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The Beatles Album Covers



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The Beatles' UK album covers

by Patrick Roefflaer

For the writing of this article I have used information found in the following books: 'Yesterday' by Robert Freeman, The Beatles Anthology book, 'Many Years From Now' by Miles, 'In My Life' by Pete Shotton, 'The complete EMI Recording Sessions' by Mark Lewisohn and 'The Beatles London' by Mark Lewisohn and Peter Schreuder.

Furthermore I found interesting information on countless websites.


Almost as much as their music changed the world, the album cover art of the Beatles rewrote the book of how a sleeve should look like. Almost all of the covers of their original UK albums are imitated and parodied to this day.

Unfortunately most of their sleeves were, like the music on the albums themselves, truncated and modified in their US counterparts. The same is true for most of the cd-reissues. With the exception of Sgt. Pepper’s and the limited edition of the 'White Album', many sleeves are only pale imitations of the originals.

Of course, like for the recordings of the songs, several attempts were tried before finding the right cover for each album. A number of album covers were designed but never used. Here's the story behind the sleeves of the original UK Beatles albums.


Beatles For Sale - Robert Freeman

In the fall of 1964, Brian, Robert Freeman and the Beatles have a meeting to discuss the cover of their next album, due for Christmas. They decide it has to be a gate fold sleeve, in colour and taken on an outside location. This was probably the first time ever a gate fold sleeve was used.

On a wintry day at the end of 1964 Robert Freeman took the four to London’s Hyde Park, near the Albert memorial. The guys didn’t have to dress up. They wore their usual black outfits, white shirts and black shawls. Because it was already seven p.m. and getting dark fast, it all had to happen quick. The photographs for the front and the back cover were taken within an hour and a half. For the front cover, an assistant held up a branch with some leaves, which resulted in some colored spots on the picture. For the back cover - the favorite Beatles picture of Freeman – he climbed in a tree to take a photograph from there, with a background of autumn leaves.

Beatles For Sale back cover - Robert Freeman

The rich autumnal colors and facial expressions of the covers of Beatles For Sale seemed to express the Beatles' weariness as their fame and hectic touring schedules became overwhelming.

Beatles For Sale poster

For the inside of the gate fold sleeve, two black-and-white pictures were chosen to reflect the highlights of their busy year:

  • a scene from their American tour: the Beatles in concert at the Coliseum in Washington DC, on 11 February, 1964. It is a great photo, of which the photographer himself, is rightly proud;
  • a reflection of their first movie: the Beatles in the Twickenham Film Studios. This picture was taken in the Viewing Theatre, where they watched the ‘rushes’ of A Hard Day’s Night with the director, Richard Lester. They posed before a collage of film stills on the wall by a staircase in the lobby.

Beatles For Sale - fold out cover - Robert Freeman

The sleeve notes were by Derek Taylor.

Click on an album cover to read about it:


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