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Saturday 20 December 2014

Album covers: Beatles For Sale


Beatles For Sale - Robert Freeman
The Beatles For Sale photo - uncropped and slightly different
In the fall of 1964, Brian, Robert Freeman and the Beatles have a meeting to discuss the cover of their next album, due for Christmas. They decide it has to be a gatefold sleeve, in colour and taken on an outside location. This was probably the first time ever a gatefold sleeve was used.

On a wintry day at the end of 1964 Robert Freeman took the four to London’s Hyde Park, near the Albert memorial. The guys didn’t have to dress up. They wore their usual black outfits, white shirts and black shawls. Because it was already seven p.m. and getting dark fast, it all had to happen quick. The photographs for the front and the back cover were taken within an hour and a half.

For the front cover, an assistant held up a branch with some leaves, which resulted in some colored spots on the picture.

For the back cover - the favorite Beatles picture of Freeman – he climbed in a tree to take a photograph from there, with a background of autumn leaves.

Beatles For Sale back cover - Robert Freeman
The uncropped photo
The rich autumnal colors and facial expressions of the covers of Beatles For Sale seemed to express the Beatles' weariness as their fame and hectic touring schedules became overwhelming.

Another photo from the session - Robert Freeman
For the inside of the gate fold sleeve, two black-and-white pictures were chosen to reflect the highlights of their busy year:
a scene from their American tour: the Beatles in concert at the Coliseum in Washington DC, on 11 February, 1964. It is a great photo, of which the photographer himself, is rightly proud;
a reflection of their first movie: the Beatles in the Twickenham Film Studios. This picture was taken in the Viewing Theatre, where they watched the ‘rushes’ of A Hard Day’s Night with the director, Richard Lester. They posed before a collage of film stills on the wall by a staircase in the lobby.

Beatles For Sale - fold out cover
The sleeve notes were by Derek Taylor.

This article was written by Patrick Roefflaer and you can find it in it's older incarnation here.

Books: 'Yesterday' by Robert Freeman, The Beatles Anthology book, 'Many Years From Now' by Miles, 'In My Life' by Pete Shotton, 'The complete EMI Recording Sessions' by Mark Lewisohn and 'The Beatles London' by Mark Lewisohn and Peter Schreuder. And countless websites.


Hugh Nique said...

I've always believed that the black and white collage-like righthand inner sleeve was a precursor for the design for Sgt Pepper

Anonymous said...

The claims that remain rife for beatle firsts to do with gatefolds and double albums bring disreputation to their actual firsts.

Starting in the early 1950s, RCA used gatefold packaging for some of their deluxe 45 RPM single releases, such as Nat King Cole's 8-song "Unforgettable" EP with two 45s (sorry, 'Magical Mystery Tour'), released in 1952.

Gatefold packaging for LPs was popularized in the late 1950s by band leader and stereophonic studio recording pioneer Enoch Light, so he could fit liner notes he had written describing the sounds in each song on the album sleeve.

The first gatefold LP packaging used with a traditional 33⅓ LP may have been the Verve release Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook, issued in late 1956, featuring 32 songs on two long-playing monophonic records, on Verve MGV-4001-2.

Anonymous said...

Of course, music journalists have seen fit to create a separate category of music called 'pop music' (mysteriously distinct from 'popular music', which is also somehow distingished from music (like Nat King Cole) that was popular!

So The Beatles' White Album is often cited as the first double album and when that's debunked (very easily by the sheer volume of classical and jazz doubles preceding it), then it becomes the first 'rock' double album until 'Blonde on Blonde' or 'Freak Out' get mentioned at which point it becomes the first 'pop' double.

'Pop' remains the most elusive definition that is bandied by these journalists, especially since the 80's with talk of 'pure pop' as if 'popular' is now a genre

wogew said...

I always thought the Beatles Story was the first rock double album ;-)

Jeff Hitz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
George Armstrong said...

I've noticed that the sleeves printed for the 2012 stereo and 2014 mono remastered vinyl releases use slightly different colour hues. It is particularly noticeable on 'Beatles For Sale' & 'Sgt Pepper's'

Anonymous said...

Love it, Roger!
"IT'S THE TRUTH, dagnabbit"

I'm writing 34 abusive letters to rock journalists on this topic as I squeak.

Roger Stormo said...

I always thought the Beatles Story was the first rock double album ;-)

Andreas said...

the assistant who held up the branch was Tony Bramwell.