Explaining The Beatles 'Butcher Cover'

This Sunday October 9, Andre Gardner broadcasts his Breakfast With The Beatles program live from The Green Parrot.  In addition to having The Beat Tells playing live, he'll also be giving away a Beatles 'Butcher Cover' album (purchased for $500). Find out what this storied piece of Beatles memorabilia is all about and why it's considered so valuable as we take a crack at explaining The Beatles 'Butcher Cover'.
In 1966 The Beatles took part in a photo shoot for the cover of the US LP release of the "Yesterday and Today" album  with photographer Bob Whitaker.  The album featured the Fab Four dressed in white smocks that were smeared with blood. They were surrounded by raw meat and the band members were holding baby doll parts/pieces.  To say that the photo was bizarre would be an understatement.  It's hard to believe that Capitol Records allowed the world's biggest band to make this the photo for their album cover, but they did.

Capitol printed hundreds of thousands of the album covers.  They sent hundreds, possibly thousands, to record stores, record distributors and radio stations prior to the public release of the record.  The negative response to the cover was so strong that Capitol pulled the album from public distribution.  Despite doing this rather quickly a few hundred copies of the 'grotesque' album cover were either sold by record stores or passed around after the initial release was pulled from distribution.

In an effort to avoid wasting money by destroying the hundreds of thousands of album covers that featured the 'Butcher' imagery, Capitol created new album jackets with a much more serene band photo and pasted them on top of the initial cover.  Some fans were able to remove the pasted image and reveal the original 'Butcher Cover'.  Others ruined both covers in their efforts to uncover the original album photo.


There are variety of theories on why the band thought releasing an album with such a disturbing photo was a good idea.  Here's what the photographer had to say as well as the band members themselves.

Photographer Bob Whitaker did a few interviews on the subject of 'The Butcher Cover' photo shoot.  He informed interviewers that the bizarre photo was a commentary on the insane level of popularity the band had achieved. He was trying to remind fans that the band were human, that they weren't gods. "I was trying to show that the Beatles were flesh and blood," he stated.

John Lennon told Playboy magazine, “It was inspired by our boredom and resentment at having to do another photo session and another Beatles thing. We were sick to death of it.”
Paul McCartney remarked in Anthology  "We’d done a few sessions with Bob before this, and he knew our personalities: he knew we liked black humor and sick jokes. And he said, ‘I’ve had an idea – stick these white lab coats on.’ It didn’t seem too offensive to us. It was just dolls and a lot of meat.”

While Lennon and McCartney were intrigued by the surrealist imagery of raw meat and dismembered baby dolls, George Harrison was a reluctant participant.

“I thought it was gross, and I also thought it was stupid,” Harrison mentioned in Anthology. “Sometimes we all did stupid things, thinking it was cool and hip when it was naïve and dumb; and that was one of them.”