The Apartment Where the Beatles Shot Sgt. Pepper Album Cover Is for Sale for $1.6 Million
"It certainly is a piece of pop music history," listing agent Robert Green tells PEOPLE
An unassuming artist's studio where Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club taught the band to play is for sale.
Originally built in 1902, London's Chelsea Manor Studio 4 was owned in the 1960s by celebrity photographer Michael Cooper, who assembled the Beatles together for one night and ended up producing one of the most iconic photo sessions in pop music history: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr dressed as Edwardian-era musicians standing before a constructed background collage of 66 cardboard and wax figures.
The March 30, 1967 session was a culminating moment for the band. Having retired from performing live and while still recording the album they'd begun in November, the Beatles assembled in Chelsea to portray a fictional band who "had just played a concert in the park," according to album designer Peter Blake.
Working from an original sketch by McCartney the photograph was meant to depict the group "with the crowd who had just watched the concert." Using the cardboard cut-outs, Blake suggested, "it could be a magical crowd of whomever they wanted."
In preparation, each Beatle contributed names of those they wished presented. All except Ringo, who reportedly told Blake, "Whatever the others say is fine by me." After some negotiation, these suggestions yielded a cultural kaleidoscope including Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich and Sonny Liston, Bob Dylan, Marlon Brando, Laurel and Hardy. Also appearing are Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and several Indian philosophers, (courtesy of George Harrison) including Paramahansa Yogananda and Mahavata Babaji. Even doubles of the Beatles themselves (as wax statues borrowed from Madame Tussauds) can be seen.
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A team assembled the cutouts and props, brought in costumes and arranged a small garden around the bass drum skin created by fairground artist Joe Ephgrave. During the actual shoot, the Beatles struck numerous playful poses and Cooper's then 4-year old son, Adam occasionally wandered in and out of frames.
The magic came together before Cooper's lens with the help Blake and his wife Jann Haworth, and art dealer Robert Frazier. There are even photos of the Sgt. Pepper session in progress that clearly document that a splendid time was had by all.
"It was part of a complex of studios designed for painters and photographers in Chelsea. It has north-facing roof light which made it perfect for painter studios."
The modern floor plan consists of two bedrooms, a bath, and an open-plan kitchen and reception area, which Green describes as "quite a simple arrangement. What hits you is the volume of space and the height." He explains that "the original 18-foot ceilings allowed for the construction of a master bedroom and mezzanine area without loss of light."
Undeniably part of the attraction is the Chelsea district's long association with the arts. "Chelsea began with a bohemian reputation with people like Oscar Wilde and continued through the '60s." Through its Sgt. Pepper notoriety, the property, he feels, "enjoys a lovely link with the past. It certainly is a piece of pop music history."