Cover shoot for Sgt Pepper

6.00pm, Thursday 30 March 1967 (47 years ago)

Prior to a late night recording session at Abbey Road, The Beatles visited Michael Cooper’s London photographic studio where the cover photographs for Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band were taken.

The full photograph used for the cover of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

The shoot took place at 4 Chelsea Manor Studios, 1-11 Flood Street, just off King’s Road in Chelsea. The studios opened in 1902, and Cooper established his studio from 22 July 1966.

The Beatles arrived in the late afternoon. The soon-to-be-famous collage, designed by Peter Blake and his wife Jann Haworth, had been assembled in the studio during the preceding eight days.

A contract dated 14 April 1967 described the various fees for the session, including a misspelling of the album title:

Hire and use of Michael Cooper Studios for 8 days including personnel (3 fulltime assistants) plus overtime and expenses to staff for additional work during Easter weekend: £625.0.0

54 copy negatives @ 10/6 each: 28.7.0

54 20″x16″ prints @ 17/6 each: 47.5.0

Photography fee (SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS BAND set and centre spread, closeup): 250.0.0

Art direction fee (Layout and co-ordination of sleeve and inserts, cutouts, song sheets, production of mechanical rough and artwork by Al Vandenberg for Michael Cooper Studios, including co-ordination and supervision of all aspects of design and artwork from Peter Blake and Simon & Marekka; supervision and co-ordination of printing, retouching and blockmaking): £350.0.0

Special fee to Peter Blake: £200.0.0

In addition to the front cover shot, The Beatles also posed for the images used on the back cover and the gatefold sleeve.

The cover had come about after Paul McCartney came up with the album title. He took some ideas to his art dealer friend Robert Fraser, who suggested they use Blake, Haworth and Cooper to realise the concept.

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

McCartney’s initial idea was to stage a presentation featuring a mayor and a corporation, with a floral clock and a selection of photographs of famous faces on the wall behind The Beatles.

He asked the others to list their choices for the photographs; the original list, complete with misspellings, was given to Fraser and Blake:

Yoga’s; Marquis de Sade; Hitler; Neitch; Lenny Bruce; Lord Buckley; Alistair Crowley; Dylan Thomas; James Joyce; Oscar Wilde; William Burroughs; Robert Peel; Stockhausen; Auldus Huxley; H.G. Wells; Izis Bon; Einstein; Carl Jung; Beardsley; Alfred Jarry; Tom Mix; Johnny Weissmuller; Magritte; Tyrone Power; Carl Marx; Richard Crompton; Tommy Hanley; Albert Stubbins; Fred Astaire.

McCartney took the list and sketches to Peter Blake, who developed the concept further. Further names were added and others fell by the wayside.

Jesus and Hitler were among John Lennon’s choices, but they were left off the final list. Gandhi, meanwhile, was disallowed by Sir Joseph Lockwood, the head of EMI, after he told them they would have problems having the sleeve printed in India.

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