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The Beatles Songs: Magical Mystery Tour

The history of this classic Beatles song

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The Beatles Songs: Magical Mystery Tour

Magical Mystery Tour

Written by: John Lennon (40%), Paul McCartney (60%)
(credited to Lennon-McCartney)
Recorded: April 25-27, May 3, November 7, 1967 (Studio 3, Abbey Road Studios, London, England)
Mixed: April 27, May 4, November 6-7, 1967
Length: 2:48
Takes: 9

Musicians:

John Lennon: harmony and backing vocals, acoustic rhythm guitar (1963 Gibson "Super Jumbo" J-200)
Paul McCartney: lead, harmony, and backing vocals, bass guitar (1964 Rickenbacker 4001S), piano (1905 Steinway Vertegrand "Mrs. Mills")
George Harrison: harmony and backing vocals, rhythm guitar (1961 Sonic Blue Fender Stratocaster)
Ringo Starr: drums (Ludwig), tambourine, maracas
Mal Evans: finger cymbals
Neil Aspinall: cowbell
Roy Copestake, Elgar Howarth, David Mason, John Wilbraham: trumpet

Available on: (CDs in bold)
Magical Mystery Tour (UK: Parlophone MMT1 (mono), SMMT1 (stereo) (EP); Capitol MAL 2835 (mono), Capitol SMAL 2835 (stereo); UK: Parlophone CDP 7 48062 2, US: Capitol C1-48062, remastered: Apple/Parlophone 0946 3 82465 2 7)

  • The Beatles 1967-1970, (UK: Apple PCSP 718, US: Apple SKBO 3404, Apple CDP 0777 7 97039 2 0)
  • Reel Music, (UK: Parlophone PCS 7218, US: Capitol SV 12199)

    History:

    • Although the historic Sgt. Pepper sessions had only been completed three weeks earlier, and the album itself was still in its mixing stage, Paul McCartney nevertheless decided on April 25, 1967 to forge ahead with what he hoped would be the band's next concept, a multimedia project called Magical Mystery Tour. Although this title track was conceived as a fanfare, much like Sgt. Pepper's title track, Paul nevertheless began with nothing but a title and three chords -- chords that had the same progression (albeit in a different key) than "Pepper." Enlisting John for help, the two at first enlisted assistant Mal Evans, one of many "Fifth Beatles," to find some circus posters for lyrical inspiration, as John had done with "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" When that fell through, Lennon and McCartney simply came up with their own patter, complete with a carnival-barker style intro by John. Lennon also came through with the song's chorus.
    • On April 25, 1967, the Beatles completed "Magical Mystery Tour" in the studio, rehearsed it, and laid down the basic track with Paul on piano, John and George on guitar, and Ringo on drums. Bass, other percussion, and backing vocals were added the next day. On the 27th, Paul and John laid down their lead harmony vocals. On May 3rd, a brass section was added to strengthen the feel of the fanfare, and there the song sat for four months, when it was revived after the Beatles, lost and aimless after the sudden death of manager Brian Epstein, revived both the song and the project. On November 7, Paul wiped John's spoken intro and replaced it with his own, also adding sound effects of buses which had been prepared back on April 26.

    Trivia:

    • Once again the Beatles experimented with the "varispeed" technique, recording both the backing vocals and trumpet fanfares at a slower speed than the rest of the song and then speeding them up to create the proper psychedelic effect for this "trip." George's electric guitar was also run through the Leslie cabinet of the Hammond organ, a favorite effect of the band.
    • The May 3rd session, at which producer George Martin was not present, went slowly at first, as Paul simply hummed what he wanted to the four trumpeters assembled for the track. Finally, an impatient Elgar Howarth, one of the horn players, simply sat down and wrote out a score, which is the one you hear.
    • The version of this song heard in the actual MMT TV-movie uses John's original vocal intro, as well as some spoken word during the "mystery trip" bridge. The mono version cuts the brass short during the return of the chorus at 1:27.
    • Paul McCartney played this song on his 1993 New World Tour, and it showed up on the tour artifact, the album Paul is Live.
    • The tape effects heard on this track come from the Abbey Road tape library "Volume 36: Traffic Noise Stereo." At 0:50 it is said you can hear the bus begin to skid into a crash, which gave plenty of fuel to Paul is Dead theorists!

    Covered by: Cheap Trick, Ambrosia, Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers, Jon Simon, Don Latarski

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