The album cover art for the famous album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beetles features the 4 band members posing with 71 famous people. Included in this list is the British occultist Aleister Crowley, and in this article we are going to answer the question: Why was Aleister Crowley included in the cover art for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band?
Aleister Crowley is on the cover of the Beatle’s album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band because they wanted to show variety of famous and influential people. It was Paul McCartney’s concept, and John Lennon suggested Aleister Crowley after seeing the occultist’s books in a trendy bookstore.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released in 1967 to much fan and critical acclaim. Considered a defining moment in 1960s culture, the album won a Grammy for best album cover art.
Story of the Album Cover Art
The album art was created by posing in front of life-sized, black and white photographs of several dozen famous people. The artists were Jann Haworth and Peter Blake, who won the 1967 Grammy award for Best Album Cover. According to Blake, the concept was to show The Beetles as a band surrounded by fans after a performance, but since they were using cut-outs, they could use anybody they wanted as the fans, even deceased or fictitious people. Blake says that George Harrison suggested using all Indian gurus, while Ringo said that whatever the other members came up with would be fine.
How Was Aleister Crowley Included?
The concept for the album cover was initially proposed by Paul McCartney in 1967, when he asked the other band members to come with a list of famous people to include in the artwork. While it’s not officially known, most people agree that it was likely John Lennon who suggested Crowley be included. It is known that Lennon proposed the inclusion of Adolf Hitler, as well as Friedrich Nietzsche. During this era Lennon was frequenting Indica Books, which was a counterculture bookstore run by Paul McCartney’s close friend and future biographer Barry Miles, at one point purchasing a book on Nietzsche. In 1967, a few months before the album was released a book called The Black Arts was published, which popularized Aleister Crowley. Barry Miles had an interest in Crowley and magik, and could have recommended it to Lennon.
Other Famous People on the Album Cover
The artwork features the four Beetles along with 71 other people which includes a mix of gurus, artists, and others.
Sri Yukteswar Giri, Sri Mahavatar Babaji, Sri Paramahansa Yogananda, Sri Lahiri Mahasaya.
Actors and Comedians
Mae West, Lenny Bruce, W. C. Fields, Fred Astaire, Huntz Hall, Tony Curtis, Tommy Handley, Marilyn Monroe, Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Max Miller, Marlon Brando, Tom Mix, Tyrone Power, Shirley Temple, Bette Davis, Marlene Dietrich, Wax model of Diana Dors, Issy Bonn.
Writers and Poets
Edgar Allan Poe, Aldous Huxley, Dylan Thomas, Terry Southern, William S. Burroughs, H. G. Wells, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Stephen Crane, George Bernard Shaw, Lewis Carroll.
Richard Merkin, Aubrey Beardsley, Wallace Berman, Richard Lindner, Stuart Sutcliffe, Larry Bell, H. C. Westermann.
Karlheinz Stockhausen, Bob Dylan, Bobby Breen, Dion DiMucci.
Aleister Crowley (occultist), Carl Jung (psychiatrist), The Vargas Girl (by artist Alberto Vargas), Simon Rodia (designer and builder of the Watts Towers), Sir Robert Peel (19th century British Prime Minister), Karl Marx (political philosopher), A “Petty Girl” (by artist George Petty), David Livingstone (missionary/explorer), Johnny Weissmuller (Olympic swimmer/Tarzan actor), Albert Stubbins (English soccer player), E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”), Wax model of Sonny Liston (boxer), A “Petty Girl” (by George Petty), Albert Einstein (physicist).
Interesting Facts About the Album
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released in 1967, and was the 8th album by The Beetles. It spent 27 weeks at number 1 in the UK and 15 weeks at number 1 in the US.
The album had a concept of being a performance by a fictional Sgt. Pepper band. It incorporated elements of circus and avant-garde, and had psychedelic sounds which the band came up with by experimenting in the studio with sound effects and tape manipulation in collaboration with producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick.
