The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 5)

I have little use for post-Revolver Beatles. I think Sgt. Pepper’s is massively overrated; the White Album is a bloated mess; Abbey Road’s medley is incredibly annoying; and clearly none of the Beatles wanted to release Let It Be at all. Are there songs post-Revolver that I like? Sure. “Come Together,” “Octopus’s Garden,” “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight” and “Here Comes the Sun” are all keepers. “Let it Be,” “Get Back,” and “Two of Us” are great. You can cobble together a good album out of the White Album’s 30 songs, and “A Day In the Life” is amazing. My favorite Beatles release after 1966 is Magical Mystery Tour, which is admittedly uneven, but the highs are Himalayan in stature and cannot be ignored.

What I Think of This Album

I’m not sure how to describe this Frankensteined album:  it contained six songs from the Magical Mystery Tour movie plus five singles from 1967. Four of the singles and one of the soundtrack songs are INCREDIBLE achievements, with one more song from the soundtrack being a personal favorite as well; the remainder is completely forgettable, though. Six out of eleven is not a strong ratio, but again, these are not your ordinary six songs.

The title track is silly – bearing a strong Sgt. Pepper’s influence but not nearly as annoying. Still, basically this is filler and not a recommended way to start an album. “The Fool On the Hill” is pretty annoying, in almost every way. I definitely want to murder that flautist. Filler is the name of the game with “Flying,” but the tune is somewhat interesting as an instrumental. I have almost no patience for the turgid, seemingly-endless “Blue Jay Way.” So far, not so great for this album, but never fear. The hard part is over. Among the many things I cannot explain is why I like “Your Mother Should Know” so much. It seems dispensable and at worst, cheaply nostalgic, but I still find it incredibly endearing. I think Paul did a great job with this; it is seriously one of my favorite Beatles songs. The lyrics of “I Am the Walrus” floor me every time. “Yellow matter custard / Dripping from a dead dog’s eye / Crabalocker fishwife pornographic priestess / Boy you’ve been a naughty girl / You let your knickers down” plus “expert textpert / choking smokers / Don’t you think the jokers laughs at you” and “elementary penguin / singing Hare Krishna / Man you should’ve seen them kicking Edgar Allan Poe,” with a “semolina pilchard” thrown in, for good measure! Are you kidding me? They could build MFA writing programs around this song. And that’s before we even get to the music. The strings, the backing vocals, the creepy laughter, oh my god. This is a fucking amazing song.

Paul strikes gold again on “Hello Goodbye,” which I think is more complex than some people give it credit for. It’s a very accomplished Tin Pan Alley type of song that does more than just stack opposites; rather, it uses that framework to both describe and simultaneously mask the frustration of romantic incompatibility. The soaring vocal, the counterpoint backing vocals, the coda, the piano part, the ascending guitar line, and the percussion all help make this one of Beatles songs that literally puts a smile on my face. If you don’t like “Strawberry Fields Forever,” you probably enjoy kicking dogs. This is essentially a more commercial “Tomorrow Never Knows” – it employs many of the same tricks but this time they are married to a lovely melody and a more straightforward lyric. The strings are drop dead gorgeous, the horns add color, and the drumming is excellent; the coda is cool, as well. “Penny Lane” is obviously Paul’s response to “Strawberry Fields,” and it is a typically McCartney response: less adventurous and more upbeat, it nonetheless benefits from cinematic, stream-of-consciousness lyrics and a sublime trumpet solo. “Baby You’re a Rich Man” does not deserve to be surrounded by all this greatness; this is really not worth listening to more than once. “All You Need is Love” was purposely universal in sound and message, and it’s really impossible to dislike anything about this song.

The Best Thing About This Album

Sigh. Impossible to choose. I guess the strings on “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Specifically, the cello.

Release Date

November, 1967

The Cover Art

Terrible. Truly hideous. Everything about this cover is wrong.

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