x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Slice of rock history comes under hammer

The Life: Forty-five years ago, The Beatles went from being a pop band to an experimental one. The album Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was risqué, for its time, and eclectic in its inspiration and instrumentation.

Peter Blake with the album art - insert on the left, cover on the right - for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. PA Archive / Press Association Images
Peter Blake with the album art - insert on the left, cover on the right - for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. PA Archive / Press Association Images

Forty-five years ago, The Beatles went from being a pop band to an experimental one.

The album Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was risqué, for its time, and eclectic in its inspiration and instrumentation. Its tracks range from standards such as With a Little Help from My Friends to oddities such as Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite.

It was an album where rocking horse people ate marshmallow pies - and where lovely Rita, meter maid, was discreetly invited to tea.

The album's packaging was as startling as its music.

This November 13, the original artwork for the insert (not the cover, but the sleeve on the inside) is up for sale as part of an auction of modern and postwar British art at Sotheby's. The insert is forecast to fetch up to £80,000 (Dh470,451), and its minimum price has been pegged at £50,000.

Concocted by the British pop art star Peter Blake, who turned 80 in June, the insert was a collage, unlike the cover, which was a photograph showing the four Beatles in marching-band regalia, and behind them life-size cutouts of the then-famous.

"Sir Peter Blake's collage is a tangible slice of rock history," said James Rawlin, Sotheby's senior specialist in modern British paintings. "Sgt Pepper had a huge impact on the cultural landscape. It was the first concept album, when music, story, image and studio expertise all came together."

What sort of prices have other Beatles items sold for?

At a Sotheby's sale in New York in 2010, the manuscript on which John Lennon wrote the lyrics to A Day in the Life, the last track on the Sgt Pepper album, sold for US$1.2 million (Dh4.4 million). Last year, according to beatlesauction.com, a ticket from the band's final show at Liverpool's Cavern Club went for £7,400 (Dh43,516). Last month, a painting on which the four Beatles collaborated, and which each of them signed, sold for $155,250 at a collectibles auction.

How high did the Sgt Pepper album rise on the charts?

It was number one in the United Kingdom for 23 weeks, a slot from which it was finally dislodged by the soundtrack to The Sound of Music. The only other occupants of the top spot that year were The Monkees and Val Doonican.

How effusive was the praise for the album?

We presume the album you refer to is Sgt Pepper and not Val Doonican Rocks, But Gently. Sgt Pepper was, and remains, one of the most praised record albums. In his review in The Times of London, Kenneth Tynan, a well-known British arts critic, even declared it to be "a decisive moment in Western civilisation".

Does Peter Blake have happy memories of working with The Beatles?

Not so much. In an interview with theartsdesk.com in 2010, Sir Blake said he and his wife, the artist Jann Haworth, were paid only £200 for their work on Sgt Pepper.

 

 

rmckenzie@thenational.ae