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Yesterday and Today

Yesterday and Today is a studio album by the English rock band the Beatles, their ninth album released on Capitol Records and twelfth overall American release. It was originally issued only in the United States and Canada, in June 1966. Typical of the Beatles' North American discography until 1967, the album contains songs that Capitol had withheld from its versions of the band's recent EMI albums – in this case, Help! and Rubber Soul – along with others that were issued on non-album singles.

Yesterday and Today
The Beatles - Butcher Cover.jpg
Studio album by
Released20 June 1966 (1966-06-20)
Recorded14 and 17 June; 16–29 October 1965; 17 April–6 May 1966
StudioEMI Studios, London
ProducerGeorge Martin
The Beatles North American chronology
Rubber Soul
Yesterday and Today
Singles from Yesterday and Today
  1. "Nowhere Man"
    Released: 21 February 1966
Alternative cover
The Beatles pose around a steamer trunk

The album is remembered primarily for the controversy surrounding its original cover image. Taken by photographer Robert Whitaker, and said to be the Beatles' statement against the Vietnam War,[1] this 'butcher cover' image showed the band dressed in white smocks and covered with decapitated baby dolls and pieces of raw meat. Others said it was the Beatles protesting the fact that their North American albums had been 'butchered' – switched around and not as originally intended.

The album's title plays on the title of the song "Yesterday". Having been deleted from Capitol's catalogue in 1986, Yesterday and Today was reissued on CD in 2014.

Song selectionEdit

In keeping with the record company's policy for all the Beatles' North American LPs until 1967, Capitol Records selected songs for Yesterday and Today that the company had culled from the albums the band released in Britain and other territories overseen by EMI, together with tracks issued on what were non-album singles outside North America.[2][3] The industry preference in the US for shorter LPs facilitated this policy, as did the fact that the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night and Help! albums became genuine soundtrack albums there, since the non-film songs had been replaced by orchestral selections from the respective film scores.[4] Thus, even though the group had recorded six albums for EMI by early 1966, Yesterday and Today was the Beatles' tenth American Capitol album,[nb 1] and twelfth overall.[5][6] The two non-Capitol albums were A Hard Day's Night, then on United Artists Records, and Introducing The Beatles on Vee Jay Records.)

Yesterday and Today included tracks from the Beatles' two most recent LPs that had not yet been included on American albums, plus three from the LP they began recording in April 1966, plus two songs which until then had only been released back-to-back on a single:[7]

The hodge-podge nature in which Capitol compiled their albums for the North American market infuriated the Beatles.[11] In a 1974 interview, John Lennon complained that the band had "put a lot of work into the sequencing" of their albums and that they were told "there was some rule or something" against issuing the full fourteen-song LPs in the US, which led to Capitol releases such as Yesterday and Today.[12]

Both Tim Riley[13] and American Songwriter journalist Jim Beviglia classified Yesterday and Today as a compilation album,[14] and MusicRadar said it was one in a series of "hit-filled compilation albums" that the American Capitol label "sliced and diced" from the Beatles' original British albums.[15]


On 25 March 1966, photographer Robert Whitaker had the Beatles in the studio for a conceptual art piece titled A Somnambulant Adventure.[16] For the shoot, Whitaker took a series of pictures of the group dressed in butcher smocks and draped with pieces of meat and body parts from plastic baby dolls. The group played along, as they were tired of the usual photo shoots; Lennon recalled the band's "boredom and resentment at having to do another photo session and another Beatles thing".[17] Whitaker's concept was also compatible with their own black humour.[18] Although not originally intended as an album cover, the Beatles submitted photographs from the session for their promotional materials. According to a 2002 interview published in Mojo, former Capitol president Alan W. Livingston stated that it was Paul McCartney who pushed strongly for the photo's inclusion as the album cover, and that McCartney reportedly described it as "our comment on the [Vietnam] war".[19]

