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Sgt. Pepper's Who's Who
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Sgt. Pepper's Who's Who
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The sleeve of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band has a picture image of fifty-seven photographs, plus nine waxwork models, the Beatles, a Sgt. Pepper drum (designed by Joe Ephgrave), a stone bust (from John Lennon's house), four statuettes, an idol, a doll with "Welcome The Rolling Stones" on its sweater, a portable television set, a gold award and a variety of flower arrangements, one spelling the word "Beatles" and another in the shape of a guitar.

It was Paul's idea to have the photographs on the sleeve. He said that as the LP was a great work of art, it should have all the people the Beatles liked on the sleeve. However, this wasn't as easy as it sounded, because legal clearance had to be obtained from all the celebrities whom the Beatles planned to portray. Brian Epstein gave the job to Wendy Moger, his Personal Assistant and NEMS employee, who had to get the legal clearance within a week -- although EMI were not very keen on the idea, Paul wanted it. Wendy Moger had an enormous job and spent many hours (and pounds) on the telephone to America to find that some people agreed and others didn't; Fred Astaire, she said, was very sweet, and she got on famously with Marlon Brando, but Shirley Temple said she wanted to hear the record before giving her approval. Actor Leo Gorcey was originally included in the Sgt. Pepper group -- to the left of his fellow Bowery Boys actor Huntz Hall -- but his photo was painted out after he requested a fee. A photo of the famous Indian leader Mohandas Ghandi, to the right of Lewis Carroll, was also painted out at the request of EMI.

Brian Epstein also didn't like Paul's idea for the cover, and early in 1967, while negotiations were going on, he was due to fly back to London from New York. Epstein was very superstitious, and was convinced that the plane would crash and that he would be killed, so before boarding the aircraft he wrote a note on a scrap of paper which he gave to Nat Weiss, his New York attorney. The note read "Brown paper Jackets for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band (album)".

All the items in the photograph on the cover came from the homes and personal collections of the Beatles, apart from nine waxwork models, loaned from Madame Tussaud's, of Diana Dors, Sonny Liston, Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Livingstone, George Bernard Shaw and The Beatles.

After Wendy Moger had obtained clearance for all the photographs, a montage was prepared by Peter Blake and Jann Haworth (who were only paid 200 quid each for their services), and then assembled with the rest of the paraphernalia in a Chelsea photographic studio on Flood Street owned by Michael Cooper. The costumes worn by the Beatles were specially made by Berman's, the notable theatrical costumiers, after the group had selected materials from satin samples supplied by Berman's, although originally the group had intended to be dressed in Salvation Army uniforms. Michael Cooper finally photographed the tableau on March 30, 1967.

The front cover photo was not the only part of the album sleeve to cause a problem. Another was the back cover, on which the Beatles wanted the lyrics of the songs printed, something which was previously unheard of, and which caused some publishing difficulties, although these were eventually overcome. Also on the back cover is a small picture of the Beatles, but one Beatle has his back turned. This is because it isn't a Beatle at all, and is, in fact, Mal Evans -- Mal deputised for Paul, who was in America to be with Jane Asher on her twenty-first birthday, a time when Jane was touring with the Bristol Old Vic. As the sleeve had to go into production by the end of April, before Paul was due to return, Mal donned Paul's Sgt. Pepper gear and stood in for him, but turned his back so that people would not suspect that Paul was absent.

Another first for the Sgt. Pepper sleeve was the inner paper bag, (the actual record container, which normally remained white), was decorated with a colour wash of reds and pinks, a design created by Seemon and Marijke -- it is now very common for albums to have a printed inner sleeve, which often becomes part of the main design and incorporates lyrics and credits. The decorated inner sleeve for Sgt. Pepper only appeared with early pressings of the album, and was discontinued later.

Also contained within the Sgt. Pepper sleeve is a set of cardboard cut-outs, which include a moustache, picture card of "Sgt. Pepper," sergeant's stripes, a "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" motif badge, a "Sgt. Pepper" badge and a "stand up" of the Beatles in "Pepper" gear.

In January 1993, a London court ruled against Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and the estate of John Lennon's Apple Corps, which sought to gain the rights to 239 photographs left over from the Sgt. Pepper cover shoot. The court ruled the photos, worth approximately $100,000, should remain in photographer Michael Cooper's estate.

