Since this is the 32nd anniversary of the assassination of John Lennon, I thought it would be a good time to write about one of the most tasteless album covers ever created. Less than two years after Lennon’s death, Rhino Records released Beatlesongs!, a collection of Beatles novelty songs by various artists. The cover featured an illustration by artist and illustrator William Stout. Done in the Mad magazine style, the cover was a cartoon parody of Beatlemanics.
Inexplicably, one of the cartoon “fans” on the cover was a caricature of Lennon’s killer Mark David Chapman (holding banner on the far left). Keep in mind that this cover was created in 1982, when the death of John Lennon was still a fresh wound. As should have been expected, the cover was quite controversial and Rhino pulled it from distribution. The following is an excerpt from Rhino’s press release regarding the album cover:
Due to many phone calls and letters of protest from disgruntled fans and stores, Rhino has elected to recall this jacket and immediately change the cover to a photo of various Beatles memorabilia. All existing jackets will be pasted over with the new cover. The depiction of Chapman was not made obvious to the members of Rhino’s staff, and only later was brought to their attention.
William Stout is a respected commercial artist whose work was featured in a five page spread in last November’s Life Magazine. His recent credits iinclude that of Production Artist on the film “Conan” and having his own book, “The Dinosaurs,” published by Bantam. Stout refused to alter the artwork – upon Rhino’s suggestion – claiming that an important point would be lost.
The release continued with what Rhino called a “manifesto” by Stout defending his cover as depicting a “complete range of Beatles fans” – oh, brother! It was a collection of novelty songs, not the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel!