Welcome to Sgt Pepper Photos
Paul McCartney’s dad’s group ‘Jim Mac’s Band’. According to singer, songwriter and actress Kate Robbins (Paul McCartney’s first cousin once removed) this photo is owned in most of the McCartney households. It’s not difficult to spot the similarity to the Sgt Pepper cover. Jim McCartney is on the front row, third from the right. (Thanks to Kate Robbins)
Being a bit of a Beatles obsessive, I’m excited about the 50th anniversary rerelease of Sgt Pepper. The legendary album cover is regularly popping up on my news feeds and I became curious as to the origins of the photos used to create the iconic sleeve.
The collage was designed by Peter Blake and his wife Jann Haworth, and the cut-outs were assembled in Michael Cooper’s London photographic studio. Michael and his team toiled hard to construct the ‘cast of extras’, using a mix of photos sourced from the BBC Hulton Picture Library, images from private collections, waxworks and personal artifacts, including a gnome owned by Ringo Starr.
My first search was for Olympic swimmer and Tarzan actor Johnny Weissmuller (the picture behind Ringo and Paul). When I eventually located the source image, with the unexpected chimp and horn, it was so bizarre and out of context it piqued my interest.
I’ve now set myself the challenge of hunting down all of the original pictures on the sleeve. Any other oddities I discover on the way will also be added here. If you can help or want to contact me go to Twitter and search for @ChrisShawEditor or #SgtPepperPhotos
Yukteswar Giri: Indian guru and inspiration for George Harrison.
Aleister Crowley: Occultist and also keen mountaineer (he was part of an expedition to climb K2)! Originally a second photo of Crowley was to feature on the cover of Sgt Pepper, but was removed as it closely resembled McCartney.
Mae West: Hollywood actress. Mae initially refused to appear on the cover, stating that she would never be in any Lonely Hearts Club. After some gentle persuasion she eventually agreed. Mae’s final movie, Sextette (1978), features Ringo playing a film director called Laslo Karolny – and includes the Beatles’ song Honey Pie. McCartney later dedicated a verse to her in his song Move Over Busker.
Lenny Bruce: Notorious stand up comedian. All four Beatles were said to be fans and there were plans to release Lenny’s material on the short-lived Zapple label. These plans were scuppered after poor sales of the label’s only two releases (George’s ‘Electronic Sound and John’s ‘Life with the Lions’). Zapple was shut and the Lenny Bruce albums never appeared.
Karlheinz Stockhausen: Composer and inspiration for The unreleased track ‘Carnival of Light’ recorded during the Sgt Pepper sessions. Later to be said an influence on Revolution 9 from 1968’s ‘The Beatles’ (The White Album).
WC Fields: Vaudeville comedian.
Carl Jung: Psychotherapist and author.
Marlon Brando: Actor. Photo taken from the 1953 movie “The Wild One”. Some believe this to be the film that gave The Beatles their name. In a scene where Lee Marvin and his gang roll into a small town that has been occupied by Brando, Marvin taunts: “We missed you Johnny, the beetles missed you. All the beetles missed you.” Brando later appeared in the 1968 film ‘Candy’ with Ringo.
Sir Robert Peel: Reformer of judicial system who helped create the modern concept of the police force, leading to officers being known as “bobbies” (in England) and “Peelers” (in Ireland).
Bob Dylan: Singer/songwriter – and close friend of George (eventually joining him in The Traveling Wilburys). George Harrison: “Dylan is so brilliant. To me, he makes William Shakespeare look like Billy Joel.” Bob Dylan: “George got stuck with being the Beatle that had to fight to get songs on records because of Lennon and McCartney. Well, who wouldn’t get stuck? If George had had his own group and was writing his own songs back then, he’d have been probably just as big as anybody.” Image taken from the cover of Dylan’s 1965 album ‘Highway 61 Revisited’.
Johnny Weissmuller: Hungarian/American Tarzan actor/Olympic swimmer. After winning five Olympic gold medals, Johnny turned to acting and became the most well known Tarzan. His infamous Tarzan yodel was in fact created by recording his voice and playing it backwards.