In the United States, Capitol Records printed approximately 750,000 copies of Yesterday and Today with this so-called 'butcher cover'.[20][21][nb 2] A fraction of the original covers were shipped to disc jockeys and reviewers as advance copies. Reaction was immediate, as Capitol received complaints from some dealers. The record was immediately recalled under orders from Sir Joseph Lockwood, chairman of Capitol's parent company EMI,[24] and all copies were ordered shipped back to the record label, leading to its rarity and popularity among collectors.[20] The cover photo was replaced with a picture of the four band members posed around an open trunk.[25] Lennon described the replacement as "an awful looking photo of us looking just as deadbeat but supposed to be a happy-go-lucky foursome".[26][nb 3]

At the time, some of the Beatles defended the use of the 'butcher' photograph. Lennon said that it was "as relevant as Vietnam" and McCartney said that their critics were "soft".[20] However, this opinion was not shared by all band members. George Harrison said in The Beatles Anthology that he thought the whole idea "was gross, and I also thought it was stupid. Sometimes we all did stupid things thinking it was cool and hip when it was naïve and dumb; and that was one of them."[28] In 2007 George Martin, the Beatles' producer, recalled that the cover had been the cause of his first strong disagreement with the band. He added: "I thought it was disgusting and in poor taste … It suggested that they were madmen. Which they were, but not in that way."[29]

Release and receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [7]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [30]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [31]

Released on 20 June 1966,[32] the Yesterday and Today album's controversial cover marked the first time the Beatles' judgment was criticised by the media and distributors.[33] On 10 June, in response to the negative reaction from disc jockeys and record reviewers who had been sent advance copies, Capitol launched "Operation Retrieve",[34][35] recalling 750,000 copies of the LP from distributors to replace the artwork.[36] The total cost to Capitol of replacing the cover and promotional materials was $250,000, wiping out the company's initial profit.[37] In Britain, the same photograph of the band smiling amid the mock carnage had been used in promotional advertisements for the Beatles' "Paperback Writer" single. A similar photograph from the shoot with Whitaker appeared on the cover of the 11 June edition of the British magazine Disc and Music Echo,[38][39] accompanied by a caption reading: "Beatles, What a Carve-Up!"[40] The cover imagery was viewed by some commentators and music industry executives as a statement on Capitol's policy of "butchering" the Beatles' albums for the North American market.[33][nb 4] In her study of the band's contemporary audience, sociologist Candy Leonard says that some fans recall interpreting the 'butcher cover' in this way and supported the Beatles "and their sense of humour".[44]

Record World's reviewer included the LP among the magazine's "albums of the week" and wrote: "The new Beatle album contains a number of their recent hits … Also some rousing new ones like 'Drive My Car.' Of course, it'll be a big package."[45] Billboard described it as a "Hot album release" and said that the five previously unissued songs "all have singles potential", particularly "And Your Bird Can Sing" and "Drive My Car".[46] The album topped the Billboard Top LPs chart in the US on 30 July,[47] having been certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on 8 July.[48] It stayed at number 1 for five weeks.[47][49] The album sold 967,410 copies in the US by 31 December 1966, and 1,230,558 copies by the end of the decade.[50]

In early 1986, Capitol deleted Yesterday and Today and nine other Beatles albums from its catalogue. The company announced that over the next two years, the Beatles' catalogue would be streamlined to adhere to the band's EMI releases up to Revolver.[51] The international standardisation of their catalogue was established in 1987 with the CD release of their EMI albums, followed by the two-volume Past Masters compilation containing all the band's non-album singles.[52] As of 2014, Yesterday and Today was certified by the RIAA as 2x Multi-Platinum, indicating US sales of over 2 million.[53] That year, the album was reissued as part of the Beatles' U.S. Albums box set. In a review of the box set for Mojo magazine, Jon Savage described Yesterday and Today as a "rag-bag of material" for which the withdrawn butcher cover was an apt depiction, since the album represented "the worst piece of vandalism" carried out by Capitol on the band's music. Although he acknowledged that the company's approach was in keeping with all of the band's previous US releases, Savage was critical of Capitol's failure to include "Paperback Writer" and its B-side, "Rain", and for leaving the US version of Revolver with "three key songs ... ripped from its heart".[54]


