Deep Dive: Magical Mystery Tour
The Beatles' next release was also in 1967 after "Sgt. Pepper." It's the "Magical Mystery Tour" record--again, going off the psychedelic theme and wave of "Sgt. Pepper." Again, the four are in costume on the cover of this album.
This album, much like “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help!”, became a film. Though the film wasn’t as well-received, the accompanying album is full of classics.
The album opens with “Magical Mystery Tour” and starts off the “trip” quite nicely. It is also the only title track for a Beatles film that was not released as a single. Most argue that the song is more interesting than the film itself. I saw Paul perform this at Lollapalooza and it was incredible. I believe he opened his set with this song. It was truly magical.
The second song is another classic. “The Fool On The Hill” is another Paul gem. It’s essentially Paul commenting on how people view “saviors or gurus” as weird, “so [he] thought for [his] generation [he’d] suggest that they weren’t as stupid as they looked” (McCartney). “This song is about the contemplative geniuses who see the world as it really is, and how others react to them.”
”Flying” is the third track on that album and is a non-lyrical piece. It is the first Beatles song to be credited to all four members of the group. In the film, the track was used to accompany landscape scenes of Iceland taken from an airplane.
The next song is a Harrison track that is quite chilling, but again, a great one “Blue Jay Way” has a distinctive swirling organ portion of the song along with use of artificial double tracking to give a “phasing effect.” A lot of the vocals on the song were also known to be played backwards in the final mix.
A more uplifting song, “Your Mother Should Know,” is written in the style of the old-fashioned dance hall numbers that were popular in their grandparents time. Lennon reportedly did not like this style and referred to it as “granny music.” “The song has a special reverence now because The Beatles are, to younger generations, hits from before their mother was born. It can be viewed as a statement to the timelessness of their music as well as its continued relevance and popularity” (Genius).
”I Am The Walrus” is the one of the more distinct songs of the album. It opens with John singing, “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. See how they run like pigs from a gun, see how they fly. I’m crying.” It’s said John got inspired for this song by hearing the sound of a police siren in the distance. It is also one of the first rock songs to use an orchestra.
”Hello, Goodbye” is another one I’ve seen Paul perform and the crowd goes absolutely wild. Everyone loves this song and it’s a great sing a long. McCartney explained this song by saying, “The answer to everything is simple. It’s a song about everything and nothing. If you have black you have to have white. That’s the amazing thing about life.”
Next up is one of my personal favorite Beatle songs ever. “Strawberry Fields Forever” is one of the Beatles undisputed masterpieces where Lennon wrote about his childhood. Some of my favorite lyrics are: “Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see. It’s getting hard to be someone but it all works out. It doesn’t matter much to me. . .No one I think is in my tree, I mean it must be high or low. That is you can’t, you know, tune it but it’s all right. That is I think it’s not too bad.” Those lines are Lennon saying he’s either a genius or an idiot, because no one is quite like him. He isn’t sure which, but it has to be one or the other.
“Penny Lane” is another classic. The crowd loves this one at Paul’s shows. It’s a song about “what’s beneath the surface of their daily life.” It’s not one of my favorite songs, but I like the concept behind it. I also remember hearing this song first on a commercial for the red “1” album when it was released.
Next up is “Baby You’re A Rich Man.” I love the tone of this song. The song deals with celebrity, wealth and fame that the group was experiencing at the time. It’s funny actually as it’s The Beatles singing to their manager, Brian Epstein. “How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people?”
The album closes with another classic, “All You Need Is Love.” Who doesn’t love this song? Especially today, we should listen to this more. The song is by Lennon and was created for the first live international television production called “Our World.”
Overall, though “Sgt. Pepper” is more critically acclaimed, I think I prefer “Magical Mystery Tour.” I enjoy the concepts and themes behind these classic songs and truly find “Strawberry Fields Forever” is one of the greatest songs of all time. I love the freedom The Beatles display and the overall vibe from their videos with this album. It’s one of my favorites, for sure.