Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Memorabilia
In June 1967 The Beatles released what many believe to be their masterpiece: Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Fuelled by psychedelics during the peak of the Summer of Love, the album quickly became a cultural landmark, and had been described as "the most important and influential rock and roll album ever recorded".
Having sold more than 32 million copies worldwide, influenced generations of musicians and performers, and provided the soundtrack for more than a few great parties, the record remains a seminal work and features surely the most iconic album cover artwork of all time.
So to celebrate the anniversary of the album's release, here are some of the most valuable and remarkable Sgt Pepper-related artifacts to have sold at auction.
Diana Dors bust
(Image: Cooper Owen)
Although The Beatles were all asked to suggest famous people for inclusion on the cover, many of the choices fell to artist Peter Blake and his wife Jann Haworth, an artist in her own right who helped design the cover and co-directed the shoot.
"I asked them to make lists of people they'd most like to have in the audience at this imaginary concert," said Blake.
"John's was interesting because it included Jesus and Ghandi and, more cynically, Hitler...Ringo said, "Whatever the others say is fine by me", because he didn't really want to be bothered..."
"To be perfectly honest, Peter and I chose about 60 percent of what's there because they didn't come up with enough," added Haworth.
"So we're to blame for some of the inequalities that were there. But having said that, the Beatles chose no women. The only women chosen were by Peter and I."
One of those women was Diana Dors, the blonde bombshell actress known as the British answer to Marilyn Monroe, who rose to fame in the 1950s.
Although the majority of the figures included on the cover were two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs, Dors was one of a handful of waxwork figures included in the front row.
The original Diana Dors portrait bust later sold at Cooper Owen Auctions in 2005 for £15,000 (approx. $19,000).
Rolling Stones doll
(Image: Cooper Owen)
Amongst the numerous references on the cover of the album is a shout-out to The Rolling Stones, with whom the Fab Four shared both a rivalry and a close friendship.
On the left of the cover is a vintage doll of Hollywood child star Shirley Temple, dressed in a sweatshirt which reads "WMPS Good Guys Welcome the Rolling Stones".
According to legend, the shirt was the handiwork of Mary Anne May, a high school girl in Memphis, who made it as a competition entry to meet The Stones when they played at the Memphis Coliseum in November 1965.
The competition was hosted by the local AM radio station WMPS, and May was one of the lucky winners. She took the shirt with her to the show, and when she met the band backstage afterwards she presented as a gift it to Mick Jagger.
Two years later, May was amazed to discover that her home-made shirt had made it onto the cover of The Beatles' seminal album.
How it ended up featured in the cover shoot remains a mystery to this day.
However, Peter Blake suggested the shirt had belonged to Adam Cooper, the young son of rock photographer Michael Cooper who shot the cover image.
Considering Michael Cooper was close friends with The Stones (and was even present at Keith Richards' house during the infamous drug bust in 1967), it seems highly possible that Jagger had given him the shirt as a gift for his young son.
40 years after Mary Anne May first sewed on the felt letters, the jersey (and the doll) sold at Cooper Owen Auctions for £13,000 ($16,800).
Record company personalized album cover
(Image: Heritage Auctions)
At a Capitol Records launch party for the album in 1967, company executives were given a very special gift – a copy of the famous album cover mocked up to include their own faces, rather than the well-known figures in the original image.
It’s thought that just 40-50 copies were ever produced, making it the rarest Beatles album cover in the world.
Just a handful of copies have surfaced over the years, and in August 2013 this copy – originally given to Capitol’s national sales director – sold for £19,300 ($32,500) at Heritage Auctions in Dallas.
Peter Blake’s original insert artwork
Along with the famous cover, Peter Blake also created the album’s insert which included a cut-out moustache, military stripes, badges and a photo of Sgt Pepper himself.
As the iconic cover was created by taking a photograph on an elaborate set, the only existing piece of original Blake artwork from the album was the insert itself.
It remained in a private collection for almost 45 years, before selling at Sotheby’s in November 2012 for £55,250 ($87,800).
Wax Beatles heads
(Image: Cooper Owen)
Amongst the many movie stars, politicians, musicians and other famous figures on the album’s cover, stand the Beatles. And next to them stand...the Beatles.
Four waxwork figures of John, Paul, George and Ringo dressed in their early suits appear to the left of the band, to give the impression they’d just been to the concert of the real Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The wax portrait heads were borrowed from Madame Tussaud’s for the photo shoot in March 1967, and three of them (John, Paul and George) survived the following four decades before crossing the auction block (along with a replacement Paul head from the 60’s).