The original LP sleeves for Yesterday and Today were assembled at Capitol's four US plants situated in different cities: Los Angeles, California; Scranton, Pennsylvania; Winchester, Virginia; and Jacksonville, Illinois. Numbers designating where the covers originated were printed near the RIAA symbol on the back; for example, stereo copies from the Los Angeles plant were designated "5" and mono Los Angeles copies were marked "6". Mono copies outnumbered stereo copies by about ten to one, making the stereo copies far more rare and valuable to collectors. Capitol initially ordered plant managers to destroy the covers, and the Jacksonville plant delivered most of its copies to a landfill. However, faced with so many jackets already printed, Capitol decided instead to paste the replacement cover over the old ones. The new cover had to be trimmed on the open end by about 3 mm (1/8 inch) because the new sheet, known as a "slick", was not placed exactly "square" on top of the original cover. Tens of thousands of these so-called 'trunk covers' were sent out. As word of this manoeuvre became known to the public, owners of the altered cover attempted, usually unsuccessfully, to peel off the pasted-over cover, hoping to reveal the original image hidden beneath. Eventually, the soaring value and desirability of unpasted-over 'butcher covers' spurred the development of intricate and complex techniques for peeling the 'trunk cover' off in such a way that only faint horizontal glue lines remained on the original cover.

Copies that have never had the white cover pasted onto them, known as "first state" covers, are very rare and command the highest prices.[36] Copies with the pasted-on cover intact above the 'butcher' image are known as "second state" or "pasteovers". Today, "pasteover" covers that have remained unpeeled are also becoming increasingly rare and valuable; these can be identified if Ringo Starr's black V-neck shirt from the original cover can be seen through the paste-over to the right of the trunk lid (in alignment with the word "Today" from the album title). Covers that have had the 'trunk cover' removed to reveal the underlying 'butcher' image are known as "third state" covers; these are now the most common (and least valuable, although their value varies depending on how well the cover is removed) as people continue to peel second state covers. The most valuable and highly prized first and second state 'butcher covers' are those that were never opened and remain still sealed in their original shrink-wrap. Since the first documented collector's sale of a mono 'butcher cover' LP in 1974, which fetched US$457.00, the value of first state mono versions has consistently appreciated, reaching $20,000 in 2006.[55]

In 1987, Alan Livingston released for sale 24 "first state" butcher covers from his private collection. When the original cover was scrapped in June 1966, Livingston took a case of already-sealed 'butcher cover' albums from the warehouse before they were to be pasted over with the new covers, and kept them in a closet at his home. These albums were first offered for sale at a Beatlefest convention at the Marriott Hotel near Los Angeles International Airport on Thanksgiving weekend 1987 by Livingston's son. These still-sealed pristine items, which included nineteen mono and five stereo versions, are the very rarest and most valuable 'butcher covers' in existence. These so-called "Livingston Butchers" today command premium prices among collectors, the five stereo versions being the most rare and valuable of these. In April 2006, Heritage Auction Galleries sold one of the sealed mono "Livingston Butchers" at auction in Dallas for close to $39,000.[56]

An extremely rare original "first state" stereo copy that was not from the Livingston collection was presented for appraisal at a 2003 Chicago taping of the PBS series Antiques Roadshow. It was still in the possession of the original owner, who had bought it at Sears & Roebuck on the day of release in 1966 – the only day that the original 'butcher cover' versions were on sale before being recalled by Capitol. Although not in its original shrink-wrap, it had rarely been played and was still in excellent condition, and Roadshow appraiser Gary Sohmers valued it at US$10,000–$12,000.[19] In 2016, a mint condition "first state" stereo copy of Yesterday and Today in shrink-wrap was sold for $125,000.[36][57]

CD releaseEdit

Leonard writes that the album was "beloved by fans at the time", yet it became "lost for decades after the transition to digital music" and notable instead for the 'butcher cover' episode.[58] Yesterday and Today received its first release on compact disc in 2014, individually and as part of the Beatles' box set The U.S. Albums. Mixes included on the mono/stereo 2014 CD differ from the original North American LP releases.[59] "Drive My Car" in mono has been replaced with the UK mono mix, and "Doctor Robert" in mono omits Lennon's very quiet spoken words at the end. All tracks in stereo except "Day Tripper" and "We Can Work It Out" have been replaced with versions from the 2009 UK-format stereo CDs. The cover is the 'butcher cover', but included in the CD is a sticker with the 'trunk cover'.[60]

Track listingEdit

All tracks are written by Lennon–McCartney, except where noted.

