Meet the Beatles Covers


For the HELP! photo shoot, photographer Robert Freeman warmed up by shooting publicity stills of the band playing around in the Austrian snow. In the process, he realized that their arm motions reminded him of semaphore, a system of emergency naval communications using waving flags. Because the album title was conveniently four characters long, the photographer had each member of the group spell out a letter using the code. However, Freeman found that the arm motions for H-E-L-P were much less aesthetically pleasing than the positions for N-U-J-V, so he decided to use those letters instead.


The Beatles spared no expense for this 1967 cover, shelling out more than $60,000 to produce, arrange, and shoot dozens of cutouts and images. Among the celebrities included on the album cover were Marilyn Monroe, boxing champ Sonny Liston, and wax models of the Beatles borrowed from Madame Tussaud's collection. They even commissioned images of Jesus, Hitler, and Gandhi, but decided to leave them out for fear of offending fans.


After the circus that was the Sgt. Pepper album cover, the Beatles wanted to simplify things for their next record. The following year, they collaborated with pop artist Richard Hamilton to create what's now known as The White Album-a completely white surface embossed with the Beatles stamp. To add a layer of irony, Hamilton suggested that each copy be individually numbered, even though it was hardly a limited edition. (At least 600,000 U.K. copies were numbered.) McCartney remembers that Lennon grabbed No. 0000001. Typical.


The iconic crosswalk scene was shot in just minutes outside the Beatles' recording studio in 1969. The cover is a darling of conspiracy theorists, who claim that Paul McCartney died prior to the shoot and that he was replaced by a look-alike. Supposedly, the band dropped clues on the cover by dressing up as a funeral procession.: Lennon in white as the preacher, Starr in black as the undertaker, Harrison in jeans as the gravedigger, and McCartney shoeless, with the wrong foot forward, as the corpse.

However, the person who's truly out of step in the photo isn't Paul McCartney but Paul Cole, a visiting Floridian who was captured in the background. Cole didn't find out about the picture until months later, when his wife brought the album home from the store.


The above article is reprinted with permission from the Scatterbrained section of the September-October 2010 issue of mental_floss magazine.

Be sure to visit mental_floss' entertaining website and blog for more fun stuff!

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another obsession that can be very annoying. they were good at the start, when they were still listening to their handlers but, man, it so fell apart once they stopped.

all the ultra-hype just tarnishes the memories, really.
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I thought the White Album was white because the first version had them in white smocks holding up dolls that looked like dead babies. Maybe I dreamt that.
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According to the Geoff Emmerick (engineer to the Beatles) book "Here, There and Everywhere". Abbey Road was originally going to be entitled "Everest" and the cover photo would depict the band in front of Mt. Everest. Ringo had stomach problems and didn't like to travel, so he half-jokingly said "Let's just call it Abbey Road and shoot the picture outside".
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