We Are All Together

Magical Mystery Tour

The feeling in the UK in the winter of 66/67 was that the Beatles had split up as they hadn’t released a new album for just a few months and had quit tourung. Consequently George Martin made the mistake of releasing the single Strawberry Fields/Penny Lane in February 1967 to cover the gap, and so scuppered the idea of the new album being a story about Liverpool. Even so by the time Sgt Pepper was released the Beatles had already completed 6 more new songs, had a rough idea for Magical Mystery Tour, and the cartoon film Yellow Submarine in the works. Oh, and they released the single All You Need is Love a month after Sgt. Pepper.

Magical Mystery Tour, which will be an album in the 9/9/9 Remasters, was released in various forms at the time. I was given the UK double EP edition for Christmas, and it had very odd track sequencing, the three psychedelic tracks mixed up with the three “mumsy” tracks. The US album release not only included the recent, wonderful, singles and B-sides, but has a brilliant track sequencing which both make the magical “Mystery Tour” tracks flow and sets up the bonus tracks as musically logical consequences of them. John called it “one of my favourite albums because it is so wierd”. This time the Americans got a better deal and created this canonical version of the album, which my brother bought on import and always put a big sunny smile on our faces.

Opening with the bright and cheery Magical Mystery Tour, which almost made Sgt. Pepper and was consciously made to highlight the upcoming film, this is an amazingly upbeat opening track which, as is common practice on TV today, prefigures the sequences of the story. It only works as a set up though and is, in effect, the film’s overture. Paul’s beautiful Fool On The Hill follows, and was actually filmed separately in the limestone hills near Nice, France. The filming of the Magical Mystery Tour only lasted four days and was undertaken not long after Brian Epstein’s death. This had suddenly left the Beatles on their own and in charge of their own business dealings. Part of the reason for making Magical Mystery Tour was to get them working again. Part of the reason was that they had been dissatisfied with HELP! – “extras in our own movie” as John put it – so they wanted to explore in film the artistic freedom that they had recently gained in music. As Paul put it “after Sgt Pepper we got the freedom to be artists”

Great artists though they were even the Beatles couldn’t pick up film cameras, hire a bunch of actors and set off for four days and make a film to equal Hard Days Night without any preparation or script. Flying was a jam credited to all four of the Beatles and the backing film (!) plays with filters of some shots they took in Iceland. You were either on the Tour, or off it, or both in this case. On Blue Jay Way George sings about waiting for friends to turn up, lyrically a true story. He was waiting for Derek Taylor, lost in the LA Hills, to turn up for dinner, and by time he arrived George had written this. Honestly, so impatient those Beatles!

Paul often talked about how he would have liked to have been a songwriter in the 1920’s and was influenced by his own father’s performances, evident in Your Mother Should Know. My mum loved it straight away and it was an airplay hit at the time. In the film it was a big set piece number and all four Beatles ham it up in white tie and tails, and white everything else. Diverting enough, but sounds very traditional to me, in an English way, just like a nice cuppa tea.

On Anthology Paul defends the film of Magical Mystery Tour on the grounds that it captures their only performance of I Am The Walrus. Having finally seen it in 1979 I think the film is charming enough as a colour film, but I Am The Walrus works in 15.9m shades of colour. For me this is the Beatles magnum opus and captures their musicality, creativity and originality in a driving nonsense tone-poem that re-invents rock n’roll, and much else besides; sarcasm made melody Philip Norman calls it. Yeah I can’t be sensible about it so just enjoy the video; Paul does!

Side Two starts with Hello Goodbye, written by McCartney to show Alistair Taylor that he could write songs out of nothing. I remember it being played as a New Year party song that year, a kind of psychedelic first-footing greeting as people went from house to house. Dressed against the cold by The Fool in their all their Pepper finery, “bloody heavy” Ringo called it, with a rockin single here they are with a enjoyably recognisable video; check the coda…  

Then we let John take us down to Strawberry Fields; Forever. I first heard this on my parents transistor at half-term in February 1967 and I was utterly transfixed by its sound, imagery and setting; I wasn’t sure if I was high or low until Ringo drove us back from wonderland with his relentlessly booming drums; creative brilliance of a collaboratively divine quality. Here is a home made video that captures the lyrics better than the official video; I hope you enjoy both; definitely worth two plays…

The bright and breezy clean machine that is Penny Lane was written by Paul as the empathetic antithesis to Strawberry Fields and it is both a classic pop Number One single, and just as surreal in its imagination. The nostalgic imagery in the video Free As A Bird captures the scouse sense of the lyrics in both Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane far better than the official video at the time. See what you think.

Baby You’re A Rich Man, one of the 6 songs completed even before Sgt. Pepper was released, was explicitly written for Yellow Submarine, although actually rush released as the B-side of All You Need is Love, the worlds first global single. John’s part was typical of the affectionate teasing he subjected Brian Epstein to, and was also a dig at the Beautiful People of the Summer of Love. I heard it on the radio outside in the garden in July 1967 and loved it at once, but always found it hard to get hold of until it was put on the album; fine by me!

And so the third album of the Beatles psychedelic trilogy closes with All You Need is Love, apparently the highlight of Our World, the worlds first global TV programme. I wouldn’t know as it was shown when I was locked up in Boarding School and so missed it! No St Trinians wheezes for us. Nonetheless the perfect anthem for the summer of love, George called it the “theme tune”, and beloved by Beatles fans for its singalong quality ever since. I love John’s zen zapping lyrics; nothing he can think that can’t be sung. Not sure if I can show you the great black and white shot of George Martin at the start when the BBC told him that they had lost the live feed of the playback as EMI and the evil Guy Hands have removed the video. All You Need is Love Guy; think about it on Jersey if you can. 

Bonus Video; Whilst Guy Hands and EMI won’t make All You Need is Love the single available for viewing (I’ve bought it four times already Guy) Channel Four have made available ALL of All You Need Is Love, the 17 programme TV series on the history of Popular Music, which John Lennon asked Tony Palmer to make, for free. A minute of ads precedes each episode, then you get 50-52 minutes of glorious musical history. Takes four months to watch; 


One Response to “We Are All Together”

  1. […] is a YouTube version of this post at A Beatles YouTube Album. View This Pollopinion Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)[M015] Kevin McCraney […]

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