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ALL AGLOW: A mysterious "Sgt. Pepper's" discovery

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
Why do certain, early vinyl pressings of The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" glow under ultraviolet light?
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OKLAHOMA CITY – In 1972, five years after future NASA astronaut William F. Fisher purchased his brand new copy of The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band at the Palo Alto Book and Record Store in Palo Alto, California, the young medical student cued up the famous album in his Gainesville, Fla. apartment, not expecting a fresh discovery regarding the most famous album in the world.

And while Fisher had listened to it plenty of times before (“It was the first time I’d ever had to stand in line to buy and album,” he said, recalling his waiting in a long line the first day it was released in June 1967), this time was different. This time the LP was glowing yellow and green under the ultraviolet light of his “black light.” He had never noticed this before and yet there it was, glowing on his turntable.

“I’ve been looking for answers since 1972,” said Fisher during a telephone interview with Red Dirt Report from medical office near Houston. “I’ve written (Beatles producer) George Martin, people out in San Francisco, the guy who wrote the ‘Paul is Dead’ book, I’ve even called Capitol Records and talked to the old guys and they don’t know anything about it.”

He even wrote to rock poster archivist Eric King and music guru "Dr. Lev" seeking answers. They could provide little information for Fisher. 

Added Fisher: “Nobody has a clue.”

A creative and adventurous sort who loves everything from music to skydiving and collecting psychedelic and creative rock concert posters from the 1965-1973 era, Fisher was a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery on their STS-51-I that was launched on August 27, 1985 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. He performed two spacewalks. It was his only trip into space. While on board, the astronauts were awakened by certain, special songs. Early in the mission they were awakened by Judy Garland's version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

When Fisher sent Red Dirt Report photo copies of the album under UV light, it was more beautiful and surreal than we had imagined. So, why wouldn't Capitol Records (and others of the era) capitalize on this unique quality, particularly when the Sixties generation was way into psychedelic experiences? If the old timers at Capitol Records know, they aren't talking, says Fisher. 

Red Dirt Report was first made aware of this vinyl anomaly via a Beatles blog called Wizards, Buses and the Physiodelic Church, run by a man named Gerard Tomoculus.

On June 24, 2014, this blogger posted a series of posts all pertaining to the curious case of the “glow-in-the-dark” Sgt. Pepper’s albums.

While doing online research on Dr. Richard Asher, the father of Jane Asher, the woman who dated Paul McCartney during the height of Beatlemania, Tomoculus blogged – on a blog post subheadlined “Discovery” - that he was looking into the possible reasons for Dr. Asher’s 1969 suicide when he stumbled upon a website that talked about mono copies of Sgt. Pepper that glowed in the dark.

As Tomoculus wrote: “After about two hours searching on the Internet, I realized that no one seemed to be mentioning anything about the ultraviolet albums. At all. Not collectors. Not vinyl LP stores. Not vendors. No one. I could not find one single article about it. The only mention of it I could find was at a Paul is Dead site.”

He added that while his initial instinct was to rush out and tell everyone about the unusual Beatles album, something else told him to “shut up” about it.

“Maybe it’s the collector in me. Maybe it’s knowing the value of rare items. Maybe it’s knowing the ‘legacy’ of The Beatles. It’s a number of things. And a glowing Sgt Pepper was indeed, a rare find. Little did I know.”

The blogger goes on to mention that out of the “1,000 or so albums I’ve collected over the years, only around 5-to-7 percent were ultraviolet sensitive.”

Dallas-born Fisher, meanwhile, explained to Red Dirt Report that the “glowing” Sgt. Pepper’s LP is also fascinating because it’s, well, Sgt. Pepper’s. A very special album, particularly for his generation of Boomers.

Over the years, Fisher, armed with a black light, said he has shown his unique Beatles vinyl to many people and all are fascinated by it.

“It’s all the way through the vinyl,” Fisher said, adding that he has checked others from that same “batch” pressed in spring 1967 and others do not have this unique appearance, only visible under ultraviolet light.

“There’s no question about its authenticity,” Fisher said.

Meanwhile, Tomoculus, like Fisher, is wondering why Beatles collectors and fanatics, vinyl experts and the simply curious are not aware of the glowing vinyl album phenomenon. He does offer information on the vinyl pressing process and more.

“What does this album mean?” Tomoculus asked. “Why does it glow? Why THAT album of all albums? What is that image of? How come no one is talking about these? Why is this not all over the Internet? Why is it not in MOJO Magazine? Why doesn’t everyone known about these after almost 50 years? Does it take a conspiracy nut to find out?”

Sgt Pepper Ultraviolet,” writes Tomoculus, “was no gimmick. I don’t know what it was. But Capitol Records saw fit not to tell anyone they had done it.” He writes that only American pressed Beatles LP’s do it and British ones do not glow.

“Why did Capitol not tell anyone about these/ Did the process cost extra? Was it a danger to the consumer? Did The Beatles themselves know about it?”

He adds: “Everything about this Sgt. Pepper Ultraviolet LP says COLLECT.”

So, did Capitol tell John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr about their album's unique qualities? Is there something possibly alchemical about it? Perhaps a "magical mystery tour" is in order?

Other bands and artists - Pink Floyd, James Brown, Ringo Starr and others - apparently had vinyl albums that featured this curious, glowing quality. But why aren't more people aware of it? Tomoculus speculates that people who are wary of "Paul is Dead" conspiracies and related topics would shy away from glowing Beatles albums as well.

Fisher, who left NASA in 1991 and now practices Emergency Medicine in the Houston area, makes it clear that he is an educated and curious man who “flew in space.” “I’m not the sort of guy who is going to talk about hallucinations.” And he says every five years or so – it’s now been about five years since he last delved into his Sgt. Pepper mystery – he begins asking questions of anyone and everyone. So far, he has no answers.

Looking at the glowing, psychedelic “wave”-like patterns on his 47-year-old copy of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Fisher said he wonders if they are actually “sound waves” put there and if someone could decode it would reveal a “lost song written by John and Paul.”

This would be particularly interesting in light of RDR's recent review of Redwel Trabant's recent book The Sgt. Pepper Code.

Added Fisher: “It’d be nice if it were a hidden code.”

UPDATE: (Wednesday, June 25, 2014) We spoke to the operators of Guestroom Records in Oklahoma City and Louisville, Ky. and neither person was familiar with the "glowing-vinyl-under-ultraviolet-light" phenomenon. We will certainly offer any updates as soon as they come our way.

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About the Author

Andrew W. Griffin

Editor & Owner.

Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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