Tuesday, 20 November 2018

The Beatles - Magical Mystery Tour (1967)


Released December 1967

After the world-conquering glory of "Sgt. Pepper", The Beatles "went weird"  in the eyes of many (including The Queen, rumoured to have said they were "turning awfully funny") and released a perplexing, much-heralded and frankly odd and pretentious mini-film and accompanying EP of six tracks that was released as an album in the USA containing other single releases. This was eventually released as a UK album and has been available as such for many years now. So, it sort of is an album, but it isn't.


1. Magical Mystery Tour
2. The Fool On The Hill
3. Flying
4. Blue Jay Way
5. Your Mother Should Know
6. I Am The Walrus
7. Hello Goodbye
8. Strawberry Fields Forever
9. Penny Lane
10. Baby You're A Rich Man
11. All You Need Is Love

The tracks from the EP are variable in quality. The the title track is rousing and goofily appealing, with some excellent drums and Paul McCartney's "The Fool On The Hill" is one of the group's most hauntingly beautiful songs. "Flying" is a thoroughly unremarkable instrumental, while George Harrison's Lennon-esque, psychedelic "Blue Jay Way" has never really worked for me, hanging as it does on the coattails of Revolver's much better material. Having said that it is far more credible from a "rock band" than the pretty awful piece of jaunty McCartney whimsy of "Your Mother Should Know". Yes it is all very nostalgically sensitive (especially considering it was written by one still comparatively young), but I would always rather hear The Beatles doing "weird" than this, any day. Did I say "weird"? It must be time for some classic Lennon and it duly arrives in the yellow matter custard eggman magnificence of "I Am The Walrus". I remember my mother, who although in her forties at the time, loved and knew her pop music, being completely nonplussed by this upon its release. Its effect, together with the film, was massive at the time. This bonkers song has been analysed and re-analysed endlessly over the years, so I won't start, but its cultural effect and the consequent public perception of The Beatles changed dramatically with this one song. They now became bearded oddballs - why, even that loveable Ringo has gone a bit funny.

As for the other tracks, there is some great stuff. I remember being on a bus in late 1967 going to the pictures with my parents on a dark November night and some teenagers were playing "Hello Goodbye" at the back on their tinny transistor radio. That was the first time I had heard it. Every time I hear it I can't help but recall that night. It is so evocative. As, of course, is Lennon's masterpiece of hippy psychedelia, "Strawberry Fields Forever". "Penny Lane" is an excellent McCartney song, wonderfully nostalgic for the post war years in which he grew up.

"Baby You're A Rich Man" is an often-forgotten John Lennon song with Eastern influences, a great bass line, infectious drums and some cynical lyrics about money from the increasingly wealthy Lennon. It was the 'b' side to the hippy anthem, but strangely melancholic "All You Need Is Love". Lennon seemed to be almost mocking their past as he sang brief snatches of "Yesterday" and "She Loves You" in the fade out.

The sound on the 2009 stereo remaster is superb, but the original mono recording included in "The Beatles In Mono" box set packs one hell of a punch. I enjoy listening to both.


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