Magical Mystery Tour

Cover artwork

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The artwork for the UK and US editions were largely the same, although the Capitol Records version had a yellow border and the song titles on the front cover. It also bore the words: "Includes 24-page full color picture book".

The UK double EP had a gatefold cover, inside which was a 24-page booklet with photographs from the filming of Magical Mystery Tour, and a cartoon strip telling the story. A four-page lyrics section was also included in the centre of the booklet.

The US version had the lyrics in the gatefold, but the LP-sized booklet was a pull-out inside the album. The booklet was otherwise identical to the UK version, and made no mention of the five extra songs on the second side of the vinyl.

Both versions had the words "Apple presents" and an early version of the Apple logo on the inside of the gatefold. They also carried the credit: "Produced by Big George Martin".

The walrus was... whom?

The front cover photograph featured The Beatles in the animal costumes they wore in the film: John Lennon as a walrus, Paul McCartney as a hippopotamus, George Harrison as a rabbit and Ringo Starr as a chicken.

It was later claimed that it was, in fact, McCartney in the walrus costume, and that this accounted for Lennon's line that "the walrus was Paul" in Glass Onion. However, the Magical Mystery Tour film clearly shows McCartney playing bass while wearing the hippo costume, and Lennon seated at the piano dressed as a walrus.

It has been claimed that McCartney wore the walrus costume as it fit him better than it did Lennon. However, both men were the same height and build. Furthermore, McCartney's miming of his bass part in the film is in the same style in both the scenes with the group in costume and without, suggesting that no such switch took place.

Adding fuel to the imaginary fire, beneath the title I Am The Walrus in the song listing is a handwritten "("No you're not!" said Little Nicola)", a reference to Nicola Hale, a five-year-old girl who appeared in the film. This was likely an off-the-cuff comment of little significance.

As a further red herring, Starr wears Lennon's granny glasses in the cover photograph, prompting some to believe that Lennon was, in fact, wearing the chicken suit.

The 'Paul is dead' myth

Various 'clues' in the Magical Mystery Tour songs and artwork were said to be a part of the 'Paul is dead' myth, which emerged in 1969.

  • The front cover spelt the word 'Beatles' in stars. Held up to a mirror, this reveals a telephone number, 2317438, said to have belonged to a London mortuary.
  • A number of photos in the booklet show McCartney without shoes, said to signify death: people tend to be buried without them.
  • McCartney is shown in military uniform in one picture, behind a desk on which sits a sign saying "I was".
  • Ringo Starr's drum head, in a still from the I Am The Walrus sequence, appears to say "Love the 3 Beatles". Next to the kit are McCartney's boots (as on Abbey Road, he is barefoot), covered in what appear to be blood stains.
  • A still from the Your Mother Should Know sequence shows all four Beatles in white suits, dancing. McCartney is the only one to have a black carnation in his lapel; the others all have red ones.
  • A cartoon of Paul labelled 'The Fool on the Hill' shows him with a crack in his head.
  • At the end of Strawberry Fields Forever, John Lennon can be heard twice muttering 'cranberry sauce'. This was misheard as 'I buried Paul'.

The legacy

While the Magical Mystery Tour film was almost universally slated by critics and the public, the soundtrack was far more warmly received. Aside from being a commercial success, it found favour with music critics of the day.

Although considered in some quarters to be a 'poor man's Sgt Pepper', Magical Mystery Tour showed The Beatles at their most psychedelic. It was equally clear, however, that the drugs, fashions and experimentation never got in the way of their ability to write strong material, and some of The Beatles' best moments - most notably The Fool On The Hill and I Am The Walrus - can be found on the collection.

Interestingly, Magical Mystery Tour is perhaps the only instance where Capitol Records' decision to tamper with The Beatles' output yielded undeniably positive results. The quality of the full-length offering was beyond dispute, and the title has become one of The Beatles' truly essential releases.

Magical Mystery Tour is one of my favourite albums, because it was so weird. I Am The Walrus is also one of my favourite tracks - because I did it, of course, but also because it's one of those that has enough little bitties going to keep you interested even a hundred years later.
John Lennon, 1974
Anthology

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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