Side one
No.TitleLead vocalsLength
1."Drive My Car"McCartney with Lennon2:25
2."I'm Only Sleeping"Lennon2:58
3."Nowhere Man"Lennon2:40
4."Doctor Robert"Lennon2:14
6."Act Naturally" (Johnny Russell, Voni Morrison)Starr2:27
Side two
No.TitleLead vocalsLength
1."And Your Bird Can Sing"Lennon2:02
2."If I Needed Someone" (George Harrison)Harrison2:19
3."We Can Work It Out"McCartney2:10
4."What Goes On" (Lennon-McCartney-Starkey)Starr2:44
5."Day Tripper"Lennon and McCartney2:47


  • John Lennon – lead, harmony and backing vocals; rhythm, lead and acoustic guitars; harmonium; handclaps
  • Paul McCartney – lead, harmony and backing vocals; bass, lead and acoustic guitars; piano; handclaps
  • George Harrison – harmony and backing vocals; lead and acoustic guitars; tambourine, handclaps; lead vocals on "If I Needed Someone"
  • Ringo Starrdrums, percussion, handclaps; lead vocals on "Act Naturally" and "What Goes On"

Additional musicians

Charts and certificationsEdit


  1. ^ Counting The Beatles' Story, which had no full songs.
  2. ^ Early cover proofs show the word "Yesterday" printed in inverted commas in the album title.[22] The vinyl label and back cover show give the title as "Yesterday" … and Today.[23]
  3. ^ The full butcher photo, without the cropping applied to fit LP dimensions in 1966, was included as an insert in the 1980 US compilation album Rarities.[27]
  4. ^ When the promotional clips for "Paperback Writer" and "Rain" first aired in America, on the 5 June episode of The Ed Sullivan Show,[41][42] the Beatles delivered a personal introduction to Sullivan with colour transparencies of the butcher cover hiding their faces.[43]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Schaffner 1978, pp. 55, 204–05.
  3. ^ Lifton, Dave (18 January 2014). "The Beatles: U.S. vs. U.K. Album Guide". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
  4. ^ Ingham 2006, pp. 31, 312.
  5. ^ Rodriguez 2012, pp. 24–25.
  6. ^ Gill, Andy (15 January 2014). "The Beatles' US Albums: How the classics were butchered". The Independent. Archived from the original on 14 January 2014. Retrieved 30 June 2018.
  7. ^ a b Eder, Bruce. "The Beatles Yesterday … and Today". AllMusic. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  8. ^ Lewisohn 2005, p. 80.
  9. ^ Rodriguez 2012, pp. 123, 132.
  10. ^ Winn 2009, pp. 12, 14–15, 18.
  11. ^ Rodriguez 2012, p. 24.
  12. ^ The Beatles 2000, p. 205.
  13. ^ Riley, Tim (2011). "Chapter 14: Another Kind of Mind". Lennon: The Man, the Myth, the Music – The Definitive Life. Hachette Books. ISBN 1401303935. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  14. ^ Beviglia, Jim (2017). Counting Down the Beatles: Their 100 Finest Songs. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 146. ISBN 1442271558.
  15. ^ Bosso, Joe (9 February 2014). "The Beatles US Albums: a disc-by-disc guide". MusicRadar. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  16. ^ Womack 2014, pp. 1040–41.
  17. ^ Sheff, David (2000). All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Macmillan. p. 219. ISBN 9780312254643.
  18. ^ The Beatles 2000, pp. 204–05.
  19. ^ a b Gaffney, Dennis (27 October 2008). "Antiques Roadshow | Follow the Stories | The Beatles' "Butcher" Cover | PBS". Retrieved 9 February 2011.
  20. ^ a b c Schaffner 1978, pp. 55–56.
  21. ^ "Beatles' LP Makes Cap. Run for Cover". Billboard. Vol. 78 no. 26. Cincinnati, Ohio: Billboard Publishing. 25 June 1966. pp. 3, 6.
