Pop Art

TALK: Pop Art is a series of art works I’ve been making, inspired by the cover art of The Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which you can’t have failed to notice is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The cover is undoubtably the most famous album artwork ever – and as it was done by a couple of bone fide pop artists – Peter Blake and Jann Haworth – so can it also claim to be the most famous piece of pop art? Whether it is or not, is something I’ll be discussing at a free talk I’m giving during the Didsbury Arts Festival on Saturday 1 July 2017 from 3:30 to 4:30pm at The Parsonage, 853 Wilmslow Road, Didsbury, Manchester, M20 2SG.
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BOOK: Side One of Pop Art is subtitled ‘Cover Story’ – it’s a one-off book (7×7″ same size as a vinyl 45rpm single) which tells the story of how the cover art of Sgt. Pepper came to be. Rather than getting your sticky finger prints all over the one and only copy, you can read all about it in this downloadable pdf version.

RECORD: Side Two of Pop Art is subtitled ‘Cover Version’ – it’s a sound installation consisting of a 7″ single vinyl record, in a gatefold sleeve, record player and record case. The record is called ‘A Hard Day In The Life’ and features the first chord from ‘A Hard Days Night’ and the last chord from ‘A Day in the Life’ by The Beatles played simultaneously. These are arguably the most famous opening chord and closing chord in pop history – and both have been the subject of scholarly debate and musical anecdote for half a century.

The ‘B’ side of the record contains the same two chords, but played backwards – a technique used by the Beatles, which lead to accusations and conspiracy theories of trying to control the minds of fans.

Of course there has to be a video and it’s here and lasts 3 minutes and 15 seconds – the perfect length of a pop song. Should you only have 45 seconds to spare, you can get the sound without the props here.

Opening: The opening chord to ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ has a really strange back story – no one could definitively work out what it was – George Harrison said he’d played a FAAD9 – on his 12-string, but when anyone else did, it didn’t sound quite right. There’s a video about it here…

Closing: There’s an article all about ‘A Day in the Life’ and that final chord here…

STICKERS: Side Three is subtitled ‘Cover Up’. A print of the album cover enlarged to twice life size (60x60cm [24×24″]). Round stickers of the original pictures used to make the cover image have been stuck over the corresponding faces. Here’s an animated gif. The people on the cover of Sgt. Pepper are mainly photographs, enlarged to full size and stuck on to hardboard – some people, myself included, have too much free time and tried to track down the original pictures used. This is one of the most complete efforts.


SIDE FOUR: Sgt. Pepper With Badges is a denim work jacket decorated with metal pin badges featuring the people from the cover of The Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, designed in 1967 by Peter Blake. The jacket is a homage to Blake’s 1961 painting ‘Self-Portrait With Badges’.

There’s a limited edition of CD sized booklets explaining the jacket and its badges.