Only Some Northern Songs in
Magical Mystery Tour



1967 was an outstanding year in The Beatles career. To the tremendous impact of the Sgt. Pepper's and the release of Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane, they performed All You Need Is Love in the first worldwide television transmission by satellite.

But even with the Pepper project on its way, Paul had conceived a new project that would take The Beatles talent to other fields, film making in particular. The idea was to start a trip through the English countryside in a bus full of friends, actors and all sorts of strange characters without a clear or rigid script. It was quite obvious that it more than interesting situations would develop from such a trip which would make a great movie.

The project turned onto a 1 hour TV special for which The Beatles started recording new songs as soon as they were done with Pepper. However, what was supposed to be an exciting trip turned out to be quite dull, and for most of the time nothing special happened. The Beatles insisted in directing, acting, writing the script and the music. They were supposed to edit the film as well. the final result, was extremely disappointing. The television special broadcasted by the BBC was one of the greatest commercial failures of the Fabs. The truth is that the film is only bearable by those of us that enjoy anything Beatles, but for the average viewer is far too weird and lacks of almost any charm.

However, the soundtrack did not fail them as the film did. Magical Mystery Tour was issued as a double EP in Britain (6 songs were too many for a single EP, and too few for a standard LP) In the USA, Capitol decided that the format was not adequate for the American market and released the 6 songs together with 5 other Beatles songs recorded in 1967 to complete an album. After 6 years of imports of the album being sold in Britain, Parlophone also released the album. in the CD's collection it also was issued as an album, and that's why it's presented in this section along with the rest of Beatles LPs.

Musically, Magical Mystery Tour is an outstanding piece of work. Mainly because along some exceptional songs recorded for the film (I am the walrus, one of their masterpieces was among them), it included two of The Beatles best songs ever (Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane) and the magnificent All You Need Is Love. So if we forget that all of these had previously been released as singles, the album was full of Beatles quality. And so was believed by fans worldwide that hadn't still recovered from the Pepper shock.

  • Magical Mystery Tour
  • Recording Dates April 25th 1967 - November 2nd 1967
  • Release Date: 27 November, 1967 (US)

Magical Mistery Tour

McCartney
John:Acoustic Guitar and Backing Vocal
Paul:Piano, Bass Guitar and Lead Vocal
George:Lead Guitar and Backing Vocal
Ringo:Drums and Tambourine
Elgar (Gary) Howarth, Roy Copestake and John Wilbraham: Trumpets

Roll up, roll up for this excellent album announces the title track as soon as the Beatles join in, singing superb harmonies. Two weeks after Paul was back from the USA (where he had thought about the MMT project) The Beatles were at Abbey Road laying down the basic track of the main title song for their project. The truth is that Paul had only the opening line and the melody, and that day they were supposed to get the rest of the lyrics by using catchy phrases as in a commercial. In Britain, the "mistery tours" where only the bus driver knew the destination, were quite common. Two days afterwards, the lyrics were completed.

Specially characteristic of the song are the 3 trumpets used throughout. They give the tune the strength it needs to convince us all to join such a tour. The arrangement, came partly from one of the trumpet players ideas, who got fed up with Paul's method of working out arrangements (he usually hummed or sung the parts he wanted for the song to the session musicians, and George Martin helped in)

The Fool On The Hill

McCartney
Paul: Piano, Recorders and Lead Vocal
John:Acoustic Guitar, Harmonica and Maracas
George:Lead Guitar and Harmonica
Ringo:Drums, Finger Cymbals Christopher Taylor, Richard Taylor, Jack Ellory: Flutes

Paul and John were writing With A Little Help From My Friends when during one of the breaks, Paul started playing what was to be The Fool on The Hill. The song was already about a foolish man on a hill, but the words weren't yet clear. John told Paul to write what he had down so he would not forget, and Paul replied that he wasn't going to forget the lyrics. It took almost half a year for The Beatles to start to record the song.

