Magical Mystery Tour
Magical Mystery Tour is an album and double EP by English rock band The Beatles, first released in late 1967. The double EP was recorded at the end of an extremely creative 18-month period.
It is also a one-hour 1967 television film that originally aired in the UK . After critical and public response to the premiere proved negative, US plans to air the show on ABC Television were cancelled, and Magical Mystery Tour didn't appear in the US until 1976, as a theatrical release on the midnight movies and college circuits.
After Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Paul McCartney wanted to create a film based upon The Beatles and their music. This film was to be unscripted; various "ordinary" people (including John Lennon's uncle Charlie) were to travel on a charabanc bus and have unspecified "magical" adventures, in the manner of Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters. The Magical Mystery Tour movie was made, but it turned out that no interesting adventures actually occurred. (At least, none that would have suited the original concept; during the shoot, more and more cars followed the hand-lettered bus to see what its passengers were up to, until a running traffic jam had developed. The spectacle ended after Lennon angrily tore the lettering off the sides of the bus.) This was the first Beatles film project to follow the death of manager Brian Epstein in August 1967, and there has been much speculation that the absence of Epstein's judgment contributed to its undisciplined production, such as the lack of a screenplay and professional direction.
The film, originally appearing twice on BBC-TV over the 1967 Christmas holidays, was savaged by critics on its release; however, it is often praised by filmakers like Steven Spielberg.
The soundtrack itself, released in both EP and LP form, was far more favorably received, released in December 1967 as a double EP in the UK.
The American version was released in late November 1967 as an LP; its cover depicts the original EP in an orange border, with a list of song titles above it. The LP Magical Mystery Tour was divided into two halves; the first side being the actual movie soundtrack, and the second side being a collection of A and B-sides released in 1967.
The first side, identical to the British EP, was a prime example of music from the psychedelic era, with "Flying", one of three Beatles instrumentals (the first being the often forgotten and very early "Cry for a Shadow", the second "12-Bar Original"); "Blue Jay Way", a George Harrison mood piece; a McCartney mood piece, "Fool on the Hill"; the nostalgia-laced "Your Mother Should Know"; and the title track itself. "I Am the Walrus", at the end of side one and full of crashing orchestras and dubbed vocals, was Lennon's response to learning that an English master at his alma mater Quarry Bank Grammar School was making his class analyze Beatles songs. Nonetheless, it is perhaps the Beatles' most startling, avant-garde creation.
The songs on the second side were the band's non-album singles from the period. To keep to its release schedule, Capitol Records used a stereo simulator on the monaural single master tapes, rather than wait for the stereo tapes to be sent from Britain. Even so, the seemingly random choice of songs shows the band at its creative peak. It included two starkly contrasting, semiautobiographical songs, Lennon's "Strawberry Fields Forever" and McCartney's "Penny Lane". Originally released as a double A-side single, Lennon's "Fields" was a dark and troubled account of a childhood memory, while his bandmate's " Penny Lane " was about the same subject, but light and poppy. Both songs were in fact recorded at the beginning of the Sgt. Pepper sessions, but had been left off that album, a decision that producer George Martin later regretted  .
The remaining tracks on side two include McCartney's counter (and A-side) to "I Am the Walrus" with one of the brightest pop songs ever, "Hello Goodbye". John and Paul collaborated on "Baby You're a Rich Man" (actually the first song recorded specifically for The Beatles' animated Yellow Submarine, which would be released to theatres one year later). John's "All You Need Is Love", the anthem of the Our World program (and arguably, the anthem of the flower power movement), finishes the LP.
When standardizing The Beatles' releases for compact disc in the late 1980s, the American LP version (which had actually sold better in the UK as an import than the double EP  , and was issued by Parlophone Records in Britain during 1976) was included with the British album lineups instead of the British EP, with true stereo recordings replacing the earlier processed ones. (The true-stereo version of the Magical Mystery Tour LP was first issued in Germany in 1971, but the 1976 Parlophone issue used the Capitol masters with the fake stereo.) Capitol quietly reissued the Magical Mystery Tour LP using the German masters in the USA with catalogue number C1-48061 in true stereo. The remaining Beatles non-LP single sides were compiled as Past Masters, Volume One and Past Masters, Volume Two.