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The Beatles - Magical Mystery Tour CD (album) cover


The Beatles



4.13 | 682 ratings

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4 stars In the UK this was originally released as a double EP in an attractive package including a comic-style booklet containing the story of the film. I use the term "story" loosely, as McCartney (this was his project) envisaged this as a "happening" whereby they would all bundle on to a coach, drive around and see what happened. There was a loose plot about wizards but no real story. Obviously heavily influenced by certain substances (certainly not tea, as suggested by The Rutles), this was the Fabs first taste of failure. Coming soon after the death of Brian Epstein, it missed his guiding hand. The film was first shown at Christmas but suffered because the majority of viewers watched it in black and white. It certainly received a critical mauling the following day. But what of the music?

The title track is a brass-driven pop song, "Fool on the Hill" is arguably the best song, being a dreamy acoustic McCartney number with recorders. "Flying" is only Beatles song attributed to all 4 Fabs. It's an instrumental (apart from the wordless backing vocals) featuring a touch of Mellotron. "Blue Jay Way" is a Harrison dirge, slightly ironic that it goes on too long with the words "Don't you be long". "Your Mother Should Know" is a catchy 50s style McCartney tribute to the songs that were hits "before your mother was born". "I am the Walrus" is Lennon's classic, inspired by a police car siren. Although some of it is undoubtedly gibberish ("semolina pilchard climbing up the Eiffel Tower"), some of it comes from childrens' rhymes ("dead dog's eye") and some of it is a veiled attack on authority figures. It's well known for the bursts of King Lear at the end, recorded by chance by twiddling the tuning knob on a radio.

For the US market, the EP was elongated into an album, similar to the way their early British LPs were cannibalised into different ones across the Atlantic. "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" (the greatest single of all time, unbelievably kept from Number One by Englebert Humperdinck) were intended for Sgt. Pepper but released as a double A side due to record company demands. "Hello Goodbye" is another non-album single (what band nowadays would release a song as good as this and not put it on an album?) and the final two tracks made up another single released at the time. "Baby You're a Rich Man" is curio, featuring a strange keyboard called a clavioline and Lennon's cruel "rich fag Jew" taunts aimed at Epstein. "All you need is love" doesn't really need any more comment.

I still maintain this is a compilation as the Beatles never intended MMT to be a studio album, but nevertheless it features some of their best ever works and is the height of their psychedelic phase.

chopper | 4/5 |


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