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Stephen Kroninger
Scarfe's TIME covers
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A Letter From The Publisher: Sep. 22, 1967

In case you weren't exactly sure, the way they are arranged on the cover, left to right, is George, Ringo, Paul and John. This view of the Beatles is the work of Gerald Scarfe, 31, the British artist-cartoonist-satirist whose grotesque caricatures in the British press (TIME, July 15, 1966) have been the nemesis of the high, mighty and famous, from Lyndon Johnson to Queen Elizabeth. For TIME, Scarfe went beyond his usual two-dimensional pen and chose special weapons: papier-mâché, paste, wire, sticks and watercolors.
Scarfe started by sketching Ringo at the drummer's London suburban home, raced back to his Thames-side studio to construct a likeness on a wire frame with papier-mâché made of old newspapers soaked in paste. He followed the same process for all four. The figures are life-sized head-and-torso, with paper-and-glue eyeballs inserted from the rear of the framework, hair made of scissor-fringed strips of the London Daily Mail, and a final facial of thin paste and watercolor. Each unclad figure took two days to build.
To clothe his paste-paper gallery, Scarfe borrowed from London's elegantly In Savita shop, owned by Mrs. Meher Vakeel, who lent her own gold-and-silver-threaded theater coat for John's raiment. Ringo wears silk tweed, with jute-thread-embroidered collar and wooden prayer beads. George sports a peasant-woven, hand-washable cotton from India. Paul's jacket is made of $98-a-yard pure-gold-threaded fabric originally woven for the ceremonial robes of Tibet's Dalai Lama, who had to flee his throne before he could take delivery. The background rug, Persian but of Indian design, was borrowed from Liberty's of Regent Street, where it was priced at $2,800.
Scarfe, who admires the creativity and force of the Beatles' music and is similarly admired by them, says that he "was trying to catch them as they are at present. They have moved on since Sgt. Pepper—the drug thing —to the meditation scene." Notable among the flowers, all of which are real, is the rose held by Paul, who told Scarfe that the Beatles' own guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, once gave him a rose with this parable: "Here are the petals of the rose. Here is the stalk of the rose. But none of these is the real rose. The real rose is the sap." "And that," said Paul to Scarfe, "is what we are all looking for."
While Satirist Scarfe was at work, Senior Editor Jesse Birnbaum and Music Writer Christopher Porterfield were working on their own construction of the Beatles. Porterfield, who once headed his own instrumental group at Yale ('58), recalls that his idols then were such as Benny Goodman and Charlie Parker. As part of his preparation for the cover story, he listened intently to some 40 Beatle and other pop-music albums. As much as he liked the music, Porterfield found the large dosage almost benumbing. "Every three or four albums," he admitted, "I had to listen to a little Mozart to refresh the tympanic membrane." What he heard, though, confirmed his view that the Beatles' influence on pop music is loud, deep and lasting.






Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey, Nelson Rockefeller and Eugene McCarthy.


Dan Rowan and Dick Martin of "Laugh In." Scarfe is in the corner posing as Arte Johnson.


TIME has a terrific online archive featuring the entire run of their covers. TIME was always the gold standar for illustrated covers when I was growing up. To be on the cover of TIME was akin to being awarded the Oscar{tm}. It still is.
TIME Archive: 1932 to the Present


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