The most characteristic sound of the tune, are the flutes in it. While the ones that appear along the song accompanying the piano and percussion are flutes played by session musicians, the solos are in fact played with a recorder. It was Paul who played such instrument, and you can easily tell it apart from the other flutes because the sound is not so clear, and the notes are not easily maintained oscillating a little.

Flying

Harrison-Lennon-McCartney-Starkey
Working Title:Aerial Tour Instrumental
John:Mellotron and Vocals
Paul:Several Guitars and Vocals
George:Several Guitars and Vocals
Ringo:Drums, Percussion and Vocals

The first instrumental song by The Beatles to be published by EMI was Flying. Although the fabs had already tried to get an instrumental with 12 Bar Original (Anthology 2) this composition by ALL four Beatles was the first one to make it into a record. Several other tunes (such as "Jessie's Dream") were taped for the incidental music of the film. However, only Flying was released in the LP.

The Beatles once again experiment with backward loops and tapes (selected by Ringo and George) and the feeling of the song is quite ethereal and light. Although all four Beatles use their voices in the track, is still can be considered as an instrumental song. What they're really doing is chanting, and no words are sung.

Blue Jay Way

Harrison
John: Tambourine
Paul:Bass Guitar and Backing Vocal
George:Hammond Organ and Vocals
Ringo Starr:Drums
Session Musician: Cello

On August 1st 1967, George was in L.A. in a visit to California. He had rented a house in Blue Jay Way, and was expecting Derek Taylor (former Beatles' press officer, at the time a publicist in L.A. and nowadays working again for Apple). Taylor however got lost and was delayed for a while. George used a Hammond Organ in the house to write this enigmatic song which simply tells the story. By the time Taylor got to Blue Jay Way, the song was finished. To give the song the misty atmosphere needed, a flangered vocal with heavy ADT was used with backwards taped choruses.

Your Mother Should Know

McCartney
John: Organ and Backing Vocal
Paul:Bass Guitar, Piano and Lead Vocal
George:Tambourine, Tabla and Backing Vocal
Ringo:Drums

Paul's interest in the music of the 20's and 30's was mainly influenced by his father. Jim McCartney had had his own Ragtime band, and Paul had grown up listening these kind of tunes in the piano. Throughout The Beatles discography there are several examples of Paul's tastes. When I'm Sixty Four and Honey Pie are clear examples.

Musically the song is delightful. Maybe it lacks from a chorus that breaks in two the delicious melody, greatly underlined by a bouncy piano and magnificent backing vocals by all three Beatles. However only an organ intermission from John breaks the inspired melody of the song.

I am The Walrus

Lennon
John: Mellotron and Lead Vocal
Paul: Electric Piano, Bass Guitar and Backing Vocal
George: Tambourine and Backing Vocal
Ringo: Drums
Sidney Sax, Jack Rothstein, Ralph Elman, Andrew McGee, Jack Greene, Louis Stevens, John Jezzard and Jack Richards: Violins
Lionel Ross, Eldon Fox, Bram MArtin and Terry Weil: Cellos
Gordon Lewins: Clarinet
Neil Sanders, Tony Tunstall and Morris Miller: Horns
Peggie Allen, Wendy Horan, Pat Whitmore, Jill Utting, June Day, Sylvia King, Irene King, G. Mallen, Fred Lucas, Mike Redway, John O'Neill, F. Dachtler, Allan Grant, D. Griffiths, J. Smith and J. Fraser (Mike Sammes Singers): Choir

If one song deserved a spot on its own in this section dedicated to the creation of songs, the Walrus would definitely be it, with little contest from Strawberry Fields Forever. Few songs have so rich of a story o so long of a preparation prior to their final mixing. The walrus itself (which was referenced by John in at least 2 songs later in his career, being either him or Paul) came from Lewis Carroll's poem "The Walrus and the Carpenter" but the lyrics f the song have several origins. At least three different projects of a song were mixed into the walrus, the "plice-man", the garden bit and finally one about sitting on a corn-flake.

