Monday 14 August 2023


Photo is part of a press release for the unreleased Beatles album ‘Sessions’ and could fetch up to £10,000

A vivid image of the Beatles and a memo from their record company’s PR manager busting a myth that Paul McCartney was not present at the photoshoot for one of the most famous album covers of all time are coming up for auction this week.

The photo shows McCartney with the other three Beatles posing together in 1967 for the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band shoot, which produced the famous cover featuring the band in front of lifesize cut-outs of actors, writers and other figures.

It is up for auction in a 39-year-old press pack that also features a memo from Brian Southall, a former general manager public relations for EMI, who says the image disproves the theory that McCartney was not at the session.

After the release of the album, often cited as one of the greatest ever made, there was a rumour that McCartney did not attend the shoot in Chelsea, south-west London, because of tensions within the band and that because of this his image was added into the front cover. Another photo used on the album’s back cover featured a figure looking like McCartney but shot only from behind, adding the theory that he was not present.

The press pack being auctioned was produced by EMI in 1984 to promote a planned collection of unreleased tracks, and includes a version of this back cover image but with McCartney in profile – which auctioneers say prove he definitely was there.

The unreleased image was included years later in 1984 as part of a never-sent press release for the unreleased Beatles album Sessions.
Sessions, a compilation album of previously unreleased tracks, was due to be released eight years after the band split. Accompanying the release of the album in November 1984 would be the single “Leave My Kitten Alone”.
Due to objections from the estates of John Lennon and George Harrison, the album never saw the light of day, but all of the tracks had been mixed and finalised along with artwork and press release information.

As well as the images it includes a question and answer guide to help record label staff at EMI bat away questions about the reasons it decided to release the collection, including tricky: “Do you not think you are guilty of exploiting/ripping off the Beatles by releasing tracks they never intended for release?”

The suggested answer was: “Bootleggers and counterfeiters are guilty of ripping off the Beatles, not EMI who are the legal owners of this material.” In the end, the collection was not released.

Auctioneer Martin Hughes says ''the jewel in the crown'' is the outtake from the Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album shoot.
He said: “It had long been rumoured that Paul McCartney was not at the Sgt. Pepper's sleeve photo shoot because the back of the album only showed him from behind.
''This new image showed the side of his face which would prove that he was indeed there on the day. Beatles fans from around the world, and there are a few of them, will be queuing up to bid on this.”
 “the jewel in the crown” in the press pack was the image clearly showing Paul McCartney at the shoot.

There are other photos showing McCartney was present – and accounts of his being at the studio that day. The image with McCartney in profile also appears with some reissued versions of the album.

The online auction is taking place on Friday 18 August and the press pack is estimated at between £5,000 and £7,000.


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