Saturday, June 06, 2009

Robert Whitaker on the Butcher Album Cover - Part 1

WHITAKER: I did a photograph of the Beatles covered in raw meat and dolls and false teeth. And it was part of a series of photographs called Somnabulent Adventure, which basically is a dream sequence about how I saw the Beatles. And having finished that particular picture, it was snatched away from me and sent off to America and produced on a record cover without ever having the completed artwork done for it by me. So it was somebody else's conception. The cover layout itself was somebody else's conception. And I really think it was probably a good idea to ban it at the time, because it made no sense to anyone, it was just this horrific image of four Beatles who everybody loved, covered in raw meat and dolls and false teeth and dolls' eyes and things like that.

There was such an outcry about the whole thing, in fact quote Dr. David Mellor, who's written a text about an exhibition I'm having in London and Brighton called Underground London, this particular image is in it. And Mellor partially describes it as another aspect of the butcher's cover, "for Whitaker was to realize the carnality and mortality of those cosmic stars, the Beatles. They had become idols, so he wished to stress as a countervailing remedy, their gross materiality. Their flesh and blood as a mocking of pomp and vanity. The month after the Beatles' final tour of America which was accompanied by anger from Christian fundamentalists, a destruction of art symposium was held in London..." But that is...part of it.

The actual conception of the dream, which is really what the word somnabulent means, is Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with the ten tablets and he comes across people worshipping a golden calf or many golden calves. And I'd watched people all over the world worshipping like idols, like gods, four Beatles. And to me they were just stock-standard normal people who'd come out of their mothers and performed brilliantly all over the world, but this emotion that the fans poured upon them made me wonder where Christianity was actually heading for.

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