The lyrics of the song, are a constant nonsense, with words made up by John with no meaning but a great plasticity. John tried to finally demonstrate the world that maybe their lyrics were not so important. They were being analyzed from every point of vies (even in their old Quarry Bank School as one pupil wrote him) and I am The Walrus turned into a way to make a fool of all the people trying to interpret The Beatles even further than they did themselves.

Technically, I am The Walrus is a prodigy of a song. Musically, breathtaking. The fact that this was recorded using again 4-track machines reveals the magic of the staff at EMI. The basic track of the walrus, with the characteristic Mellotron played by John (that differentiates most of the different remixes of the song issued) did not capture the atmosphere. The song had to allow to picture Semolina Pilchard climbing up the Eiffel Tower, and the Joker laughing at you. George Martin's magnificent score, with 16 instruments (8 violins, 4 cellos, 3 horns and a clarinet) fits the song perfectly. The voices of 16 singers just appearing as instruments with "Whooooas" and laughs also orchestrated by Martin set the perfect frame for John's vocal, out of this world.

But the song wasn't finished yet. John still had to add his personal touch in the remix of the song. And just as Lewisohn reveals in the Recording Sessions (once again an endless source of information) Shakespeare's King Lear was to give it to the song. The voices and the radio dial being tuned heard in the song were mixed live from the BBC Third Programme, and the lines that can be heard in one of the chorus are "Now, good Sir (...what are you?)" and "(.. a most poor man...) made tame by fortune's (blows )". At the end of the song a whole passage is mixed and can be heard in intervals with the following text:

-take my purse:
If ever thou will thrive, bury my body;
And give the letters which thou find'st about me
To Edmund Earl of Gloster; seek him out
Upon the British party:- Oh untimely death

-I know thee well: a serviceable villain;
as duteous to the vices of my mistress
As badness would desire.

-What, is he dead?

-Sit you down, father; rest you

And best of all, is that all these elements weld perfectly into a song with no individual parts, a masterpiece, a work of pure genius.

Hello, Goodbye

McCartney
Working Title: Hello, Hello John: Lead Guitar, Organ and Backing Vocal
Paul: Bass Guitar, Piano, Bongos, Conga Drum and Lead Vocal
George: Lead Guitar, Tambourine and Backing Vocal
Ringo: Drums and Maracas
Ken Essex, Leo Birnbaum: Violas

Hello, Goodbye, a song of opposites, was released by The Beatles on November 24th 1967 as a single, just shortly before both the EP (In Britain) and the LP (in USA) were released. The song is very McCartney and features simple lyrics with a fantastic tune. Allistair Taylor, who worked for Brian Epstein attended once a demonstration by Paul on writing songs, where he had to say the opposite to what Paul was saying. Whether Paul had already thought of "Hello, Hello" or the idea was born there it's not clear. The famous "maori finale" with the hey-las-alohas (which featured "hawaiian" dancers in the promo video) was not as improvised as some authors claim, and it was recorded in all takes including the first one.

Strawberry Fields Forever

Lennon
John: Guitars and Lead Vocal
Paul: Mellotron, Bass Guitar, Piano and Backing Vocal
George: Lead Guitar, bongos, swordmandel, Timpani and Backing Vocal
Ringo Starr: Drums, Reverse Cymbals
Mal Evans:Tambourine
Tony Fisher, Greg Bowen, Derek Watkins and Stanley Roderick:Trumpets
John Hall, Derek Simpson, Norman Jones: Cellos

If I am The Walrus should claim a place of its own in this section, Strawberry Fields Forever shouldn't do less. Acclaimed by many as the best Beatles song and voted best Pop song ever, everything surrounding its conception is magical. First of all, because Strawberry Fields was composed in a wonderful sunny country called Spain. John was filming "How I won the War" in Almeria, a southern province of Spain, and while relaxing in the beach the idea of the song came to his head. Afterwards, he completed his masterpiece in a "cortijo" (typical large house in the South of Spain, with a patio and some land about) which he had rented

The song title comes from a Salvation Army orphanage which can still be found nowadays in Liverpool. Although the name of the orphanage was really Strawberry Field, he changed it in the song. John used to go there in summer fetes to play around and the song brings back some of those memories.

