The Quick 10: It Was 42 Years Ago Today...

Today is a really important day in music history "“ for the world at large and for me personally. It's the 42nd anniversary of the day the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was released. It's important for me because this is the album that introduced me to the Beatles and I'm still madly in love with them to this day. I wasn't around for the original release, but I have very fond memories of hanging out in my friend Angie's basement in the '90s listening to the LPs on her dad's old console record player. In celebration of Sgt. Pepper, I thought we'd have a little trivia about the album and the music.


1. The famous cover collage is known as "People We Like." Each Beatle, except Ringo (who apparently didn't really care) submitted a list of people they wanted to appear on the cover. John Lennon asked for Jesus and Hitler but was refused. Mae West almost didn't allow her image to be used, asking, "What would I be doing in a lonely hearts club?" But when the Beatles personally wrote her a letter asking for permission, she relented.

2. You probably recognize most of the people on the cover, if you look closely enough. But one of them you won't recognize unless you're a Beatles buff is the first man in the third row of people to the far left. That's Stuart Sutcliffe, the Beatles' original bassist, who died of a brain hemorrhage in 1962 (he had already quit the Beatles when he died). In case there are others you can't quite put your finger on, check out this interactive map of the cover. Just mouse over a person to see who they are.

3. There's a tale going around that the album was originally supposed to be called Dr. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Beatles quickly found out that Dr Pepper was an American soda company and switched the prefix to "Sgt." instead. But I can't find any interview that actually corroborates that fact, but it's entertaining nonetheless "“ especially when you consider that John Lennon later came to adore Dr Pepper and had it shipped to him so he could get his fix when he wasn't in the States. The story I've heard is that Paul McCartney was sitting with Mal Evans, one of the Beatles' roadies, on a plane, and Mal asked what the "S" and the "P" on the little pots at their dinner plates stood for. Paul told him they were Salt and Pepper and the idea sort of grew from there. That's the story from The Beatles Anthology, so I'm willing to bet that there's more truth to that than the Dr Pepper story.

lyrics4. This was the album that started all of those pesky "Paul is Dead" rumors. Among the "clues" on this album alone "“ the fact that Paul is standing with his back to the camera in one of the pictures when everyone else is facing it; the "Billy Shears" reference at the end of the "Sgt. Pepper" song (supposedly Paul was replaced by a look-alike named Billy Shears Campbell); and the fact that the Shirley Temple doll wearing the Rolling Stones sweater has a driving glove on its left hand. You see, Paul supposedly died in a car accident, and he is lefthanded, so clearly that's what the Beatles intended with the driving glove. You can see an extremely extensive list at Officially Pronounced Dead? The Great Beatle Death Conspiracy. It's kind of nuts. And here's a photo gallery comparing Paul to "Billy Shears," which is almost laughable.

5. Automatic Double Tracking, or ADT, was invented for the Beatles specifically for this album. It was fairly standard practice for singers to record their vocals twice and then lay them on top of one another for a stronger sound, but most musicians really hated doing it "“ especially John Lennon. After much complaining by John, the ADT was invented by EMI engineer Ken Townsend. It used tape recorders to instantaneously double vocals without having to record them twice.

cutout6. The Beatles originally wanted people who bought the album to get a whole incredible package that would have included pencils, pins and other little trinkets, but it ended up being way too much money. Instead, they included an insert with pieces that the buyers could cut out and have fun with. The cutouts included a mustache, badges and a mini stand-up of the whole band.
7. The New York Times hated Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and said it sounded like a spoiled, over-attended child, meaning that between the horns and the orchestra and the grand pianos and the sound effects, there was just too much going on.

8. The album's second track, "With a Little Help from My Friends," contains the lyric "What would you do if I sang out of tune? Would you stand up and walk out on me?" But that wasn't originally the line. The line used to be, "Would you throw ripe tomatoes at me?" Then, after remembering that George Harrison had once mentioned that he liked jelly babies (a British gummy candy) and fans showered them with the candy at every concert afterward, Ringo decided "ripe tomatoes" maybe wasn't the best idea. Which is for the best "“ "Would you stand up and walk out on me?" flows much better, don't you think?

yellow9. Sgt. Pepper was nominated for a whopping seven Grammy Awards and won four of them "“ Album of the Year, Best Album Cover, Best Engineered Recording and Best Contemporary Album.
10. Despite popular belief, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is not about drugs and was never intended to be about drugs. Even after admitting to other drug references, John Lennon maintained that the song was named after a drawing done by his son Julian. Snopes even has a picture of the original drawing.

My tastes have changed over the years. When I first discovered Sgt. Pepper, I probably would have told you that "Lucy" was hands-down my favorite. And there was a time in my teens when I thought "She's Leaving Home" soooo described how underappreciated I was at home (teen angst, what can I say?). But these days I'd have to tell you that the haunted quality of "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" or the pure innovation of "A Day in the Life" would make them my favorites. How about you? Favorite Sgt. Pepper song? Or do you think the whole thing is overrated? Share in the comments!

