“Magical Mystery Tour” by The Beatles - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1967Album Chart of the Decade: 1960s

TJR says

Another truly brilliant album from the ever-consistent Beatles. John Lennon agrees with me, how cool is he? “… Magical Mystery Tour, which is one of my favourite albums because it was so weird. I Am The Walrus is one of my favourite tracks because I did it of course but also cos it's one of those that has enough little bitties going to keep you interested even a hundred years later.” Well, here I am nearly 40 years later, still enjoying those little bitties, so he’s proven half-right already.

As they did with “A Hard Days Night” back in ’64, America got the scoop on the “Magical Mystery Tour” soundtrack, with the LP being issued at the tail end of November ‘67, a full month ahead of the official airing of the movie on Boxing Day via BBC TV. All six songs on side 1 were seeing the light of day for the first time, all having been included in the film itself. The movie has loads of laughs to offer, and is full of b-movie kooky charms. Weird critics seem to want to judge it aesthetically and intellectually – I see it as a great fun way of introducing your new songs to the world. If you’re the Beatles you can afford it, so why the heck not?

The title-track kicks things of, best of British style: “roll up, roll up for the mystery tour”. I normally wouldn’t trust that sort of satisfaction-guaranteed patter, but for the Beatles I’m prepared to make an exception! It’s not too long before my faith is being repaid with “Flying”, instrumental bar the la-la-las, a mellotron-driven psychedelic blues which is just heavenly, despite being described by McCartney as a “non-song”. The side closes triumphantly with the movie’s highlight track, “I Am The Walrus” a tripbeat dream for the psueds. Said John: “ I was writing obscurely, a la Dylan, in those days. It's from 'The Walrus and the Carpenter.' 'Alice in Wonderland.' To me, it was a beautiful poem. It never dawned on me that Lewis Carroll was commenting on the capitalist and social system. I never went into that bit about what he really meant, like people are doing with the Beatles' work. Later, I went back and looked at it and realized that the walrus was the bad guy in the story and the carpenter was the good guy. I thought, Oh, shit, I picked the wrong guy. I should have said, 'I am the carpenter.' But that wouldn't have been the same, would it? (singing) 'I am the carpenter…'“

There were only six tracks in the movie, and it was decided in the UK that a double EP with a story booklet would suffice as the best way to present the songs. This seems like a bit of a shame. For me, the album is always the primary statement, and these songs deserve to have that status. Thankfully, American execs thought the same (or rather saw dollar signs) and decided to present the LP by rounding up 5 single sides of the year which had not yet been included on any albums. Jolly good show America. They had luxurious pickings galore of course. “Hello Goodbye”, “Strawberry Fields Forever”, “Penny Lane”, “Baby You’re A Rich Man” and “All You Need Is Love” was quite possibly the finest filler-side in all of recorded history!

“Strawberry Fields” just shades it as the top track for me. Musically and lyrically it’s completely magnificent. No-ones in John’s tree: “Surrealism to me is reality. Psychic vision to me is reality. Even as a child. When I looked at myself in the mirror or when I was 12, 13, I used to literally trance out into alpha. I didn't know what it was called then. I found out years later there is a name for those conditions. But I would find myself seeing hallucinatory images of my face changing and becoming cosmic and complete. It caused me to always be a rebel. This thing gave me a chip on the shoulder; but, on the other hand, I wanted to be loved and accepted. Part of me would like to be accepted by all facets of society and not be this loudmouthed lunatic musician. But I cannot be what I am not.” Right up there in the stimulation stakes is “Baby, You’re A Rich Man”, another tripbeat stunner which has a vaguely Indian feel courtesy of a very strange keyboard-based instrument called a clavioline. The Beatles were blessed with a restless, adventurous spirit. This latest stop on the tour was another magical chapter.

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [02:48] 7.4.png The Beatles - Magical Mystery Tour (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Cerebral Pop
A2 [03:00] 5.4.png The Beatles - The Fool On The Hill (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Songwriter
A3 [02:16] 8.6.png The Beatles - Flying (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Richard Starkey) Psychedelia
A4 [03:50] 7.0.png The Beatles - Blue Jay Way (George Harrison) Psychedelia
A5 [02:33] 5.1.png The Beatles - Your Mother Should Know (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Pop
A6 [04:35] 8.9.png The Beatles - I Am The Walrus (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Psychedelia
B1 [03:24] 8.2.png The Beatles - Hello Goodbye (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Blues Rock / Soul Rock
B2 [04:05] 9.2.png The Beatles - Strawberry Fields Forever (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Psychedelia
B3 [03:00] 7.1.png The Beatles - Penny Lane (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Pop
B4 [03:07] 9.1.png The Beatles - Baby You’re A Rich Man (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Blues Rock / Soul Rock
B5 [03:57] 8.0.png The Beatles - All You Need Is Love (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Psychedelia

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