The Beatles- Magical Mystery Tour
Written on January 10, 2010
The Beatles’ 1967 release, Magical Mystery Tour, was their first album since their sophomore album (With The Beatles) that didn’t really present anything new or innovative; nevertheless, it is still a fantastic album in every way.
After the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in June of 1967, the “Summer of Love” was in full bloom, so McCartney came up with the idea for the magical mystery tour, not the album, but an actual bus tour. McCartney’s vision for this bus tour of magic and mystery, which I can only surmise was supplemented by plenty of good drugs, was to drive around the English countryside with their friends and family. During the trip, they would write songs for their next album and film their escapades for a new Beatles movie.
The other band members were game, as I’m sure it beat being stuck in the studio. The problem was they only came up with six new songs on the trip, which wasn’t enough for a full album— it actually only amounted to about 20-minutes of new music. So without enough material for a complete new album, The Beatles decided to release the six songs as a double EP that would be supplemented with a 25-page full color book that documented the trip. The original double EP was broken up on two LP’s with 4-sides of music.
Side-1: “Magical Mystery Tour” & “Your Mother Should Know”
Side-2: “I Am the Walrus”
Side-3: “The Fool on the Hill” & “Flying”
Side-4: “Blue Jay Way”
At the time, EP’s were not popular in the US, so instead of releasing the album in the double EP format in America, Capitol Records added 5 additional songs that had already been released as singles in the UK (“Hello Goodbye,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Penny Lane,” “Baby You’re a Rich Man,” and “All You Need Is Love.”)
The Beatles were not pleased with Capitol’s decision to release the album in this format, as those songs had already been released, and The Beatles thought their inclusion would make for a fragmented record that mixed pop singles with the more psychedelic sounding songs that they wrote during their road trip. However, the album actually flowed quite well, and it went to #1 in the US, which is not surprising because by 1967, there really wasn’t much of a difference between The Beatles’ pop singles and what they considered their deeper more intelligent album tracks. In fact, I would argue that there’s really no difference between the two groups of songs expect for the fact that some of the songs were written on a bus, and some were written in the studio. Shortly afterwards, everyone would agree on this, and now the only version of the album is the complete 11-track version, and I doubt that most Beatles fans even know that the original double EP ever existed.
Both sides of the album are completely enjoyable. “Magical Mystery Tour” is a very fitting opening song, as it invites the listener into the album by asking him to “roll up/ roll up for the mystery tour” (Click here to listen to Magical Mystery Tour). Of the other songs written on the bus trip, “The Fool On The Hill” and “Blue Jay Way” are also highlights. The latter doesn’t feature any guitar work, which is particularly interesting— considering it was written by George Harrison (lead guitarist). Instead, the song relies on Indian style drones, cello’s, and the Hammond organ, which give the song a very mellow vibe and make it one of the most trippy songs in the entire Beatles catalog (Click here to listen to Blue Jay Way).
As mentioned, all the songs on side-2 had been previously released as singles in the UK, but none of them were ever included on an official Beatles’ album. The real highlights out of this set of songs are Lennon’s “Strawberry Fields Forever,” and McCartney’s “Penny Lane.” The tracks were originally released together in February of 1967 before the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and both songs are absolutely phenomenal. “All You Need is Love” is also a true standout, and it has become one of The Beatles many signature songs.
The song “was first performed by The Beatles on ‘Our World,’ the first live global television link. Watched by 400 million in 26 countries, the programme was broadcast via satellite on 25 June 1967. The BBC had commissioned The Beatles to write a song for the United Kingdom’s contribution” (Wikipedia).
“All You Need Is Love” is interesting to me because it shows The Beatles returning to the theme of love for a song, but they present it in a very mature way. Most of their early love songs were typically about relationship oriented love; however, “All You Need Is Love” presents love as a much more universal concept that is not limited to a relationship between two people, but rather the relationship between all people. I also like that they pay homage to their earlier love songs in the last verse by singing the “she loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah” chorus from their 1963 hit “She Loves You.”
My only real knock of the album are Lennon’s lyrics to “The Walrus.” For me, “The Walrus” is to Magical Mystery Tour what “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” was to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band, but instead of “tangerine trees and marmalade skies,” this time around we have Lennon “sitting on a cornflake” and “Yellow matter custard, dripping from a dead dog’s eye.” In both songs, Lennon’s psychedelic imagery just seems a bit overt and juvenile, and it just doesn’t resonate with me, but both songs are great instrumentally, so the lyrics are a minor complaint.
Although the current version of Magical Mystery Tour is not what The Beatles had originally intended it to be when they were on that bus back in 1967, it all worked out, and it is easily one of The Beatles best albums.
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