The cover artwork
Beatles For Sale was packaged in a gatefold sleeve, a first for the group. The front and back covers featured photographs of The Beatles taken by Robert Freeman in London’s Hyde Park.
The album cover was rather nice: Robert Freeman’s photos. It was easy. We did a session lasting a couple of hours and had some reasonable pictures to use. We showed up in Hyde Park by the Albert Memorial. I was quite impressed by George’s hair there. He managed to create his little turnip top. The photographer would always be able to say to us, ‘Just show up,’ because we all wore the same kind of gear all the time. Black stuff; white shirts and big black scarves.
The Beatles appeared looking notably weary in Freeman’s photographs, with pale, unsmiling faces frames by their long hair and turned-up collars. The album’s title appeared in a small type size, dwarfed than the EMI/Parlophone logos, with the group’s name nowhere else on the cover.
Inside the gatefold was a photograph of The Beatles standing in front of a montage of photographs at Twickenham Film Studios, another of the group performing in Washington, DC on 11 February 1964, and sleeve notes by Derek Taylor.
This is the fourth by the four. ‘Please Please Me’, ‘With The Beatles’, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’. That’s three. Now… ‘Beatles For Sale‘.
The young men themselves aren’t for sale. Money, noisy though it is, doesn’t talk that loud. But you can buy this album – you probably have, unless you’re just browsing, in which case don’t leave any dirty thumbprints on the sleeve!
It isn’t all currency or current though. There’s priceless history between these covers. None of us is getting any younger. When, in a generation or so, a radio-active, cigar-smoking child, picnicking on Saturn, asks you what the Beatle affair was all about – ‘Did you actually know them?’ – don’t try to explain all about the long hair and the screams! Just play the child a few tracks from this album and he’ll probably understand what it was all about. The kids of AD 2000 will draw from the music much the same sense of well being and warmth as we do today.
For the magic of the Beatles is, I suspect, timeless and ageless. It has broken all frontiers and barriers. It has cut through differences of race, age and class. It is adored by the world.
This album has some lovely samples of Beatle music. It has, for instance, eight new titles wrought by the incomparable John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and, mingling with the new, there are six numbers culled from the rhythmic wealth of the past extraordinary decade; pieces like ‘Kansas City’, and ‘Rock And Roll Music’. Marvellous.
Many hours and hard day’s nights of devoted industry went into the production of this album. It isn’t a potboiling quick-sale any-old-thing-will-do-for-Christmas mixture.
At least three of the Lennon-McCartney songs were seriously considered as single releases until John popped up with ‘I Feel Fine’. These three were ‘Eight Days A Week’, ‘No Reply’ and ‘I’m A Loser’. Each would have topped the charts, but as it is they are an adornment to this LP, and a lesson to other artists. As on other albums, the Beatles have tossed in far more value than the market usually demands.
There are few gimmicks or recording tricks, though for effect, the Beatles and their recording manager George Martin, have slipped in some novelties. Like Paul on Hammond organ to introduce drama into Mr. Moonlight, which also, and for the first time, has George Harrison applying a thump to an elderly African drum because Ringo was busy elsewhere in the studio, playing bongos. George’s thump remains on the track. The bongos were later dropped. Ringo plays timpani in ‘Every Little Thing’, and on the ‘Rock and Roll Music’ track George Martin joins John and Paul on one piano. On ‘Words Of Love’, Ringo plays a packing case.
Beyond this, it is straightforward 1964 disc-making. Quite the best of its kind in the world. There is little or nothing on the album which cannot be reproduced on stage, which is, as students and critics of pop-music know, not always the case.
Here it is then. The best album yet – quite definitely, says John, Paul, George, and Ringo – full of everything which made the four the biggest attraction the world has ever known. Full of raw John and melodic Paul; a number from George, and a bonus from Ringo. For those who like to know who does precisely what, there are details alongside each title.