Magical Mystery Tour

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Magical Mystery Tour
MagicalMysteryTourDoubleEPcover.jpg
EP (Double) by the Beatles
Released 27 November 1967 (1967-11-27) (US LP)
8 December 1967 (1967-12-08) (UK EP)
Recorded 25 April – 7 November 1967
Studio EMI Studios, London; Olympic Sound Studios, London; Chappell Sound Studios, London[1]
Genre
Length 19:08 (EP), 36:35 (LP)
Label Parlophone (UK)
Capitol (US)
Producer George Martin
The Beatles chronology
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
(1967)Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band1967
Magical Mystery Tour
(1967)
The Beatles
(1968)The Beatles1968
The Beatles EPs chronology
Nowhere Man
(1966) Nowhere Man1966
Magical Mystery Tour
(1967) Magical Mystery Tour1967
American LP cover
TheBeatlesMagicalMysteryTouralbumcover.jpg

Magical Mystery Tour is an album by the English rock band the Beatles that was released as a double EP in the United Kingdom and an LP in the United States. Produced by George Martin, it includes the soundtrack to the 1967 film of the same name. The EP was issued in the UK on 8 December 1967 on the Parlophone label, while the Capitol Records LP release in the US occurred on 27 November and featured eleven tracks with the addition of songs from the band's 1967 singles. The first release as an eleven-track LP in the UK did not occur until 1976.

Despite widespread media criticism of the Magical Mystery Tour film, the soundtrack was a critical and commercial success and a number one Grammy-nominated album in the US. When EMI issued the Beatles' catalogue on compact disc in 1987, the track listing of the 1967 US LP was adopted rather than the six-song UK release.

Background[edit]

Pictured while filming a sequence for "I Am the Walrus"

After the Beatles completed Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in April 1967, Paul McCartney wanted to create a film that captured a psychedelic theme similar to that represented by author and LSD proponent Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters on the US West Coast.[5][6] Titled Magical Mystery Tour, the film was to be unscripted: various "ordinary" people were to travel on a coach and have unspecified "magical" adventures.[7] The Beatles recorded the song "Magical Mystery Tour", but the film idea then lay dormant as the band continued recording songs for the United Artists animated film Yellow Submarine and, in the case of "All You Need Is Love", for their appearance on the Our World satellite broadcast on 25 June. The death of their manager, Brian Epstein, in late August, which the Beatles learned of while attending a Transcendental Meditation seminar in Wales,[8] led to the Magical Mystery Tour film becoming a reality.[9] During a band meeting in early September, McCartney suggested they proceed with the film,[10] to ensure the group had a point of focus while coming to terms with the loss of their manager.[11][12]

Designed as a television special, Magical Mystery Tour included six new songs: the title track, "I Am the Walrus", "The Fool on the Hill", "Blue Jay Way", "Flying" and "Your Mother Should Know". The number of songs posed a challenge for the Beatles and their UK record company, EMI, as there were too few for an LP album but too many for an EP.[13] One idea considered was to issue an EP which played at 33 rpm but this would have caused a loss of audio fidelity that was deemed unacceptable. The solution chosen was to issue the music in the innovative format of a double EP.[14][15]

Because EPs were not popular in the US at the time, Capitol Records released the soundtrack as an LP by adding tracks from that year's non-album singles.[13][16] The Beatles were displeased about this, since they believed that tracks released on a single should not then appear on a new album.[13][17] The first side of the Capitol LP contained the film soundtrack songs (like earlier British Beatles soundtrack albums), while the second side contained both sides of the band's two singles released up to this point in 1967, along with "Hello, Goodbye", which would be issued as their new single in November. Three of the previously released tracks – "Penny Lane", "Baby, You're a Rich Man" and "All You Need Is Love" – were presented in duophonic (or "processed") stereo sound on Capitol's stereo version of the LP.[13][18] In a 1968 interview, John Lennon told Rolling Stone magazine: "It's not an album, you see. It turned into an album over here, but it was just [meant to be] the music from the film."[19]

Artwork and packaging[edit]

As part of the unusual format, the Beatles decided to package the two EPs in a gatefold sleeve with a 24-page booklet.[14][20] The latter contained song lyrics, colour photos from film production, and colour story illustrations in the comic strip style[14] by Beatles Book cartoonist Bob Gibson.[13] Of the double-EP package, film studies academic Bob Neaverson later commented: "While it certainly solved the song quota problem, one suspects that it was also partly born of the Beatles' pioneering desire to experiment with conventional formats and packaging."[21]

When preparing the US release, Capitol enlarged the photos and illustrations to LP size to serve as a booklet inside a gatefold album sleeve.[20] The cover design for both the EP and LP releases was done by John Van Hamersveld, the head of Capitol's art department, rather than by EMI in London.[22] The lyrics to the film songs were also printed inside the gatefold itself. Several years later Capitol stopped including the 24-page booklet and removed mention of it from the album cover.

