Beatle historian Bruce Spizer is collecting stories and remembrances about “Magical Mystery Tour”–both the album and the movie, so I thought I’d supply a couple of mine!
I felt that “Magical Mystery Tour” came fairly quickly after “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
“Pepper” was released on June 1, 1967, and the summer was barely over before The Beatles new song, “Magical Mystery Tour,” was being played repeatedly on AM stations like WKNR-Detroit with that annoyingly whispered “world premiere” underneath the mix. Relying on my memory, that was probably in late August or early September.
At the time, some of the fan magazines started to hint that a new Beatles movie would be arriving before the end of the year. I would have guffawed quite loudly if someone had suggested to me that I wouldn’t see the movie until almost ten years later! It was The Beatles! Why would I have to wait so long?
In November as the year started winding down, those same radio stations that played “Magical Mystery Tour” started to play advertisements and talk up the forthcoming album release.
I anticipated getting it for myself. After all, there were three singles–both A and B sides, so that would save me a dollar right there! (That was a talking point in case I needed one with my parents.) I think I paid $3.99.
And…the singles would be in stereo! It would be years later that I would learn that it wouldn’t be “true stereo,” but it would still be the best sonic version available!
After some reflection, I have come to the conclusion that “Magical Mystery Tour” was the eigth album that I owned right after The Beatles first three U.S. albums, “More of The Monkees,” “Sgt. Pepper” “Hang on Sloopy” by The McCoys, and “Are You Experienced?” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience!
It would also be the first album I would ever buy when released.
It would be pretty easy to buy it because it was released on Thanksgiving weekend and my mother or one of my brothers or sisters would be going out shopping for Christmas.
I’m fairly certain that I purchased “MMT” at a Detroit K Mart at the corner of Plymouth Ave. and the Southfield Expressway–about three miles from my house.
That store was always wall to wall, intense shoppers!
When I was free to go to the record area, my first memory of the physical album was this picture from the enclosed 24 page booklet:
There were also several other ones opened at the same picture. For at least the next ten years, I rarely remember going to a major chain store record department, and not seeing an “MMT” opened to the same exact picture. I sometimes wondered what the return rate to Capitol Records was for the album. The only other album that I remembered that was tampered with as much was The Rolling Stones’ “Sticky Fingers.”
Of course, since it was already opened, I decided to flip through it, too.
The Beatles were looking a lot different than the last time I saw their picture! I thought the psychedelic guitar and drums were cool! I wasn’t so sure about the clothes.
Yeah, everybody’s hair was getting longer including my own (no more brush cut!), but George Harrison’s hair was really long! My older sister was studying to be a beautician at the time, and John Lennon’s hair looked like a hair style she might have given one of her friends!!!???
In another group shot, Harrison looks like he’s flipping the bird!
These weren’t the same lovable guys as before!
Or were they?
They were doing things that my friends in class or down the street were doing. I guess, in retrospect, they were more “human.”
Then there was this strange picture where The Beatles were dressed in costumes:
Well, I bought Magical Mystery Tour” and couldn’t wait to listen to it!
On remembering that first musical experience, things that stood out to me were the bass harmonica on “Fool on the Hill,” (My friends and I joked that maybe The Beatles had hired Johnny Puleo–a harmonica playing entertainer, to play that part!), the trippy ending to “Flying,” and the strange sounding vocal from George on “Blue Jay Way.”
That took care of the soundtrack songs. The fun started with the singles:
“I Am the Walrus” was different!
Can they do that?
“Hello, Goodbye” was amazing because, in stereo, you could hear the fiddle sections!
“Strawberry Fields Forever”–defying logic, sounded even better!
I remember being disappointed that “Penny Lane” wasn’t the radio only promotional single with the piccolo trumpet ending: They switched out “Walrus,” why not “Penny Lane?”
“Magical Mystery Tour” ended with what would eventually be my favorite mix of “All You Need Is Love.” I know that might not satisfy some fans, but that’s where I stand.
Two more comments about the album involve my parents.
The first one involves my mom and “You’re Mother Should Know.”
If she heard me playing it, she would torment me by continuously asking: “What song is it? If I should know it, why don’t you play it and see if I do know it?” Sometimes she would even start suggesting songs.
The memory involving my father had to do with the phrase “pornographic priestess” in “I Am the Walrus.” I felt my dad was pretty smart, so I asked him about it.
He fumbled around a bit and suggested that I look it up in the dictionary–a standard go to line for my father. I already had because I knew he would say that. I didn’t quite catch the meaning of “prurient interest” as an explanation so that’s why I asked him.
I’m not sure if my dad knew the meaning or not, but I didn’t go to him for many explanations after that.
And now on to “Magical Mystery Tour: The Movie.”
It turned out it wasn’t exactly a movie but was more of a TV show. It had such bad reviews in England when it was shown that the American networks had slowed their interest in showing it in the U.S..
I didn’t see it until 1975 or 1976 at a jam packed midnight showing at The Cabaret Theater in Southfield, Michigan. It was a rowdy crowd, and I think that helped it.
I’m not sure exactly what else to say about it, except that I liked it better than “Let It Be.” Recently, I’ve been watching some 60’s movies on Turner Classic Movies that I hadn’t seen yet and I guess I would call “Magical Mystery Tour” a period piece. It certainly wasn’t up to the standards of “A Hard Days Night” or “Help.”
However, having said that, I will also admit that I know I own at least two copies of it.
As usual, through “Magical Mystery Tour,” The Beatles took us on a journey to an unknown destination, and most true fans were going to go along for the ride!
My weekly radio show “Theme Attic,” can be heard Wednesdays, 2P-4P ET!
It almost always includes a weekly countdown of my favorite albums or songs and some shows feature two countdowns!
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