It’s obvious almost to the point of tedium to point out that the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, along with all of its merits as a work of music and a cultural touchstone, boasts one of the most surpassingly iconic album cover photos of the rock era. It was staged and shot by Jann Haworth and Peter Blake (who won a Grammy for their effort) using photo enlargements and wax figures of famous and obscure figures to whom the Beatles’ members wished to pay tribute, over 70 in all, including the Beatles themselves, both in real life and waxwork form.
Parodies of the cover abound (including one rather spectacular recent example by Blake himself), and diagrams identifying all of the personages and objects in the photo have been around for about as long as the album—half a century as of this year, as it happens. But I’m not aware of anyone undertaking this endeavor until now: one Chris Shaw is trying to hunt down all the original photos used to create the cover. He’s documenting his progress on his Twitter feed (@Chrisshaweditor) and on a blog.
Shaw was recently quoted about the project by The Poke:
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 Peter Blake used to create the iconic sleeve.
My first search was for 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. I may be some time.
Some were surely not terribly elusive—W.C. Fields, Tony Curtis, and Marlon Brando were culled from widely circulated promo pictures, and Bob Dylan was enlarged from the cover of Highway 61 Revisited. But some of his finds are quite marvelous; the Johnny Weismuller photo Shaw cites in the quotation above really is quite wonderful, and he even found the doll in the Rolling Stones sweater. I’d imagine some Dangerous Minds readers might have some insights to share with Shaw, and I’ll bet he’d be delighted if you’d point him toward any as-yet-unfound photo sources using the hashtag #SgtPepperPhotos, or through the contact form on his blog.
#37 Max Miller: Stand-up comedian. Photo taken from his 1957 album ''Max at the Met" pic.twitter.com/3SdTTPJfDj— Chris Shaw (@ChrisShawEditor) April 12, 2017
Much thankyou to Christina Ross for this find
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father’: Sonic Youth, the Wedding Present and the Fall’s tribute to the Beatles
After ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’: A gallery of Peter Blake’s pop art album covers