Making the Sgt Pepper cover

The concept of Sgt Pepper as an album was almost entirely Paul McCartney's; the idea that instead of being Beatles, they could sing and present the album as a kind of alter-ego.

When considering the album's cover Paul wanted to have a bunch of famous people standing behind the band. He approached John, George and Ringo and asked them to pick the names of people they'd like to appear on the cover.

McCartney took his ideas to London artist Peter Blake. Blake and his wife Jann Haworth helped The Beatles fully realise their iconic album cover; the couple went on to win the 1968 Grammy Award for Best Album Cover, Graphic Arts.

"We had an original meeting with all four Beatles, Robert Fraser and Brian Epstein; most of the subsequent talking was done with Paul at his house and with John there sometimes." - Peter Blake

A photo shoot took place on March 30th 1967, at Michael Cooper's London photographic studio. On this day photos were also taken for the album's inner sleeve and back cover.

The finished product in all its glory features 57 photographs and nine waxworks showcasing a plethora of various actors, musicians and people of note from the 20th century. John Lennon wanted Adolf Hitler and Jesus Christ but this idea was shot down. The cover cost The Beatles £3,000 to make, quite a large sum for an album cover at the time.

 Paul McCartney discussing the Sgt. Pepper cover, March 1967. 

Paul McCartney discussing the Sgt. Pepper cover, March 1967. 

Top row

  • Sri Yukteswar Giri (Hindu guru)
  • Aleister Crowley (occultist)
  • Mae West (actress)
  • Lenny Bruce (comedian)
  • Karlheinz Stockhausen (composer)
  • W. C. Fields (comedian/actor)
  • Carl Gustav Jung (psychiatrist)
  • Edgar Allan Poe (writer)
  • Fred Astaire (actor/dancer)
  • Richard Merkin (artist)
  • The Vargas Girl (by artist Alberto Vargas)
  • Huntz Hall (actor)
  • Simon Rodia (designer and builder of the Watts Towers)
  • Bob Dylan (singer/songwriter)
 Ink, cutouts and various ingredients for the Sgt. Pepper cover, March 1967. 

Ink, cutouts and various ingredients for the Sgt. Pepper cover, March 1967. 

Second row

 John Lennon and Peter Blake working on figures for the Sgt. Pepper cover, March 1967. 

John Lennon and Peter Blake working on figures for the Sgt. Pepper cover, March 1967. 

  • Aubrey Beardsley (illustrator)
  • Sir Robert Peel (19th century British Prime Minister)
  • Aldous Huxley (writer)
  • Dylan Thomas (poet)
  • Terry Southern (writer)
  • Dion Dimucci (singer/songwriter)
  • Tony Curtis (actor)
  • Wallace Berman (artist)
  • Tommy Handley (comedian)
  • Marilyn Monroe (actress)
  • William S. Burroughs (writer)
  • Sri Mahavatar Babaji (Hindu guru)
  • Stan Laurel (actor/comedian)
  • Richard Lindner (artist)
  • Oliver Hardy (actor/comedian)
  • Karl Marx (political philosopher)
  • H. G. Wells (writer)
  • Sri Paramahansa Yogananda (Hindu guru)
  • James Joyce (Irish poet and novelist) – barely visible below Bob Dylan
  • Anonymous (hairdresser's wax dummy)
 Peter Blake and Jann Haworth working on figures for the Sgt. Pepper cover, March 1967. 

Peter Blake and Jann Haworth working on figures for the Sgt. Pepper cover, March 1967. 

 Members of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band getting ready for their photo shoot, March 1967.

Members of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band getting ready for their photo shoot, March 1967.

Third row

  • Stuart Sutcliffe (artist/former Beatle)
  • Anonymous (hairdresser's wax dummy)
  • Max Miller (comedian)
  • A "Petty Girl" (by artist George Petty)
  • Marlon Brando (actor)
  • Tom Mix (actor)
  • Oscar Wilde (writer)
  • Tyrone Power (actor)
  • Larry Bell (artist)
  • David Livingstone (missionary/explorer)
  • Johnny Weissmuller (Olympic swimmer/Tarzan actor)
  • Stephen Crane (writer) – barely visible between Issy Bonn's head and raised arm
  • Issy Bonn (comedian)
  • George Bernard Shaw (playwright)
  • H. C. Westermann (sculptor)
  • Albert Stubbins (English footballer)
  • Sri Lahiri Mahasaya (guru)
  • Lewis Carroll (writer)
  • T. E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia")

Front row

  • Wax model of Sonny Liston (boxer)
  • A "Petty Girl" (by George Petty)
  • Wax model of George Harrison
  • Wax model of John Lennon
  • Shirley Temple (child actress) – barely visible behind the wax models of John and Ringo, first of three appearances on the cover
  • Wax model of Ringo Starr
  • Wax model of Paul McCartney
  • Albert Einstein (physicist) – largely obscured
  • John Lennon holding a french horn
  • Ringo Starr holding a trumpet
  • Paul McCartney holding a cor anglais
  • George Harrison holding a piccolo
  • Bette Davis (actress) – hair barely visible on top of George's shoulder
  • Bobby Breen (singer)
  • Marlene Dietrich (actress/singer)
  • Shirley Temple (child actress) – second appearance on the cover
  • An American legionnaire
  • Wax model of Diana Dors (actress)
 John Lennon and Ringo Starr standing beside a near-completed Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover, March 1967. 

John Lennon and Ringo Starr standing beside a near-completed Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover, March 1967. 

Props on the cover

  • Cloth grandmother-figure by Jann Haworth
  • Cloth doll by Haworth of Shirley Temple wearing a sweater that reads "Welcome The Rolling Stones Good Guys" – third and last appearance on the cover
  • A ceramic Mexican craft known as a Tree of Life from Metepec
  • A 9-inch Sony television set, apparently owned by Paul McCartney – the receipt, bearing McCartney's signature, is owned by a curator of a museum dedicated to The Beatles in Japan.
  • A stone figure of a girl
  • Another stone figure
  • A statue brought over from John Lennon's house
  • A trophy
  • A doll of the Hindu goddess Lakshmi
  • A drum skin, designed by fairground artist Joe Ephgrave
  • A hookah (water pipe)
  • A velvet snake
  • A Fukusuke, Japanese china figure
  • A stone figure of Snow White
  • A garden gnome
  • A Baritone horn
  • A three-stringed flower guitar
 Ringo Starr, Mal Evans and John Lennon, March 1967. 

Ringo Starr, Mal Evans and John Lennon, March 1967. 

People excluded from the cover

  • Leo Gorcey 
  • Mohandas Gandhi 
  • Jesus Christ 
  • Adolf Hitler 
  • Timothy Carey 
  • Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni 
 Setting up the shot for the Sgt. Pepper cover, March 1967. 

Setting up the shot for the Sgt. Pepper cover, March 1967. 

 The Beatles with Adam Cooper, son of Michael Cooper; the Sgt. Pepper album photographer, March 1967. 

The Beatles with Adam Cooper, son of Michael Cooper; the Sgt. Pepper album photographer, March 1967. 

 Alternate shot of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cover, March 1967. 

Alternate shot of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cover, March 1967. 

 Alternate shot of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cover, March 1967. 

Alternate shot of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cover, March 1967. 

 Alternate shot of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cover, March 1967. 

Alternate shot of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cover, March 1967. 

 Alternate shot of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cover, March 1967. 

Alternate shot of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cover, March 1967. 

  Alternate shot of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cover, March 1967. 

Alternate shot of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cover, March 1967. 

 The complete Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cover in all its glory, 1967. 

The complete Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cover in all its glory, 1967. 

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