The man who *really* took the photo

Exclusive: Nigel Hartnup, the man who took the Sgt Pepper cover photo

Nigel Hartnup was not just another photography assistant during the making of the Sgt Pepper cover, he was the one who took the actual photograph. Yes, *that* one.

He recently contacted me following the publication of an article in Mojo Magazine and told me that what had been published was only “half the story.”

So, for the first time, here is the previously unpublished, full and exclusive story of the Sgt Pepper cover shoot from Nigel Hartnup himself.


From left to right: Jann Haworth, Mohammed (Robert Fraser’s driver), Peter Blake, Andy Boulton (junior assistant), Trevor Sutton (assistant), Nigel Hartnup (leaning on the drum), Mme Tussauds worker, Michael Cooper, Mal Evans.

Standing on a rickety stool, which was on a table, my head was jammed sideways into the corner of the wall and the ceiling as I concentrated on the inverted image in the back of a 5 x 4 Sinar technical camera at full stretch on its tripod. The traditional photographer’s black cloth was not needed over my head, as the walls and ceiling of the whole studio were painted matt black. In front of me, at the far end of the studio was a scene that was to become world famous for many years to come and we had been working on it solidly for a fortnight, which is a long time for any photograph, never mind a ‘mere’ record album cover.

But, it was 1967 and this was the cover for the new release for The Beatles! They were the most famous music group ever, and this was a new concept in records, so the cover had to be special, and this certainly was. Those of us who worked in the sphere of photography, music, art and fashion in the sixties were not easily impressed. We reckoned we were pretty cool, but all of us working on this photograph knew that this was going to be iconic and we were right. ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ became an instant success, and the cover was an immediate talking point. It’s still famous all over the world and I’m so proud to have been a part of its production.


I was an assistant photographer to Michael Cooper, for his company, MC Productions Ltd, along with my friend, Trevor Sutton and a junior assistant, Andrew Boulton. Trevor and I had studied photography together at Medway College of Art and we teamed up once again at Vogue Studios, in Hanover Square, as assistants to the fashion photographers who were contracted with them. Michael Cooper worked there and when he left in 1965 to set up his own studio he asked us to work for him and be his assistants for the princely sum of £12.10 shillings a week. As we were only getting £10 at Vogue, we both agreed.

Michael was short, long-haired and wildly dressed, usually in tight trousers, colourful shirts, long scarves and bright jackets. He was financed by the art gallery owner, Robert Fraser, of the House of Fraser family, who was friendly with top artists and musicians and a highly influential figure in the sixties art and music scene. Although very progressive in his thinking, Robert was much more soberly dressed than Michael, usually in an expensive suit and tie. Michael continued to need his financial help throughout the time I worked for him, as he didn’t get enough work to pay our wages and keep the studio going.


Robert was to become a crucial figure in the Sgt Pepper story. He entertained a lot and it was in his apartment in Mayfair that the cover was conceived from an idea discussed between Paul McCartney and the wonderful artist, Peter Blake. The photograph was to be of a band called Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on a lawn, behind the name of the Beatles made with flowers, just as the public parks often did in those days. This band was to be their alter ego and behind them would be an audience of people the Beatles respected and admired, along with waxworks of the Beatles themselves. The cover grew from there. Peter Blake drew a design and three of the Beatles wrote a list of names. Ringo said that anything the others said was fine with him. Peter, Michael and Robert also added people.

When Michael Cooper flew to New York to research the Rolling Stones 3D cover for ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’, the list of names for the crowd appeared and suitable photographs of the people had to be found. This wasn’t easy. Jann Haworth and Peter Blake did the majority and mostly used specialised photo libraries such as the BBC Radio Times Hulton Picture Library, but sometimes we had to source directly from friends or family. John arranged for former Beatle, Stuart Sutcliffe’s photo to come by special delivery from his parents. The Liverpool football player, Albert Stubbins came by post from LFC.

As they arrived, we photographed the head shots and enlarged them to life size on 20 x 16 paper and sent them off to be professionally mounted on hardboard. 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. My biggest contribution came next.

Screen Shot 2017-07-12 at 11.34.41

My dad had always loved photography and when he was a young man, he coloured many of his favourite hand printed b/w photographs with photographic dyes and he taught me how to tint photos this way. It’s not easy. You have to be patient, yet fast, and put on a layer of diluted dye, then wipe it off, then another, wipe it off, then another, until you get the subtle result required. It’s tedious work that needs patience and care. I tried to teach the others how to do it, but one person, (who shall be nameless!) was a disaster, and wasn’t allowed to do a second one. Just look at Aldous Huxley!


I was most proud of Marlene Dietrich, H.G.Wells, W.C.Fields, Max Miller and Carl Jung. I did lots of others too, and I can proudly boast that the best ones were mine, except for Tom Mix, which Trevor did. Peter Blake’s wife, Jann Haworth did Tyrone Power and Oliver Hardy; perhaps a couple more.


Michael had nothing to do with any of this, but before he left for New York, he arranged for a carpenter to build a wooden flower-bed with nails sticking through the bottom, spelling out the name ‘Beatles’. This was to be filled with a layer of earth so that gardeners could come with a van full of potted hyacinths, and the flower heads chopped off and stuck on the nails. It would then be surrounded by soil and fake grass laid out to make a public park appearance.

We kept in close touch with Peter Blake, as the overall design was his and he did much of the general organisation, like communicating with Madame Tussaud’s, so we could borrow waxworks of Sonny Liston, Diana Dors and, of course, the Beatles themselves. Peter was, and is, a very nice man, kind, gentle and considerate of others. It was a real pleasure to work with him.


Trevor and I discussed the lighting and we agreed that we would construct a false white ceiling and bounce the flash off that. Used on its own, the ‘fish fry’ wouldn’t cover all the set. A ‘fish fry’ was a large rectangular box with a powerful flash unit inside and a diffusing white plastic sheet, which softened the harsh electronic flash lighting. It was the latest thing in those days for fashion photography. Used in conjunction with a couple of strip lights for the background it was Michael’s favourite tool.

We proceeded to get the set prepared. Peter came to the studio and expressed his ideas for the way it should all be laid out and we set to work. Heads had to be tacked to the wall in a particular order and he took control of that. A shelf was constructed to hold the waxwork heads and the others that he had brought and everything began to take on an urgency that was typical of the photography business in the sixties. Michael then returned from New York and took control of how the set was put together.

The problems started when the frame arrived for the garden. Trevor and I were horrified to see its size, as we knew immediately that it was far too big for the studio. The idea had been for the flower bed to be surrounded by grass, then a gap for the Beatles to stand in, and behind that would be the crowd. Some depth was essential to give a more realistic feel to the shot. Now, with such a large garden, that was not possible, as it had to be farther away from the camera and the final effect would be flat. Sadly, that was how it turned out, as Michael had given the carpenter the wrong measurements!

We suggested to Michael our plan to reflect light from a false ceiling, but he said that he wanted to use his signature lighting of ‘fish fry’ and strip lights, and wouldn’t listen to our technical advice that it wouldn’t cover such a large set. So we put the set together, the gardeners cut the heads off the hyacinths and constructed the garden and only then did Michael realise that the lighting he’d suggested wouldn’t work. So, with a studio full of people and the set almost complete, he announced that we had to construct a false ceiling and bounce the light off that. We couldn’t believe it! This would have been much easier to do when we suggested it in the first place and now we had to pretend it was his idea and go through the difficult process of building it all, with the flower garden underneath. I was furious, but just had to quietly get on with it.

Then we had to put the camera as far away and as high as possible, which meant putting the tripod on a table and extend it to full stretch, which meant that I had to be the one who managed the camera, as I’m 6’ 2” tall. So my head was squashed into the corner between wall and ceiling as I tried to yell instructions to Trevor and Andy where and how things in the set should be arranged. A particular problem was the reflections from the photographs of the heads. “Tilt Bob Dylan forward a bit. Yes. Now push Mae West’s right shoulder back – not that much – Yes. Now, Shift Karl Marx to the left a bit!” I suddenly realised what I’d said and had to laugh, but nobody else spotted it and wondered why I was amused. It was bizarre.


Soul music was throbbing constantly in the studio, headed by Otis Reading, Wilson Pickett, Booker T and the MGs and many albums that were unavailable in England. Few people stood still. Everybody was moving some part of their body with the beat. The joint was jumping, as they say.

It was not just the photographic crew and the Beatles who were there. There were two people from Madame Tussauds who had arrived earlier in the day with all the waxworks. I was particularly amused by Sonny Liston, who arrived without his head, which came in separately, in a box, with lots of padding. It was very realistic and sinister and I remember taking a photograph of this bizarre boxed head.


When he was assembled, I was delighted to discover that he was smaller than me, and I had Trevor take a photo to prove it.


There was also Diana Dors and the heads of T E Lawrence and George Bernard Shaw. Also there were the waxworks of The Beatles. The idea was that Sgt Pepper and his Lonely Hearts Club Band should be in the foreground and The Beatles were to be in the audience watching them. However, this never really worked, as the set was too squashed and flat. This was a great pity. We were very grateful for the waxworks, but had to be very careful with them, as they are very valuable. We weren’t allowed to handle them.

It was a strange time. With so many full size figures around, I would find myself dodging dummies as if they were real people and then bumping into someone because I thought they were a cut-out and was surprised when they moved.

Obviously, Peter and Jan were there that night and also Robert Fraser, with his driver, Mohammed, and the Beatles ‘minder’, Mal Evans, but there were other folk that I didn’t know. Earlier in the evening, Michael’s four year old son, Adam, was there, so presumably, Michael’s ex-wife, Rosie, was too, but I don’t remember. The place was packed!

Another problem arose at this time. Communication between me, on the camera, and Trevor and Andy on the set was crucial, but there were so many people in the studio that I could not be heard. Also, so many people were smoking that the atmosphere was thickening and threatening the air quality. I have to say that it was not just tobacco, but lots of weed was being passed around. The three of us didn’t partake until it was all finished, as we had serious work to do. Eventually, I just had to throw everybody out while we put the finishing touches to the set. When they were allowed to return, they were not permitted to smoke, at least not in the studio!


