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July 10, 2022

Outtake Photographs From The Beatles Infamous ‘Butcher Cover’ Photo Session, 1966

On March 25, 1966 a photo session which was to become a notorious part of The Beatles’ history took place: the infamous ‘butcher cover’ pictures were taken. The session took place at a top floor studio on the second floor of 1 The Vale, Chelsea, London. The space was rented by Oluf Nissen, but the photographer was Robert Whitaker.

Before it took place, though, the group posed for a more conventional session at the studio for Nigel Dickson, working for The Beatles Book magazine. They wore light turtleneck sweaters and dark jackets, for what became their 1966 handout and standard promotional pictures.

Whitaker had the idea of creating a satirical commentary on The Beatles’ fame, inspired by the German surrealist Hans Bellmer’s images of dismembered doll and mannequin parts.

“I did a photograph of the Beatles covered in raw meat, dolls and false teeth. Putting meat, dolls and false teeth with The Beatles is essentially part of the same thing, the breakdown of what is regarded as normal. The actual conception for what I still call “Somnambulant Adventure” was Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments. He comes across people worshipping a golden calf. All over the world I’d watched people worshiping like idols, like gods, four Beatles. To me they were just stock standard normal people. But this emotion that fans poured on them made me wonder where Christianity was heading.”

The butcher photograph was used in advertisements for “Paperback Writer” in the British music press before it appeared on the cover of the Capitol Records compilation Yesterday… And Today.

Capitol pressed the cover in early June 1966, but upon its release that month it was swiftly recalled after an outcry from record retailers. Nervous after Lennon’s comments about The Beatles being “more popular than Jesus,” the label issued letters of apology and hastily issued the album with a replacement cover, also taken by Whitaker.

Eventually it was decided that it would be cheaper to paste the new cover shot over the withdrawn butcher sleeves. Unpeeled copies are now highly sought-after by collectors; however, the most valuable are the original ‘first state’ versions, particularly the stereo pressings.


  1. This gallery again? How many times are you going to post it??

    1. As many times as it takes to get another insipid comment from you. Hey, it worked!

  2. I don't think Ringo particularly enjoyed that photo session.

  3. Ringo didn't seem to particularly like that photo shoot, in my opinion.




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