National | CHUBU CONNECTION

Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’ album cover mystery a piece of Japanese history

Who owns the Sony TV that appears on the cover of the Beatles’ famous “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album?

The long mystery was recently solved by Yasuharu Muramatsu, 47, curator of Okazaki City Mindscape Museum in Aichi Prefecture. He has an invoice apparently for the TV addressed to Paul McCartney.

Released in 1967, “Sgt. Pepper” was recorded after the group returned from performing concerts at the Nippon Budokan arena in Tokyo from June 30 to July 2 in 1966. July 2 marked the 44th anniversary of the Tokyo concerts — the Beatles’ only visit to Japan.

Loved equally to the music is the album’s cover photo, which was taken in London on March 30, 1967. The four band members are surrounded by cardboard models of such icons as Marilyn Monroe, while several items are placed in the foreground.

Among these, a “fukusuke” fortune doll and a Sony 9-inch portable TV represented Japan on the cover. The doll’s owner was identified as John Lennon, who bought it in Japan to bring back to the U.K. But the question of who the TV belonged to remained unknown for many years.

The invoice is currently owned by Kazunori Aizawa, 52, a Tokyo collector and an honorary director of the Beatles Museum in Ito, Shizuoka Prefecture. The invoice is in his collection of Paul McCartney autographs. McCartney’s address in London and his name are printed on the invoice, and his signature in blue is still clear and decipherable.

Muramatsu noticed the description on the invoice, dated Dec. 7, 1966, which reads “Paid: one set of Sony 9-inch portable television — 72.9 pounds.”

“While staying in Japan, the members may have become interested in the Japanese ethos that respects tradition as well as the state-of-the-art electronics. They probably placed fukusuke to depict respect for tradition while symbolizing innovation with the TV,” Muramatsu said.

The invoice and the same type of TV will be displayed at the “Swingin’ London” exhibit at Okazaki City Mindscape Museum next January.

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by local daily Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published in the evening edition on July 2.