They were sold at Cooper Owen in October 2005 for £81,500 ($145,380).
Hand-painted caravan panel
(Image: Julien's Auctions)
In 1967 John Lennon purchased a wooden Gypsy caravan as a gift for his son Julian's fourth birthday.
He then commissioned a custom paint job by The Fool, the same Dutch art collective that had previously decorated his famous psychedelic Rolls Royce.
In tribute to The Beatles' recently-released album, the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band drum was painted onto the back of the caravan.
In 1971 Lennon and Yoko Ono moved to New York, and fellow former Beatle Ringo Starr acquired Tittenhurst Park – complete with the caravan, which remained in the garden.
In 1983 he had the caravan restored, and later moved it to his new home when he sold the estate in 1988.
The caravan remained in Starr's garden next to his swimming pool for years, and after he moved out it stayed there, slowly rotting away until it was rediscovered in 2013.
However, it seems that Starr had taken one piece of it as a memento before he left – the hand-painted back panel, featuring the iconic Sgt. Pepper's drum logo.
This wooden panel remained in Starr's personal collection until 2015, when he sold his memorabilia through Julien's Auctions in Beverly Hills. The entire sale achieved a total of almost $10 million, and the Sgt Pepper-inspired panel sold for $125,000.
Signed Marlene Dietrich cardboard cut-out
One of the most visible cardboard celebrity figures seen on the album cover is the German stage and screen siren Marlene Dietrich.
She holds a place of honour in the front row, next to George, and is one of only three figures that can be seen in full.
Some believe this was in tribute to the fact that the band had shared a stage with her during the Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium in 1963.
The original Dietrich life-sized cardboard standee used during the cover shoot, and later signed by all four band members, was sold decades later at Christies in 2003, for £86,250 ($137,300).
'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' lyrics
(Image: Profiles in History)
Despite the trippy lyrics, the psychedelic imagery and the fact that the title features the initials ‘LSD’, John Lennon always maintained the song ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ had a far more innocent origin – a childhood drawing by his son Julian, depicting his classmate Lucy O'Donnell.
Paul McCartney later claimed in 2004 that it was indeed about dropping acid, and the song certainly provided a suitable backdrop for the ‘Summer of Love’ in 1967.
Lennon’s original hand-written lyrics for the song, including a doodled sketch, sold at a Profiles in History auction in 2011 for £145,450 ($237,000).
Signed Mono UK gatefold album cover
(Image: Heritage Auctions)
The world’s most valuable Beatles album is currently this UK Mono gatefold copy of Sgt Pepper, autographed on the inside cover by all four members of the band.
Just a handful of signed copies of the album are known to exist, as by the time of its release in 1967 the band had ceased performing live and fans had little opportunity to acquire their signatures.
Beatles expert Perry Cox said of the cover: "With my being thoroughly immersed in Beatles collectibles for over 30 years, it takes something extraordinarily special to excite me, but I consider this to be one of the top two items of Beatles memorabilia I've ever seen - the other being a signed copy of Meet The Beatles."
As the finest-known signed copy of the most famous Beatles album, this copy set a new record in March 2008 when it sold at Heritage Auctions for £172,500 ($290,500).
Sgt Pepper drum skin
This legendary hand-painted drum skin bearing the album’s title appears front and centre of the album cover.
Conceived by Peter Blake and painted by fairground artist Joe Ephgrave, the drum skin has become one of the most iconic images associated with the band.
According to legend, Ephgrave painted two alternative versions and the second, unseen skin still remains in the collection of Paul McCartney.
The first drum skin was photographed in Ringo Starr’s flat in 1968, before disappearing for many years.
It was rediscovered in the late 1970s during a property renovation in London, authenticated by Peter Blake himself, and sold at Christie’s in July 2008 for £541,250 ($1.07 million)
'A Day in the Life' lyrics
By the far the most expensive piece of Sgt Pepper memorabilia is John Lennon’s original set of hand-written lyrics to ‘A Day in the Life’.
As the final track on the album, the song ends with perhaps the most famous chord in music history –an E major lasting over 40 seconds.
The track, voted by Rolling Stone magazine as the greatest Beatles song of all time, features Lennon and McCartney’s two separate sections brought together with an orchestral flourish.
The manuscript for Lennon’s portion of the song sold at Sotheby’s in June 2010 for an incredible £810,950 ($1.2 million)
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