Back in 1966, the Beatles had decided to give up touring and become a studio-only band. This was an extremely risky move for the Beatles since no successful band had ever given up touring. When the Beatles entered the studio in November of 1966 to begin work on their first post-touring album, they already had several incredible songs written, including “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane.” But, with no new Beatles release imminent, their manager Brian Epstein and producer George Martin decided to release the two songs as a single and leave them off the next album.
With the two songs “lost” from the album, Paul McCartney conceived of a concept that could inspire the Beatles in composing new material. The idea was that the Beatles would “pose” as another band — Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. This would allow the Beatles to write in any style they wished without being “hindered” by their audience’s expectations. Although this concept really didn’t hold for all the songs on Sgt. Pepper, the album did have the Beatles easily swapping styles — from the circus music of “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” to the Eastern influenced “Within You, Without You” to the classical strings of “She’s Leaving Home.”
An ambitious album like Sgt. Pepper required equally ambitious cover art. Apparently, the design was McCartney’s idea, and he enlisted the artists Peter Blake, Robert Fraser, and Jann Haworth to realize his vision based on a drawing McCartney had made. The artists created cardboard cutouts of famous people chosen by the four Beatles and positioned them behind the Beatles for the final photograph.