You know the album, but do you know the band?
It’s hard to imagine that there’s anyone over the age of seven who would not be familiar with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The 13 songs on the album are each individually distinctive and likely to be in heavy rotation on most people’s lists of favorite Beatles songs. Collectively, they make up one of the most iconic sets in rock music — if not all music.
Also iconic is the cover image for the album. From a time when album art could be better appreciated, appearing on a 12″-by-12′ canvas, the cover for Pepper is brilliant. It places the Beatles in the midst of a larger group, suggesting the “band” of the title. And even though the Beatles did 99.84% of the work on the album, the cover suggests that the entire crowd had some hand on the songs thereon.
And with so many instruments beyond the Beatles’ traditional four-piece heard on songs like “She’s Leaving Home,” “Within You Without You,” “When I’m 64,” and “A Day in the Life,” it’s easy to imagine that all these people were needed to produce the lush sound you’re listening to.
So who are some of these folks? And even if they didn’t actually sing or play on any tracks, what connection do they have to the spirit and feeling of the album? These 13 people may not have been musicians, but do contribute in some manner to the album and the times that made it.
Position: Top row, second from left
Crowley’s legacy as an occultist is what immediately comes to mind when his name is mentioned. His other efforts, including his volumes of prose and poetry as well as his paintings, don’t get quite as much attention.
His questioning of everything and willingness to examine the fundamentals of life through his art must have appealed to some of the Beatles, who, like many people during that time, were willing to ask if we were on the right path and whether there might be another, better way to go than this.
In terms of influencing musicians, while Crowley got passing praise from his appearance on the cover, he had a much more profound influence on Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, who bought Crowley’s home Bloeskine House near Loch Ness in 1971.
2) Carl Jung
Position: Top row, seventh from left
Jung’s work in psychoanalysis, at first buttressing then diverging from Sigmund Freud’s studies, made him one of the more prominent figures in his field.
As most of the Beatles were looking for ways to expand their minds and get a better sense of how we as people and the universe we inhabit work, Jung’s approach to examining ourselves through analytical psychology was considered valuable. His advocacy of “art therapy,” using the creative process to allow patients to reflect better on their motivations, would certainly have been appealing as well.
And while Jung may have been of influence from afar on Sgt. Pepper, his impact is much more directly felt on the Police’s Synchronicity.
3) Alberto Vargas (via one of his pin-up models)
Position: Top row, fourth from right
Let’s be frank: The Beatles were four lads from the north of England who got involved in the popular music business in the mid-20th century, so of course, they’re going to have their heads turned by sexy-looking women.
And it’s not hard to imagine that when songs like “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “Lovely Rita” were composed, Vargas’ subjects were not somehow connected in the minds of John or Paul with the women they were writing about.
Position: Second row, second from left
It would seem an odd choice to have a Prime Minister from the 1820s on the cover of the album. Of course, the fact that under Peel, the Metropolitan Police Force were reformed into a more professional organization during his time as Home Secretary (hence their nicknames, the “Bobbies”), and the recent brush with the force by George during the Jagger-Richards police bust of February 1967, may have made Peel’s inclusion an act of irony.
Incidentally, one star of the force’s Drug Squad, Norman Pilcher, would go on to bust George and John and get immortalized in John’s “I Am the Walrus.”
Position: Second row, third from left
The main thrust of his overall work concerns the interconnection between all humans and how best we get along with each other. While George’s main suggestions for cover figures were for four Indian mystics, it’s hard to imagine that Huxley wasn’t on his mind as well and that his inclusion on the cover wasn’t supported by him as well.
Position: Second row, fifth from left
At the time the album dropped, Southern was an ex-pat from the US living among the Swinging London scene. His humorous writings on films like Dr. Strangelove and Casino Royale made him a cause celeb in that circle and a popular person to have at parties at that time.
Unlike many of the living subjects who appeared on the album, Southern was apparently flattered; evidence of this comes from his screenplay for the adaptation of his novel The Magic Christian, where Southern added the character of Youngman as a role for Ringo to play.
