The Vinyl Junky & The Infamous Butcher Cover


The Vinyl Junkie

All true record collectors will want to also view a newly acquired butcher cover at SoDo.

As you know, the Beatles released their seminal Yesterday and Today album with a cover of themselves in a butcher aprons surrounded by raw meat and pieces of baby dolls scattered around them (pictured below). Session photographer, Bob Whitaker hoped to make a conceptual pop art statement about the condition of the world at the time through the cover art. Paul McCartney aggressively pushed for the photo as the cover of the album as “our comment of on Vietnam War.” John Lennon also defended the photo as “relevant as Vietnam.” Capitol Records initially agreed to the cover art and pressed 750,000 copies of it in four major locations – Los Angeles; Scranton, Pennsylvania; Jacksonville, Illinois,; and Winchester, Virginia – for distribution nationally. The label also intended to use the same image for the British sleeve of the single, “Paperback Writer.”

Capitol Records wisely released only a few of these grotesque covers to the general public on its first day of release, June 20, 1966. Today, collectors refer to the untouched versions of this cover as the First State Butcher cover, which sells for a thousand dollars or more. One of the First State butcher covers of then-Capitol President Alan Livingston sold for $39,000 in 2006. After June 20th, the label recalled the record after outcries from fans and retailers.

To save money, the company decided that they would reuse the remaining butcher covers by pasting the more familiar “trunk” cover of the album (the Beatles pictured on an opened steamer trunk) over it, though the Jacksonville plant destroyed most of its First State copies. This pasted-over version of the album became known as the Second State cover. The cover art switch cost Capitol more than $250,000, though the company undoubtedly long-term saved money by the strategy. You can tell that the trunk cover has been pasted over the original butcher cover by looking carefully on the right side and observing the outline of Ringo’s black turtleneck through the new cover.


Because of the difficulty of removing the second cover to reveal the first and original butcher cover, collectors now value the unpeeled Second State version higher than a peeled version of the cover. Collectors call the peeled version of the cover “Third State” butcher covers.

For a mono unpeeled second state version, values have been assessed at $250 to $500. For a stereo version, the prices catapult to $500 to $1,000 because the company released only 10% of the stereo version compared to the monophonic LP.

Many butcher covers have surfaced around Seattle over the past few years, but Silver Platters just bought a stereo version from a Capitol executive that has no observable faults – no seam splits, no soiling, no writing. It looks perfect! They have placed a VERY reasonable price on the record. If you don’t have a butcher cover yet, get this one. I already have two of them, so I’ll let someone else snatch this gem.

As you all know, by the end of July 1966, the Yesterday and Today hit the top of the chart and stayed there for five weeks on the merits of such classics as “Drive My Car,” “We Can Work It Out,” “Nowhere Man,” “Day Tripper” and the title tune. The butcher cover has become one of the holy grails of collecting due to the stature of the band and the quality of the album. Don’t miss out!

More next week . . .

Dr, Dave Szatmary

Author Of

Rockin’ In Time