Welcome to the first installment of Collector’s Corner! This time I will be covering what is widely considered a staple to any serious Beatles vinyl collection – the first issuance of the U.S. and Canada only LP release titled Yesterday And Today, but more commonly referred to as the “Butcher Cover” album.
Background information: The hodgepodge nature in which Capitol records compiled Beatles albums between 1964 and 1966 was irritating the group, who felt they put a lot of work into the sequencing of the music on the British releases. Yesterday And Today was certainly no exception. The album was a compilation of tracks from the Beatles’ two most recent British LPs, namely Help! and Rubber Soul, which had not yet been included on their U.S. counterpart albums. Additionally, there were tracks from their upcoming U.K. Revolver LP. Since all three of these new tracks were primarily John Lennon compositions, when the U.S. Revolver album came out without them, it significantly limited John’s output for the album to only two songs (“Tomorrow Never Knows” and “She Said She Said”). It marked the first time there were more George Harrison composed songs on a U.S. Beatles record than there were John Lennon compositions, since George had three (“Taxman,” “Love You To” and “I Want To Tell You”). Below is the list of the 11 songs from Yesterday and Today and where they came from :
1) “Act Naturally,” “Yesterday”: from the UK LP Help!, (issued earlier by Capitol as a single)
2) “Nowhere Man,” “What Goes On”: from the UK LP Rubber Soul, (issued earlier by Capitol as a single)
3) “Drive My Car,” “If I Needed Someone”: also from the UK LP Rubber Soul
4) “We Can Work It Out,” “Day Tripper”: both sides of the single
5) “I’m Only Sleeping,” “Doctor Robert,” “And Your Bird Can Sing”: three Lennon compositions from the upcoming UK LP Revolver. Since Capitol was pressuring EMI in the U.K. for three tracks to fill up the album, the mono version of the album contained mixes that were not yet finalized. Capitol then used these same mixes to create duophonic (i.e. ‘fake’ stereo) mixes for the stereo edition of the album.
The tracks were ordered as follows:
Side 1-”Drive My Car,” “I’m Only Sleeping,” “Nowhere Man,” “Doctor Robert,” “Yesterday,” “Act Naturally”
Side 2-”And Your Bird Can Sing,” “If I Needed Someone,” “We Can Work It Out,” “What Goes On,” “Day Tripper”
For the reason stated in 5) above, the mixes of “And Your Bird Can Sing,” “Doctor Robert” and “I’m Only Sleeping” differ significantly between Yesterday And Today and the U.K. Revolver LP, where they had time to have been perfected. Since these unique American mixes are a rarity, two of them have been featured in the BROW series. Click the links below to read and hear how these mixes compare to the versions on the U.K. Revolver versions, which are now the standard:
Additionally, “And Your Bird Can Sing” has louder handclaps and the guitars have a lower volume during the verses on the Yesterday And Today mix. Some Capitol Record Club pressings and later (seventies and beyond) pressings of Yesterday And Today contain the better stereo mixes that appear on the U.K. Revolver album.
The Butcher Cover: In March of 1966, photographer Robert Whitaker had the Beatles in the studio for a conceptual art piece entitled A Somnambulant Adventure. The series of photos were to symbolize philosophical messages and included The Beatles linked to a woman by a string of sausages representing an umbilical cord (symbolizing the birth of The Beatles), George hammering nails into John’s head (symbolizing that The Beatles are flesh and blood like everyone else), and John holding an open box with the number 2,000,00 written on it’s bottom flap, placed around Ringo’s head (to symbolize that Ringo is just one of 2,000,000 members of the human race). For one part of the shoot, Whitaker took a series of pictures of the group dressed in butcher smocks and draped with pieces of bloody meat and body parts from plastic baby dolls. There were cigarette burns on the dolls along with toy eyeballs and even a pair of false teeth lying around. The group played along, as they were tired of the usual photo shoots and the concept was compatible with their own sort of dark humor. In fact, Beatles publicist Tony Barrow recalls that John Lennon was very enthusiastic about the session, as it’s bizarre appeal made it interestingly different than what they were used to. It wasn’t originally intended for use as an album cover, however the Beatles were happy enough with the session’s photos that they submitted some for their promotional materials, including an advertisement in Britain for the “Paperback Writer” single. Another photo from the session was used for the cover of the June 11, 1966 edition of the British music magazine Disc.
