Of course ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ is brilliant but I’m getting ahead of myself. I always get the feeling even just listening to the first six songs here that ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ was very much a Paul idea and that John thought it a monumentally silly project. When the TV movie was premiered Boxing day 1967, the world at large mostly sided with John, critics eager to get their teeth into The Beatles following four years of unparalleled success for the group. Brian Epstein had departed, but that has little to do with the actual record. The actual ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ record was a six song, double 7″ single. An EP, if you will. Capitol records had the idea of adding five Sgt Pepper era single tracks to the six ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ songs, and voila another Beatles album is born to sell to the eager masses. The opening title song is a poor mans ‘Sgt Pepper’ but it’s still pretty good, all told. ‘The Fool On The Hill’ is an interesting little song with some lovely Flute passages. It’s nicely mellow and Paul writes some more than intriguing lyrics here. ‘Flying’ is a semi-instrumental and very psychedelic, also very b-side material. If this had been planned as an album, it’s highly unlikely something as unsubstantial as this would have been considered for inclusion. George writes ‘Blue Jay Way’ and it’s a semi-wonder and the best song on the album so far, to my mind. Very stoned sounding, very psychedelic, very all over the place but enjoyably so! The ‘please don’t be long’ vocal parts are just a joy that send smiles all through me.
It was John Lennon who provided this album’s grandest masterpieces, of course. I only need to name three songs, and you’ll know what I mean. ‘I Am the Walrus’, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and ‘All You Need is Love.’ They are all so great they make me wet my pants! Well, not literally, but it feels like I should be. ‘I Am the Walrus’ has those famously nonsense lyrics and quite possibly the strangest instrumentation in any Beatles song. Lennon was very fond of using tape effects in his songs, and he really went to town there. He thinks of all sorts of weird things to put in that song, and amazingly none of this weirdness detracted from that utterly catchy melody and its driving flow. I listened to that song about a billion times, and I still don’t believe it. ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ is unforgettable hippie classic. The instrumentation isn’t quite as amazing as ‘I Am the Walrus,’ but it’s still unpredictable and seems fresh no matter how much you hear it. And, man! The melody! OH THE MELODY! ‘All You Need is Love’ is probably the grandest love anthem ever written. It’s melodically simple, but it’s still catchy and memorable! I love that it starts with that stodgy British horn theme and ends into a sort of anarchic love fest… That aspect, especially, delights me every time I hear it. What a fantastic song! It’s the sort of thing that I could go off on a fan rant forever, but I don’t because I’m restraining myself.
I can’t forget about Paul’s ‘Penny Lane,’ which is worthy of its reputation of one of the greatest (if not *the* greatest) Brit-pop songs ever recorded. This melody, above all other Paul melodies, is one of his best. That’s really saying something. The instrumentation isn’t nearly as experimental as John’s contributions, but these are still wonderful and contribute to that nostalgic feeling that he was going for. ‘Baby You’re a Rich Man’ is probably the album’s lost gem, so to speak. It gets a bit lost in the shuffle. It has a melody to die for and certain creative touches with the instrumentation. Need I say more?
I did few research on ‘All You Need is Love’ – The song was broadcast to 600 million worldwide as part of a BBC TV special at that time. Each country had something like a five minute segment to fill to represent the nature and character of their particular country. Everybody was listening as the most famous band in the world blow a small camp-fire sing-a-long into the most wonderful sounding song, practically ever. It isn’t quite as good as all that underneath, but yeah, nice stuff and great sentiments, of course