A Guide To Unused Beatles Album Covers

It goes without saying that the covers of The Beatles’ albums are iconic. It seems like an obligatory tourist thing when one is in London to stop by the Abbey Road crossing and recreate the cover of the album of the same name. And whenever someone makes a list of the ‘best album covers’, The Beatles feature pretty prominently in them. And not to mention the millions of artists that have recreated the images for their own albums: among them Gorillaz, Queens of the Stone Age, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers and, oh, The Rutles.

But like a lot of iconic things, The Beatles’ album covers went through a few changes before settling on the iconic images we all know and love. You may have seen a picture of The Beatles walking the opposite way across Abbey Road, or maybe the uncropped and unstretched Rubber Soul cover. (Or any of the following shots, too.) After seeing a few of of these different images, I decided to try and find an unused photo for each album. Each of these are either pictures that are a little different to the final image, or a discarded piece of cover art, or a draft for the cover — or maybe even all three! So here goes…

Please Please Me

The original cover:

beatles please please me

The unused images:

alternative-please-please-me_02

alternative-please-please-me_03

alternative-please-please-me_04

The story:

The cover of Please Please Me was shot in around February or March, 1963. ‘Cos George Martin was an “honorary fellow” of the Zoological Society of London, the original plan was to shoot the cover in front of the Insect House at the London Zoo. The Zoo, however, didn’t consent, so the cover was famously taken on the stairwell at EMI headquarters by a guy called Angus McBean. Since it was a session, it’s no surprise that there’s a number of outtakes. The three above are probably just a few!

With The Beatles

The original cover:

with the beatles

The unused images:

with-the-beatles-outtake_01

120copiadfsdsffdsbb

images (4)

The story:

In the Summer of 1963, The Beatles were touring England and were staying in Bournemouth. Photographer Robert Freeman was hanging with the band, and they needed an album cover. So The Beatles and Freeman set up a makeshift studio in their hotel. The “shadow” technique was suggested by the band, from when their German friend Astrid Kirchherr would take similar shots of them in their time in Hamburg. When they received the shots, EMI were originally unhappy with the sultry expressions of The Beatles, and wanted something a little cheerier. But The Beatles won, and hence the creation of a very iconic album cover!

A Hard Day’s Night

The original cover:

a hard day's night

The unused images:

ahdn_film

ahdn outtakes

ahdn_richy

The story:

The cover of A Hard Day’s Night was again shot by Robert Freeman. Apparently the idea for the shots was to make it look like a roll of film, and each Beatle does a different facial expression with every frame. Although only 16 were used on the actual album, many photos were taken so there are heaps of outtakes! The above are only a few… Many of the photos were also used over the credits of the same name.

Beatles For Sale

The original cover:

beatles for sale

The unused images:

bfs_original_18

alternative-beatles-for-sale_01

The story:

The Beatles For Sale cover was shot by Robert Freeman, too! The pictures were shot at the end of 1964 in London’s Hyde Park. Apparently, it was 7 PM (and getting dark!), so the pictures were taken within half an hour. The coloured spots on each image are leaves, which an assistant held in front of the camera. The cover shows The Beatles looking serious, showing how they were quickly becoming disillusioned with their fame…

Help!

The original cover:

beatles-help-uk-cover-art

The unused image:

althelp

The story:

And Help! is again Robert Freeman’s work. The cover was inspired by The Beatles’ snow scene in the film of the same name, and Freeman recreated the scene in his London studio. Their poses were supposed to read ‘HELP’ in semaphore spelling, but that didn’t work, so they spell ‘NUJV’ instead. It was kind of hard to find outtakes for Help! — maybe there aren’t any, or maybe they’ve just not been released. But I found a picture of John and Ringo in slightly different poses to the cover, so that’ll do.

Rubber Soul

The original cover:

rubber soul

The unused image:

rubber-soul-uncropped

The story: 

Rubber Soul was just the last Robert Freeman-taken cover. It was shot in the gardens around John’s house. The famous distortion of the photo happened when Freeman was projecting the picture onto cardboard to show The Beatles, and the cardboard wasn’t straight. The Beatles really liked the way it looked, hence the cover… However, an uncropped and unstretched version resurfaced a couple of years ago, and that’s the outtake for here. There’s still debate over whether it’s legitimate, but I like to think it is…

Revolver

The original cover:

Revolver

The unused images:

freemanrevolver

rev_sketch

The story:

Revolver was when The Beatles’ covers went very arty! The cover was drawn and collaged by Klaus Voorman, a friend of the band going back to Hamburg days. The second picture was his draft of what he was going to do. (Which he then turned into the iconic cover!) Brian Epstein in particular adored the picture, though The Beatles loved it, too. However, the very first design (the first image) was designed by Robert Freeman. When the image is spun, the faces supposedly merge into one. But it wasn’t to be. Klaus finished the cover long before the album was named, funnily enough.

Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

The original cover:

Sgt Peppercomp

The alternative covers:

pepperfool

pepperwrongdrum

MC-0012-08comp

MC-0013-08comp

The story:

The inspiration for the cover of Sgt Pepper was inspired by a picture of the jazz band that Paul’s dad was in, believe it or not! Paul and art gallery-owner Robert Fraser devised the idea, and then enlisted the help of acclaimed pop-artist Peter Blake. The Beatles then designed the cover along with Blake, which included choosing the people famously behind The Beatles on the picture. A guy called Michael Cooper shot the photos, and there are plenty of different poses. Picture 2 shows a different drumhead, too. However, the original cover was very different! Picture 1 was designed by Dutch design collective The Fool, who would go on to help The Beatles with the Apple Boutique. Though they did end up designing the inner sleeve, I think their cover wasn’t considered for long…

The Beatles (or The White Album)

The original cover:

the white album

 

The alternative covers:

images (5)

images (6)

The story:

The other covers considered for The White Album couldn’t be more different to the famously-minimalist design they went with. Paul wanted a cover that was the absolute opposite to Pepper, and he ended up with the first picture; a detailed ink drawing. Another image that was also considered was Picture 2, which was illustrated by a guy called John Byrne. (This would later be used for a Beatles compilation called The Beatles’ Ballads.)

Abbey Road

The original cover:

Beatles_-_Abbey_Road

The alternative covers:

A-116-01comp

A-116-02comp

A-116-03comp_0

A-116-04comp

The story:

Definitely The Beatles’ most iconic cover — if not the most iconic of all time — the design for Abbey Road was created by Paul in an untidy sketch. Photographer and friend of John and Yoko’s Iain Macmillam was enlisted to take the cover art, and the session took place on the crossing outside EMI’s Abbey Road Studios on August 8, 1969. But there were plenty of different positions that were tried before settling on the final product. So many outtakes have resurfaced over the years, and the above are just a few. They show The Beatles walking in a different direction, or with George instead of Paul out of step. But Paul still has bare feet. 😉

Let It Be

The original cover:

LetItBe

The alternative covers:

fakeapplecover

getbackearly

The story:

At the beginning of 1969, The Beatles were working on The Get Back Project. (This would later become Let It Be.) They were working on new songs in Twickenham Film Studios and in the basement of Apple HQ, and George quit the band, briefly. Not to mention The Rooftop Concert. But in between all of this work, The Beatles found time to shoot the cover for the album that would result. They decided to go for a parody of their first album cover, and it — like Please Please Me — was shot on the stairwell at EMI headquarters. You can see the result (+ an outtake) above. But this idea was vetoed along with The Get Back Project, and was forgotten when it was released a year later. As far as I can see, there are no known outtakes of the used cover.

What’s your favourite unused Beatles album cover? Have you seen another image that I haven’t got here? Be sure to send me a postcard, drop me a line…

Happy Summer, if you live in the Northern Hemisphere! And stay warm, fellow Southerners… Good day sunshine ’till next post! 🙂

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15 thoughts on “A Guide To Unused Beatles Album Covers

  1. For this post, I decided I’d focus only on the covers of the standard UK studio albums (‘Yesterday and Today’, of course, being American) – but thank you for your feedback! ‘Yesterday and Today’ (and the controversy that followed it) could easily fill a whole blog post by itself! 🙂

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  2. Very cool! I enjoyed allthe stories very much.
    I think the Help! cover was shot outdoors… Not sure but I think I saw a picture of the Beatles in front of a white wall wearing that clothes. I’ll try to find it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the post! I think the cover for Help! itself was shot indoors (inside the movie studio that Help! – the movie – was made in), but they wore the same outfits in the scene from Help! where they’re in the Alps. I’d love to see the picture, though, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that!

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