Magical Mystery Tour is the ninth studio album by The Beatles, released in 1967.
It began as the soundtrack for the film of the same name. This proved problematic, as the Magical Mystery Tour movie only had six songs, too few to make up an album. In the UK, it was decided to release it as a package with two extended play 45 RPM singles, with three songs on each disc. While this was a reasonable solution for the British market, where EPs were common, the EP 45 format had never really taken off in America. Capitol Records dealt with the dilemma by making MMT an album, padding it out by adding five songs that were previously released on singles in 1967, with the film soundtrack being Side One and the singles filling up Side Two (similar to how previous Beatles soundtrack albums were formatted in the UK).note
In a rare case for Beatles releases (and 1960's British music as a whole), the US album has since become the definitive version of the release, owing largely to the greater number of tracks, including two ("Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane") that were originally intended for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band; as British convention in the 1960's dictated that singles were not to be included on any studio albums, the inclusion of past singles on the American release helped made it feel more fleshed out without seeming redundant when put up against the band's UK studio albums.
After years as a popular import in Britain, the American album officially became the canonical version of the project when it was included as part of the 1987 Compact Disc reissue series, which had strictly featured the British studio albums up to that point. It was also the last Beatles album to have different British and American tracklistings. The final compilation album of non-album tracks for the U.S. market would be the Rarities compilation in 1980, which would eventually be superseded in 1988 by the Past Masters compilation.
Unlike the Magical Mystery Tour film, which was heavily criticised upon release, this album was an immediate critical and commercial success. This makes it an example of a Cult Soundtrack more popular than the film itself.
Tracklist (US Version):
- "Magical Mystery Tour" (2:48)
- "The Fool on the Hill" (2:59)
- "Flying" (2:16)
- "Blue Jay Way" (3:54)
- "Your Mother Should Know" (2:33)
- "I Am the Walrus" (4:35)
- "Hello, Goodbye" (3:24)
- "Strawberry Fields Forever" (4:05)
- "Penny Lane" (3:00)
- "Baby, You're a Rich Man" (3:07)
- "All You Need Is Love" (3:57)
Tracklist (UK Version):
Disc One:Side One
- "Magical Mystery Tour" (2:48)
- "Your Mother Should Know" (2:33)
- "I Am The Walrus" (4:35)
Disc Two:Side Three
- "The Fool On The Hill" (3:00)
- "Flying" (2:16)
- "Blue Jay Way" (3:50)
- George Harrison - guitar, backing and lead vocals, organ, harmonica
- John Lennon - lead vocals, guitar, keyboard, piano, mellotron, organ, clavioline, harmonica
- Paul McCartney - lead vocals, bass, piano, mellotron, recorder
- Ringo Starr - drums, percussion
Troping in an English garden, waiting for the sun:
- Alice Allusion: The title of "I Am The Walrus" itself is an Alice Allusion to The Walrus and the Carpenter from Through the Looking Glass, making it an accidental Villain Song, because Lennon wasn't aware that the walrus was the villain in the song. Though he eventually found out about the mistake, he decided against changing it, pointing out that "I Am The Carpenter" would not be quite as catchy a title.
- Animal Motifs: The band members are dressed as a walrus and eggman on the album cover, in reference to "I Am The Walrus".
- Bilingual Bonus: "Hello, Goodbye" ends with chants of the word "Aloha", which means "greetings" in Hawaiian dialect and is used in place of both "hello" and "goodbye".
- Brick Joke: Lennon sings he is the walrus in "I Am The Walrus". Little Nicola (a character from the movie) however claims, according to the booklet of the album, he is not. The answer was finally solved with "Glass Onion" on The White Album, where John sings: "And here's another clue for you all/ the walrus was Paul." In "God" from John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band he again changed the identity, by saying: "I was the walrus. But now I'm John." (In case anyone's wondering, yes, that's Lennon in the walrus costume.)
- Broken Record: "Blue Jay Way" ends with variations of a certain phrase being repeated 18 times. The phrase? "Don't be long."
- Call-and-Response Song: "Baby, You're A Rich Man".
- Call-Back: "I Am The Walrus" has several little ones to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It specifically mentions "Lucy in the sky", a song that, like "I Am The Walrus", takes inspiration from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, a connection strengthened by Lewis Carroll's picture being one of the faces on the Sgt. Pepper cover. Another face is Edgar Allan Poe, who also gets mentioned by name in the song.
