John Lennon and the artwork for “Beatles For Sale”

John Lennon and the artwork for “Beatles For Sale”

The publicity photo Betty Littlewood wanted to have signed. Photo via Gotta Have Rock And Roll.

In a current auction over at GottaHaveRockAndRoll, we are once again zooming in on one very interesting item.

John Lennon Incredible “Beatles for Sale” Original Signed Album Cover Artwork Drawing.

The black and white Starpics portrait signed on the reverse in blue ballpoint and with four sketched designs by John Lennon for the album’s front cover and record label.

Dimensions: 6 in x 7¾in.

Provenance: From the Collection of Betty Littlewood.

Betty Littlewood went to see the Beatles at the Odeon Cinema, Leeds, on the 22nd of October 1964. With many other fans, she handed in a photograph at the cinema to be signed by the Beatles and was quite surprised to see what was on the back of hers upon its return!

As well as undertaking a month-long UK tour, the Beatles were also busily recording their forthcoming album at this time. This was released, entitled “Beatles For Sale”, in the UK on December 4th, just over a month after this Leeds appearance. From evidence of the photograph, it would seem that they spent some time in the dressing room discussing the proposed design for the album cover. It is likely that they had various photographs by Bob Freeman available for consideration and Lennon, having picked up whatever piece of paper was nearest to hand, sketched out various ideas on the back of this photograph. Still mindful of his duty to the fans, he then signed it and gave it back to its owner. It is possible then that, apart from those immediately involved with the production of the album, ‘Betty’ was the first person to know the album’s title.

The back of the photo. Photo via Gotta Have Rock And Roll.

So far the auction description. But we noticed a striking similarity between John’s sketches and the “Beatles For Sale” album as it appeared in France.

Lennon’s sketch shows a frame around the image in which a circular hole was cut out, displaying the familiar “Beatles For Sale” front cover image of the Beatles. This was a design that was actually used – on the French edition of the album, which, admittedly, was given a different title: Les Beatles 1965″, but was otherwise the same LP.

The French edition of “Beatles For Sale” – “Les Beatles 1965”.

Removing the front cover photo (sticker) from the sleeve, a black and white photo taken during the filming of “A Hard Day’s Night” appeared underneath.

Perhaps it was the French cover design Lennon drew and explained to someone, maybe to the other three? We also don’t know when Betty got her picture back. Was it handed out after the concert by Mal or Neil? She wrote her address on the back, so did she get it in the mail? In that case, Lennon’s doodling does not need to have been done in the dressing room in Leeds, but perhaps at a later date? Since only Lennon has signed, perhaps he was alone when he realised that he should send the picture back to Betty in Leeds? Perhaps the French design was what the LP was also intended to look like in Britain, and was rejected there but used in France? So many questions…

The French original and later pressings of Les Beatles 1965 are very sought after by international as well as French collectors, and you can find several expensive copies of it over on ebay.

The item was previously sold by Bonhams in 2008 and was discussed by Starshyne (Sara Schmidt) in her Meet The Beatles For Real blog, in 2014.

The lot is estimated to sell for between $100,000 – $200,000 and has already attracted a minimum bid of $50,000 at the time of writing.

You can find the auction lot here:


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