Reference Library: The Beatles Butcher Cover
From: email@example.com (saki)
Subject: Re: point of butcher cover
Date: 5 May 1995 18:22:27 GMT
Aaron Gangross (firstname.lastname@example.org) wrote:
Does anyone know what the story behind the butcher cover? Lennon
once said it was as relevant as Vietnam. Others say it was symbolically
criticizing Capitol for "chopping up" their albums. Or was it just a
Noel Tarnoff (email@example.com) wrote:
I am pretty sure it isn't about Capitol...if I am not mistaken, the
Butcher cover went to Italy and other European countries as well under
the EMI label...someone want to either correct me or support me on this?
Some time ago Euan MacKenzie posted a very detailed precis of the photo
session involving this picture; I'm indebted to him for his information.
The photo itself was part of a grouping of photos all intended to
express various surreal communication about modern life---you might
be inclined to call it photographic conceptual art. Its original
title was to be "A Somnambulant Adventure".
Bob Whitaker, who had worked with the Fabs on general publicity photo
gigs, was in charge of the session but was open to suggestion from
John, whose idea the project was. The session also included ideas
for other shots as well; I'm not clear whether these were actually
posed and photographed, but they included George hammering nails into
John's head; Paul and George wearing birdcages over their heads; and
various other odd poses.
I don't believe that any of these photos were intended for album or
promotional use, but rather for artistic expression in some nebulous
fashion. There's some feeling that the butcher photo might have been
used for an advert promoting "Paperback Writer" and for the "Yesterday...
and Today" LP cover *without* Whitaker's permission; but Whitaker's
contract (with which I'm not familiar) may have permitted such an
The butcher photo itself apparently was influenced by a German photographic
artist of the early 20th century called Hans Belmer; this particular
inspiration was reportedly known by Whitaker and communicated to Lennon,
who voiced enthusiasm for replicating Belmer's work.
The photo seems not to have any connection to a protest on the part
of the Fabs about Capitol's repackaging of their work, but a legend
developed that this was its purpose. When Lennon said that it was
"as relevant as Vietnam", it appears he was speaking artistically.
He was not referring to any inherent anti-war protest in the substance
of the photo.
The cover of "Yesterday...and Today" seems to have horrified journalists
and promoters of the LP, which was intended only for an American
market, and Capitol was persuaded rather quickly to recall the LP
they'd just shipped (about 400,000 copies, though that number is
only an estimate) and re-cover the sleeve with the pasted-over
"trunk" cover. After the initial run of the LP had been salvaged,
new pressings of the record included the "trunk" cover with no
hidden butcher picture underneath...so not all copies of "Yesterday...
and Today" have the hidden treasure.
"First State" covers are those that somehow escaped re-covering
altogether and were retained by their recipients in hopes of someday
realizing its collectible value.
"I asked Bobby Dylan, I asked the Beatles, I asked Timothy Leary, but
he couldn't help me either."
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