Dylan Thomas: Poet/writer – Author of classic Under Milk Wood. Paul McCartney: “”I’m sure that the main influence on both Dylan and John was Dylan Thomas. We all used to like Dylan Thomas. I read him a lot. I think that John started writing because of him, and the fact that Bob Dylan wrote poetry added to his appeal. I’ve always been a big fan of British writers, but two of my favourites are Charles Dickens and Dylan Thomas.”
Tony Curtis: Actor best known for 1959 classic Some Like It Hot. Tony would appear with Ringo in the 1978 film ‘Sextette’.
Shirley Temple: Hollywood child star. Shirley is the only one of the Sgt Pepper crowd to appear on the cover twice. The Beatles had previously met Shirley and her daughter, Lori, backstage at the Cow Palace concert in San Francisco, August 19, 1964.
HG Wells: English author probably best known for his novel ‘War of the Worlds’.
Lewis Carroll: Author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & inspiration for the lyrics of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and I am the Walrus. Lennon: “The images [in Lucy in the Sky] were from ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ It was Alice in the boat. She is buying an egg and it turns into Humpty Dumpty. The woman serving in the shop turns into a sheep and the next minute they are rowing in a rowing boat somewhere and I was visualizing that. There was also the image of the female who would someday come save me… a ‘girl with kaleidoscope eyes’ who would come out of the sky. It turned out to be Yoko, though I hadn’t met Yoko yet.”
“[I am the Walrus] It’s from ‘The Walrus and the Carpenter.’ ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ To me, it was a beautiful poem. It never dawned on me that Lewis Carroll was commenting on the capitalist and social system. I never went into that bit about what he really meant, like people are doing with the Beatles’ work. Later, I went back and looked at it and realised that the walrus was the bad guy in the story and the carpenter was the good guy. I thought, Oh, shit, I picked the wrong guy. I should have said, ‘I am the carpenter.’ But that wouldn’t have been the same, would it? ‘I am the carpenter…”
Bonus: The Beatles Madame Tussauds waxworks.
Oscar Wilde: Playwright, novelist and poet. John Lennon: “I look at early pictures of myself, and I was torn between being Marlon Brando and being the sensitive poet — the Oscar Wilde part of me with the velvet, feminine side. I was always torn between the two, mainly opting for the macho side, because if you showed the other side, you were dead.”
Stuart Sutcliffe: Artist, original Beatles bass player and John Lennon’s best friend at art college. Stuart died in 1962 aged 21. Paul McCartney: “It was John and Stuart who thought of the name. They were art students and while George’s and my parents would make us go to bed, Stuart and John could live the little dream that we all dream: to stay up all night. And it was then they thought up the name
One April evening in 1960, walking along Gambier Terrace by Liverpool Cathedral, John and Stuart announced: ‘Hey, we want to call the band The Beatles.”
Alberto Vargas: Peruvian painter of ‘Varga Girls’.
Marlene Dietrich: Singer and actress who met The Beatles at the Royal Command Performance in 1963.
Edgar Allan Poe: Author (also mentioned in I Am The Walrus)
Aubrey Beardsley: Victorian illustrator and author. Said to be a major influence on Klaus Voormann’s artwork for The Beatles’ Revolver album cover design.
Karl Marx: Philosopher and revolutionary socialist. Possibly the inspiration for the lyrics of John’s Working Class Hero.
Stan Laurel: Comic actor/director and half of comedy duo Laurel and Hardy.
Tom Mix: Actor and star of early Western movies. The 12 inch version of Paul McCartney’s 1993 single ‘Spies Like Us’ featured a remix by The Art of Noise entitled ‘Spies Like Us (Alternative Mix – Known to his Friends as “Tom”)’. Sgt Pepper photographer Nigel Hartnup worked for Michael Cooper, a good friend of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. “As they arrived, we photographed the head shots and enlarged them to life size on 20×16 paper and sent them off to be professionally mounted on hardboard,” Hartnup explains. “Some of the characters were very beautiful full length figures, such as Marlene Dietrich and Tom Mix, so we decided to get a photo lab to print and mount them full size as we didn’t have such equipment in Chelsea Manor Studios. We then hired a carpenter to come with his jigsaw and carefully cut them out.” (Source: Mojo)
Bonus: Statue from Lennon’s home, Kenwood. It later appeared in a 1969 photo shoot at John’s new home, Tittenhurst Park. The statue was just out of shot in the photo eventually chosen for the Hey Jude album cover.
