AOTY 2023
The Beatles - Magical Mystery Tour
Sep 29, 2021
The History of The Albums – n°364

Although they had abandoned live performances and tours to focus on their creativity, the Beatles never stopped working. You have to realize how incredible 1967 was for them, with one of the best albums of all time, Sgt. Pepper's, a handful of miraculous singles and finally a movie and album called Magical Mystery Tour. It's just a few statospheric things that are basically beyond us. In a burst of creativity, the Beatles were already working on 2 movies and their soundtracks (Magical Mystery Tour and Yellow Submarine), the day Sgt. The 4 boys had no time, they had to prepare the future. Let's go back a little to understand it... We are at the end of April 1967, the album Sgt Pepper's was finished only a few days before the Beatles started to work on the music of Magical Mystery Tour, dedicated to a movie imagined and thought by Paul McCartney. Moreover for the annecdote, it is the eponymous song of opening of the film which will be worked in very first as symbol of this new project. Especially pushed by the 2 leaders Lennon/McCartney, the Beatles were going through an era of productivity and creativity without precedent.

Magical Mystery Tour is an absolutely mysterious film that doesn't really make sense. The idea was to follow a band on a bus, surrounded by strange characters, where every situation is even stranger. Basically the creative process of this film was to make sure that "no one would know in advance what will happen". Despite the massive ratings when it first aired, this overly experimental and amateurish film sounds like a real turnip. However, if you are a fan of cinematic delirium, I strongly advise you to take part in the adventure. What is important to specify is that this film translates in a certain way the current phenomena of psychedelism, the use of hallucinogenic drugs as well as the Summer Of Love through an experimental attempt too messy. Anyway, the Beatles were so famous and great that they could afford to work on projects like this. Basically, when you think about it, the whole context could give birth to an absolutely divine soundtrack. And how can you blame them? Brian Epstein, the Beatles' crucial manager, organized in May 1967 an official listening party at his home for Sgt Pepper's, which sounded like an absolute achievement for the English band, so much so that Brian Wilson (leader of the Beach Boys and competitor of the band) fell into a depression partly because of it. The album will pulverize all the sales records of the group and will become one of the major symbols of the Summer Of Love, as well as the dominant influence of the next 10 years.

The 4 boys will then know a more eventful summer. First of all, they will participate in the "Mondiovision" experience, a show that brings together several countries for a show broadcasted simultaneously on almost all the channels of the world. On this occasion the Beatles will reinforce their sympathy and show their human principles by performing their new single "All You Need Is Love", symbol of "Peace and Love". There is nothing like an important event like this to mark the history of the world and culture for life. Unfortunately, this happiness will dissipate a few months later with the accidental death of the manager Brian Esptein. This one was like a big brother for them, present since the beginning with them. This tragedy then pushed the Beatles to wonder about a possible separation of the group, especially as George Harrison was less and less concerned. However, after convincing negotiations, it is Paul McCartney who will take the lead, becoming the current manager of the group. This is also one of the reasons that pushed the group to really embark on the Magical Mystery Tour adventure since it is imagined by McCartney, but it is also the first artistic failure of the group because of the disappointing film.

No matter, if the movie is disappointing, on the contrary the album is a marvel. Magical Mystery Tour marks a significant innovation because of its UK version, since the project contained only the songs from the movie (i.e. Side "A"), in a double EP format absolutely new. It is then the American version that adds in Side "B" the singles of the group released in 1967. Today the album is known in this way. Obviously unlike the previous masterpieces of the Beatles, that is to say albums thought around a unique concept and the album format, this one is complex to judge by its entity because it is as if the B-side were "bonus tracks". In a way, never a B-side was so incredible and probably better than the main side. Besides, there must be thousands of artists who would be able to kill a day to have a song as good as what you will find in Magical Mystery Tour. In my opinion Magical Mystery Tour brings together the 2 sides of the Beatles in a direct confrontation. Side A from the soundtrack emphasizes sound work, experimentation, adventure and flavorful textures, while Side B presents more conventional works with composition at the core. In a certain sense, the realization of this album is the image of the content, that is to say that the singles of Side B were globally thought in an independent way, while Side A embodies the moment when the Beatles are in free wheel, occupied by the recent disappearance of their balance Epstein, as well as the constant work of their spirituality. We are talking about the most famous band in the world traveling to India to do some meditation sessions. All of this background rubs off on the process of creating this album. Compared to many professional critics' opinions, I find that Magical Mystery Tour turns a page on Sgt. Pepper's since it moves away from an idealistic and perfectionist vision of the work. Instead, the Beatles let themselves be totally carried away in the paroxysm of psychedelia to deliver an experimental work that doesn't resemble anything else, even if I can understand that Sgt Pepper's and Magical Mystery Tour have important common points.

The A-Side is the beginning for me of a popular band able to break the conventions to let the creativity and the concept speak only. It's a bit like the blank whiteboard or the silent song. The eponymous introduction remains of course a major piece of this album, because it immediately allows the listener to emerge in this magical adventure. We find there a little bit this fanfare and theatrical way to introduce musically the subject as on the eponymous song Sgt Pepper's. However for this one, the Music-Hall delirium is pushed to the extreme like a magician in full action through a rather hallucinating cocktail of rebounds, effects of all kinds, avant-garde vision, and finally this contagious energy which is so palpable. The Fool On The Hill propels Paul McCartney into a parallel dimension, where we were not used to seeing him unlike John Lennon. In a few words, this wonderful ballad is an amazing fusion between Folk Pop, Baroque Pop and Music-Hall to such an extent that we don't even know which label we can give it, which makes it a unique song. The Fool On The Hill shines by its atmospheric aspect, consolidated by the poetry of its author who puts in scene a lonely man cut and misunderstood by the others. It's quite amazing how all this is transcribed and emotionally palpable through this song, like a truly heartbreaking distress call.

