Magical Mystery Tour

In the studio

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Each of the Magical Mystery Tour EP's six songs, apart from The Fool On The Hill and Your Mother Should Know, was recorded before filming began on 11 September. During the post-Pepper sessions The Beatles also recorded All Together Now, You Know My Name (Look Up The Number), It's All Too Much, Baby You're A Rich Man and All You Need Is Love. The latter two appeared as a single and were included on Capitol Records' Magical Mystery Tour LP, whereas the others were held back for future releases.

Filming began in September 1967 and continued for two weeks, before work resumed on the songs. Between then and November The Beatles switched between recording, filming and editing, in what became a rather haphazard schedule. The Fool On The Hill and Your Mother Should Know were completed at this time, along with overdubs for I Am The Walrus.

It is possible that I was there more than anyone. When we did Magical Mystery Tour, for instance, I ended up directing it, even though we said that The Beatles had directed it. I was there most of the time, and all the late-night chats with the cameramen about what we were going to do tomorrow, and the editing etc, would tend to be with me rather than with the others.
Paul McCartney
Anthology

A Lennon-McCartney tune, Shirley's Wild Accordion, was also recorded in eight takes as incidental music for the film, but was left out of the final cut. It featured Shirley Evans on accordion and her musical partner Reg Wale on percussion, plus Paul McCartney on backing vocals and maracas, and Ringo Starr on drums. John Lennon produced the session, which took place at London's De Lane Lea studios on 12 October.

Another piece of music, Jessie's Dream, was privately recorded around the same time, and credited to McCartney-Starkey-Harrison-Lennon. This was used as incidental music in the film.

Due to the last-minute nature of some of the post-Pepper sessions, The Beatles occasionally found their normal studios unavailable. While the majority of the Magical Mystery Tour songs were recorded at EMI Studios, Abbey Road, London, the group occasionally booked sessions at independent studios Olympic, De Lane Lea and Chappell.

Non-soundtrack recordings

Whereas the US versions of A Hard Day's Night and Help! had contained incidental music from the film, some of which was not composed by The Beatles, Capitol Records opted for a different format for Magical Mystery Tour. They included the soundtrack songs on side one, and added five others - Hello, Goodbye, Strawberry Fields Forever, Penny Lane, Baby You're A Rich Man and All You Need Is Love, which had been issued on singles in 1967.

It is, nonetheless, tempting to wonder how an album featuring just songs and incidental music from the film might have fared. Such a release might also have included a fairground organ version of She Loves You, an orchestral version of All My Loving, and the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band's performance of Death Cab For Cutie, all of which were included in the film.

The first song on side two of the Capitol album, Hello, Goodbye, was the last of the 11 to be recorded. It was taped between 2 October and 2 November 1967, and was released as The Beatles' final single of 1967 with I Am The Walrus as its b-side. The coda of the song was also included over the closing credits of the Magical Mystery Tour film.

Strawberry Fields Forever had been released as a double a-side with Penny Lane in February 1967. Neither song was intended for Magical Mystery Tour, however, and they were only included once Capitol Records declined to release the double EP version.

All You Need Is Love was recorded for the Our World satellite television broadcast on 25 June 1967, and released as a single in July 1967 with Baby You're A Rich Man as the b-side.

The UK EP

[singlepic=347,200,,,right]The Magical Mystery Tour EP was issued on 8 December 1967, with a gatefold sleeve and 28-page booklet. It contained two 7" singles containing six songs, and was to be played at 45 rpm.

At one point a single-disc EP played at 33 1/3 rpm was considered, but the loss of fidelity would have been unacceptable. Instead the double collection was settled upon. Disc one had Magical Mystery Tour and Your Mother Should Know on the a-side, with I Am The Walrus on the flip; the second disc had The Fool On The Hill and Flying on side one, and ended with George Harrison's Blue Jay Way.

Magical Mystery Tour was released on 8 December 1967, and retailed at 19s 6d. The EP was The Beatles' first to be issued in both mono and stereo. More than 400,000 advance orders were placed, and the double EP set entered the UK singles chart on 13 December. In all it spent 12 weeks on the chart.

The EP set peaked at number two, and was was held off the top spot in most charts by Hello, Goodbye. In the Melody Maker chart, however, it did reach the top for one week.

Unluckily for The Beatles, however, the Record Retailer EP chart had been abandoned just six days before Magical Mystery Tour was released, meaning they were denied the chance of topping that chart.

The US LP

[singlepic=14,200,,,right]Capitol Records' version of Magical Mystery Tour was a full-length LP, as EPs were far less popular in America. Against The Beatles' wishes, the six soundtrack songs were complemented with the five other non-Pepper songs released by The Beatles in 1967.

The LP was issued on 27 November 1967. The format was copied in other countries, and imported copies soon found their way into the UK: popular demand meant that it peaked on the UK album charts at number 31 in January 1968, despite not being officially available in the country.

In the US the album had the largest initial sales of any album in history, with $8 million-worth being sold in just three weeks. It topped the charts in January 1968, remaining there for eight weeks.

The full album version was released in the UK in 1976, and in 1987 became the standard version of Magical Mystery Tour worldwide when The Beatles' back catalogue was re-released on compact disc.

18 responses on “Magical Mystery Tour

  1. bruce

    best beatle album
    a collection of hits
    Such a master piece, along with revolver, rubber soul, sgt pepper, and white album

    and help.
    and a hard days night
    and well all beatle music.

