With the Beatles releasing their entire discography on CD this week coupled with the inaugural launch of the groundbreaking game ‘The Beatles: Rock Band’, the fab four are suddenly everywhere. What better way to jump on the bandwagon than big-up one of the most iconic album covers of all time: Peter Blake’s Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Sgt. Pepper's was the eighth studio album by The Beatles and came to be the defining album in the emerging psychedelic rock movement; it has since been recognised by prominent critics and publications as one of the most influential albums of all time.
Recorded over a 129-day period beginning in December 1966, Sgt. Pepper’s sees the band exploring experimentation, making use of orchestras, hired musicians and innovative production techniques. The album is loosely based on a concept that the Beatles are performing as the fictitious band of the album's title.
The album’s famous cover was devised by an amalgamation of talent. Art-directed by Robert Fraser, designed by Peter Blake and his then wife Jann Haworth, and photographed by Michael Cooper. The look of the album, the colourful collage of life-sized cardboard models depicting more than 70 famous people on the front of the album cover and lyrics printed on the back cover, was the first time this had been done on an English pop LP.
According to Blake, the original concept was to create a scene that showed the Sgt. Pepper band performing in a park. This gradually evolved into its final form, which as seen, shows the Beatles as the Sgt. Pepper band surrounded by a large group of their heroes rendered as lifesized cut-out figures.
Also included were wax-work figures of the Beatles as they appeared in the early '60s, borrowed from Madame Tussauds. In keeping with the park concept, the foreground of the scene is a floral display displaying the word "Beatles" spelt out in flowers. There are also several affectations from the Beatles' homes including small statues belonging to Lennon and Harrison, a small portable TV set and a trophy. A young delivery boy who provided the flowers for the photo session was allowed to contribute a guitar made of yellow hyacinths.
It has long been rumoured that some of the plants in the arrangement were cannabis plants. At the edge of the scene is a Shirley Temple doll wearing a sweater in homage to the Rolling Stones (who would return the tribute by having the Beatles hidden in the cover of their own Their Satanic Majesties Request LP later that year).
The highly collectable limited edition silkscreen print is still available and comes hand-signed and numbered by Peter Blake and features the embossed logo of the Beatles’ record label, Apple Records.