However, most of the myth of the song comes from its recording. Now that most of you will have heard the several versions in the Anthology series, the truth is that most of the mistery is revealed. When John first played a demo of the song with his acoustic guitar, it was quite simple and far away from the final result of every take. The truth is that John often said that he wasn't satisfied with the song, and he even criticised the production George Martin had done in it. Nevertheless, Strawberry Fields is a masterpiece the way we hear it now. No one really knows what John would have changed in the song, and no one will ever know if he would have improved.

The final song was the result of mixing to different takes. The first one was a basic rhythm track with all four Beatles playing and quite faster than the final result. However, the version was quite solid and John didn't quite like it. After several days, he came ack to George Martin and suggested to do another version. the second one, involved several session musicians playing 4 trumpets and 3 cellos, and the superb, magnificent, outstanding, score of George Martin (how many songs would other producers have ruined?) Ringo played drums and Lennon delivered another thrilling vocal. And yet, John had the doubt. He liked both versions, and maybe he didn't like any of them best. But his idea was to melt them together, starting with one and finishing with the other one. He asked Martin if this was possible... Martin could hardly say it was. Both takes were at different speed (this would immediately show in a remix) and most distressing, they were in different keys. At this point every single author points out Martin's genius in bringing both together,... but few appeal to luck. They were indeed lucky, since slowing down one of the takes and speeding up the other, not only similar speeds were reached BUT also the same key was achieved.

The other myth about Strawberry Fields died with the release of the Anthology 2. After the song has faded away, there's a reprise of the music with heavy drumming by Ringo, reverse cymbals and a voice muttering what many claimed to be "I buried Paul" This of course fed the hoax of the death of Paul McCartney in a car accident. As the voice is quite distant, the real words can't be heard. However, the guys at Apple, made sure that in the Anthology remixes, the voice was heard clearly and it was John repeating several times "cranberry sauce".Finally, it is Jeff Russell who points that at the beginning of the song, just after the first "Let me take you down..." there seems to be a Morse message. The letters apparently spelt are JL (if anyone who knows Morse can confirm this, we'd be delighted. The problem is to note down dots and lines)

Penny Lane

McCartney
Working Title: Untitled
John: 2 Pianos, Rhythm Guitar, Conga Drums, and Backing Vocal
Paul:Bass Guitar, 3 Pianos, Harmonium, Tambourine and Lead Vocal
George: Lead Guitar and Backing Vocal
Ringo:Drums
George Martin: Piano
Ray Swinfield, P. Goody, Manny Winters and Dennis Walton: 4 Flutes and 2 piccolo flutes
Leon Calvert, Freddy Clayton, Bert Courtley and Duncan Campbell: 4 Trumpets and a Flügelhorn
Dick Morgan and Mike Winfield: Oboe and Cor Anglais
Frank Clarke: Double Bass David Mason: Piccolo Trumpet Solo

Penny Lane is now probably the most famous street in Liverpool. However, for Paul it was just an area, full of nostalgic memories. This song was Paul's contribution to a very Liverpudlian single The Beatles were about to release. The double side-A "Strawberry Fields Forever-Penny Lane" (issued before Sgt. Pepper). Most of the things mentioned in the song are nowadays changed, and many of the characters described by Paul weren't even real. But of course there was lots of truth in the form of impressions and memories in the barber, the nurse, the fireman and the banker.

Technically, Penny Lane was also quite demanding. Up to 6 pianos were recorded with different speeds, effects and even played through a Vox guitar amplifier, to achieve the bouncy style we inmediately identify with the song. Almost no instrument in the song was recorded at the normal speed, except the wind section masterfully scored by George Martin. The trumpet solo, was the result of Paul being impressed with the Brandenburg Concerto Number 2 (J.S. Bach). He saw David Mason playing in it, and decided that Penny Lane should have some of that high pitched trumpet in it. The notes to be played were decided by Mason, Martin and McCartney as often was done with session musicians. At the end of the song, Mason played several notes more. These were edited out for the single release, but not for promotional radio copies... which made them rather valuable.