- Canon Immigrant: The American version, which added the band's 1967 singles to Side 2 in order to make it a full album, solving the problem the Beatles had with the soundtrack in the first place (there were not enough songs in the movie for an album, and there was almost no incidental music to pad it with). The American version is now the canonical version, so much so that nearly all post-1987 reissues of the albumnote use the American cover art and the disc label on remastered CDs is modeled after the Capitol Records LP label that was in use at the time of the album's original release (rather than the 7" Parlophone Records label seen on the UK release).
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: "The Fool On The Hill" about a strange, reclusive man living on a hill, disliked by the others as being a "fool", yet world wise.
- Concept Album: Sort of. It's the Cult Soundtrack to the film, which has a story, but the songs in themselves don't allude to it that much.
- Continuity Nod:
- "All You Need is Love" they begin singing "She Loves You" as the song fades out. "Yesterday" can also be heard at the end of "All You Need is Love".
- The promotional music video for "Hello Goodbye" was one of these, jumping between the band on stage wearing their early, mop-tops-and-suits look and their colorful Sgt. Pepper uniforms.
- Cult Soundtrack: This album is the soundtrack to the TV movie of the same name.
- Either/Or Title: Some early pressings of "I Am The Walrus" had the secondary title "No You're Not, Said Little Nichola." (Nichola was the little girl John entertained on the bus in the film).
- Everybody Knew Already: "Your Mother Should Know".Let's all get up and dance to a song
That was a hit before your mother was born
Though she was born a long, long time ago
Your mother should know.
- Everything's Better with Penguins: "I Am the Walrus".Elementary penguin singing Hare Krishna
- Face on the Cover: The band, shown from a distance and unrecognisably dressed up.
- Fake-Out Fade-Out:
- Happens during "Strawberry Fields Forever", where the music returns again and John is heard muttering "cranberry sauce".
- "Hello, Goodbye" seems to have ended at one point, then after a brief pause the band jams out and chants something like "hey-la, hey aloha" (since "aloha" famously means "hello" and "goodbye" in Hawaiian, it fits, and the video reinforces this with some hula dancers joining the band).
- Faux Symbolism: Deliberately invoked with "I Am The Walrus," written after John received a letter from a student who attended Lennon's old primary school about an English master there who was forcing his students to analyse the band's Word Salad Lyrics. Upon finishing the song, complete with his classic "first-thing-you-see" lyrics, Lennon turned to his friend and said "let the fuckers work that one out!". The completely random and nonsense line "semolina pilchard" is a reference to semolina pudding and pilchard sardine cans, according to John's childhood friend, Pete Shotton circa 1983. Another interpretation is that it is a Take That! to Moral Guardian Detective Norman Pilcher, who was more fanatical about arresting pop stars on drugs charges than about smaller things like actually following the rule of law, and had arrested both John and George on separate occasions.
- It's also been argued that "I Am The Walrus" is Lennon's response to the death of Brian Epstein; it was the first recording they made after his death, less than ten days before they first went into the studio to make this song.
- The Fool: On The Hill.
- Gratuitous Panning: The album puts almost everything on the left channel, brass on the right channel, and the vocals in the center. The exceptions: "The Fool on the Hill", "Your Mother Should Know", "I Am the Walrus".
- Grief Song: The fade-out of "I Am The Walrus" has lines from a radio broadcast of William Shakespeare's King Lear, where Edgar murders a character named Oswald.
- "I Am" Song/I Am the Noun: "I Am The Walrus".
- I Am Very British: "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" are both about locations in Liverpool.
- "I Am The Walrus"Sitting in an English garden, waiting for the sun
If the sun don't come, you get a tan from standing in the English rain
- "I Am The Walrus"
- Indecipherable Lyrics: There's various overlapping chants towards the end of "I Am the Walrus". A popular interpretation of one of the more audible ones is "everybody smoke pot!", which is close enough since it's actually "Everybody's got one, got one, got one" (the other one is "Oompah oompah stick it up your jumper").
- Instrumental: "Flying". It is the only officially released instrumental in the Beatles catalogue.
- I Will Wait for You: "Blue Jay Way".There's a fog upon L.A.And my friends have lost their wayWe'll be over soon they saidNow they've lost themselves insteadPlease don't be long please don't you be very longPlease don't be long for I may be asleep
- Last Note Nightmare:
- The dissonant swirling effects at the end of "Flying" and "Blue Jay Way".
