This famously rare Beatles record could be worth some serious money. And one local man has a copy he can’t see. Peter Smith, now blind, bought it when he was a child living with his family in Puerto Rico for a spell. “That little 8-year-old boy made a very wise investment,” he said. Yes he did.
The 1966 record, called “Yesterday and Today,” originally featured a weird photograph of the Fab Four dressed as butchers, holding slabs of meat and doll parts. Some, citing Paul McCartney’s comments at the time, interpreted the image as a protest of the Vietnam War. It features songs such as “Drive My Car,” “Nowhere Man,” “Yesterday,” “We Can Work It Out” and “Day Tripper.”
The record company had 750,000 copies made, but the photograph was condemned when it hit radio stations and stores, prompting Capitol Records to recall The Beatles’ ninth U.S. release on its label.
Most of the copies were destroyed, but many were refashioned and redistributed with a new cover picture pasted atop the old one. The new photo showed McCartney sitting in a travel trunk surrounded by his mates.
A mint-condition butcher album, with the original “first-state” image and encased in its plastic wrap, can fetch around $20,000. A super rare stereo version sold in 2016 for $125,000 .Smith’s copy is worth much less, probably under $1,000, according to Aaron Levy, who runs The Vinyl Countdown. It’s a “third-state” copy because part of the trunk cover has been peeled away to reveal the butcher cover beneath. (A “second-state” copy has an intact trunk cover paste-over image.)
Smith said he noticed something odd about his record in 1983 when the trunk image came loose on one side, revealing something else underneath.“I kind of lifted it up, but didn’t think much more of it,” he said. And then he lost track of the album for a while. It turned up again earlier this year after Smith’s father died. “I was going through stuff in his house and some of my albums were there,” he said.
Now, Smith said, he wants to sell it to help make ends meet. He teaches risk management at the College of Charleston, advocates for the blind and still sometimes plays golf, though all he can see is a glow when a bright light is shining directly at him. He walks with a cane and has curbed his activities as his sight has faded, he said.
On Dec. 6, he paid a visit to Levy at The Vinyl Countdown to show him the record. Levy was impressed. It’s in pretty good shape and the mono record itself plays without skips. The trunk cover is half torn away, leaving the album in a compromised condition. If Smith sold it “as is,” he’d get only about $100, Levy said. But if he got the trunk cover removed by a professional restorer, the value could jump to $800 or $900, he said.
Then Levy offered Smith $300, telling the risk management expert that it might be a risk worth taking if he can find an affordable restorer himself. Ah yes, it takes money to make money.
There are other options, it turns out: Levy and Smith have heard that a careful application of rubbing alcohol could dissolve the adhesive and make it possible to remove the trunk cover. Saliva also is supposed to work, if one is willing to engage in a methodical licking of the paste-over image. That could be risky. Smith decided to sleep on it. Recently, another shop — Monster Music in West Ashley — expressed interest in seeing the album, and Smith identified a local restorer, but two auto collisions, one of them on Christmas day, forced him to turn his attention away from The Beatles.