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March 30, 1967: The Beatles Shoot 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' Album Cover Photo

It was 45 years ago today that photographer Michael Cooper shot the iconic cover photo of The Beatles' 1967 masterpiece, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

And, like a lot of now-iconic images and ideas, it originally wasn't even supposed to happen.

At first, the band had hired their buddies The Fool -- a Dutch design collective -- to create an image for the cover. (And, even though we already know how this story ends, fans of The Fool can take heart in the fact that they painted George Harrison's iconic Mini and the mural on the exterior wall of The Beatles' short-lived Apple Boutique in London.)

Art dealer and gallery owner Robert Fraser, a friend of trendy, art-gallery-exploring Paul McCartney, took a look at The Fool's creation -- a psychedelic bevy of shapes in varying shades of red -- and decided it wasn't up to The Beatles' standards. Remember, their last album cover (Revolver) featured a brilliant black-and-white creation by Klaus Voormann. So Fraser convinced McCartney and the rest of the band that he'd figure out a far better plan, and they dubbed him the art director for the project.

The Fool's design was still used -- but only as the art on the album's inner-sleeve. (And, um, The Beatles made the right choice.)

Fraser brought in pop artist Peter Blake, who started working around McCartney's idea of a Beatles album by another band -- in this case, a band called Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. That concept led to The Beatles dressing up as the fictional group, surrounded by iconic faces from the past -- in several cases, people they admired.

The collage depicted more than 70 famous people, including Marlene Dietrich, Carl Gustav Jung, W.C. Fields, Diana Dors, James Dean, Bob Dylan, Issy Bonn, Marilyn Monroe, Aldous Huxley, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Sigmund Freud, Aleister Crowley, Edgar Allan Poe, Karl Marx, Oscar Wilde, William S. Burroughs, Marlon Brando, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, Lenny Bruce, plus original Beatles bassist Stuart Sutcliffe. John Lennon wanted to get Adolf Hitler in there for some reason, but that didn't happen. Jesus Christ didn't make it, either.

The final bill for the cover was £2,868, which cost about 100 times the average cost for an album cover design.

Up next was the photo shoot, which took place March 30, 1967, at Cooper’s photo studio in London. The session lasted three hours, and when it was all over, The Beatles were associated with yet another classic.

Sadly, Cooper died only six years later in 1973.

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Damian Fanelli
Damian Fanelli

Damian is Editor-in-Chief of Guitar World magazine. In past lives, he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor, and his non-Pulitzer-Prize-winning stories have appeared in Guitar Aficionado, Vintage Guitar, Total Guitar and countless other publications, including 13.7 metric tons of daily newspapers. He's written liner notes for major-label releases, including Stevie Ray Vaughan's 'The Complete Epic Recordings Collection' (Sony Legacy) and has interviewed everyone from Yngwie Malmsteen to Kevin Bacon (with a few memorable Eric Clapton and Ty Tabor chats thrown into the mix). Damian, a former member of Brooklyn's The Gas House Gorillas, was the sole guitarist in Mister Neutron, a trio that toured the U.S. and released three albums (one of which appears in the 2015 Disney film 'Tomorrowland' starring George Clooney and Britt Robertson). He's in two NYC-area bands and plays Teles with four-way switches, B-benders and semi-snazzy aftermarket pickups. He quotes Terry-Thomas twice daily.