In November 2011, an adopted version of the Sgt. Pepper record sleeve that features pictures of Capitol Records executives instead of the Beatles themselves was declared "The World's Most Valuable Album Cover" in a survey by Record Collector magazine. The famous sleeve was modified in 1967 when the album was released for a limited edition version of the LP that was distributed exclusively to Capitol executives. It is thought that only 100 versions of the album were created, and the whereabouts of only three copies are currently known. The sleeve is currently valued at approximately £70,000, followed in second place by the first 10 copies of the Beatles 1968 album The Beatles (also known as "The White Album), which is said to be worth £7,000.

In April 2012, Sir Peter Blake created a new version of the Sgt. Pepper cover to celebrate his 80th birthday. The new artwork featured many new faces, including Elton John, David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Eric Clapton, late singer Amy Winehouse, Noel Gallagher of Oasis, and Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, and was part of a Sir Blake retrospective at Wayne Hemingway's Vintage festival in Northamptonshire, England. "I've chosen people I admire, great people and some who are dear friends," Sir Peter told the U.K. paper The Guardian, adding he had a "very long list of people who I wanted to go in but couldn't fit everyone in -- I think that shows how strong British culture and its legacy of the last six decades is."

In February 2013, the collage used to create the album insert for Sgt. Pepper's fetched more than $87,000 in an auction at Sotheby's in London. The artwork, also created by Sir Blake and Jann Haworth, was included with the record and intended to be a keepsake for fans. The 30-centimeter by 30-centimeter collage depicts Sgt. Pepper along with the band and contained the message, "For M.J. from Peter and Jann." The work was from the collection of architect Colin St. John Wilson, and Blake had presented it to Wilson's wife soon after completion.

In March 2013, a U.K. Parlophone copy of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band signed by all four Beatles sold at auction for $290,500. The final sale price far exceeded the $30,000 originally estimated for the item and broke the previous record of $150,000 for a signed Beatles album cover, which was for the the band's 1964 album Meet the Beatles.

In a post on his official website in May 2017 celebrating the 50th anniversary of the album, Paul McCartney revealed that the title and concept of the album came to him during an airplane flight with roadie Mal Evans, when he misheard Evans asking him to "pass the salt and pepper." "I thought he said Sergeant Pepper," said McCartney. "I went, 'Oh! Wait a minute, that's a great idea!'" After having "a laugh about it," McCartney said he immediately "started thinking about Sergeant Pepper as a character." "I thought it would be a very interesting idea for us to assume alter egos for this album we were about to make," he added.

The Sgt. Pepper LP was recorded at the EMI Studios at Abbey Road, St John's Wood, North London, between December 10, 1966 and April 2, 1967.

The record was probably the first not to be split into individual tracks -- i.e. it is not "banded." There is only a fraction of a second gap between one song and the next, and in some cases, no gap at all, so that tracks merge into one another: "Sgt. Pepper" into "With a Little Help From My Friends," and "Good Morning, Good Morning" into "Sgt. Pepper (Reprise)" into "A Day In the Life."

The run-out groove on the second side of the vinyl LP is used: the first part of the groove contains a sound specially designed for dogs, a high frequency note pitched at eighteen kilocycles per second. This is above the general limit picked up by the human ear, which cannot hear sounds above 17 kilocycles. On the circular groove in the centre of the record is a snatch of jabbering conversation by the Beatles, mixed up and distorted, which sounds like "I never go see any other."

Most of the tracks for Sgt. Pepper were recorded over several days, or rather nights, as at the time the Beatles preferred to start recording early in the evening, going through until the early hours of the morning. The total recording time spent on Sgt. Pepper was over 700 hours, at a cost of around £25,000.

Sgt. Pepper, the Beatles' ninth British album release, sold 250,000 copies in Britain during its first week on sale. It entered the album charts at No. 1 on May 31, staying at No. 1 for twenty-two weeks, and had sold half a million copies one month after its release, eventually exceeding one million in Britain by April 1973. It also topped the charts all over the world, and in Germany sold 100,000 copies in its first week, a new sales record for that territory. Up to January 1971, Sgt. Pepper was the biggest selling British album of all time, with sales of over 7.5 million, but this figure was later equalled by the Beatles' own 1969 album, Abbey Road. By 1981, sales of both Sgt Pepper and Abbey Road exceeded ten million.

- Neville Stannard, The Long & Winding Road: A History of the Beatles on Record, 1982.

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