It was likely the art department at Capitol that prepared the originally intended cover art design for the Yesterday And Today cover which used an image of George and Ringo standing around a steamer trunk, with John sitting on top of it and Paul sitting inside it. Capitol submitted this to Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, but when Brian showed The Beatles the proposed photo, John, after just recently seeing Whitaker’s butcher photos, decided he wanted to use one of those instead, and the other Beatles went along with the idea. It’s been suggested that the use of this photo was a statement by the group as to how Capitol “butchered” the Beatles albums into configurations inconsistent with the way they are on the British release (i.e. the way The Beatles intended them to be). Additionally, according to a 2002 interview published in Mojo magazine, former Capitol president Alan W. Livingston stated that Paul stated that he thought of the butcher cover photo as “our comment on the war”.
Capitol prepared the cover photo as The Beatles wished during May 1966, even though Capitol’s sales department strongly protested. By June, advance copies of the album were being sent to disc jockeys and newspaper and magazine reviewers. It was even on sale in stores in a few limited areas, but only for about a day. The response was immediate and uniformly negative. Stores were refusing to handle the album due to the grotesque cover. Tony Barrow recalls that the cover could have been worse as the blood stains on the Beatles smocks was airbrushed out, however it was apparently offensive enough.
Capitol immediately pulled the plug on the album by sending out recall letters to all who had been sent copies, explaining that a new cover was being prepared, and they would be sent a new copy. The letter requested recipients to return the album they were already sent C.O.D to Capitol. A (pdf) copy of this letter can be downloaded here. Capitol employees spent a weekend stripping the covers from the discs and boxing them up to send back to the plants for new covers still being prepared. The original covers were being destroyed by being cut up and taken to landfills. After many were destroyed, a Capitol employee came up with the money-saving idea of re-using them by simply creating a cover slick to paste over the old covers. The original steamer trunk photo was used on the new cover slicks and the factories were set up to paste the new slicks directly over the original butcher photo slicks and then trim 1/8 of an inch, or so, off of the right side of the jacket, in order to insure a smooth opening edge. Later, the collector’s terminology assigned to these pasted over album jackets became “second state” or “paste-over” butcher covers, whereas the few copies that escaped being pasted over or destroyed are called “first state” butcher covers. While this pasting over process was underway, there were also new jackets with the steamer trunk cover being prepared, so when stores would receive their supply of the steamer trunk cover albums, some would be “paste-overs” and some would not.
If you have a copy of the Yesterday And Today LP with the steamer trunk cover on it, and you are wondering if it is a “paste-over” copy, it isn’t too hard to tell. If you shine a bright light on the cover and look in the white area just to the right of the top of the steamer trunk and Ringo’s elbow, you should be able to see the faint image of Ringo’s black shirt, from the butcher cover photo, showing through the white background of the slick, as shown in the close up photo of the area to the left. When word got out in 1966 as to what Capitol had done, many curious record buyers began trying unsuccessfully to peel off the steamer trunk covers to see if they had a butcher cover hidden underneath, but usually ended up destroying their cover. Consequently, second state copies of the album are now quite rare. There are professional methods for peeling a second state copy, but that should be handled by an expert. In the interview section of this site, I have interviewed one such expert. His name is Gary Hein (owner of Hein’s Rare Collectibles), and in this interview dated November 2010, Gary gives lots of further info about the incredible tale of this album, as well as other information about his dealership of collectible Beatles records and memorabilia. Check this interview out here, if you like.
So, why would someone want to peel their second-state butcher covers? Many people are intrigued by the bizarre appearance of the original cover and how it deviated from the image of The Beatles at the time, or any other rock or pop band of the era. Some collector-types prefer a peeled copy because it is the closest they can hope to come to a first state original. If the peel job is done professionally, it is almost a perfect replica of an original first state version. The only tell tale signs to indicate otherwise being the remaining glue residue on the newly exposed front cover, and the fact that the jacket will not be quite as wide, due to the right side of the jacket being trimmed immediately after applying the pasted over slick at the factory. Peeled copies are known by collectors as ‘third state copies’, in keeping with the already mentioned terminology. It used to be that if a third state copy had a professional peel job, it was more valuable than a second state copy. This is no longer the case today. Since the number of second states copies that are in at least near mint condition has diminished considerably over the years (due to (1) so many people having already peeled them, and (2) so many copies have had their jackets destroyed in the mere attempt to peel them), the copies in mint/near-mint condition are now matching the value of the third state copies with the best peel jobs.