Paramahansa Yogananda: Indian yogi and guru who George Harrison said was probably “the greatest inspiration to me.” George’s song ‘Dear One’ from his 1976 album Thirty Three & 1/3 was inspired by, and dedicated to, Paramahansa Yogananda. http://forum.yogananda.net/uploads/monthly_10_2011/post-2312-13187226811894.jpg
HC Westermann: Influential sculptor and printmaker. Most likely chosen by Sgt Pepper cover artist Peter Blake. In 2010 Blake held an exhibition called ‘Homage 10 x 5 – Blake’s Artists’, consisting of works that were a homage to 10 artists who excited Blake during his career. Westermann was on that list. (With thanks to MHP from the Steve Hoffman Forum)
Bonus: Diana Dors waxwork, which sold at auction for £15,000 in 2005.
Bonus: Oliver Hardy figurine (Comic actor, one half of Laurel and Hardy). Now owned by Peter Blake.
Albert Stubbins: Liverpool footballer. There are reports that he was not chosen for his ability or goal scoring feats, but rather because of his name. The Beatles, and Lennon in particular, enjoyed the phonetic qualities of the name ‘Stubbins’. The centre forward is said to have had no idea he was to be included on the album cover, and only found out when the Sgt Pepper LP arrived at his door, signed by all four Beatles with the message: “Well done, Albert, for all those glorious years of football. Long may you bob and weave.”
Tommy Handley: Liverpool comedian, best known for BBC radio programme It’s That Man Again.
Dion: Singer/songwriter best known for his hit The Wanderer. (With thanks to MHP from the Steve Hoffman Forum)
George Petty painting: “Two Girls in Lavender” for Esquire magazine.
George Petty painting: “Two Girls in Lavender” (girl on left) for Esquire magazine.
George Petty painting: “Two Girls in Lavender” (girl on right) for Esquire magazine.
Mahavatar Babaji: Indian yogi – also appears on cover of George’s 1974 album Dark Horse.
lahiri Mahasaya: Indian yogi and inspiration for George Harrison.
James Joyce (partly obscued behind TE Lawrence waxwork): Irish novelist. John Lennon: “James Joyce… I must have come across him at school but we hadn’t done him like I remember doing Shakespeare and remember doing so-and-so. I remember doing Chaucer a bit, or somebody like him doing funny words. But I don’t remember Joyce, you see. So, the first thing they say — ‘Oh! He’s read James Joyce,’ you know. So I hadn’t. And so the first thing I do is buy Finnigan’s Wake and read a chapter. And it’s great, you know, and I dug it, and I felt as though he’s an old friend. But I couldn’t make it right through the book, and so I read a chapter of Finnigan’s Wake and that was the end of it. So now I know what they’re talking about. But I mean… he just didn’t stop, you know.”
Bobby Breen: Hollywood child star. The girl in the photo is Marilyn Knowlden (taken from the film Rainbow on the River). In 2016 the cut-out used on the Sgt Pepper cover (signed by Peter Blake) sold for £25,000 at Bonhams.
Stephen Crane: American poet, novelist, and short story writer. Prolific throughout his short life, he wrote notable works in the Realist tradition as well as early examples of American Naturalism and Impressionism.
Bonus: The original garden gnome which sold at auction for £29,000 in 2015.
Max Miller: Stand-up comedian in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, renowned for telling risqué jokes. His innuendo meant that of his material was too blue for broadcasting and his song ‘Let’s Have a Ride on your Bicycle’ was banned by the BBC. Ironically the BBC also banned the Sgt Pepper track ‘A Day in the Life’ for drugs references. The photo is taken from his 1957 album ‘Max at the Met’.
