Asked to put their heroes on the cover, the band selected a mix of artists, writers, movie stars, musicians and others. Most were chosen by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, along with suggestions from artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth, the cover's designers. George Harrison added four Indian gurus. Ringo Starr said he didn't care.
"It was completely open-ended," said Haworth when asked last month about the selection process. The faces ranged from the iconic (Marilyn Monroe) to the obscure (child singer Bobby Breen) and from the hugely influential (Bob Dylan) to the just plain silly ("Tarzan's" Johnny Weissmuller).
The album made a seismic cultural splash, and fans listened to it over and over while scouring the cover for clues to the Beatles' creative genius.
But that was then. If "Sgt. Pepper" came out now, who might join the Beatles on the cover?
We've taken a crack at answering this question, with a little help from our friends: three Beatles experts.
First, though, let's decipher the original.
Who was who in 1967
1. Sri Yukteswar (guru) 2. Aleister Crowley (occultist and author) 3. Mae West (actor) 4. Lenny Bruce (comedian) 5. Karlheinz Stockhausen (composer) 6. W.C. Fields (comedian) 7. Carl Jung (psychiatrist) 8. Edgar Allan Poe (author) 9. Fred Astaire (actor) 10. Richard Merkin (artist) 11. Alberto Vargas pin-up girl 12. Huntz Hall (actor) 13. Simon Rodia (artist) 14. Bob Dylan (musician) 15. Aubrey Beardsley (artist) 16. Sir Robert Peel (British statesman) 17. Aldous Huxley (author) 18. Dylan Thomas (poet) 19. Terry Southern (author) 20. Dion (pop singer) 21. Tony Curtis (actor) 22. Wallace Berman (artist) 23. Tommy Handley (comedian) 24. Marilyn Monroe (actor) 25. William S. Burroughs (author) 26. Mahavatar Babaji (yogi) 27. Stan Laurel (actor) 28. Richard Lindner (artist) 29. Oliver Hardy (actor) 30. Karl Marx (philosopher) 31. H.G. Wells (author) 32. Paramahansa Yogananda (guru) 33. Stuart Sutcliffe (original Beatle) 34. Anonymous 35. Max Müller ( philologist) 36. George Petty pin-up girl 37. Marlon Brando (actor) 38. Tom Mix (actor) 39. Oscar Wilde (author) 40. Tyrone Power (actor) 41. Larry Bell (artist) 42. Dr. David Livingstone (explorer) 43. Johnny Weissmuller (actor) 44. Stephen Crane (author) 45. Issy Bonn (comedian) 46. George Bernard Shaw (playwright) 47. H.C. Westermann (artist) 48. Albert Stubbins (footballer) 49. Lahiri Mahasaya (guru) 50. Lewis Carroll (author) 51. T.E. Lawrence (...of Arabia) 52. Sonny Liston (boxer) 53-56. The Beatles (wax figures) 57. Albert Einstein (physicist) 58. Bobby Breen (singer) 59. Marlene Dietrich (actor) 60. Diana Dors (actor) 61. Shirley Temple (actor)
How we chose the new faces
Half a century later, some of those original faces feel a little, well, dated. They're also overwhelmingly white and male.
"I apologize for that," said Haworth, who concedes the Beatles didn't nominate a single woman. "I should have known better."
So we replaced them with 57 new ones, chosen with input from Glenn Gass
, a professor at Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music who has been teaching a course on the Beatles for 35 years; Gillian Gaar
, co-author of "Sgt. Pepper at Fifty: The Mood, the Look, the Sound, the Legacy of the Beatles' Great Masterpiece"; and Haworth, now a visual artist
living in Salt Lake City.
Our criteria: Like the original cover, we focused heavily on artists, musicians and other creative types from the past 50 years. We emphasized people who are/were pioneers in their field (Steve Jobs) or catalysts for change (Rosa Parks), with a few nods to celebrity and the Beatles' well-developed whimsy (hello, Lisa Simpson!). We also included some huge 20th century figures the Beatles omitted (Elvis, duh).
As Gaar said, referring to the 1967 cover, "People will have their own idea of why these people were chosen and what it all means."
Yes, you will. And you will have your own suggestions, too. Let the arguments begin.
Who is who in 2017
1. Cesar Chavez (labor leader) 2. Aung San Suu Kyi (Burmese politician) 3. The Dalai Lama (Tibetan spiritual leader) 4. Mother Teresa (Catholic missionary) 5. Gloria Steinem (feminist) 6. Mahatma Gandhi (Indian leader) 7. Pablo Neruda (poet) 8. Ruth Bader Ginsburg (jurist) 9. Jean-Michel Basquiat (artist) 10. Rosa Parks (civil rights activist) 11. Che Guevara (revolutionary) 12. Pele (footballer) 13. Meryl Streep (actor) 14. Frida Kahlo (artist) 15. J.K. Rowling (author) 16. Jane Goodall (zoologist) 17. Jacques Cousteau (marine biologist) 18. Bob Marley (musician) 19. Prince (musician) 20. Daniel Day-Lewis (actor) 21. Gabriel Garcia-Marquez (author) 22. Nelson Mandela (South African politician) 23. Georgia O'Keeffe (artist) 24. Pope Francis 25. Bruce Lee (actor) 26. Mother Jones (labor leader) 27. Miles Davis (musician) 28. Kurt Cobain (musician) 29. Jonas Salk (medical researcher) 30. Johnny Cash (musician) 31. David Bowie (musician) 32. Pablo Picasso (artist) 33. Elvis Presley (musician) 34. Ai Weiwei (artist) 35. Princess Diana 36. Marie Curie (scientist) 37. Steve Jobs (inventor) 38. George Orwell (author) 39. James Joyce (author) 40. Stanley Kubrick (filmmaker) 41. Chuck Berry (musician) 42. Martin Luther King Jr. (civil rights leader) 43. Muhammad Ali (boxer) 44. Alan Turing (computer scientist) 45. Allen Ginsberg (poet) 46. Virginia Woolf (author) 47. B.B. King (musician) 48. Alfred Hitchcock (filmmaker) 49. Billie Holiday (musician) 50. Helen Mirren (actor) 51-54. The Beatles (wax figures) 55. Oprah Winfrey (entertainer) 56. Angela Merkel (German politician) 57. Toni Morrison (author) 58. Angelina Jolie (actor) 59. Bjork (musician) 60. Jimi Hendrix (musician) 61. Lisa Simpson