The Beatles: Magical Mystery Tour

Magical Mystery Tour.jpg

There’s nothing that I can say about Magical Mystery Tour that someone else hasn’t said already since it was released 50 years ago on November 27, 1967. It is surprising to me, though, that I haven’t seen any fiftieth-anniversary retrospectives published online so far. Maybe I’m just not looking in the right places.

I just listened to the album front-to-back again (for the first time in a while) and it is such a dynamite half-hour that straddles the line between bubblegum and psychedelic pop. It was one of the first LPs by The Beatles that I latched onto as an entire album as opposed to an album I’d listen to primarily for the singles, ironically, since the US release was really something of a compilation of a six-song UK EP release and some non-album singles from the same year.

I remember hearing parts of it growing up – my older brother was heavily into The Beatles’ psychedelic period – and being unclear as to the thrust of some of the songs. The intent behind lyrics like, “Let me take you down,” was lost on my pre-teen ears – in my literal-minded youth I pictured someone being taken down off a hook or a shelf. As I got older, the album didn’t lose any of its enjoyablity, but obviously the meanings changed.

Magical Mystery Tour works well as a singular cohesive work of art, despite being cobbled together from an EP and some singles. The title track ties in perfectly with the Side 2 single “Strawberry Fields Forever.” “The Fool On The Hill” provides a counterpoint to “Baby You’re A Rich Man.” And the yin of George Harrison‘s slightly sinister and ominous “Blue Jay Way” finds its yang in John Lennon‘s album-closer “All You Need Is Love.” George Martin‘s production is a common thread throughout, tying it all together.

This is still one of my favorite Beatles albums. With only a couple of exceptions, it is a whole album of highlights, one fantastic song after another. And even those exceptions (“The Fool On The Hill” which comes off as pious and unnecessarily somber and “Baby You’re A Rich Man” which sounds like the b-side to a single – and it was) are still good songs and key to the overall Beatles catalog; they’re just the least outstanding songs on the album. Others will no doubt have their own opinions.

For me, the standouts on the record are a pair of Paul McCartney numbers- “Your Mother Should Know” and “Penny Lane” – that seem very much in the vein of a couple of Kinks songs from earlier the same year, “Waterloo Sunset” and “Afternoon Tea,” which took the same approach to a sort of wistful recollection of simpler times. Despite all the psychedelia of magic and mysteries, strawberries and walruses, it’s these two songs (and, to a lesser extent, “All You Need Is Love) that tie the album to a sober reality of pleasant pasts and brighter futures.

 

One thought on “The Beatles: Magical Mystery Tour

  1. This is a Beatles album that does not get mentioned by most people in their top 5 but its as good as anything they put out. It’s really like extras from Sgt. Peppers, which is ok. Almost every song is great, for me Flying and Blue Jay Way is not my cup of tea. I Am the Walrus and Strawberry Fields Forever may be in my Beatles top 10. One of my favorite lyrics is, “Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see.” I love “Baby You’re a Rich Man” as well. Last of the really psychedelic Beatles before they rock hard on the White Album unless you want to count a few tunes on Yellow Submarine.

    Liked by 1 person

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