Tyrone Power: Swashbuckling Hollywood actor.
Jann Howarth: “We spent almost two weeks constructing the set at the studio of photographer Michael Cooper, who shot the final image. We were printing black and white images of the celebrity faces, gluing them to hard-board, cutting them out with a jigsaw and fixing them to the backdrop. I handcoloured most myself. I started with Tyrone Power, which is why he looks as orange as Donald Trump. I went lighter with the colour after that.”
Bonus: The stone figure of Snow White – now owned by Sgt Pepper cover designer and artist, Peter Blake.
Bonus: ‘Rolling Stones doll’ which sold for £13,000 at auction in 2005.
Bonus: ‘Tree of Life’ ornament, owned by John and kept at his home in Kenwood.
Bonus: Mannequin wearing hat – face on.
Bette Davis (mostly obscured but visible on photo session outtakes): US actress. Her cut-out image was taken from the 1939 movie “The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex”.
Timothy Carey (obscured by George but visible on photo session outtakes): Actor. Image taken from Stanley Kubrick’s movie “The Killing”.
Huntz Hall: Actor, best known for his “Dead End Kids” & “Bowery Boys” movies.
Leo Gorcey: Dead End Kids & Bowery Boys movies actor. Painted out after requesting a $400 fee to use his image.
Note that this is the only photo from which two Sgt Pepper cut-outs were sourced. The pictures of both Huntz Hall & Leo Gorcey appear in this image.
Albert Einstein (mostly obscured but visible on photo session outtakes): Theoretical physicist. (With thanks to Kevin Fabbi)
Larry Bell: Artist & sculptor. Most likely selected by Peter Blake who was friends with Larry. The photo was taken in 1964 by actor Dennis Hopper.
Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni (obscured but visible on photo session outtakes): Actors.
Shirley Temple (mostly obscured but visible on photo session outtakes): Hollywood child star. Photo taken from a protional shot for the movie ‘Heidi’.
Marilyn Monroe: Legendary Hollywood actress. Photograph taken by Ben Ross in 1953. Monroe has since appeared in many Peter Blake paintings.
Bonus: Sony TV9-306UB portable TV. State of the art technology in 1967!
Dr David Livingstone: Explorer. Research reveals that this is not a photo but a waxwork bust, so no source photo exists. Alternative shots suggest that this is the pre-made up model.George Bernard Shaw: Irish playwright. Alternative shots reveal this to be a waxwork so no source photo exists. This may – or may not – be the original.
TE Lawrence: Archaeologist/military officer. Alternative shots reveal this to be a waxwork so no source photo exists. This is the (still boxed) waxwork head. (Thanks to Ron de Bruijn)
Bonus: “Old Lady” (with the ‘Rolling Stones’ doll on its lap) Cloth figure made by artist Jann Haworth (Peter Blake’s wife).
Bonus: Legionnaire from Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes (RAOB). This MAY be John’s uncle, Charlie Lennon, who was a member.
Simon Rodia: Artist who created Los Angeles landmark ‘The Watts Towers’. The photo is taken from Rodia’s talk at UC Berkeley Art Museum in 1960. Rodia was almost certainly chosen by Peter Blake who met him in early 1967. Rodia is said to have told Blake how much he admired his painting ‘On the Balcony’. (With thanks to Sergey Obod)
Hitler: Failed dog painter. Unused on the album cover but visible in outtake shots. (Thanks to Sergey Obod).
Jann Howarth: “It was my idea that the front row be three dimensional with The Beatles, behind them mannequins and full-size fabric dolls that I crafted, and behind those a two-dimensional flat frame filled with celebrity faces.
“We wanted at least 70 figures and asked The Beatles to list their heroes. But McCartney and John Lennon combined barely suggested 20 names. George Harrison came up with a few Indian gurus that we included.
“Ringo claims that he came up with noone but I remember he selected the music-hall artist Issy Bonn, plus another celebrity who never made it on to the cover.