Recall Alert: Swiss Rolls And Bread Sold at Walmart and Food Lion Linked to Salmonella
Evan-Amos, Wikimedia Commons // CC 1.0

New items have been added to the list of foods being recalled due to possible salmonella contamination. According to Fox Carolina, snack cakes and bread products produced by Flowers Foods, Inc. have been pulled from stores in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

The baked goods company, based in Georgia, has reason to believe the whey powder it buys from a third-party supplier is tainted with salmonella. The ingredient is added to its Swiss rolls, which are sold under various brands, as well as its Captain John Derst’s Old Fashioned Bread. Popular chains that normally sell Flowers Foods products include Walmart and Food Lion.

The U.S. is in the middle of a salmonella outbreak. In June, Kellogg's recalled Honey Smacks due to contamination and the CDC is still urging consumers to avoid the brand. The cereal has sickened dozens of people since early March. So far, there have been no reported illnesses connected to the potential Flower Foods contamination.

You can find the full list of recalled items below. If you have one of these products in your kitchen, throw it out immediately or return it to the store where you bought it to be reimbursed.

  • Mrs. Freshley's Swiss Rolls
  • Mrs. Freshley's Swiss Rolls
  • Food Lion Swiss Rolls
  • Baker's Treat Swiss Rolls
  • Market Square Swiss Rolls
  • Great Value Swiss Rolls
  • Captain John Derst's Old Fashioned Bread

[h/t Fox Carolina]

Marvel Entertainment
10 Facts About Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian
Marvel Entertainment
Marvel Entertainment

Nearly every sword-wielding fantasy hero from the 20th century owes a tip of their horned helmet to Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian. Set in the fictional Hyborian Age, after the destruction of Atlantis but before our general recorded history, Conan's stories have depicted him as everything from a cunning thief to a noble king and all types of scoundrel in between. But beneath that blood-soaked sword and shield is a character that struck a nerve with generations of fantasy fans, spawning adaptations in comics, video games, movies, TV shows, and cartoons in the eight decades since he first appeared in the December 1932 issue of Weird Tales. So thank Crom, because here are 10 facts about Conan the Barbarian.


Conan wasn’t the only barbarian on Robert E. Howard’s resume. In 1929, the writer created Kull the Conqueror, a more “introspective” brand of savage that gained enough interest to eventually find his way onto the big screen in 1997. The two characters share more than just a common creator and a general disdain for shirts, though: the first Conan story to get published, “The Phoenix on the Sword,” was actually a rewrite of an earlier rejected Kull tale titled “By This Axe I Rule!” For this new take on the plot, Howard introduced supernatural elements and more action. The end result was more suited to what Weird Tales wanted, and it became the foundation for future Conan tales.


A few months before Conan made his debut in Weird Tales, Howard wrote a story called "People of the Dark" for Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror about a man named John O’Brien who seemed to relive his past life as a brutish, black-haired warrior named … Conan of the reavers. Reave is a word from Old English meaning to raid or plunder, which is obviously in the same ballpark as barbarian. And in the story, there is also a reference to Crom, the fictional god of the Hyborian age that later became a staple of the Conan mythology. This isn't the barbarian as we know him, and it's certainly not an official Conan tale, but the early ideas were there.


Howard was meticulous in his world-building for Conan, which was highlighted by his 8600-word history on the Hyborian Age the character lived in. But the one area the creator had no interest in was linearity. Conan’s first story depicted him already as a king; subsequent stories, though, would shift back and forth, chronicling his early days as both a thief and a youthful adventurer.

There’s good reason for that, as Howard himself once explained: “In writing these yarns I've always felt less as creating them than as if I were simply chronicling his adventures as he told them to me. That's why they skip about so much, without following a regular order. The average adventurer, telling tales of a wild life at random, seldom follows any ordered plan, but narrates episodes widely separated by space and years, as they occur to him.”


For fans of the pulp magazines of the early 20th century, one of the only names bigger than Robert E. Howard was H.P. Lovecraft. The two weren’t competitors, though—rather, they were close friends and correspondents. They’d often mail each other drafts of their stories, discuss the themes of their work, and generally talk shop. And as Lovecraft’s own mythology was growing, it seems like their work began to bleed together.

In “The Phoenix on the Sword,” Howard made reference to “vast shadowy outlines of the Nameless Old Ones,” which could be seen as a reference to the ancient, godlike “Old Ones” from the Lovecraft mythos. In the book The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, editor Patrice Louinet even wrote that Howard’s earlier draft for the story name-dropped Lovecraft’s actual Old Ones, most notably Cthulhu.

In Lovecraft’s “The Shadow of Time,” he describes a character named Crom-Ya as a “Cimmerian chieftain,” which is a reference to Conan's homeland and god. These examples just scratch the surface of names, places, and concepts that the duo’s work share. Whether you want to read it all as a fun homage or an early attempt at a shared universe is up to you.


