The Beatles Choose A Bizarre Photograph For A Controversial Album Cover – 1966
And The Alternate Covers You’ve Never Seen
The Beatles decided to use this photograph for their Yesterday and Today album cover.
The four normally squeaky clean Beatles had dressed in smocks resembling butcher’s garb with dismembered dolls and pieces of meat dripping crimson. It was supposed to be a bit of fun. The Beatles “Butcher cover” ended up a big fiasco.
Maybe today this cover would not even raise an eyebrow. But in 1966 this album cover shocked the music industry.
Billboard Magazine June 25, 1966
‘Salesman of the various Capitol records Distributing Corp’s branches are recuperating from a busy weekend spent stripping the latest Beatles album, “The Beatles Yesterday And Today’.
Some 750,000 albums, which were pressed, packaged and shipped to the factory branches, have been recalled for repackaging. Reason for the recall is the cover art, which shows the Beatles in white smocks surrounded by what appears to be dismembered baby dolls and butcher shop cuts of meat.
According to some reliable reports, none of these albums have reached dealer shelves, although some have been received by reviewers and rack jobbers. Capitol has a new cover printed, showing four nearly neatly dressed Beatles inside and draped around a trunk.
Alan W. Livingstone, president of Capitol Records, explained the cover recall: “The original cover in England was intended as ‘pop art satire’. However, a sampling of public opinion in the United States indicates that the cover design is subject to interpretation. For this reason, and to avoid any possible controversy, or undeserved harm to the Beatles’ image or reputation, Capitol has chosen to withdraw the LP and substitute a more generally acceptable design.
Meanwhile, Capitol is making a painstaking effort to recall the covers to make sure they are destroyed. Reviewers are requested to return the cover to Capitol, and dealers who have received streamers are asked to hold them until a salesman calls.
The butcher cover was and still is one of the most controversial record covers ever produced. So what is the story behind it?
Photographer Robert Whitaker had worked with the Beatles previously so he was no stranger to having them before his lens.
On March 25, 1966 Whitaker took a series of promotional photographs of the Beatles. Instead of the typical boring shoot, Whitaker had the Beatles doing wacky things with props in unconventional poses.
Whitaker posed the band holding sausages. George Harrison had his head placed in a birdcage. Continue reading