“John wanted Adolf Hitler, which I thought was a very ugly choice, beyond provocative. I have no idea what his thinking was. I think he has clay feet.”
Mahatma Gandhi: Leader of the Indian independence movement. Painted out but visible on session photos. Paul McCartney: “Gandhi also had to go because the head of EMI, Sir Joe Lockwood, said that in India they wouldn’t allow the record to be printed”
John Lennon: “Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King are great examples of fantastic nonviolents who died violently. I can never work that out. We’re pacifists, but I’m not sure what it means when you’re such a pacifist that you get shot. I can never understand that.” (Thanks to Sergey Obod).
James Melvin Babington: Major General who served in the 16th Queen’s Lancers in the Second Boer War and the First Calvary Brigade in South Africa.
In a Variety article, author Bruce Spizer credited the find to Frank Daniels, who wrote an essay for a book on Babington under the pseudonym Max Gretinski.
Babington appears twice on the Sgt Pepper insert cut outs, which were designed by artist Peter Blake.
According to Spizer, Babington’s picture came from one of a large collection of military cards. I’d suggest that this was a collection owned by Peter Blake who is known to cut out and collate hundreds of photos to use in his artwork.
Sonny Liston: American boxer who became world heavyweight champion in 1962. The waxwork was borrowed from Madame Tussaud’s and had to be constructed in Michael Cooper’s studio. The ‘head’ was delivered in a box, along with those of TE Lawrence and Dr Livingstone. Peter Blake now owns the waxwork. The photo on the cover of ‘Sports Illustrated’ magazine was the inspiration for the original Madame Tussaud’s waxwork.
Fred Astaire: Dancer/actor. I struggled for a long time to find this source image. Every time I searched here was one particular photo that kept appearing. It was similar, but didn’t seem to match. That was until author/artist Richard Littler persisted with this photograph and recreated the shadows and angles to prove it was the Sgt Pepper source image. Thanks to Richard for helping verify.
Richard Merkin: American painter and illustrator. Peter Blake was a big fan of Merkin’s work and in 1966 he created a tribute artwork called Souvenirs For Richard Merkin. The Sgt Pepper source photograph was originally published in a catalogue from an exhibition called ‘The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of‘ held at the Byron Gallery, Madison Avenue, New York between February 15 – March 11, 1967. The photographs in the catalogue were taken by Frederick Brink. Special thanks to John Clay for providing the image.
AND NOW, OVER TO YOU…
I have spent 100s of hours scouring every corner of the internet, forums, newspapers, posters, sheet music and books to find these source images. However, there are several that are still missing.
These can be categorised into two sections: (A) ‘Close, but no cigar…’ (Photos from the same shoot, but not the actual one used on Sgt Pepper) and (B) ‘No idea!’ The latter, I’m guessing were either cut from magazines in 1966/67 by Peter Blake and have since been lost in the mists of time / or were personal photos from the private collections of The Beatles and Blake.
According to Nigel Hartnup, who worked for Michael Cooper during the Sgt Pepper photo sessions, most of the cut-outs were sourced from photo libraries such as BBC Radio Times Hulton Picture Library (since bought by Getty Images). However, he adds: “Sometimes we had to source directly from friends or family.”
This explains why the few remaining undiscovered images in this project are so difficult to source. Several are artists, so most likely belong to Peter Blake. If anyone has any more information – or knows Peter Blake – let me know!
If you can help me locate any of the following please contact me: @ChrisShawEditor or via WordPress.
(A) Close, but no cigar…
Aldous Huxley: Very likely that the source image was one of a series of shots (such as this one) taken by Elizabeth Chat in 1948. Can you help?
Terry Southern: Novelist and screenwriter. The source photo appears to have been taken seconds after this one, which was almost certainly shot by head of photography Michael Cooper. Terry and Michael were close friends – along with art dealer Robert Fraser – and it was Michael who asked Terry if he could use his photo for the Sgt Pepper cover. The alternate source image is likely to be in the Cooper estate’s private collection, but if you know better let me know! Ringo later starred in the screen adaptation of Terry’s novels Candy and The Magic Christian.
