With the release date of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band now exactly one month away, all that remained was to finalize details like clearing the rights to images that appeared in the cover montage. One of these was the visage of German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. According to stockhausen.org, “On May 1, 1967 the Beatles contacted Stockhausen through Brian Epstein’s NEMS Enterprises to obtain permission to use his photo on the upcoming Beatles LP.”

Stockhausen, for those unfamiliar, was a pioneer in electronic music — although he also worked in many other areas, including (says Wikipedia)  “aleatory (controlled chance) in serial composition and musical spatialization,” whatever those are. I will be upfront here about the fact that Stockhausen is way over my head. I first heard his work in an electronic music class (which I failed) back in college; I didn’t get it then and I don’t get it now, nor is this something I feel particularly motivated to address. The time I’ve already spent listening to his so-called music is more than enough.

But more to the point, Paul McCartney and John Lennon were both fans, as was Yoko Ono. Stockhausen’s influence on The Beatles is most apparent in “Revolution 9,” which possibly tells you everything you need to know about where he was coming from.

When Stockhausen failed to respond in a timely fashion to the request for permission to use his image, Epstein began to panic, sending this telegram:

Stockhausen must have responded, because he does in fact appear on the Sgt. Pepper cover, in the top row just to the left of W.C. Fields. This is pure speculation on my part, but I bet it would irk him that he, a Serious Artist, is best remembered for his association with a mere pop band. I mean, look at this guy:

(This is in fact the original of the image used on the Pepper cover.)

When I make my big Beatles biopic, Stockhausen will appear in a cameo played by Steve Buscemi. After that I’ll consider us even.

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