Alice Jones: What the new Sgt Pepper cover tells us about modern Britain

 

Share
Related Topics

Where once stood Marilyn, now stands Delia, in a Norwich City
scarf. HG Wells has been ousted by JK Rowling, Marlene Dietrich
bumped by Kate Moss. As for John, George and Ringo – they're
nowhere to be seen.

This week Sir Peter Blake unveiled a new version of his Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover. Created to mark the artist's 80th birthday, it features a jostling crowd of today's great and good, sprinkled with Sixties nostalgia: Amy Winehouse and Mick Jagger, Alexander McQueen and Mary Quant, Danny Boyle and Alfred Hitchcock, Jonathan Ive and Terence Conran. There are artists, too – Freud, Hockney, Emin and Hirst, to name but four. It's a babyboomer's dream dinner party, in cut-and-paste.

Blake's 1967 original is glorious - a bonkers, psychedelic snapshot of the zeitgeist. Shimmering Diana Dors, Karl Marx poking out from behind Oliver Hardy's pork pie hat and, centre stage, the Fab Four themselves, resplendent in rainbow satin.

The 2012 collage is an altogether tamer affair – more old rockers and national treasures than bombshells and mystics. There are 14 sirs, three dames and two lords in the club band now and no sniff of a rumour of Jesus, Hitler or even Gandhi lurking behind the palm tree. The latest version is resolutely apolitical and areligious: it says it all, perhaps, that Paul McCartney is the only Beatle allowed back for a second appearance.

There are more women this time (22 to the original's six) but ethnic minorities have just three representatives - Michael Chow, Anish Kapoor and Shirley Bassey - in the 79-strong crowd.

So what to glean from this homogenous crew of over-achievers? "I've chosen people I admire, great people and some who are dear friends. I had a very long list of people who I wanted to go in but couldn't fit everyone in", says Blake. "That shows how strong British culture is."

It's a lovely birthday card for the granddaddy of pop art but a portrait of a generation? I'm not sure. Where are the politicians or the comedians, the journalists or the campaigners?

There is, really, just one timeless truth that emerges. Blake gives six, no less, chefs/restaurateurs - Rick Stein, Delia Smith, Mr Chow, Mark Hix, Chris Corbin and Jeremy King - their place in art history. Which just goes to show, famous faces may come and go but a true artist always knows the value of a slap-up meal.

* It's eerie, chilling, not quite of this earth. No, not Damien Hirst's pickled shark, but the new Madame Tussauds waxworks of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Both lifeless exhibits went on show this week and are likely to become the most photographed attractions in London over the summer, stuffed stooges for a thousand tourist snapshots and Facebook profile pictures.

Museums have known for a long time that it's not enough for visitors simply to look, they also need an experience, something to take away with them. And so it is we find ourselves in the era of the giftshop luxe.

Forget notelets, lemon curd and fancy teatowels, Tate Modern ushers visitors out of its Hirst retrospective via a gift shop selling rolls of butterfly wallpaper at £700 and a gaudy skull for £36,800.

Stranger still, chez Kate and Will, visitors to the refurbished Kensington Palace, which opened last week, are offered replica Palace toast racks for £1000 and a regal egg-cup for £800.

For cash-strapped museums, giftshops are an important moneyspinner but does anyone really turn up to a public exhibition planning to spend thousands of pounds on their way out?

For the price of one knock-off skull or a Princessy breakfast set, you could buy the entire graduate show of the next big YBA (probably a safer investment than a Hirst at the moment), or hire a butler to serve you hot buttered toast for a month instead.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The final instalment of our WW1 series

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Simon Usborne: The more you watch pro cycling, the more you understand its social complexity

Simon Usborne
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice