Review Summary: Meat is Murder
Perhaps one of the oddest album releases of all time, the Beatles’ Yesterday and Today
was released as an American only release in the summer of 1966. Yesterday and Today
contains a hodge-podge of songs that were recorded during sessions in 1965 and 1966 that were placed together by the band’s American label, Capitol Records. While not a part of what is considered to be "official Beatles canon,” Yesterday and Today
remains an important release for Beatles fans, despite its compilation-style nature. When Beatlemania crossed the Atlantic and arrived in America in 1963 and 1964, Capitol Records wanted to monetize the output of the band in every way possible for their American fans, most famously by releasing Beatles albums that were significantly different than the ones released in the United Kingdom, allowing the label to release more albums to the public, and generating more revenue. Releases like Something New
, Beatles ’65
, Beatles VI
, and even a folk-rock version of Rubber Soul
with a significantly altered track list, all became chart toppers and sold incredibly well in the United States. Yesterday and Today
would be the last major release that was not standardized by the band themselves, signaling how the band wanted to maintain a much more active role in how their music and their images were perceived by the public on a global scale.
The most memorable part of this album, and the main reason why it remains famous to this day, is because of the infamous “butcher cover.” Tired of doing “another
photo session, and another
Beatles thing,” the band decided to work with Robert Whittaker for a project called “A Somnambulant Adventure,” which featured the four lads from Liverpool dressed in white butcher’s smocks, surrounded by pieces of meat and body parts from plastic dolls. Due to a couple of seemingly incomprehensible oversights, the butcher cover wound up being placed on around 750,000 copies of Yesterday and Today
. These copies were recalled by Capital the day after its release, and were either dumped in landfills, or covered up with the much more friendly “trunk cover,” which was much less shocking and much more appropriate for a band with a following as large as the Beatles. At the time, this was seen as the first big public relations mistake that the band had made. Ironically, copies of Yesterday and Today
with the original butcher cover in-tact are collector’s items and have sold for tens of thousands of dollars.
Musically, Yesterday and Today
features a wide variety of styles that the band were known for at this point in time, including Byrds-style jangle guitar rock (“And Your Bird Can Sing,” “If I Needed Someone”), their forays into the budding folk rock and psychedelic scene (“Drive My Car” and “Nowhere Man,” both of which were held out of the American release of Rubber Soul
), their most famous ballad, “Yesterday,” and the first and only album appearance of the double sided single “Day Tripper”/”We Can Work It Out.” The album maintains a relatively even split of songs from the albums released during this period: two tracks from Help!
, four from Rubber Soul
, and three from the yet-to-be-released Revolver
, along with the aforementioned “Day Tripper” release. The same statement cannot be said for some odd choices for what was included on this album, the most baffling of which is that there are two tracks sung by Ringo (“Act Naturally” and “What Goes On”), but only one from George Harrison. These choices ultimately lower the quality of the album as a whole, despite each individual song being from the band’s golden era. The Beatles would release Revolver
only two months after this album, marking a significant change in the band’s sound and how their music was released, leaving Yesterday and Today
as nothing more than a very interesting footnote in the band’s thorough history.