Release[edit]

Magical Mystery Tour was issued in the UK on 8 December 1967, just over two weeks before the film was broadcast by BBC-TV.[23] It retailed at the sub-£1 price of 19s 6d[13] (equivalent to £16 today). With the broadcast rights for North America assigned to NBC, the Capitol album was scheduled for a mid-December release.[24] The company instead issued the album on 27 November. In Britain only, the film was then screened on Boxing Day to an audience estimated at 15 million.[7] It was savaged by reviewers, giving the Beatles their first critical failure.[25][26][nb 1]

Magical Mystery Tour was number 1 on Billboard's Top LPs listings for eight weeks at the start of 1968 and remained in the top 200 until 8 February 1969.[27] It was nominated for a Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1969.[28] In Britain, the EP peaked at number 2 on the national singles chart,[29] behind "Hello, Goodbye",[30] and became the Beatles' ninth release to top the national EP chart compiled by Record Retailer.[31] In the UK singles listings compiled by Melody Maker magazine, it replaced "Hello, Goodbye" at number 1 for a week.[32]

The 2012 remastered Magical Mystery Tour DVD entered the Billboard Top Music Video chart at number 1. The CD album climbed to number 1 on the Billboard Catalog Albums chart, number 2 on the Billboard Soundtrack albums chart, and re-entered at number 57 on the Billboard 200 albums chart for the week ending 27 October 2012.[33]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Retrospective reviews
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic5/5 stars[34]
Blender5/5 stars[35]
Consequence of SoundA+[36]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music4/5 stars[37]
MusicHound3/5[38]
Music Story4/5 stars[39]
Paste94/100[40]
Pitchfork Media10/10[41]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3.5/5 stars[42]
Sputnikmusic4.5/5[43]

Reviewing the EP a month before the film's screening, Nick Logan of the NME enthused that the Beatles were "at it again, stretching pop music to its limits". He continued: "The four musician-magicians take us by the hand and lead us happily tripping through the clouds, past Lucy in the sky with diamonds and the fool on the hill, into the sun-speckled glades along Blue Jay Way and into the world of Alice in Wonderland …. This is The Beatles out there in front and the rest of us in their wake."[44][45] Bob Dawbarn of Melody Maker described the EP as "six tracks which no other pop group in the world could begin to approach for originality combined with the popular touch".[46] In Record Mirror, Norman Jopling wrote that, whereas on Sgt. Pepper "the effects were chiefly sound and only the album cover was visual", on Magical Mystery Tour "the visual side … has dominated the music", such that "[e]verything from fantasy, children's comics, acid (psychedelic) humour is included on the record and in the booklet."[47]

Magical Mystery Tour was a lot goopier than Sgt. Pepper, though lifted by the cheerful "All You Need Is Love" and the ghostly "Strawberry Fields Forever." Her Majesty the Queen had the best comment: "The Beatles are turning awfully funny, aren't they?"[42]

Rolling Stone critic Rob Sheffield, 2004

Among reviews of the American LP, Mike Jahn of Saturday Review hailed Magical Mystery Tour as the Beatles' best work yet, superior to Sgt. Pepper in emotion and depth, and "distinguished by its description of the Beatles' acquired Hindu philosophy and its subsequent application to everyday life".[48] Hit Parader said that "the beautiful Beatles do it again, widening the gap between them and 80 scillion other groups." Remarking on how the Beatles and their producer "present a supreme example of team work", the reviewer compared the album with the Rolling Stones' concurrent release, Their Satanic Majesties Request, and opined that "I Am the Walrus" and "Blue Jay Way" alone "accomplish what the Stones attempted".[49]

The album review in Rolling Stone consisted of a single-sentence quote from John Lennon: "There are only about 100 people in the world who understand our music."[50][nb 2] Robert Christgau of Esquire considered three of the five new songs to be "disappointing", including "The Fool on the Hill", which, he wrote, "may be the worst song the Beatles have ever recorded". Christgau still found the album "worth buying", however, "for all the singles, which are good music, after all; for the tender camp of 'Your Mother Should Know'; and especially for Harrison's hypnotic 'Blue Jay Way,' an adaptation of Oriental modes in which everything works, lyrics included".[52]

Release history[edit]

In 1969 and 1971, the previously unavailable true-stereo mixes were created,[13] which allowed the first true-stereo version of the Magical Mystery Tour LP to be issued in Germany in 1971.[53] As an American import, the Capitol LP peaked on the British album charts at number 31 in January 1968.[54][55] In the face of continued public demand, EMI officially released the Capitol LP version of Magical Mystery Tour in the UK in November 1976,[13] although, notwithstanding the availability of the true-stereo mixes, it used the Capitol masters with fake stereo.

