Pre-retouched Sgt Pepper's album artwork, offering a behind-the-scenes look at the production of the album cover art
Much has been said regarding the history and importance of The Beatles’ 1967 album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (see lot 75), a "concept album" centered around the idea of an Edwardian-styled band within a band. Paul McCartney was a driving force behind the cover art — in keeping with the lyrics of the title track, Paul’s idea was that the group should be depicted as a band that would play in a park bandstand, a concept promoted by light applause that can be heard throughout the album, and The Beatles’ vivid satin uniforms. This necessitated the construction of an audience.
According to art director Sir Peter Brown, "I asked [The Beatles] to make lists of people they'd most like to have in the audience at this imaginary concert... EMI realized that because many of the people we were depicting were still alive, we might be sued for not seeking their permission. So the Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein, who was very wary of all the complications in the first place, had his assistant write to everyone." Figures featured in the audience include Mahatma Ghandi, Sonny Liston, Edgar Allan Poe, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Shirley Temple, Bob Dylan, and many more. The actor Leo Gorcey was originally in this collage (as seen in this pre-retouched dye transfer), but was later removed from the negative used to print the final album cover after demanding a fee.
The firm New York firm Arton Associates was engaged to make the necessary adjustments to the artwork, and they in turn engaged Evans-Averdisian to transfer the photograph to a “retouch-ready” medium. At the time the most sophisticated means for such a transfer was the dye-transfer method. Working from the original negative from Cooper’s photo shoot, Evans-Averdisian created 10 dye-transfers reflecting a range of color exposures for the retouching process.
In addition to reflecting the album artwork prior to the elimination of the controversial figures, this dye-transfer reveals the details of the entire, un-cropped Sgt. Pepper’s image and accompanying production. This includes the props and the edge of the backdrop, the wood shelving that was used to support some of the backdrop, the black paper stretched across the set, and the electrical wires for set lights.