. Instead, great efforts were made by Capitol to salvage the existing albums, discard the offending covers, and place the albums in newly made jackets with the steamer trunk cover. At much expense and overtime hours paid, this appears to have been accomplished by June 20th, the official release date of the album as we know it.
Surprisingly, though, there were some retailers, such as Sears And Roebuck department stores, who received the albums with the “butcher cover” and temporarily made them available in their record departments at an earlier date. The lucky few who bought this album before it was quickly recalled have a great collectors’ item today (if it’s still in good shape). Upon learning about this new album, The Beatles (especially John) wanted to use the "butcher cover" instead.
Wanting to fulfill their wishes, Brian Epstein informed Capitol of the decision and sent over the new photo the group wanted on the cover. Although quite hesitant, the record label went ahead with production. The photo session that resulted in this picture took place on March 25th, 1966 in a Chelsea studio with photographer Bob Whitaker.
Whitaker was not new to working with The Beatles, he having taken the photos used for the “ Beatles ‘65” album, for example. This time around, instead of using a thematic ‘four seasons’ approach with props such as umbrellas and brooms (with the expressionless Beatles appearing quite bored with the proceedings), Whitaker took the band on “A Somnambulant Adventure” (as he called it) with a vast array of outrageous props. These included a large light bulb that was held by George and which reflected the other Beatles in the glass, the group holding sausages, a birdcage that was placed over George’s head, and a hammer and nails which George attempted to nail into John’s head.
Adding to this multiple dismembered baby dolls, false teeth and raw meat, this was one photo session that The Beatles found a little more interesting. Another way that some would have a legitimate copy of the “butcher cover” today is because of a known short-cut that Capitol experimented with during the recall. Since the back cover of the new jackets were exactly the same as the old ones, and a good number of the old covers were still in their possession, one of the production companies obtained new front cover “slicks” from Capitol to paste over the old covers with the intention of saving some expense.
Therefore, a good number of customers who purchased the album just after June 20th may have the “butcher cover” underneath the steamer trunk cover. While this knowledge led to many people attempting to peel off their covers to reveal nothing but cardboard, many did (and still do) find that their copy was indeed a “paste-over. ” However, peeling the top cover off has become a fine art, information of which I have no intention of trying to explain or even understand.
The “Butcher Cover” As could be expected for 1966, the response from distributors in the US was one of alarm. Most retailers refused to carry the album in their stores at all with this shocking cover, although they were very anxious for a new Beatles album. Capitol had no choice but to inform Brian that the picture could not be used after all and that the originally planned steamer trunk photo would have to replace it.
Coincidentally, nearly two months later, Capitol contacted Brian to inform him of their intentions of releasing another make-shift American album and needed not only three more songs, but a recent color picture of the group. Considering nothing from the “Somnambulant Adventure” photo session to be suitable, he sent over the impromptu shots from NEMS with the steamer trunk. Capitol chose one with Paul sitting inside the trunk, reversed the picture (for some reason), and sent over a mock-up version of the album cover for Brian to approve.
As history testifies, the great music contained on “Yesterday…And Today” was not the only element that attracted attention to the album when it was first released. The original cover, or what most people view as the original cover, made the biggest initial splash in the media before most US audiences even knew the album existed. The first prints of the album, 750,000 copies thereof, contained a picture of the group sitting wearing white butchers’ coats with raw meat draped over their laps.
Also present in the photo were decapitated baby dolls and false teeth. While the cover of the previous American album “ Rubber Soul” could be described as "revolutionary" for its time, this “butcher cover” took the term to much greater heights! Shortly after this session took place, however, all four Beatles and Bob Whitaker were at Brian Epstein’s NEMS Enterprises office. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Brian suggested that some additional impromptu pictures be taken.
This resulted in some photos being shot around a light blue steamer trunk that happened to be there.