol's marketing efforts, that wasn't the reason for the cover.

John Lennon was quoted in an interview as explaining the cover as "inspired by our boredom and resentment at having to do another photo session and another Beatles thing. We were sick to death of it.

Alan Livingston was President of Capitol during that timeframe and in an interview with Mojo magazine said "He [Paul McCartney] was adamant and felt very strongly that we should go forward."  "He said 'It's our comment on the war."

Australian photography Robert Whitaker is actually credited with the concept (and the photo).  Whitaker's Beatles connection stemmed from some 1964 pictures he'd taken of Beatles' manager Brian Epstein during the band's Australian tour.  Impressed with the results, Epstein hired the photographer with the result being Whitaker spent the next five years documenting the band.  

Over the years both Whitaker and the individual Beatles have commented on the cover; all agreeing that the photo (along with a slew of alternate takes) were done out of a sense of boredom and as a commentary and reaction to the public's ongoing adulation.  Entitled "A Somnambulant Adventure", Whitaker's original concept called for the band to be seated in front of a gold background, surrounded by jeweled halos.  Interestingly, the picture chosen for the cover turned out to be one of  the raw, unfinished photos he'd taken at an earlier session.

If you're interested in learning more, there are two nifty references:  

Robert York has a website that tells you more than you could ever want to know about the subject:

http://www.eskimo.com/~bpentium/butcher.html

The second is Whitaker's book "The Unseen Beatles".

 

 

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