A Novelty Cover

Their Satanic Majesties Request is the sixth British and eighth American studio album by The Rolling Stones, released on 8 December 1967 by Decca Records in the United Kingdom and the following day in the United States by London Records. Its title is a play on the “Her Britannic Majesty requests and requires…” text that appears inside a British passport. Their Satanic Majesties Request was the Stones’ only self-produced album, which Mick Jagger admitted was not for the best.

There’s a lot of rubbish on Satanic Majesties. Just too much time on our hands, too many drugs, no producer to tell us, “Enough already, thank you very much, now can we get just get on with this song?” Anyone let loose in the studio will produce stuff like that. There was simply too much hanging around. It’s like believing everything you do is great and not having any editing.

The working title of the album was Cosmic Christmas. In the hidden coda titled “Cosmic Christmas” (following “Sing This All Together (See What Happens)”), Wyman tells “it’s slowed-down: ‘We wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas, and a happy New Year!'” Some of the album’s songs were also recorded under various working titles, some appearing rather non sequitur and radically different from the final titles. These working titles include: Acid in the Grass (In Another Land), I Want People to Know (2000 Man), Flowers in Your Bonnet (She’s a Rainbow), Fly My Kite (The Lantern), Toffee Apple (2000 Light Years from Home), and Surprise Me (On with the Show).

 
 

 
 

One proposed cover-a photograph of Mick Jagger naked on a cross-was scrapped by the record company for being “in bad taste”. Initial releases of the album featured a three-dimensional picture of the band on the cover by photographer Michael Cooper. When viewed in a certain way, the lenticular image shows the band members’ faces turning towards each other with the exception of Jagger, whose hands appear crossed in front of him.

 

 
 

Looking closely on its cover, one can see the faces of each of the four Beatles, reportedly a response to the Beatles’ inclusion of a doll wearing a “Welcome the Rolling Stones” sweater on the cover of Sgt. Pepper. Later editions replaced the glued-on three-dimensional image with a photograph, due to high production costs. A limited edition LP version in the 1980s reprinted the original 3D cover design; immediately following the reissue, the master materials for reprinting the 3D cover were intentionally destroyed. The 3D album cover was featured, although shrunk down, for the Japanese SHM-CD release in 2010.

The original cover design called for the lenticular image to take up the entire front cover, but finding this to be prohibitively expensive it was decided to reduce the size of the photo and surround it with the blue-and-white graphic design.

 
 

 
 

The entire cover design is elaborate, with a dense photo collage filling most of the inside cover (along with a maze) designed by Michael Cooper, and a painting by Tony Meevilwiffen on the back cover depicting the four elements (Earth, Water, Fire, and Air). In some editions the blue-and-white wisps on the front cover are used in a red-and-white version on the paper inner sleeve. The inner-cover collage has dozens of images, taken from reproductions of old master paintings (Ingres, Poussin, DaVinci, among others), Indian mandalas and portraits, astronomy (including a large image of the planet Saturn), flowers, world maps, etc.

It was the first of four Stones albums to feature a novelty cover (the others were the zipper on Sticky Fingers, the cut-out faces on Some Girls, and the stickers on Undercover). The maze on the inside cover of the UK and US releases cannot be completed: a wall at about a half radius in from the lower left corner means one can never arrive at the “It’s Here” in the centre of the maze.

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