When standardising the Beatles' releases for the worldwide compact disc release in 1987, EMI used the US LP version of Magical Mystery Tour (in true stereo) in what was otherwise a British album line-up.[56][nb 3] The inclusion of the 1967 singles on CD with this album meant both that the Magical Mystery Tour CD would be of comparable length to the band's CDs of its original albums, and that those three singles would not need to be included on Past Masters, a two-volume compilation designed to accompany the initial CD album releases and provide all non-album tracks (mostly singles) on CD format.[57]

In 1992 the EP version of Magical Mystery Tour was reissued in both mono and stereo as part of a box set containing CD versions of the Beatles original UK EPs. The album (along with the Beatles' entire UK studio album catalogue) was remastered and reissued on CD in 2009. Acknowledging the album's conception and first release, the CD incorporates the original Capitol LP label design. The remastered stereo CD features a mini-documentary about the album. Initial copies of the album accidentally list the mini-documentary to be one made for Let It Be. The mono album was reissued as part of The Beatles in Mono CD and LP box sets.

Track listing[edit]

Album[edit]

All tracks written by Lennon–McCartney except where noted.

Side one: Film soundtrack
No.TitleLead vocalsLength
1."Magical Mystery Tour"Paul McCartney with John Lennon2:48
2."The Fool on the Hill"Paul McCartney2:59
3."Flying" (Harrison/Lennon–McCartney/Starkey)(Instrumental)2:16
4."Blue Jay Way" (Harrison)George Harrison3:54
5."Your Mother Should Know"Paul McCartney2:33
6."I Am the Walrus"John Lennon4:35
Total length:19:05
Side two: 1967 singles
No.TitleLead vocalsLength
1."Hello, Goodbye"Paul McCartney3:24
2."Strawberry Fields Forever"John Lennon4:05
3."Penny Lane"Paul McCartney3:00
4."Baby, You're a Rich Man"John Lennon3:07
5."All You Need Is Love"John Lennon3:57
Total length:17:33

Double EP[edit]

Side one
No.TitleLength
1."Magical Mystery Tour"2:48
2."Your Mother Should Know"2:33
Total length:5:21
Side two
No.TitleLength
3."I Am the Walrus"4:35
Total length:4:35
Side three
No.TitleLength
4."The Fool on the Hill"3:00
5."Flying"2:16
Total length:5:16
Side four
No.TitleLength
6."Blue Jay Way"3:50
Total length:3:50

Personnel[edit]

The Beatles

Additional musicians and production

  • "Magical Mystery Tour" – Mal Evans and Neil Aspinall on percussion, David Mason, Elgar Howarth, Roy Copestake and John Wilbraham on trumpets
  • "The Fool on the Hill" – Christoper Taylor, Richard Taylor and Jack Ellory on flute[58]
  • "I Am the Walrus" – Sidney Sax, Jack Rothstein, Ralph Elman, Andrew McGee, Jack Greene, Louis Stevens, John Jezzard and Jack Richards on violins; Lionel Ross, Eldon Fox, Brian Martin and Terry Weil on cellos; Neill Sanders, Tony Tunstall and Morris Miller on horns and Peggie Allen, Wendy Horan, Pat Whitmore, Jill Utting, June Day, Sylvia King, Irene;King, G. Mallen, Fred Lucas, Mike Redway, John O'Neill, F. Dachtler, Allan Grant, D. Griffiths, J. Smith and J. Fraser on backing vocals
  • "Hello, Goodbye" – Ken Essex, Leo Birnbaum on violas
  • "Strawberry Fields Forever" – Mal Evans on percussion; Tony Fisher, Greg Bowen, Derek Watkins and Stanley Roderick on trumpets and John Hall, Derek Simpson, Peter Halling, Norman Jones on cellos
  • "Penny Lane" – Ray Swinfield, P. Goody, Manny Winters and Dennis Walton on flutes; Leon Calvert, Freddy Clayton, Bert Courtley and Duncan Campbell on trumpets; Dick Morgan and Mike Winfield on English horns, Frank Clarke on double bass and David Mason on piccolo trumpet
  • "Baby, You're a Rich Man" – Eddie Kramer on vibraphone
  • "All You Need Is Love" – George Martin on piano; Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Marianne Faithfull, Keith Moon, Eric Clapton, Pattie Boyd Harrison, Jane Asher, Mike McCartney, Maureen Starkey, Graham Nash and wife Rose Eccles Nash, Gary Leeds and Hunter Davies on backing vocals; Sidney Sax, Patrick Halling, Eric Bowie and Jack Holmes on violins; Rex Morris and Don Honeywill on sax, David Mason and Stanley Woods on trumpets; Evan Watkins and Henry Spain on horns; Jack Emblow on accordion, Brian Martin and Peter Halling on cello
  • Geoff Emerick, Ken Scott – audio engineering

Charts[edit]

Original release