  22. ^ McGeary. "The Beatles' Internet Beatles Album". Retrieved 9 October 2007.
  23. ^ "The Beatles – Yesterday And Today". Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  24. ^ "Butcher cover, Canadian – Paul White Letter". Retrieved 18 August 2011.
  25. ^ Turner 2016, pp. 202–03.
  26. ^ DeMain, Bill (2002). "Meat Is Murder". Mojo Special Limited Edition: 1000 Days That Shook the World (The Psychedelic Beatles – April 1, 1965 to December 26, 1967). London: Emap. p. 50.
  27. ^ Womack 2014, pp. 776, 1041.
  28. ^ The Beatles 2000, p. 204.
  29. ^ Irvin, Jim (March 2007). "The Mojo Interview: Sir George Martin". Mojo. p. 39.
  30. ^ Larkin 2006, p. 487.
  31. ^ "The Beatles Yesterday and Today". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
  32. ^ Winn 2009, p. 2.
  33. ^ a b Everett 1999, pp. 69–70.
  34. ^ Rodriguez 2012, pp. 22–23, 246.
  35. ^ Turner 2016, pp. 202–03, 426.
  36. ^ a b c Rolling Stone staff (20 June 2016). "Inside Beatles' Bloody, Banned 'Butcher' Cover". Archived from the original on 11 July 2018. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
  37. ^ Lewis, Dan (25 June 1966). "Beatles Make $250,000 Goof". The Boston Globe. p. 8.
  38. ^ Schaffner 1978, p. 55.
  39. ^ Rodriguez 2012, pp. 22–23.
  40. ^ Turner 2016, p. 201.
  41. ^ Miles 2001, p. 232.
  42. ^ Winn 2009, pp. 19–20.
  43. ^ Rodriguez 2012, pp. 163–64.
  44. ^ Leonard 2014, pp. 112–13.
  45. ^ Record World staff (25 June 1966). "Albums of the Week". Record World. p. 1.
  46. ^ Billboard Review Panel (2 July 1966). "Album Reviews". Billboard. p. 68. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
  47. ^ a b Miles 2001, p. 237.
  48. ^ Castleman & Podrazik 1976, p. 331.
  49. ^ Castleman & Podrazik 1976, p. 359.
  50. ^ Kronemyer, David (29 April 2009). "How Many Records did the Beatles actually sell?". Deconstructing Pop Culture. Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  51. ^ Badman 2001, p. 365.
  52. ^ Lewisohn 2005, p. 201.
  53. ^ Womack 2014, p. 1041.
  54. ^ Savage, Jon (March 2014). "Here, There and Everywhere". Mojo. p. 103.
  55. ^ "Butcher Cover first state sealed mono value chart". Retrieved 9 February 2011.
  56. ^ "Beatles "Yesterday And Today" Livingston Copy Sealed First State Mono "Butcher Cover" LP Capitol 2553 (1966). Yes, it's a ... (Total: 1 ) Music MemorabiliaRecordings". Retrieved 18 August 2011.
  57. ^ "Brit buys 50-year-old lock of John Lennon's hair for £24,000". NME. 20 February 2016.
  58. ^ Leonard 2014, p. 112.
  59. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 28 May 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  60. ^ Luecking, Eric (11 February 2014). "The Beatles: The US Albums". Paste. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
  61. ^ Ovens, Don (dir. reviews & charts) (13 August 1966). "Billboard Top LP's (For Week Ending August 13, 1966)". Billboard. p. 54. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
  62. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 Albums (August 6, 1966)". Cash Box. 6 August 1966. p. 49.
  63. ^ "Record World 100 Top LP's (Week of August 6, 1966)". Record World. 6 August 1966. p. 20.
  64. ^ "Canadian album certifications – The Beatles – Yesterday and Today". Music Canada. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  65. ^ "American album certifications – The Beatles – Yesterday and Today". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 9 June 2015. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 


External linksEdit