Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I am quite curious about the background of the much-discussed album “Yesterday and Today,” by the Beatles. I refer to the one commonly known as the “Butcher Cover.”

What was its purpose in the first place?

Whatever the reason for it, why all the fuss? I have studied it and it's really no big deal. It is a thousand times less offensive than most of the films made.

No, I don't actually own a copy. Yes, I would like to.
—Eugene Hammond, Federal Way, Wash.

DEAR EUGENE: Questions about the butcher cover edition of “The Beatles … Yesterday and Today” are among the most frequently received here. And since it has been many years since we discussed the topic, let us recap the background of what has become the world's most valuable record album.

In June 1966, Capitol first issued “Yesterday and Today,” the front cover of which pictured John, Paul, George and Ringo (actually shown left to right in the order the names are commonly stated) wearing butcher smocks and surrounded by cuts of raw meat — a definite boost for the vegetarian movement.

Had they quit after scattering the beef, there wouldn't have been such controversy and uproar.

However, in an attempt to achieve, to use their own words, “pop art satire,” some broken pieces of toy dolls were added to the scene.

Because little boy and girl dolls are somewhat anatomically correct, the fleshlike pieces resembled real body parts. The smiling Beatles are surrounded by doll arms, legs, headless torsos, and torso-less heads.

Needless to say, some critics found it tasteless.

Capitol Records immediately rushed a letter to those in the industry to whom the butcher cover LPs were sent, stating: "The original album cover is being discarded and a new jacket is being prepared to avoid any possible controversy or undeserved harm to the Beatles image or reputation. Capitol has chosen to withdraw the LP and substitute a more generally acceptable design.”

The “more acceptable design” turned out to be a snoozer of a shot of the Beatles posing with a trunk, or footlocker — intentionally delivering one of the most inanimate record album covers ever.

To meet sales demands, Capitol took thousands of the butcher cover LPs and pasted the trunk covers right on top of the existing ones thereby creating a collectors item of enormous proportions.

Most desirable is the stereo issue (ST-2553) of the butcher cover , with unsealed copies being valued upwards of $7,500. We do know of at least three unopened copies — ones still sealed in shrink wrap — each of which sold for $25,000.

The more common monaural pressing (T-2553) is worth about $3,500.

Albums with the trunk covers pasted over the butcher covers seem to be going for around $1,200 for stereo, and $400 if monaural.

Those who have one of these with the trunk cover can easily check to see if there is a butcher cover underneath by just looking at it closely. If there, some of the artwork from the butcher scene bleeds through and is clearly visible to the eye under normal lighting situations.

Original 1966 trunk cover issues (no butcher underneath) are selling for $100 (stereo) to $150 (monaural).

IZ ZAT SO? A well-publicized appeal by Britain's BBC has resulted in the discovery many lost TV and radio programs, including an audio (no video) recording of the Beatles on an American Bandstand-type television show.

Though they don't actually perform, this 1963 tape of the Beatles as guests on “Juke Box Jury” features them rating some new singles by top artists of day. Among the tunes they pick to be hits is one by Elvis Presley — a fairly safe finding.

Return to "Mr. Music" Home Page