Different people have different points of view about the musical quality of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Rolling Stone rated it the #1 album of all time; Keith Richards thinks it’s rubbish. The truth lies somewhere in between, but exactly where is a matter of opinion.

What we can say for sure is that Sgt. Pepper was a magnificent achievement in the areas of product design and marketing. The band probably wasn’t thinking in those terms when they gathered at Michael Cooper’s photography studio in London today to shoot the cover for their new album — with the possible exception of Paul, the business-savvy Beatle — but they intuitively recognized the importance of packaging, both in terms of promotion (which they hardly needed) and in communicating with their audience.

In that drug-soaked era, giving people something loaded with details they could pore over for hours was a stroke of genius. Even today, 50 years later, the Pepper cover is endlessly scrutinized, imitated, parodied, and written about. Maybe too much, so I’ll try to keep this short. The Beatles Bible (as usual) has some great stories and pictures, and just today RS published a “10 Things You Didn’t Know” article about it (you probably already know some of them, but still).

The people who were considered for the cover, but didn’t end up making it for one reason or another, form a pretty exclusive club: Elvis, Gandhi, Hitler, and Jesus. Too bad. The record company would never have gone for it, but I love to imagine a four-foot-tall Jesus standing next to John, who looms over him with a smirk: “See, I told you so.”

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