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Friday, June 2, 2017

A Day in the Life

No band has been as universally celebrated as the Beatles, but they haven't been without controversy. Their original cover for Yesterday and Today, released in 1966, stirred up so much trouble, you'd think that had posed with the severed head of a sitting United States President.

Amazingly, the Fab Four didn't learn their lesson from that brouhaha. One year latter, they would again step into trouble with their initial draft of the album cover for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, released 50 years ago yesterday.

The Grammy-winning album cover included of images of people who had inspired the Beatles, including Sonny Liston, Shirley Temple, Lenny Bruce, Shirley Temple, Karl Marx, Marilyn Monroe, and Shirley Temple. (The Beatles really, really liked Shirley Temple.) But not everyone made the final cut. As People magazine reported yesterday:

"One of them wanted money for it," [Paul McCartney] continued.

"We just wrote to everyone and said, 'Do you mind?' Well, at first we didn't. But the head of EMI, Sir Joseph Lockwood came to my house and complained! He said, 'This is going to be a nightmare. There are going to be legal battles!' I said, 'No, no, no. People are gonna love it! They're all on the Beatles cover, you know! It'll be a laugh, they'll understand.' He said, 'No, you've got to write to them all.'"

"So we did. We got a letter out: 'We are planning to do this using your image. Do you mind? Is it okay? Please give us the okay.' And all of them did, except for one ... who wanted to cut a deal," he explained. "And we thought, 'You know what, we've got enough people on here!'"

Who was the celebrity who wanted to get paid for the Beatles to use his likeness? Would you believe it was a profit-minded time traveler?

Booster Gold on the original Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover

The album was eventually released without Booster Gold's image. Despite the omission, the album still sold pretty well — about two and a half million copies in 1967 alone. Compare that to 2016's best-selling album, Adele's 25, which moved a half million fewer copies. In fact, Sgt. Pepper's was outperformed in 1967 by More of The Monkees.

Perhaps if the Beatles hadn't been so greedy and had stuck with their original impulse to go Gold, their album might have survived as more than a footnote in history.

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