Another thing to note is that in mid 1966, mono was still king in the pop music world. Only 1 out of every 10 pressings of Yesterday And Today was a stereo pressing, therefore they are worth over twice as much as the mono pressings. The stereo pressings have a banner across the top part of the front cover slick that reads “New Improved Full Dimensional Stereo” (see photo at right). I will discuss value in more depth in the next section. Read on…
So exactly how much are these butcher cover albums worth?: The 2007 (6th) edition of Price Guide For The Beatles American Records by Perry Cox and Frank Daniels gives us the following figures:
1) First state mono in near mint condition: $7000
2) First state mono promotional copy in near mint condition (w/Promotional Copy – Not For Sale stamp): $8500
3) First state stereo copy in near mint condition: $15,000
4) Second state (paste-over) mono copy in near mint condition: $2000
5) Second state (paste-over) stereo copy in near mint condition: $3000
6) Third state (peeled) mono copy in near mint condition: $1200
7) Third state (peeled) stereo copy in near mint condition: $3300
Note: “Near mint” (NM) and other condition classifications mentioned are in line with the standards of Goldmine magazine as defined here.
Also note that all figures on worth were updated in 2012 after this article was written based on newer sales. Of course, these figures are just guidelines, and to be honest, seem to me to be quite low in comparison with some recent sales I have seen. In the case of first and second state copies, if the albums are still sealed (i.e. unopened) in their original shrink wrap they can bring several times the price listed above. In the case of third state copies, the value is very dependent on the quality of the “peel job”. This, along with the staggering rate of appreciation first state copies have had since the 1970′s (outperforming Dow Jones Industrial Average every year), the values are somewhat arbitrary.
Here are some examples of butcher covers selling for more than the values listed above:
In 1987, former president of Capitol Records, Alan Livingston released for sale twenty-four first state butcher covers from his private collection. When the original cover was scrapped in June 1966, Livingston took a case of already-sealed butcher albums from the warehouse before they were to be pasted over with the new covers. He kept them in a closet at his home for over twenty years. These albums were first offered for sale at a Beatles convention at the Marriott Hotel near Los Angeles International Airport on Thanksgiving weekend, 1987 by Livingston’s son. These still-sealed pristine items, which included nineteen mono and five stereo versions, are the very rarest “pedigree” specimen butcher covers in existence. These so-called Livingston Butchers today command premium prices among collectors with the five stereo versions being the most rare and valuable of these. In April 2006, Heritage Auction Galleries sold one of the sealed mono Livingston Butchers at auction in Dallas for about $39,000.
An extremely rare original first state stereo copy that was not from the Livingston collection was presented for appraisal at a 2003 Chicago taping of the PBS series Antiques Roadshow. It was still in the possession of the original owner, who had bought it at Sears & Roebuck on the day of release in 1966, the only day that the original butcher cover versions were on sale, before being recalled by Capitol. Although not in its original shrink wrap, it had rarely been played and was still in excellent condition. Roadshow appraiser Gary Sohmers placed it’s 2003 value at $10,000 – $12,000.
At the time of this writing, there is a still sealed (mint) second state butcher cover listed on Ebay for $23,000.There are also an abundance of “counterfeit issues” of these albums as well available, so buyer beware! Feel free to consult any of the professional Beatles dealers listed at the end of this article if interested in making such an investment.
Other considerations that influence the value are the condition of both the jacket and the record itself. If the jacket has marks or seam splits or even normal wear it would be considered in less than near mint condition, and significantly influence the value. The record, if considered mint or near mint, should have no signs (or extremely minimal signs) of ever being played. It is also good to have the original inner sleeve that accompanied the record in 1966 (see photo left). It goes without saying that if you have a copy of this record, you should keep it in the best condition as possible and not play it. The record and sleeve should be packaged separately in plastic to help protect it.
What The Beatles themselves had to say concerning the butcher cover album:
John Lennon: It was as relevant as Vietnam.
Paul McCartney: The critics were “soft”.
George Harrison: The whole idea was gross, and I also thought it was stupid. Sometimes we all did stupid things thinking it was cool and hip when it was naïve and dumb; and that was one of them.
Ringo Starr: It was a commentary on how Capitol Records “butchered” our original albums.
Due to the album cover fiasco, Yesterday And Today was the only Beatles record to lose money for Capitol.
Entries in the vinyl inventory of Happy Nat for this record:
In closing, I’d like to credit the main sources of information used in this post: Bruce Spizer’s The Beatles Story on Capitol Records (Part Two), Bill Harry’s The Beatles Encyclopedia, Revised and Updated, Perry Cox and Frank Daniel’s Price Guide For The Beatles American Records (6th edition), and websites: Wikipedia.com, Ebay.com, and MyBeatlesCollection.com. I would also like to personally thank Gary Hein for insuring that my information is accurate. Gary’s website is at http://www.beatles4me.com. Certainly if you are after further details about this album, you can find it with any of these resources.
A few dealers in Beatles collectibles:
I welcome questions and comments from anyone concerning this album and would certainly love to hear from any owners of it (in any state or condition), so let me hear from you!