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"Yesterday"... And Today

Categories: Beatles albums US-only albums

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Beatles Yesterday... And Today album cover art
The far more bland LP art that replaced the gory 'butcher' cover
A most curious release, "Yesterday"... And Today is notable in the Beatles story for several reasons: it is the last important US-only compilation that sliced up the band's intended releases to create more product for the American market; it features a weird, wide-ranging mixture of 1965-6 Beatles music; and of course its original cover was the mystifyingly poor-taste "butcher" cover, which featured the band members having just savagely chopped up several newborns, with the musicians in butchers' smocks covered in arrestingly graphic, gory baby meat — with genuine, unconscionably oblivious, jollity on their Fab faces.

Example of Hans Bellmer's doll part art from the 1930s
Photographer Robert Whitaker was inspired by artist Hans Bellmer's 1930s work with doll parts when planning the Beatles photo shoot
"Yesterday"... And Today, as its name implies, is centered around the song "Yesterday", which had been left off the US version of Help! (though had been released as a hit single in the US); other tracks from Help!, the UK versions of Rubber Soul and Revolver, and single-only releases make up the album. Temporally, YaT may span only about 12 months, but musically it stretches from the silly, Ringo-by-numbers "Act Naturally" to the expansive and groundbreaking "Day Tripper" and "I'm Only Sleeping". This compact musical journey in album form may be impressive from an artistic point of view, but ultimately it's an indictment of Capitol's haphazard album-building philosophy.

Early photo from shoot for Beatles' "Yesterday"... And Today butcher album cover (1966)
Oh sure, it all starts innocently enough, with four grown men sitting around dismantling naked dolls...

Beatles' "Yesterday"... And Today butcher album cover (1966)
...but then it just gets weird.
The Beatles' US releases had been getting more and more similar to their 'proper' UK counterparts with each passing album; since Help! they'd had the same name and since Rubber Soul, the same artwork. Revolver, which would be released after "Yesterday"... And Today, had three tracks kept off of the American version (all included here) but after that, from Sgt Pepper forward, all would be balanced on both sides of the Atlantic, song-listing-wise. YaT thus marks the end of an era; whatever one thinks of Capitol's mercenary song-carving approach, it worked commercially and allowed The Beatles to continue their dominance in the studio and on the charts.

And then there is that cover. Reports are that the band went along with the rock-photographer Robert Whitaker-conceived project because it was interesting and because, well, it was a photo shoot and photo shoots were what Beatles did. Paul has been named as the one who pushed for it to become an album cover, while George discounted the whole idea as "dumb". At any rate, while the 'butcher'-covered album was sent to retailers and made it to the sales floor in a few places, it was immediately recalled and each copy was either destroyed or pasted over, leaving intact originals worth several hundred if not thousands of dollars that still show up in auctions and sales all over the world.

"Yesterday"... And Today is not available on CD, at least not officially, but vinyl copies (including "third state" copies with the pasted-on cover removed) are easy to find rather cheaply. Musically, the album is pretty fantastic if not as satisfying as the UK releases that contain these performances. If it's just the butcher cover you like, there is actually quite a lot of merchandise with that photo on it — it is one of the most notorious of all Beatles photos, after all!

For collectors and buyers

A brief note about some of the standard nomenclature of the "Yesterday"... And Today marketplace:

First state: An original butcher-cover vinyl LP that has never been pasted over.
Second state: A butcher cover that has the new "safe" cover (Beatles and a trunk) still pasted over it.
Third state: A butcher cover that has had its trunk paste-over removed in some way.

First state butcher covers are the most valuable, of course. Third state versions' value generally depends on how well the paste-over was removed.

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