In the studio
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 1967. 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.
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 1967.
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.
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 eleven 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.
The UK EP
The Magical Mystery Tour EP was issued on 8 December 1967, with a gatefold sleeve and 28-page booklet. It contained six songs across two 7″ singles, which were to be played at 45 rpm.
At one point a single-disc EP played at 33? 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
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.