  2. vonbontee

    The only Capitol release that improved upon a British release. (Or even equalled it, for that matter, since the UK “Pepper” was ever-so slightly better than the US version, which excluded the inner-groove gibberish and for-dogs-only tone.)

  3. Colonel Salt

    How can you not love MMT? It gives me a warm, magical, mysterious feeling just thinking about it. The only downer is Blue Jay Way which is tough to get all the way through. They should have put “It’s All Too Much” on this instead of Yellow Submarine. Then it would be spotless!

  4. graham

    I love all the Beatle albums, but between this one and Beatles for sale, they are my least favorite.I find it suprising that John Lennon said it was his favorite.I heard that in the Anthology DVD and I assumed it was from an interview at the time of MMT’s release but on here it says from a Rolling Stone 1974 interview.I am the Walrus is definetly one of Lennons best works, but the album as a whole just doesnt stand up there for me.It’s still a great record, just not one of their better ones in my opinion.

  5. newyorkjoe

    In the states, MMT was a Christmas release, 6 months after Sgt. P. It was seen as the next Beatles album, when in fact it was an extension of Sgt. P. That the White Album was in fact the next Beatles album has been lost on the American public’s consciousness.

    One has to wonder what might have happened if they didn’t feel the need or succumb to the pressure to churn out album after album in the wake of Brian’s death. The massive White Album, then 5 months later convening for Get BAck/Let It Be… then Abbey Road right after. Bands today could never maintain the pace of recording/movies/business pressures as did the Beatles. Perhaps, if… they might have… oh well. There are a lot of “perhaps’ ” in the history of the Beatles.

    1. Francisco Javier Gil Vidal

      Yeah, it’s UNCANNY (and terribly stupid on their part) that less than ONE MONTH AND A HALF after releasing the White Album, these crazy workaholics should convene again for the drudgery of more recording AND filming. Even without the alleged “tensions” attending the recording of The Beatles, any four human beings should have been exhausted after such strenuous work. Why not wait at least until spring/early summer to resume work, have a good rest of writing/rehearsing/recording (and putting up with each other!), and then “get back” with renewed energy? I’m sure The Beatles wouldn’t have split up if they had respected themselves a little bit more. They seemed to have gotten caught up into a masochistic groove: what sense does it make to play LIVE in the middle of the winter on a windswept rooftop in London!!!? That, despite all the odds, that performance should have been SO good is yet another proof of how great The Beatles were, but they simply seem to have stretched human nature too far…. What a waste!

  6. thebeatlesalbum1968mono

    This album has its similarities to the white album not pepper think about it The Fool On The Hill and Mother Natures Son or Flying and Wild Honey Pie, Strawberry Fields Forever and Glass Onion, Baby Your A Rich Man and Happiness Is A Warm Gun!!

  7. FrankDialogue

    I saw ‘MMT’, the color version, in a small ‘art’ theatre in my city in early 1968…I was quite intrigued as it had a dreamlike and slightly ‘down’ air about it, quite different from ‘HDN’ & ‘Help’.

    I can only imagine what the UK Boxing Day audience who saw the black & white version thought.

    Very ‘surrealistic’ and way ahead of later MTV rubbish.

    1. Joseph Brush

      MMT was not distributed in North America until late 1968-early 1969 in small theatres with Eric Anderson doing a short concert as well as introducing the movie.

  8. Juliana Melo

    The MMT movie best moment is definettly Jonh serving sppaghetti to the big lady! That’s so genius!. I like the album very very much! Except for “Hello Goodbye”(I hate it, but fits the purposes of the movie/album I guess), all the songs are great and fit within The Beatles best work!

  9. mja6758

    This has to be said: MMT is NOT a Beatles album. It is an American COMPILATION of Beatles music. Nothing to do with them apart from that.
    Since its entry to the “official canon” the attitude seems to have grown that it should be considered as if one of the UK albums that they put so much thought and effort into. Comparing it to those albums is just wrong.
    I love the album. It is one the great COMPILATION albums – but to see how the group wanted the music on it presented at the time, look to the UK double-ep (which is a fantastic package) and the relevant singles.
    However much I love it as an album, one of my big disappointments is that it made the original CD reissue series in the ’80s. That gave the impression there were 13 albums instead of 12.
    What would Mark have done? I would have had “Past Masters” live up to its job description – to collect ALL recordings not featured on the 12 albums they recorded and released as they envisioned them. You could then have a “Past Masters” that made sense, instead of having a big 1967-shaped hole at its centre.
    And if anyone’s wondering, it would easily fit. “Past Masters” is about 94 minutes, MMT 36, giving a “Past Masters” that would be around 130 minutes. Volume/Disc 1: 1962-66, Volume/Disc 2: 1967-70 (think I’ve heard that split somewhere before).
    A later release of MMT could have been done later, as has happened with other Capitol albums.
    Don’t get me wrong though, I don’t dislike the album or anything, I just dislike it’s elevated status alongside the 12 albums they did record.
    I dread the day when I come across a comment telling me that The Beatles never recorded a better album than “1″!

    1. Joe Post author

      It’s a nice idea. However, having MMT incorporated into Past Masters may have meant we didn’t get the MMT artwork – the booklet is really worth having. Personally I’m glad they kept it as a standalone release, but it’s all personal preference. I do think there’s quite a big hole in PM because MMT hoovered up all the amazing 1967 singles.

    2. JohnKing67

      True it’s technically not a Beatles album although I believe Parlophone did decide to start pressing copies of it in the U.K. at some point like it was a Beatles album. It’s a great companion album to Sgt. Pepper since those two albums basically give you 99% of their 67 output.

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