On the 25th of March, 1966, The Beatles went to their photographer Whitaker’s studio to get their photos for an upcoming single. The band and the photographer were determined to create something different than the usual run-of-the-mill shot. The resulting image has since then been the famous or rather infamous ‘butcher’ cover. It is perhaps the single-most famous picture of the group that is now well-sought after.
In the picture The Beatles are wearing white coats and were draped with dismembered doll parts, false teeth and slabs of meat.
The butcher cover was not well received by the people and was seen as a sick and offending image. It is often claimed that The Beatles deliberated the ‘butcher cover’ as a protest against their American label, Capitol Records for ‘butchering’ their music records in the United States. But this was not true.
The picture was never intended to be part of the cover of the album Yesterday and Today. And more so, the picture was placed on the cover in incomplete form. The complete form of the picture should have been in gold background with silver, jewelled halos around the head. The image was actually a part of three pictures that was meant for a very different purpose. That trilogy never came into existence and thus the ‘butcher’ image never made sense to the people.
The first picture in the trilogy (The Beatles with a woman) was supposed to show that the four of them are also born out of a woman. The second (George Harrison pounding nails into John Lennon’s head) was suppose to indicate that The Beatles are not an illusion but as substantial as a piece of wood. The third picture, only one to be in color was the infamous ‘butcher’ image whose actual title was “A Somnambulant Adventure” and the intent was to present a contrast that was completely different with the Beatles’ public image.
That trilogy was based on simplicity, trying to link the four real people with something real. The ‘butcher’ image was just one part of the session, which was as Whittaker, the photographer said “his personal comment on the mass adulation of The Beatles and the illusory nature of stardom”. He has toured around the world with the group and has seen the people’s adoration of the group. And thus, he intended that trilogy of pictures to make the point that even The Beatles were just human. They are as real as everyone else.
Thus is the reason for the ‘butcher’ cover, so wrongly conceived by the people because it was used at a place it was never intended to be.