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Beatles Tour London

OTD in 1966, the infamous butcher photo sessions took place in Chelsea, just off the Kings Road.

Photographer Bob Whitaker produced one of the most controversial images in rock history on March 25, 1966. It was the infamous “butcher” cover for the Beatles‘ Yesterday and Today album even though it was Initially released only in the U.S. and Canada. The LP was a compilation of singles and tracks from their U.K.album, unfortunately it bought negative reaction to the image of the Fab Four in white coats where they were surrounded by dismembered doll parts and raw meat. This led Capitol Records to immediately pull the LP from the shelves and replace the cover.

“We’d done a few sessions with Bob before this, and he knew our personalities: he knew we liked black humor and sick jokes,” Paul McCartney recalled in Anthology. “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.”

“The photographer was a bit of a surrealist and he brought along all these babies and pieces of meat and doctors’ coats, so we really got into it,” Lennon told WNEW-FM. “And that’s how we felt – ‘Yeah!'”

Whitaker, who died in 2011, was influenced by German surrealist Hans Bellmer, who used dismembered doll and mannequin parts in his artwork. Whitaker was also inspired by surrealist Meret Oppenheim’s “Object” – a cup, saucer and spoon covered in fur.

The idea for the photo came to Whitaker in a dream. The butcher photo was to be one of three images, a triptych titled “A Somnambulant Adventure.” The photos would be a commentary on the Beatles’ fame and adulation. “All over the world I’d watched people worshipping like idols, like gods, four Beatles,” Whitaker is quoted on his website. “To me they were just stock standard normal people. However, this emotion that fans poured on them made me wonder where Christianity was heading.”
Even by ’60s standards, Whitaker’s idea was bizarre. In the first image a woman faces the Beatles, her back to the camera and hands up in surprise. The band members hold a string of sausages that represents an umbilical cord. This demonstrated that the Beatles were not gods; they were born the old-fashioned way. The second was the butcher photo; its meat and doll parts signified that the Beatles were flesh and blood.

The third image shows George Harrison hammering nails into Lennon’s head. Its meaning, Whitaker explained in Goldmine magazine, was that the Beatles were as solid as “a piece of wood. Why worship?”
Whitaker intended the images to resemble centuries-old religious paintings and he planned to put halos with precious stones around the Beatles’ heads attempting to finish the piece but didn’t get the chance before the photos were sent to Capitol.


Capitol began to destroy all the copies of the LP. But to save money, the label decided instead to paste new images over the offensive covers. The replacement photo, also taken by Whitaker, showed the Beatles posed around an open steamer trunk. Why not check out the location and participate in a Beatles Tour of London ?

Read More: Revisiting the Beatles’ Photo Shoot for the ‘Butcher’ Cover |

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