Baby You're a Rich Man

Lennon-McCartney
John: Clavioline, Piano and Lead Vocal
Paul: Bass Guitar, Piano and Backing Vocal
George: Lead Guitar, Handclapping, Backing Vocal
Ringo:Drums, Tambourine and Handclapping
Eddie Krammer: Vibraphone

Once again the talents of John and Paul got together to create a single song. Baby You're a Rich Man was originally an Unfinished McCartney song, while John had his "One of the Beautiful People". Combining both, The Beatles recorded it at the Olympic Sound Studios in barely 6 hours (the first time a song was completed totally outside Abbey Road). The track was intended originally for the Yellow Submarine project. However, it was soon included in the All You Need is Love single and didn't make it to the Yellow Submarine soundtrack. Nevertheless, the song does appear in the film, as John sings "how does it feel to be one of the beautiful people".

One of the Beautiful People, was a song written by John referring to the new generation of hippies that had a positive way of thinking towards life. Everything was beautiful in a sense, and as Paul said in an interview "everything's great and there's no bad ever if I can think of it as great". The other song, Baby You're a Rich Man, was in fact about Brian Epstein, and the sense of the lyrics according to John were clear: "stop moaning, you're a rich man..." In a demo version of the song John even sung "baby you're a rich fag jew"

All You Need Is Love

Lennon
John: Harpsichord, Banjo and Lead Vocal
Paul: Double Bass, Bass Guitar and Backing Vocal
George: Violin, Lead Guitar and Backing Vocal
Ringo:Drums
George Martin: Piano
Mick Jaegger, Keith Richard, Marianne Faithful, Keith Moon, Eric Clapton, Pattie Harrison, Jane Asher, Mike McCartney, Graham Nash and wife, Gary Leeds and Hunter Davies
4 violins, 2 cellos, 2 saxophones, 2 trombones, 1 accordion, 2 trumpets (see Lewisohn's Recording Sessions for details)

It had to be that way. The BBC faced the Our World broadcast, the first ever global television link, with 26 countries participating, and had to present an act. The obvious choice was The Beatles. Any other group would have been preparing the event moths in advance, however, John came with the song shortly before it was due. Just ten days before the broadcast (which took place on June 25th 1967), The Beatles started recording the basic rhythm track of the song. The rest was to be played live in front of the cameras at Studio One in Abbey Road, just like if The Beatles were recording a new song and had been caught by the cameras.

The Beatles got dressed up in their most colorful clothes to spread the message of love to the world. The lead vocal, Paul's bass, George's guitar solo and Ringo's drumming were recorded live along with the 13 piece orchestra. Everything went into the 4 track machine together with the previously recorded tracks, Geoff Emerick and George Martin were to mix it LIVE to broadcast it all over the world. The message had to be simple for the world ot understand, and Lennon once more hit the bull's eye. HE delivered an anthem for the summer of love, with just four letters in mind: love. Several famous musical bits were played by the orchestra during the song: The Marsellaise (France's national anthem), Greensleaves, She Loves You and In The Mood (Glenn Miller). Including this last bit, still copyrighted forced EMI to grant a royalty agreement.

The fade out was a huge sing-along, with some of The Beatles friends singing that love was all we needed. Once the broadcast was over, The Beatles remained in the studio to give the song the finishing touches. John re-sung part of his lead vocal, and Ringo added the drum roll that introes the song. In less than 2 weeks, the single was out (Baby You're a Rich Man on side B) and The Beatles had set yet another milestone in the history of music.


©Copyright 1996-2000 Enrique Cabrera
The contents of these pages are protected by the intelectual property rights and hence cannot be reproduced without written permission from the author.