Beatles, Butchers, Bans and Bootlegs

November 10, 2009 by Jimmy J  · 1 Comment  

Every so often we feature an interesting vintage clothing piece that’s currently up for grabs on eBay. Please inform us if you create or discover an auction we might like by posting a link to the listing on our forum.

vintage beatles t-shirt

Item: vintage 1966 Beatles Butcher Album Cover t-shirt

Brand: Vee-Kay, Pakistan

Sold By: koshercollectibles

What the Seller Says: I do not know the entire history of this shirt.  I can only tell you that everything seems right about this item, but I have not been able to find anyone who knows the history of this shirt.  The tag is sewn in, 1950s or 1960s style, and the print is definitely an old water print.  Also, I can tell you that the guy I got this shirt from played in the band Elephant’s Memory and got the shirt himself from Lennon during the early 1970s.  He had other shirts but he actually let me buy this one, which he didn’t think was his best, but I felt otherwise.  I spent a bundle on it, hence the high price.  If the original records are scarce, how rare is this piece?  Good luck finding another!

What we Say: The image on this is t-shirt is the banned artwork for Yesterday and Today “butcher” album which features dismembered dolls and bloody meat. Immediately after its release Capitol received a massive amount of complaints from record stores which prompted a recall. The albums were originally slated to be destroyed but then Capitol opted to glue a more cost effective replacement panel over top. When the word got out about the refurbished cover most owners did some butchering of their own by trying to peel off the panel. These attempts to view the original image left many Beatles fans with mangled and worthless “third state” copies. A copy with the replacement cover left unscathed (below, right) is called “second state” and has been skyrocketing in value due to rarity resulting from the peeling trend that occurred for decades. The original un-glued versions known as “first state” are worth a small fortune.

beatles banned album and poster

Is it possible that Capitol would have released promo t-shirts like the record store poster (above, middle) and this one escaped the recall? Or is this one of the earliest examples of bootlegging to capitalize on hype and cater to the rebellious? Does the possibility that John Lennon had it in his possession provide any insight? Does the Pakistan tag offer any clues?

How ever it came to be – this is a unique piece of rock and/or t-shirt history. At $20,000 the price tag is high, but for good reason.



  • Johnny65

    Agreed that $20K seems high, but maybe not. Hard to say.

    I’m inclined to think it’s a very early example of bootlegging, especially with the Paki tag.

    Great post Jimmy! Excellent research.