The album made pop music a more legitimate form of art, and made the album the focus of music rather than single songs. It is considered the greatest album of all time by numerous music critics. It has sold 10s of millions of copies, making it one of the best-selling albums of all time.
Who Was Aleister Crowley?
Aleister Crowley was a British occultist from the first half of the 20th century, who popularized and innovated the practice of ceremonial magick. Often referred to as The Beast 666, his reputation during his lifetime was that of “the wickedest man alive” in part due to his decadent lifestyle. He was the founder of Thelema, a new religious philosophy, and saw himself as a prophet whose responsibility was to usher in a new era for humanity called the dawn of the Aeon of Horus.
Crowley was born into a wealthy and very strict Christian family in 1875. He father died when he was 12, at which point he turned away from religion, eventually finding his interest in western esotericism.
As a young man he was educated at the University of Cambridge, while also pursuing his passions of poetry and mountaineering. Some theories suggest that it was at this time that he was recruited to be a spy for the British intelligence Agency, although there is no clear consensus on wither this is true or not.
Aleister Crowley married Rose Edith Kelly in 1904 and they honeymooned in Cairo, Egypt. During this trip Crowley was contacted by a supernatural entity named Aiwass, who communicated to him much of what would later become Thelema, the religion he created.
Other Portrayals of Crowley in popular media
Led Zeppelin and Aleister Crowley
Legend has it that in 1969, just prior to their breakout success, the members of Led Zeppelin conducted an occult ceremony to help them succeed. Guitarist Jimmy Page is a well-known student of Crowley, while bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones chose not to participate in the ritual. Their album Led Zeppelin III allegedly has two quotes carved into the outro groove– “Do as Thou Wilt” on one side, and “So Mote it Be” on the other.
Crowley’s influence is further expressed on Led Zeppelin IV, the following album. The front cover shows the Hermit from the Crowley Tarot card deck, while the inner sleeve has four esoteric symbols to represent the band members. My article The Led Zeppelin Aleister Crowley Connection goes much more in depth into this.
Mr. Crowley by Ozzy Osbourne
In 1980 Ozzy Osbourne released his debut solo album Blizzard of Ozz. It was his first release since his departure from Black Sabbath, and featured legendary guitarist Randy Rhoads. Amongst the hit songs from the album was Mr. Crowley, a critique of the famed occultist. The song is considered one of the greatest heavy metal songs of all time.
Aleister Crowley in Movies
Several films have been created over the years based on Aleister Crowley, both in documentary and biographical styles. Some of the more well-known ones are:
In Search of the Great Beast 666 (2007)
A biopic style portrayal of Crowley’s life.
Aleister Crowley: Legend of the Beast (2013)
A dramatic biography centered around a fictional scenario where Crowley relays his life story upon his deathbed.
Chemical Wedding (2008)
A British science fiction horror movie written by Bruce Dickinson, the singer of Iron Maiden. It is about a modern scholar who becomes possessed by the spirit of Aleister Crowley.
Crowley was a fictional character in the dramatic paranormal tv series Supernatural, and appeared between 2009 and 2017. Played by actor Mark Sheppard, his name was inspired by Aleister Crowley.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is The Beetles most famous album cover
However, several of their other album covers are also very famous. In the 60’s, when music was more focused on albums rather than singles, and was released on vinyl, the album art was much more important than it is today. In particular, the artwork for their album Abbey Road is an image most people recognize. It depicts the band walking in a line across a cross walk. The location of the photo has been a popular tourist attraction ever since.
Other Artwork by Jann Haworth and Peter Blake
The two artists who created the album art are both most well-known for this piece, although they have created many other projects during their careers. Peter Blake also created the artwork for two of The Who’s albums. Jann Haworth is considered a pioneer of soft sculpture, which uses fabrics such as cloth and rubber, and is an advocated for greater representation of woman in art.
If you’d like to continue researching the work of Aleister Crowley or any of the other topics discussed on this website, you can see which books I recommend by clicking here.