In case you haven’t heard, this summer marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Oh yeah, that’s right—you probably have heard. On this very blog, in addition to Richard Metzger’s glowing review of the recent reissue, there’s also the terrific report from our own Oliver Hall on the curious fact that his grandfather, Huntz Hall of the Bowery Boys, is actually one of the gallery of famous faces on the album’s cover.
Sgt. Pepper’s is a common choice for “Greatest Album of All Time” and lots of people get tired of hearing about it for that very reason. It was and is an undeniably influential album, however, and one proof of that is the sheer number of musical artists who have imitated its cover art, which was cunningly executed for the occasion by Peter Blake and Jann Haworth.
The first band to do a prominent parody of the cover, of course, was the Mothers of Invention, whose third album We’re Only In It For the Money took an unmistakably sneering attitude towards the Fab Four’s latest world-beating project. (They even got Jimi Hendrix to pose for it with them. That’s not a Hendrix cut-outs, it’s Jimi. Zappa put out an invitation to several others, apparently, but only Hendrix showed up.)
If you’re in a band and you don’t know what to do for your next album cover, you can try this: Spell out something in flowers in front of a drum head with some flamboyant text on it, while a throng of notables gathers and poses for an unlikely group portrait. Pink Floyd bootlegs. The Simpsons have done it. The Sex Pistols have had it done to them. Hell, even Ringo Starr has done it (kind of…..). If nothing else you get extra points for “taking on the rock and roll establishment” because nothing is more established in rock and roll than the Beatles and Sgt. Pepper’s.
There are literally dozens of albums that have used this trick, but we’re only showing a small selection. To single out two of my favorites: For the identically titled 1977 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which presented electronic covers of six tracks from the Beatles’ original, Jun Fukamachi reversed many of the elements in the cover, including having the crowd of personages “pose” with their backs facing the camera, all of which added up to an intriguing “backwards” concept. Meanwhile, Macabre’s 1993 death metal album Sinister Slaughter replaced the likes of Mae West and Gandhi with various serial killers and mass murderers.
The Mothers of Invention, ‘We’re Only In It For the Money’
Ringo Starr, ‘Ringo’
Jun Fukamachi, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’
The Rutles, ‘Sgt. Rutters Only Darts Club Band’
Much more after the jump…....