Howard was only 30 when he died, so there aren’t as many completed Conan stories out in the world as you’d imagine—and there are even less that were finished and officially printed. Despite that, the character’s popularity has only grown since the 1930s, and publishers looked for a way to print more of Howard’s Conan decades after his death. Over the years, writers and editors have gone back into Howard’s manuscripts for unfinished tales to doctor up and rewrite for publication, like "The Snout in the Dark," which was a fragment that was reworked by writers Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp. There were also times when Howard’s non-Conan drafts were repurposed as Conan stories by publishers, including all of the stories in 1955's Tales of Conan collection from Gnome Press.


Chances are, the image of Conan you have in your head right now owes a lot to artist Frank Frazetta: His version of the famous barbarian—complete with rippling muscles, pulsating veins, and copious amounts of sword swinging—would come to define the character for generations. But the look that people most associate with Conan didn’t come about until the character’s stories were reprinted decades after Robert E. Howard’s death.

“In 1966, Lancer Books published new paperbacks of Robert E. Howard's Conan series and hired my grandfather to do the cover art,” Sara Frazetta, Frazetta's granddaughter owner and operator of Frazetta Girls, tells Mental Floss. You could argue that Frazetta’s powerful covers were what drew most people to Conan during the '60s and '70s, and in recent years the collector’s market seems to validate that opinion. In 2012, the original painting for his Lancer version of Conan the Conqueror sold at auction for $1,000,000. Later, his Conan the Destroyer went for $1.5 million.

Still, despite all of Frazetta’s accomplishments, his granddaughter said there was one thing he always wanted: “His only regret was that he wished Robert E. Howard was alive so he could have seen what he did with his character.”


The cover to Marvel's Conan the Barbarian #21
Marvel Entertainment

Conan’s origins as a pulp magazine hero made him a natural fit for the medium’s logical evolution: the comic book. And in 1970, the character got his first high-profile comic launch when Marvel’s Conan The Barbarian hit shelves, courtesy of writer Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith.

Though now it’s hailed as one of the company’s highlights from the ‘70s, the book was nearly canceled after a mere seven issues. The problem is that while the debut issue sold well, each of the next six dropped in sales, leading Marvel’s then editor-in-chief, Stan Lee, to pull the book from production after the seventh issue hit stands.

Thomas pled his case, and Lee agreed to give Conan one last shot. But this time instead of the book coming out every month, it would be every two months. The plan worked, and soon sales were again on the rise and the book would stay in publication until 1993, again as a monthly. This success gave way to the Savage Sword of Conan, an oversized black-and-white spinoff magazine from Marvel that was aimed at adult audiences. It, too, was met with immense success, lasting from 1974 to 1995.


John Milius’s 1982 Conan movie is a classic of the sword and sorcery genre, but its original script from Oliver Stone didn’t resemble the final product at all. In fact, it barely resembled anything related to Conan. Stone’s Conan would have been set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, where the barbarian would do battle against a host of mutant pigs, insects, and hyenas. Not only that, but it would have also been just one part of a 12-film saga that would be modeled on the release schedule of the James Bond series.

The original producers were set to move ahead with Stone’s script with Stone co-directing alongside an up-and-coming special effects expert named Ridley Scott, but they were turned down by all of their prospects. With no co-director and a movie that would likely be too ambitious to ever actually get finished, they sold the rights to producer Dino De Laurentiis, who helped bring in Milius.


When President Barack Obama sent out a mass email in 2015 to the members of Organizing for Action, he was looking to get people to offer up stories about how they got involved within their community—their origin stories, if you will. In this mass email, the former Commander-in-Chief detailed his own origin, with a shout out to a certain barbarian:

“I grew up loving comic books. Back in the day, I was pretty into Conan the Barbarian and Spiderman.

Anyone who reads comics can tell you, every main character has an origin story—the fateful and usually unexpected sequence of events that made them who they are.”

This bit of trivia was first made public in 2008 in a Daily Telegraph article on 50 facts about the president. That led to Devil’s Due Publishing immortalizing the POTUS in the 2009 comic series Barack the Barbarian, which had him decked out in his signature loincloth doing battle against everyone from Sarah Palin to Dick Cheney.


The father of 20th century fantasy may always be J.R.R. Tolkien, but Howard is a close second in many fans' eyes. Though Tolkien’s work has found its way into more scholarly literary circles, Howard’s can sometimes get categorized as low-brow. Quality recognizes quality, however, and during a conversation with Tolkien, writer L. Sprague de Camp—who himself edited and touched-up numerous Conan stories—said The Lord of the Rings author admitted that he “rather liked” Howard’s Conan stories during a conversation with him. He didn’t expand upon it, nor was de Camp sure which Conan tale he actually read (though it was likely “Shadows in the Moonlight”), but the seal of approval from Tolkien himself goes a long way toward validation.


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