Apart from the tinting, there were two personal contributions I made. When I was at Vogue, I worked for James Mortimer, who was a very sympathetic person and a very competent photographer. He did fashion work, but mostly he did room sets and I built these for him in the studio. His hobby was car racing and he drove a Marcos, which was a car with a wooden chassis. This made it safer, because if there was a crash, it just snapped apart and the driver was thrown away ‘safely’. The car could then be glued back together again. I thought this was a fascinating idea and my girl friend had given me a Dinky toy Marcos, which I put in the hand of the figure made by Peter Blake’s wife, Jann Haworth. It’s small, but clearly visible.

My other contribution involved a gnome. Obviously, a garden had to have gnomes, and they are known to be naughty, so I photographed the back view of one and planned to put it at the front, as if he was peeing on the garden. However, it just didn’t look right; the idea didn’t work, so I removed it. A pity, as I still think it was a fun idea. After the shoot was over, I had the back view signed by the Beatles, which I sold a few years ago. Interestingly, it resold in 2015 for £29,000. I also had Marlene Dietrich signed, which I was very proud of. She became a prominent figure on the set.

When the time arrived to take the photos, Michael still couldn’t get up to the camera, so he stood in front and directed the Beatles and told me when to press the trigger. So it was actually me who took the photographs. It was normal at the time for the assistant to be on the camera when dealing with large format, technical cameras and it certainly doesn’t mean I claim them as mine. I just pressed the shutter. Michael used his 35mm Nikon for the seated photos that were used on the inside.


We finished late in the evening, but one of the best restaurants in London, Alvaro’s, was just along the King’s Road and stayed open for us. I was very proud of Marlene, so I walked along to the meal with her tucked under my arm. When we got there, it didn’t seem appropriate for me to take her inside, so I propped her up by the doorway on the street until we’d finished eating! This figure was to resell in 2003 for £86,000. Goodness only knows what it’s worth now – and I’d left her in the street! Incidentally, I wasn’t impressed with the food as the portions were fashionably tiny and I was famished!

The album wasn’t finished yet, though. Peter had wanted some gifts to be enclosed in the boxed set; a postcard of Sgt. Pepper, a set of sergeant’s stripes, a folding cardboard sign, a false moustache and two badges. EMI said that they were already way over budget and wouldn’t spend the money, but Peter was determined to get the idea across. So, on the following Sunday, we met at the studio and I took photographs of the things he had produced and made prints for him to take away. He then designed the cardboard sheet that was slipped inside.

I never got a penny overtime money for all the late hours and the busy Sunday, but Peter kindly invited the three of us assistants to an excellent Chinese meal in north London in a private room upstairs, with his wife, Jan Haworth, and her father, who was the set designer for the soon-to-be-released film, ‘Half a Sixpence’. Also there was the star, Julia Foster, and the director, George Sidney. It was a truly memorable meal with really fantastic food. Thanks again, Peter.

Sgt Pepper_s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1)

In gratitude, Michael invited us to go with him to Paris to see the Rolling Stones opening their European tour at Olympia. He was up in the high box behind the audience arranging the lighting effects and we were in a privileged position, so we got to go backstage to photograph the goings on. We even got to go into the practice room and in the wings during the concert and I was very pleased with my results. Unfortunately, all these photos were stolen years later, but that’s another story.


Nigel Hartnup 2017

Sgt Pepper Photos

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

The list Neil Aspinall gave to Barry Miles when he visited Indica Books looking for photographs for the Sgt Pepper cover.

Sgt Pepper cast list copy

Issy Bonn: Actor/comedian. Issy leaving for Ghana to collect 20 stranded variety artists whose tour was arranged by his theatrical agency, Langham Productions.

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’.image
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.


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)image.jpeg
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 Finnegans 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 Finnegans 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’.
imageTyrone 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.
imageLeo 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!
imageDr 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.imageGeorge 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. image
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).
imageBonus: Legionnaire from Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes (RAOB). This MAY be John’s uncle, Charlie Lennon, who was a member.image

AdobePhotoshopExpress_2021_02_25_08 35 00


Richard Lindner: Artist.

German-born American painter Richard Lindner (1901 – 1978) a pipe in one hand, as he stands in his apartment in New York. Photo by Evelyn Hofer. (Thanks to Mark Lewisohn and Obdiah Jones)


Richard Lindner ABC

Richard Lindner enlarged

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.”image
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.


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, Blake and Cooper.

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 or Michael Cooper. 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? image

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. image
(B) No idea!

Probably from Peter Blake or Michael Cooper’s personal collection. Again, if you can help, please contact me!

Wallace Bermann: Artist.

This person?? Not used on the cover but on a number of outtakes. Many have suggested that this might be Amelia Earhart, but if you know – get in touch!


Addendum: The curious case of the elusive Mr Burroughs

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…

Hi Chris,
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.”