- "Strawberry Fields Forever" is the canonical example. It fades out with a gorgeous swarmandel before fading back in with a dissonant mellotron, vicious drumming, trumpets that sound like ambulance sirens, and (most disturbingly) John Lennon's slowed-down voice saying "CRANBERRY SAUCE."
- Even worse if you're a little kid and you think it's "I buried Paul." Ever since then, that song's end is the sound of death.
- Location Song: "Penny Lane," a Nostalgia Filter song about a real Liverpudlian street, and "Strawberry Fields Forever," about a foster's home in the same city. John Lennon had fond memories about the location.
- Man of a Thousand Voices: "Talking perfectly loud," according to "The Fool On The Hill."
- Momma's Boy: "Your Mother Should Know."Though she was born a long time agoYour mother should know
- Mundane Horror: "Blue Jay Way" has this feeling. It's simply about George worrying that his friend Derek Taylor and his wife might've gotten lost on their way to visit him on a foggy Los Angeles night, but it's set to a very dark, foreboding melody with lots of unsettling musical flourishes.
- Never Accepted in His Hometown: The fool in "The Fool On The Hill" lives alone on a hill, while the other villagers dislike him and call him a fool.
- New Sound Album: The Beatles at their most psychedelic.
- No Sense of Direction: The narrator's friends in "Blue Jay Way". Truth in Television not only because George based the song on a real incident, but Blue Jay Way is part of the "Bird Streets", a neighborhood in the hills above Hollywood that's locally notorious for having a number of narrow, winding streets jutting in-between ravines, so it would be easy to get lost on a foggy night if you're not familiar with the area, particularly in the pre-GPS/Google Maps era.
- Nostalgia Filter: "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" are both fond memories to a street and a children's institution in Liverpool, named "Strawberry Fields." "Your Mother Should Know" is nostalgic to a song "that was a hit/ before your mother was born."
- Oddball in the Series: The instrumental ditty "Flying", created as Album Filler for the movie soundtrack, is the only song in the Beatles catalogue credited to Lennon-McCartney-Harrison-Starrnote , and the only instrumental they released.note
- Only Sane Man: "The Fool On The Hill" about a man sitting on top of a hill, disliked by everybody, but actually who is actually world wise.And he never listens to themHe knows that they're the foolsBut they don't like himThe fool on the hillSees the sun going downAnd the eyes in his headSee the world spinning around
- People in Rubber Suits
- Perfectly Cromulent Word: As befits its Lewis Carroll inspiration, "I Am The Walrus" includes "crabalocker" and "texpert", plus "snied", an actual but rarely-used English word that can mean "bent upward" or "abounded".
- Please Retain Old Street Name: Penny Lane in Liverpool is named not after the coin but after an 18th-century slave trader of that name. Were it not for the Beatles' song, it would have been renamed years ago.
- The Power of Love: "All You Need Is Love".
- Real Life Writes the Plot: "Penny Lane" was inspired by a real-life street in Liverpool that is now a tourist attraction. "Strawberry Fields" in "Strawberry Fields Forever" is a Salvation Army children's home where Lennon used to play in the garden as a child. "Blue Jay Way" was also inspired by real events. It was written when George was waiting in a house he was renting on Blue Jay Way in Los Angeles for former Beatle PR man Derek Taylor.note
- Recycled Lyrics: "All You Need is Love" has a reprise of "She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah" towards the end.
- Repurposed Pop Song: "Party Seacombe" on George Harrison's later album Wonderwall Music (1968) sounds suspiciously like "Flying".
- The first few seconds of "Strawberry Fields Forever" are made up of flute samples, played on a Mellotron. It was an analogue sampler with different instruments sampled to tape. So when one pushed a key, the tape was played. This made the whole thing huge and as the tapes were being played all the time, it had the tendency to go out of tune after a while.
- "I Am The Walrus" samples a BBC radio production of King Lear.
- Scare Chord: The end of "Strawberry Fields Forever". The song fades out, and after a few seconds comes in a dissonant flute riff, some Scare Chord horns, and someone repeating "Cranberry Sauce" several times into another fade.
- Scatting: "La la la la la la" chanting on the otherwise wordless "Flying" and "Da da da da da da da da da" in "Your Mother Should Now".
