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

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Manager required for a busy company in...

Recruitment Genius: Controller / Mobile Inspector

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This leading security company requires a prof...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A sales person is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Protesters march with banners during an anti-austerity, anti-Conservative Party protest in May  

Budget 2015: Why do we call social security payments 'benefits'? They are a right, not a reward

Janey Stephenson
Laura Bassett signs autographs for England fans after the quarter-final victory  

Women's World Cup: Despite the England team's tweet, the Lionesses can be mothers and successful football players at the same time

Chloe Hamilton
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy