Posted May 31, 2013

Now You Can Name the Athletes On the Cover Of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Music
oxforddnb.com

oxforddnb.com

You can try to deny it in some sort of misguided pursuit of individuality. You can point to a lot of other groups that are just as important. But I defy you to press play on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which hit shelves 46 years ago this weekend, and then argue that anyone has ever done it better.

Perhaps even more famous than the music itself is the record’s iconic, Grammy Award-winning cover. The legend is that each band member chose roughly 10 people they wanted (or would have wanted) to perform for. The roster includes writers, artists, film stars, musicians, Indian gurus — and these three athletes. (Save it in your back pocket for the next time you want to win a bar bet.)


Sonny Liston

Where he appears: Front row all the way to the left next to the wax model of George Harrison.

Sporting résumé: Knocked out Floyd Patterson in one round for the heavyweight title in 1962 (at a time when it really meant something); twice stopped by Muhammad Ali; only undisputed heavyweight champion to quit on his stool.

Cultural cache: Enigmatic, tortured figure; died under mysterious circumstances less than five years after Sgt. Pepper’s was released.

Beatles connection: Ali’s 1964 meeting with the Fab Four while training for the first Liston fight is considerably more famous, but the Big Bear actually went to a Beatles concert that same year, though he was kind of a hater. “Is them bums what all this fuss is about?” he was quoted as saying. “Sheet, man, mah dawg play better drums than that kid with the big nose.”

Cover story: Word is that John Lennon was a big fan.


Albert Stubbins

Where he appears: Second row northeast of Harrison and to the left of Marlene Dietrich.

Sporting résumé: Powerfully built English footballer who signed with Liverpool in 1946 for £12,500, then a club record; scored 28 goals in first season with Reds to lead team to first league title in 24 years; retired in 1953 with 83 goals in 178 appearances.

Cultural cache: Moved into sportswriting after retirement from playing career; appeared as a minor character in Stephen Baxter’s 1995 novel The Time Ships.

Beatles connection: While it’s true Stubbins was banging them in for the Fab Four’s hometown side during their formative years, the truth — according to Hunter Davies’ authorized biography — is none of the Beatles were massive soccer fans. (Though, McCartney was born into an Everton family.)

Cover story: The striker was one of Lennon’s choices, as his name had apparently amused him as a child. Stubbins had no idea he was on the cover until the record arrived on his doorstep shortly after its release, signed by all four with McCartney’s handwritten note: Well done, Albert, for all those glorious years of football. Long may you bob and weave.


Johnny Weissmuller

Where he appears: Second row center behind Ringo.

Sporting résumé: Won five Olympic gold medals for swimming and one bronze for water polo during the 1920s; set 67 world records; reportedly undefeated in official competition for the entirety of his competitive career.

Cultural cache: Played Tarzan in 12 motion pictures from 1932 through ’48.

Beatles connection: None, apparently.

Cover story: McCartney said he was chosen because they liked the sound of his name, replacing an image of Adolf Hitler (Lennon’s pick) present in early photographs of the montage.

6 comments
jarobertson
jarobertson

Great album that has stood the test of time and I place it at number five on my all time greatest rock album list 

But it is not as good as Revolver where I place at number two, behind the only album that did not just blow me away, but left me stunned, and it still does,  Quadrophenia.

John4
John4

Adolf Hitler was going to be on the cover?  Really?  For the love of God ......

KeysSteven
KeysSteven

@John4 Your response is exactly why The Beatles, John included, probably decided against using Hitler's image.  Those few who knew nothing of The Beatles in '67 and their liberal personas would mis-interpret his inclusion on the cover as support for ignorance & hate.  More likely, those who resented The Beatles music and their social stands would use a Hitler image as a launching pad for criticism. 

No doubt much discussion was had amongst the cover's creators about its purpose: frivolity & fun or historical significance & social statement?  The Liverpool lads were known to advocate for all of it.   

In the end, they voted for fun, frivolity, clearity, consistency & safety.

BryanAGraham
BryanAGraham

@KeysSteven @John4 Gandhi was to be on the cover too but the head of EMI nixed it because the record would not have been allowed to be printed in India.

KeysSteven
KeysSteven

Kudos, Bryan, but who's the guy in the 10-gallon hat?  If it's Tom Mix (?), he'd qualify as an athlete, too.  Think I read he broke nearly every bone in his body doing...well, what cowboys & rodeo men do.  Good post: sport, music, history & pop culture.

BryanAGraham
BryanAGraham

@KeysSteven Thanks for the kind words. It is Tom Mix, so I suppose he'd qualify too, though he's more commonly identified as an actor. (You might be able to say the same of Weissmuller, but six Olympic medals is six Olympic medals.) Here's a cool interactive cover: http://www.oxforddnb.com/public/sgtpepper/