(B) No idea!
The three artist photos are most probably from Peter Blake’s personal collection. The quality of Fred Astaire’s image suggests it may be from a 1960s magazine, while the Issy Bonn shot is perhaps the most frustrating of all. One of the central cut-outs on the cover, it was his hand that was one of the major ‘clues’ to the ‘Paul is dead’ rumour. Again, if you can help, please contact me!
Richard Lindner: Artist.
Issy Bonn: Comedian and singer.
Wallace Bermann: Artist.
One of the most difficult photographs to source was that of William Burroughs, writer and author of the legendary novel ‘Naked Lunch’. While the image below appears to be a photo taken only seconds apart from the one used on Sgt Pepper, it didn’t seem to be the same one.
Some research was required and it revealed some fascinating new information.
The following email from James Grauerholz, the William Burroughs Trust, gave me a few pointers…
“The pic of William is on a ‘pont’ in Paris and is indeed from a roll containing multiple angles i.e. a commissioned or planned portraiture effort, not a candid shot. I recognise it and recall others taken moments before or after it.
“I think it was a shoot in 1960-61, when Wm visited Paris — maybe belongs with other shots showing Wm with Maurice Girodias (in street corner doorway) — may have been commissioned by Maurice for French Press around time of publication of Ticket or Soft Machine by Olympia —
“I remember a French lady pro. photog’s name, SOPHIE BASSOULS … she may or may not have shot that roll, but she used an ink-stamp to put her name and Paris address on back of her B/W prints which is how I know she was professional because I recollect posed shots by her in that city around that time. So this is a “guess” …
“The best sources for sources are the books collecting lots of pics of William, such as the Graham Caveney bio (different titles in US vs UK edition), also a German “Bild Buch” hardback, can’t recall who edited, also Giorno 4-CD box set “Best of WSB on Giorno Poetry” booklet full of photos mostly sourced, also the photos-batches in Ted Morgan bio and I suppose Barry Miles bio …”
Author Richard Littler, a fan of William Burroughs, checked a number of books from his collection, but none of the photos from this particular session had been published. However, he discovered that the photograph was taken by painter, writer and performance artist, Brion Gysin. The session took place in Paris, October 1959 at the Naked Lunch launch.
With this new information I decided to contact Barry Miles, author of William S Burroughs: A Life, and also a close friend of Paul McCartney in the mid-1960s. His reply seemed to solve the mystery, although I couldn’t help thinking that it still wasn’t the right shot…
The photograph used on the cover of Sgt Pepper is in fact the same one that you have located by Brion Gysin of Bill on the Pont des Arts in Paris, Oct 1959.
By the time they had blown it up, hand coloured it and changed it around it really does look like a picture from the same series, taken later, but it is in fact the same shot.
I know this because I have all the negatives from that Gysin shoot, and I was the one who gave the photograph to Neil Aspinall when he came round to Indica Books, looking for photographs for the cover.
All the best with your project
So, the mystery had been solved. Or had it? Last night I received the following email from Kevin Fabbi:
Barry Miles is not accurate about the Burroughs image.
I have the photo used for Pepper and the one you posted is from that photo shoot but not the one on Pepper. I have researched this cover for 5 years so I know the task finding the sources is daunting.
Some of the photos for this this project have been relatively easy to source, but the wonderfully elusive Mr Burroughs has been a delicious challenge. Thanks so much to James Grauerholz, Barry Miles, Nile Southern, Richard Littler and Kevin Fabbi.
And here it is. Finally!
William S Burroughs: “Ian met Paul McCartney and Paul put up the money for this flat which was at 34 Montague Square… I saw Paul several times. The three of us talked about the possibilities of the tape recorder. He’d just come in and work on his ‘Eleanor Rigby’. Ian recorded his rehearsals. I saw the song taking shape. Once again, not knowing much about music, I could see that he knew what he was doing. He was very pleasant and very prepossessing. Nice-looking young man, hardworking.”