Just recently, the late John Lennon's personal copy of The Beatles' most controversial album sold at auction in New York for a staggering NZ$355,000.

That was the third highest price ever paid for a vinyl record.

The album was titled Yesterday and Today. On its release in June of 1966, it sparked a huge amount of controversy. The album was originally released only in the United States and Canada and will be remembered primarily for the controversy surrounding its original cover image.

The album cover showed The Beatles dressed in white smocks and covered with body parts from baby dolls and pieces of raw meat. It became known as "the butcher cover".


Taken by Australian photographer Robert Whitaker, the Fab Four played along with the concept as apparently, they were tired of the usual cover shots. Although it was not originally intended as an album cover, Paul McCartney pushed Capitol records in the US to include the photo, reportedly describing it as "our comment on the Vietnam War".

In the US, Capitol Records printed around 750,000 copies of Yesterday and Today with the so-called 'butcher cover'. Reaction was swift as Capitol records received hundreds of complaints.

The record was immediately recalled under orders from the chairman of Capitol's parent company, EMI. All copies were shipped back to the record label. The cover was replaced with a picture of the band members posed around an open suitcase with John Lennon saying it was "an awful photo of us looking just as deadbeat but supposed to be a happy-go-lucky foursome".

The total cost to Capitol of replacing the cover and promotional material was close to a quarter of a million dollars ... a lot of money back then.

The most valuable 'butcher's covers' are those that have never been opened and remain sealed in their original shrink-wrap.

An extremely rare original stereo copy was presented in 2003 on the American version of Antique Roadshow. It was still in the possession of its original owner, who had bought it at Sears & Roebuck department store on the day of its release in 1966 — the only day that the 'butcher's cover' went on sale before being recalled.

The Antique Roadshow appraiser valued it at between $10,000 and $12,000 (US dollars).

In 2016, a mint condition copy, still in its shrink wrap, sold for just over NZ$190,000.


I'm off to search through my Beatles album collection.