Entertainment Celebrity Beatles memorabilia goes under the hammer, including controversial ‘butcher’ album
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Beatles memorabilia goes under the hammer, including controversial ‘butcher’ album

beatles-butcher-auction
The 'butcher' record was part of a wider lot of Beatles memorabilia up for sale at the The Beatles Story museum. Photo: Getty
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A rare, controversial Beatles record Yesterday and Today, which sparked outrage in 1966 with its so-called “butcher” cover, has sold for $335,000 as part of a wider lot of Beatles memorabilia.

The two-day Beatlemania event, held at The Beatles Story museum on Friday (AEST) by Juliens Auctions in Liverpool, attracted interest and bids from across the globe for its collection of memorabilia from guitar straps to suitcases.

The “butcher” cover sparked outrage after its unveiling in the US as it showed the Fab Four smiling while posing in white coats and covered in pieces of raw meat and decapitated baby dolls.

The buyer, who wished to remain anonymous, is understood to be a US collector.

At the time, the controversy led to it being withdrawn and replaced by a more public-friendly cover showing the band standing around an old fashioned steamer trunk.

According to Rolling Stone magazine, the “bloody banned butcher cover”, which went on to become the “ultimate” Beatles collectable, is still seen today as “unspeakably bizarre”.

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‘Bring it along, you never know’: The auctioneers urged people to bring along their memorabilia for valuation and possible sale. Photo: Getty

John Lennon joked at the time that his original idea for the album’s cover was to show a “decapitated Paul”.

“My original idea for the cover was better – decapitate Paul,” the magazine quoted John Lennon saying after the controversy broke.

But despite the last-minute change, the damage was done to The Beatles’ record label, Capitol, and it was reportedly the only Beatles’ album to lose money for the company.

Lennon’s personal copy of the album was on the wall of his The Dakota apartment in New York until he gave it to Dave Morrell, a Beatles fan and bootleg collector.

It is signed: “To Dave from/ John Lennon/ Dec 7th 71.”

The “butcher” record was part of a wider lot of Beatles memorabilia up for sale at the event held at the The Beatles Story museum.

An interior door to the Tittenhurst Park country house in Berkshire, which was lived in by both Lennon and Ringo Starr, sold for 5760 pounds ($10,700), while a black pen on paper cartoon drawing by Lennon depicting a man crawling out of a box sold for 12,800 pounds ($23,800).

A baseball signed by all four Beatles – Lennon, Starr, Paul McCartney and George Harrison – at Candlestick Park, San Francisco, during their final live performance sold for 57,600 pounds ($107,000) and a poster from Liverpool Airport announcing the “Visit of The Beatles” on July 10 in 1964 signed by the band fetched 32,000 pounds ($59,500).

Beatles manager Brian Epstein’s black Samsonite briefcase used during their 1966 tour of the Far East and their US tour of the same year sold for 3520 pounds $6544).

Lennon, who was gunned down outside the apartment building in 1980, scrawled a sketch on the back of the cover, showing a man holding a shovel with his dog in front of a setting sun.

The cover also includes autographs by Starr and Paul McCartney, which Morrell obtained later. It is believed to be the only original “butcher” album bearing three Beatles signatures.

Photographer sick of  ‘squeaky clean image’

The cover was the brainchild of 26-year-old Australian photographer Robert Whitaker, who was in fact one of the band’s favourite cameramen.

The concept came to life after the band rolled up to his London studio in March 1966 after he witnessed their meteoric rise in popularity reaching “biblical levels”, according to Rolling Stone.

“I got fed up with taking squeaky-clean pictures of the Beatles, and I thought I’d revolutionise what pop idols are,” he told author Jon Savage.

“All over the world I’d watched people worshiping like gods, four Beatles,” he told the magazine. “To me they were just stock standard normal people. But this emotion that fans poured on them made me wonder where Christianity was heading.”

-with AAP