Rare enough to underline it for the time, but Flying is a high level instrumental interlude. It's a first for the band. Flying is in fact a kind of Blues Rock/Soul fusion that gives the impression of listening to a Hip Hop instrumental, notably by its rhythmic, this way of making loops and adding additional effects. Towards the end, Flying delivers an impressive Avant-Garde experimentation as if you were in the middle of a fairy tale. Once again very much in the background compared to the others, Harrison continues his Indian period by delivering Blue Jay Way, one of his most beautiful achievements of the type. Blue Jay Way is definitely the most adventurous song of this project, we reach the paroxysm of the Psychedelic and Avant-garde music on popular format. This song also embodies the whole spiritual state of mind of the Beatles, through meditation. There are countless experiments and innovations, including the use of Lydian Mode, a not-so-widespread scale. Always as effective and brilliant, Paul McCartney offers Your Mother Should Know, in the continuity of the Psychedelic/Music-hall/Vaudeville ballads in order to demonstrate a very important social and generational statement for the time, between the parents and the children.

I'm going to make an aside because it might make some noise, but according to me I Am The Walrus is basically the first Hip Hop song in history. Besides this far-fetched theory, the proposed rhythmic and the rapped way of John Lennon are hardly misleading elements. Of course, I'm not crazy either, I Am The Walrus is mainly a Pop Rock song, but still. After a month of work to finalize it, I Am The Walrus is without question one of the greatest Beatles songs, it's a real gift from heaven. Lennon is in total frenzy, pushed by the emanation of acid, in order to propose a surrealist poetry and without any real sense to cheat some school teachers who made study the Beatles in class. Pure genius.

The B side contains mostly standards that we all know already. The amusing and simple at first sight Hello Goodbye actually emphasizes the duality in a Piano Rock tempted by psychedelia. The good old classic "You say goodbye and I say hello" or "Hela, heba Helloa" are so well known that it is anchored in the folklore. We realize very quickly that the Beatles have rich people problems, when they put I Am The Walrus on the B side of the single Hello Goodbye, or when the stratospheric Strawberry Fields Forever is found to second Penny Lane. Who but them is capable of that? Anyway, the combination of Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane is an open-eyed dream, because you're holding one of the greatest songs of all time. That is to say, how the duo Lennon/McCartney, totally invisible, turn the same as if they were playing a tennis match, without knowing the winner. If Strawberry Fields Forever is a monument of Psychedelism, Penny Lane is a monument of the Pop ballad in its excellence. We are so close to the top at this moment that Baby You're A Rich Man seems so bland next to it whereas it is a very good song. Finally, Magical Mystery Tour concludes with All Your Need Is Love, the hymn to love and peace, as a societal symbol of a year 1967 that will eventually bring revolt the following year. The famous use of "La Marseillaise", the French national anthem from the late 18th century revolution, to make it joyful and optimistic is simply brilliant. All Your Need Is Love also sums up the year 1967 for the Beatles, because it also concludes the psychedelic period of the Beatles towards a new stage in their career. If Magical Mystery Tour doesn't have the proud conceptual allure of its predecessor Sgt. Pepper's, the whole trip is of an exceptional level. Never has a psychedelic experience been (and will be) as luminous as it is rich. Finally when you think about it, the addition of the 5 extra tracks are so much in the same vein as the soundtrack that the homogeneous spirit of the project makes you think of a real album.

Doublez's Tags
Great review! It always feels like this record gets overlooked within the larger Beatles canon, even though it has some of their biggest hits and best b-sides. Also, love the wild I Am the Walrus hot take you have there!
Awesome review. It’s sad that a lot of fans or critics pass this album over when talking about the all-time great albums. This definitely the Beatles most underrated album and by further extent, one of the most underrated albums of all time. Just to think this and Sgt. Pepper are from the same year lol
Great job on the review!
"this overly experimental and amateurish film sounds like a real turnip"

Double Z-isms
Thanks guys for these kinds words! I'm really glad to see that many share this same opinion. To go further I think that those who don't like it are mostly based on the fact that it's a "fake" album and that compared to SGT Pepper's it's a little bit blotchy, but there's only a handful of artists able to compile so many wonders in a single project

For information, I discovered this movie when I was a kid, I have it on VHS and I don't understand it any better today than I did back then lol

@Jamobo @nathaniel_ahart @Brando @Toasterqueen12
Have to agree with all my heart
Glad to hear it buddy, by the way what is your favorite track(s) from this album? @ocrakraut
sorry to say there is no favorite look at your 100 point songs and you now why (it´s like: what do you like more sunshine -the beach or a good meal). There is only one Beatles song out of all Beatles´ songs that stands out for me: For no One and I can´t explain why
The perfect answer, I confess that like you it is impossible for me to choose, when I was a kid I was very very fan of The Fool On The Hill, a delight!
I think that For No One is sublimated by these horns (probably a trumpet) @ocrakraut
It´s a french horn and sure it´s an important component. For me it´s purely emotional. The decline of a relationship and the impossibility to reach the other person, narrated with a fatalistic yet empathic voice.... touch me in an inexplicable way - I´m totally defenceless
I forgot about Alan Civil, a great musician of the shadow, a great career
I understand you so much @ocrakraut
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