Position: Second row, tenth from right
The famous Beat writer and postmodernist (and soon-to-be father of cyberpunk) had also, before the album dropped, been an ex-pat in London, attending many of the same parties as Southern.
His efforts to suggest that the universe was bigger than we could perceive through works like Naked Lunch would have appealed to the Beatles at this time of self-discovery; examples of Burroughs’ approach to prose can be heard in the lyrics of “A Day in the Life.”
Also, his technique for composing his novel Nova Express, assembling pre-written sections of the book like a collage, was emulated by John when it came time to compose the calliope crescendo ending “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”
8) Karl Marx
Position: Second row, fifth from right
Father of Socialism and responsible for many of the revolutionary movements winding through the world at the time of the album’s release, Marx was one of the few controversial figures that EMI would actually allow on the cover. (Gandhi was nixed by EMI because they felt his image would hinder sales in India, and Adolf Hitler was nixed by EMI because they felt his image would hinder sales everywhere else.)
That said, Marx’s declaration that the old order would inevitably fall apart because of the nature of capitalism was a talking point that many counter-culture followers held as fact; maybe not all that ironically, Marx’s call for societal change found its way into a later John song, “Revolution.”
9) Sri Paramahansa Yogananda
Position: Second row, third from right
Of the four yogis that George insisted be on the cover, Yogananda was the most influential. His autobiography has been considered one of the most influential works on spirituality in the 20th century, and his discussion of Kriya Yoga has helped bring Yogic teaching into the modern era.
Many of the principals of Yoganada’s teachings can be found in George’s song “Within You Without You.”
10) James Joyce
Position: Second row, second from right
One of the most influential poets of the 20th century, Joyce’s novels, poetry, and letters are some of the most vital writing in recent times. His willingness to find new ways to string words together, and even create new words such as ‘quark’ and ‘chiseler,’ would have appealed to John, who emulated Joyce in In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works, as well as the track “Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds.”
There’s also a thematic connection between Joyce’s Ulysses and John’s “Good Morning Good Morning,” both of which follow protagonists as they wander the streets at random over one day.
11) Oscar Wilde
Position: Third row, seventh from left
Wilde would certainly have been considered based solely upon his large body of work that dealt with hidden meanings and the corruption of the Establishment, areas of interest for the Beatles at the time. One potential additional consideration, as well, was
One potential additional consideration, as well, was Wilde’s imprisonment because of a conviction for “sodomy and gross indecency.” The injustice of the case, and how close it hit to home with regards to their manager and long-time supporter Brian Epstein, made Wilde’s place on the cover a subtle, if silent, support for Brian — a thank you that dare not speak its name.
12) Albert Stubbins
Position: Third row, fourth from right
A football/soccer player for Liverpool FC from 1946 to 1953 during John’s youth, Lennon insisted on Stubbins’ inclusion probably as a means to revel in his nostalgia for Liverpool (which he’d shown slightly earlier in his “In My Life” and “Strawberry Fields Forever”) and to honor his place of birth.
Stubbins’ average of 10.7 goals per season with Liverpool, getting 24 in both the ’46 and ’47 seasons, would certainly have been a major plus in his favor, too.
Position: Third row, far right
On the one hand, Lawrence’s inclusion as an adventurer and someone willing to reach out to understand other cultures, especially Eastern ones (particularly the Arab people he hoped to liberate from Ottoman dominion during World War I) would have been reason enough for having him as part of the band.
The fact that Lawrence was played by Peter O’Toole, star of Lawrence of Arabia, and possibly one of a number of Hollywood people Paul wanted for the band that was one too many for the cover, might have nudged the Beatles to include the real article. (Considering that Leo Gorcey had wanted $400 for right-of-publicity to appear on the cover and had to be cut, there might have been an economic consideration to make here as well between going with the star and settling for the subject.)