A Not Forgotten article on The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour? I must have flipped my lid right? How can any album release by the biggest act in popular music be forgotten?
Okay, so maybe it hasn’t been forgotten, but it has been massively under appreciated, especially when you compare the avalanche of sycophantic praise heaped upon it’s predecessor. Where I’ve always felt that Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band would have made a great EP, conversely I believe that Magical Mystery Tour (originally released as an EP here in the UK) was only ever complete when the full USA album version was released. Of course it is this version which has been subsequently considered as the definitive release.
In complete contrast to The Beatles’ previous soundtrack / album hybrid (the patchy Help), to me Magical Mystery Tour stands as a solid, well rounded and pleasing listen. That’s quite amazing when you consider that half of it is the soundtrack to The Beatles’ most experimental feature film, and the other half consisted of singles that the band had released in the previous twelve months. It shouldn’t work, it should be messy and undisciplined. But it does work, and it’s infinitely preferable to the over-worked Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which was recorded using the same techniques and at about the same time.
Only two tracks on Magical Mystery Tour dip below all out brilliance. The first of these is the nice, but odd, instrumental “Flying” (The Beatles’ only credit shared equally between the four of them), and Harrison’s “Blue Jay Way”, which just doesn’t seem to go anywhere or do anything. Everything else on Magical Mystery Tour is of the highest quality and as a collection of songs (even though they were never intended to be such) it’s The Beatles at the very height of their creative powers, with the title track and the unstoppably wonderful “I Am The Walrus” vying for the title of the most fun Beatles tune ever.
If The Beatles do have an under-appreciated album release, then Magical Mystery Tour is surely it. It’s one of those albums that allows the listener to dip in and out as they choose, and as such, is an oddly effortless listen. It’s one of the most generous albums in my collection.