Shirley Temple and the Sgt. Pepper Cover

When I first heard the quiz question about which person appears three times on the Sgt. Pepper album cover, I was highly sceptical. I had a nagging feeling that I'd heard about it before ... but I couldn't remember the answer. Naturally, I felt bound to investigate. When I did, I found that it's true – but only just.

If you want to follow what I'm going to say here, it'll help if you have the album cover – or a good picture of it. Sadly, I sold all my vinyl albums a few years ago, and this is just one example where the CD cover just doesn't cut the mustard. Of course there are loads of reproductions on the Internet, some of them better than others; this is the best one I could find.

Shirley Temple actually appears twice as herself, and once (allegedly) as a cloth doll. The doll is on the right hand side, wearing a hooped jumper with the words 'Welcome the Rolling Stones' on the front. On the left sleeve it says 'Good Guys'. There's lettering on the right sleeve as well; this is illegible on any reproduction I've managed to find, but a blog entitled Meet the Beatles for Real can enlighten us. It claims to have identified the creator of the jumper: she's Mary Anne May – a senior (6th former) at the time, and now an elementary (primary) school art teacher. Mary Anne claims to have made the jumper – or at least, sewed the letters on it – for a competition organised by WMPS, a radio station in Memphis, Tennessee. The prize was a chance to meet the Rolling Stones when they came to Memphis in 1965. According to the blog, the lettering on the right sleeve reads 'WMPS'. Mary Anne tells how she gave the jumper to Mick Jagger, but no one seems to know how it got onto the Sgt. Pepper cover.

The Beatles Conspiracy blog has more detail, including a contemporary newspaper cutting with several quotes from Mary Anne (known at that time as Mary Scruggs). It also includes a quote from Peter Blake, in which he says that the doll is supposed to be Shirley Temple.

A website called Just Collecting says the doll was sold at auction in 2005 for £13,000. It has a photograph of a doll, but it clearly isn't the doll that appears on the album cover – or at least, it isn't wearing Mary Anne's jumper; there's no lettering on the sleeves. (A different photo of the same doll – without the lettering on the sleeves – appears on the Meet the Beatles for Real blog, which I referred to above.)

Wikipedia tells us that the doll was made by Jann Haworth, co–designer of the album cover, along with the more–frequently–credited Peter Blake. We appear only to have Blake's word that it was supposed to be Shirley Temple; and I have to say that to me it doesn't look much like her (for a start, I don't primarily associate Shirley Temple with auburn hair.)

The real mystery, however, seems to be how Mary Scruggs's jumper got from Mick Jagger to the Sgt. Pepper album cover. The Beatles Conspiracy blog (referred to above) says "despite what practically every source, including my own book, says ... [the jumper] must have been given to The Beatles by Jagger himself." (The author of the blog – see below – had previously believed, and apparently stated in his book, that the jumper had belonged to Adam Cooper, the son of the photographer Michael Cooper.)

The author of the Beatles Conspiracy blog goes by the clearly made–up name of Redwel Trabant, and the book that he refers to is entitled The Sgt Pepper Code. Quite how Mr. Trabant works out that the jumper must have been given to the Beatles by Mick Jagger, I have no idea; it would seem to me that it somehow ended up in the London studio of the photographer (Michael Cooper), where it was found by Peter Blake and Jann Haworth. It was then put on a doll made (if we believe Wikipedia) by Haworth, which was included in the photo.

The two images of Shirley Temple herself are of less mysterious provenance, but they're less prominent in the photo – in fact one of them is hardly there at all!

The main one is towards the right of the front row, standing in front of Marlene Dietrich and Diana Dors. This is taken from a still from the 1937 film Bright Eyes. The scale is all wrong – she doesn't even come up to Diana's waist – and the image is quite dark; but it's Shirley Temple all right.

For a good reproduction of the original still, check here.

The other image – the one that's hardly there at all – is between and behind the waxworks of John and Ringo (on the left side of the front row). Can't spot it? No – I'm not surprised. The fact is that there was an image of Shirley Temple on the set, but it's almost entirely obscured by the waxworks. This website has a detail showing it in place before the waxworks were put in front of it. (Search for 'Temple' – it's the first of two times she's mentioned.) What you can actually see on the album cover is literally just a bit of Shirley's hair.

The same website has a picture of the photo set before the waxworks were moved in. (It used to be the first image after the list of people, but last time I checked – in March 2020 – it was the seventh, immediately before the one of Sonny Liston's head in a box.) You can clearly see Shirley Temple's face - just to the left of the head of the young lady in the white sweater, who I'm guessing is Jann Haworth. (Peter Blake is two places to her right as we look, wearing a light-coloured shirt and standing with his arms folded, looking fed up.)

The original of this version of Shirley is a still from the film Heidi (also 1937). Click here for a couple of reproductions of the actual still.

If, like me, you find the exhortations to 'sign up' extremely annoying in that link, try this one. It's the last photo but three (or it was when I looked) – dated 5th June (2009, I think).

Apart from the mystery of how Mary Scruggs's jumper got into the photo, the other thing that doesn't seem to be properly explained is why there are three Shirley Temples in the photo. You may not be surprised to hear that conspiracy theories abound – try this one for size, if you're interested. As for me – I'm not even going to go there. Well I did, obviously, to get the link – but I'm not going to say any more about it.

Another possibility is that the image on the right was added because the one on the left was hidden by the waxworks, and the idea that the doll is also Shirley Temple is just the result of Peter Blake's memory playing tricks on him.

© Haydn Thompson 2017