John Lennon’s own copy of The Beatles’ most infamous album cover could sell for six figures at Heritage Auctions next month.
Lennon’s signed copy of the notorious Butcher Cover is one of the star lots of the Entertainment Signature Auction, which takes place in Dallas on November 11.
The Beatles’ ninth studio album Yesterday and Today was released in the U.S in 1966, and featured an image of the band draped in pieces of raw meat and dismembered doll parts.
The disturbing image had originally been created during a shoot with photographer Robert Whitaker, as part of his conceptual art piece ‘A Somnambulant Adventure’.
The band thought it would be funny to send it out as a joke publicity shot, but it somehow made its way onto the cover of their album instead.
Almost all of the 750,000 copies had to be returned when people complained about the gory image, and new covers were then pasted over the sleeves.
A few escaped this process, and today original, unaltered Butcher Cover copies of the album have been known to fetch over $100,000 at auction.
But none of them had the honour of belonging to John Lennon himself.
This copy of the sleeve is a single-sided prototype sent to Lennon, and later displayed on the wall of his New York apartment in the Dakota Building.
In December 1971 he gave the sleeve as a gift to Dave Morrell, a teenage Beatles fan who shared a remarkable meeting with Lennon at the Record Plant recording studio.
Morrell was a collector of bootleg albums, and had obtained a rare recording of live Beatles tracks known as Yellow Matter Custard.
He was also a fan of the radio host Howard Smith, who regularly featured Lennon and Yoko Ono as his guests after they moved to New York.
Having once spoken to Lennon during a radio show phone-in, Morrell contacted Smith and asked him to mention the bootleg recording to the former Beatle next time he was on the show.
To his amazement, Smith soon called him back and said that Lennon wanted to meet him and get a copy of the bootleg.
The pair drove down to the record Plant studio, where Lennon was working on an album by musician David Peel, and in-between takes Morrell gave him a reel-to-reel recording of the bootleg.
In return, Lennon gifted him the copy of the Butcher sleeve, and signed it "To Dave from/ John Lennon/ Dec 7th 71". On the blank reverse of the sleeve was an original sketch by Lennon, depicting a man with a shovel and his dog, both posed in front of a setting sun.
Morrell later forged a successful career for himself in the music business, and acquired two further signatures on the sleeve – those of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.
With an amazing backstory and superb provenance, the sleeve has also been authenticated by the noted Beatle autograph expert Frank Caiazzo.
According to Heritage Auctions, "labeling this unique, rare, and desirable Beatles item as ‘World Class’ is not hyperbole. If anything, it does not do it justice."
"We don’t feel the need to emphasize further the importance of this piece to the Beatle collector, or the Art collector, or the Pop Culture collector, or the Record collector. Don’t let this one pass you by!"