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'Yesterday'... And Today
'Yesterday'... And Today, released on 20 June, 1966, was the album which brought things to a head for the Beatles. The album consisted of the four songs left off the American Rubber Soul album: 'Drive My Car', 'Nowhere Man', 'What Goes On' and 'If I Needed Someone', plus two songs from the UK Help! — 'Act Naturally' and the album title track, 'Yesterday'.
Continuing their policy of releasing albums which contained already-successful songs and padded by new tracks, Capitol Records used the popularity of 'Yesterday' to promote the album. In the UK the Beatles had largely ignored 'Yesterday', feeling it was not a rock record and so would not appeal to their audience. They used it as an album filler at the end of Help!, but Capitol Records had a different approach to this song.
Knowing that both 'Yesterday' and 'Act Naturally' were due to be performed by the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show for broadcast on 12 September, 1965, Capitol Records scheduled a release for these songs as a single, with 'Yesterday' as the A-side, for the following day, 13 September. This strategy worked beautifully, as 'Yesterday' was number one in America for four weeks between 9 October and 5 November.
'We Can Work It Out'/'Day Tripper'
One more hit single, 'We Can Work It Out', was included on the album. In the UK this song, with 'Day Tripper', was issued as a double A-side single on the same day as the release of Rubber Soul. In America the single was again released on the same day as Rubber Soul, but with 'We Can Work It Out' as the A-side and 'Day Tripper' as the B-side. Capitol again included proven songs to encourage Beatles fans to feel familiar with the album, but these two songs did not appear on that, or indeed any, album in the UK until A Collection Of Beatles Oldies. They can now be found on both The Beatles: 1962-1966 Red Album and Past Masters: Volume Two.
The Unfinished Tracks
The other tracks on the album, 'Doctor Robert', 'I'm Only Sleeping' and 'And Your Bird Can Sing', were songs that were to later appear on the UK Revolver album released on 5 August, 1966. These three tracks were all works-in-progress that had been taken from recordings made from the 12 May session, not the final version of the tracks that had been re-mixed on 20 May. This meant not only that there were minor differences between the American release and the UK release of these three songs, but in a similar situation to the American Rubber Soul album, tracks that the Beatles felt were incomplete were released on an album which had their name on, yet they had no control over. Many feel it was this dissatisfaction led to them insisting on giving the album the infamous 'Butcher' cover.
The 'Butcher' Cover
The controversial original cover photograph of the album, now known as the 'Butcher' cover, and subsequently banned, and, erm, 'covered' up, was taken by Robert Whitaker on 25 March, 1966. It consisted of the Beatles wearing white butcher coats, covered in pieces of meat, figs, false teeth and 'decapitated' dolls.
Although many believe that the cover was a statement against the way that they felt their albums were butchered, chopped up and rearranged in America, with as much regard as for a piece of meat, merely to make money, the truth is more complicated than that.
The photograph itself was taken in March, before the Beatles recorded the songs that they felt had been 'butchered' by the 'Yesterday' ...And Today album. However, it was after the release of the American Rubber Soul, which similarly had an unfinished track, as well as the Beatles' track order interfered with.
The Photo Session
Robert Whitaker, the Australian photographer who took the photograph and led the session, has described the background of the photograph, which he has described as being a 'somnambulant adventure'.
I brought along a couple of strings of sausages and the raw meat. The dolls came straight from a factory in Chiswick. They've been described as being dismembered. They hadn't been. It's just exactly how they came - heads, bodies, arms. I just tipped the box on the floor and they started playing with it like that. George hated it... I think at that stage he was becoming a vegetarian... John was really happy that we weren't just doing four people sat around looking glamorous with white teeth. Paul was open to it. Ringo, I'm not sure how he felt...
Alan Livingston, Capitol Records' President, has described his reaction to receiving the album cover.
I looked at it and thought, What the hell is this? How can I put this out? I showed it to our sales manager and a few other people and they turned green. So I called Brian Epstein1 in London, and he said the Beatles were insistent about the photo, so I said 'Okay, let me test it.' The reaction came back that the dealers refused to handle them, so I called London and we went back and forth. My contact was mainly with Paul McCartney. He was adamant and felt very strongly that we should go forward [with the album cover]. He said, 'It's our comment on war'. I don't know why it was a comment on war or if it would be interpreted that way. Finally they gave in and sent a new cover.
The Artist's Explanation
Robert Whitaker, the photographer, disagrees that the album was a comment on war, and has explained his thought process behind the album:
It was meant to be on the back cover... the meat is meant to represent the fans, and the false teeth and false eyes is the falseness of representing a god-like image as a golden calf. The front cover was meant to be a picture of them holding two strings of sausages coming out of the nether regions of a lady. The sausages are meant to be an umbilical cord.
So, a comment on war, on their treatment by Capitol Records, or a mystical comment on life and godhood? Perhaps the explanation should be left to one of the Beatles themselves. When interviewed about it for The Beatles Anthology project, Ringo simply stated:
I don't know how we ended up sitting in butchers' coats with meat all over us. If you look at our eyes, you realise none of us really knew what we were doing. It was just one of those things that happened as life went on.
The New Cover
The 'Butcher' cover was replaced by one in which the Beatles stand around a large trunk containing a miserable-looking Paul McCartney. Curiously, the new cover picture was reversed, the most obvious indication of which is that John Lennon's fringe appears brushed in the opposite direction to normal. Famously, the original cover was covered up by Capitol Records staff who glued the new cover on top of the original one. Copies of the album with its original cover intact have frequently sold for over $40,000.
'Yesterday'... And Today
Date: US - June 1966Side A:
- 'Drive My Car'
- 'I'm Only Sleeping'
- 'Nowhere Man'
- 'Doctor Robert'
- 'Act Naturally'
- 'And Your Bird Can Sing'
- 'If I Needed Someone'
- 'We Can Work It Out'
- 'What Goes On'
- 'Day Tripper'
Revolver was the last album to have two different versions released on either sides of the Atlantic. The only difference was that the American version was missing the three songs which had already appeared on 'Yesterday... And Today, namely 'Doctor Robert', 'I'm Only Sleeping' and 'And Your Bird Can Sing'.
|UK - August 1966||USA - August 1966|
|'Eleanor Rigby'||'Eleanor Rigby'|
|'I'm Only Sleeping'||'Love You To'|
|'Love You To'||'Here, There And Everywhere'|
|'Here, There And Everywhere'||'Yellow Submarine'|
|'Yellow Submarine'||'She Said She Said'|
|'She Said She Said'|
|'Good Day Sunshine'||'Good Day Sunshine'|
|'And Your Bird Can Sing'||'For No One'|
|'For No One'||'I Want To Tell You'|
|'Doctor Robert'||'Got To Get You Into My Life'|
|'I Want To Tell You'||'Tomorrow Never Knows'|
|'Got To Get You Into My Life'|
|'Tomorrow Never Knows'|