- "All You Need Is Love" starts off with the first bars of the French national anthem "La Marseillaise" and ends with musical quotes from Johann Sebastian Bach, Glenn Miller's "In The Mood" and the Beatles own "Yesterday" and "She Loves You". Also heard is "Greensleeves" on strings, but it's kind of hard to make out.
- "I Am The Walrus" is loaded with these. For starters, the title is an Alice Allusion to The Walrus and the Carpenter from Through the Looking Glass. The opening line seems to be a parody of the opening line of the Folk Music standard "Marching to Pretoria" ("I'm with you and you're with me, and so we are all together"). The line about "yellow matter custard" is a reference to a playground nursery rhyme that goes "Yellow matter custard, green slop pie, All mixed together with a dead dog's eye, Slap it on a butty, ten foot thick, Then wash it all down with a cup of cold sick". The repeated use of "I'm crying" seems to be a nod to "Ooo Baby Baby" by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, of all things (Lennon hugely idolized Robinson). Later the song tells us we "should've seen them kicking Edgar Allan Poe". Near the end lines from a BBC audio play performance of King Lear can be heard.
- The phrase "your mother should know" was originally a line in the 1961 film adaptation of the Shelagh Delaney play A Taste of Honey, in reference to coming clean about an unplanned pregnancy. It also calls to mind the band covering the song "A Taste of Honey" on Please Please Me, which was written for the Broadway production of the play.
- Spoken Word in Music: "I Am The Walrus" famously includes snippets from a BBC radio production of King Lear. John Lennon drones out "cranberry sauce" at the end of "Strawberry Fields Forever".
- Step Up to the Microphone: George Harrison sings lead on "Blue Jay Way", which he wrote. This is one of the few Beatles albums where Ringo doesn't get any vocals.
- Stylistic Suck: The intentionally awkward guitar solo in "All You Need Is Love".
- The slightly off sounding "I think I know, I mean, ah yes, but it's all wrong" in "Strawberry Fields Forever".
- Surreal Music Video: "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "I Am The Walrus". Trope Maker. Most other early music videos were simple films of performances.
- Troll: John wrote "I Am the Walrus", thrown together from abandoned song ideas and Lewis Carroll scenes, specifically to mess with people who would pore over his lyrics for hidden meanings.
- Trrrilling Rrrs: Rrroll up, roll up for the "Magical Mystery Tour".
- Truck Driver's Gear Change: "Penny Lane".
- Unbuilt Trope:
- Just as "Tomorrow Never Knows" could be considered a proto-Industrial song, the uptempo sections of "Strawberry Fields Forever" sound like an early attempt at House Music, with Ringo's loud, repetitive syncopated drum beats and the general trippy atmosphere, so much so that Alternative Dance duo Candy Flip had a hit with their 1990 Cover Version and really didn't have to alter the arrangement very much.
- The cover, with the band in their "I Am The Walrus" costumes, spliced onto a colored background, with gaudy fonts ("Beatles" written in stars and "Magical Mystery Tour" in curvy rainbow lettering) almost looks like a modern meme.
- Uncommon Time:
- "Strawberry Fields Forever" is played mostly in 4/4 except for "Nothing to get hung about" in 6/4 and "Strawberry fields for-" in 3/8, with "ever" back in 4/4.
- "All You Need Is Love" alternates between 7/4 during the verses and 4/4 in the chorus.
- Urban Legend: A major "clue" of the "Paul is dead" theory was John supposedly muttering "I buried Paul" near the end of Strawberry Fields Forever, though more sober minds recognized it as "cranberry sauce", a typical Lennon Non Sequitur. The outtake version of the song on The Beatles Anthology featured the full unadorned Ringo drum freakout at the end, and "cranberry sauce" is much more clearly heard there.
- Villain Song: "I Am The Walrus", by accident. John Lennon based the title on the Lewis Carroll poem "The Walrus and the Carpenter", but he didn't know at the time that the walrus was the villain. He went on to say that "I Am the Carpenter" wouldn't be as catchy, however.
- Word Salad Lyrics:
- "I Am The Walrus" was intentionally written to be this, as Lennon got fed up with crazed fans trying to find hidden and far-fetched clues in their music.
- "Baby, You're a Rich Man" is a more low-key, but still perplexing, example.You keep all your money in a big brown bag
Inside a zoo
What a thing to do!
- Your Mom: "Your Mother Should Know" has lyrics that amount to "Let's dance to/sing a really old song. How old? Your mom probably knows it by heart!"
- Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: "Hello, Goodbye".