The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour

December 27, 2006

For how much material The Beatles put out and how much of it was fantastic, it is strangely easy for me to get bored with them. Maybe it’s because the only thing I would listen to for the first seven years of my life was The Beatles. So I got sick of Sgt. Pepper really quickly and I pretty much refuse to listen to that anymore. And I get wrapped up in the various imperfections in the white album and Rubber Soul as much as I like them. It is very hard to ask a Beatles fan what their favorite song is, because they are all so beyond comparisson and so all around great, but if you ask a fan what their favorite album is, well then you might get a straight answer. For me, the two Beatles albums that I can come back to after years and years are Hard Days Night and Magical Mystery Tour, the latter of which is probably the most comforting to me after repeated listens. Magical Mystery Tour is essentially the album of my childhood and it never gets old when I listen to it. In so many words, it is like an old friend who understands you. While Hard Days Night and Sgt. Pepper may speak of more vital and timeless issues like dumbfounded love and everyday life in this world, they hardly speak to issues that the listener can completely relate to. Abbey Road, Rubber Soul, and Magical Mystery Tour can truly do this job, and it just so happens that Magical Mystery Tour is the best of these albums.

Even my favorite Beatles albums have clunkers that end up haunting the overall picture. Abbey Road has Because and Golden Slumbers and Rubber Soul has The Word and Girl. For that reason, those albums, as great as they are, just don’t feel priceless. Magical Mystery Tour, however, has no weak songs. A few that some people may not like, yes, but listeners with open minds will have all eleven songs blow them away. The mood is actually very close to Rubber Soul, in how comforting the songs are and how they relate to peoples everyday lives. Which is odd, because the album cover would suggest exactly the opposite. The album was made as a soundtrack to the bands horrid TV special that no one seems able to remember, so the band obviously got a little silly with this. They dressed up as animals for the colorful cover art, and the drug influence shows here better than ever before, probably the most prominent in the bands entire discography. For that reason a good chunk of the album is surreal and druggy, but there are still wonderful melodies to be heard.

As I said before, I feel that I can truly relate to this album, or maybe it truly relates to me, or something. In many ways, this is the Beatles album for the run-of-the-mill working man, with some problems and some issues. The environment is never obtrusive but on more than one occasion a feeling of angst or depression is let out, and it actually feels great. Mostly because the majority of Beatles songs before this album were so damn poppy. You got the feeling that although songs like Yesterday and I’m A Loser were great and easy to relate to, they were also unrealistic in their poppiness and even a bit annoying in that respect when you are actually going through I hard time. Everyone goes through hard times. I went through hard times. My parents got divorced and I was having a hard time in school. Everyone can relate to this record in some way, I think.

But that doesn’t make the band any less prone to using hilarious irony. For how bleak or mellow some parts of this record are, the starting track is almost a joke or sorts, a call out to customers to “roll up” to a circus that is the bizaare and unexplainable everyday life. This is a sign that the album contains a lot of everything that happens in life. This song is not the only oddity though; there are others, and they are all just as delicious. The peculiar instrumental Flying is the most relaxing thing the band ever did, and you can hear the drugs just spewing from this one. But the song most obviously influenced by psychedelia and maybe even a bit of the far east is Blue Jay Way, the albums Harrison original. My dad always told me that George Harrison wrote the bands absolute best and absolute worst. Best being maybe Here Comes The Sun and worst being something like this. However, I find that this song is, although extremely weird and unaccessible, somewhat fun if you don’t take it too serioulsy. God knows George was my favorite Beatle and I SO wish that he could have produced more work in the context of the band. This is not one of his best, but it is interesting and druggy.

Speaking of druggy, this review can’t ever comfortably come to a close unless I Am The Walrus is given a proper explanation. Although really, the explanation for this is quite simple. DRUGS DRUGS DRUGS. Listening to this one at full blast makes Flying or Blue Jay Way sound tame and almost playful. In no other place does the drug culture and the full realization of the flaws of both liberal and conservative America come into full swing in the Beatles repetoire. And yet, it still makes no fucking sense at all. The hook is fun if not a bit bleak. The lyrics are…uninteligible. Well, you can hear them, but they might as well not even be lyrics because there is close to no obvious construction to them. Everyone has heard it, Paul McCartney screaming that he is not only “The Eggman,” but also “The Walrus.” These whimsical words combined with a meticulously planned instrumentation and a lions share of well placed samples make for the most interesting and interpretable Beatles song ever. Perhaps this was the bands way of saying “fuck off,” because there is no way in hell that the radio took well to this. And yet it’s a great song, but so sorely misunderstood for being a druggy hippie daze when in fact that was clearly the intention and maybe the subject of the songs mockery and shenanigans. Also interesting, people seemed to think that Paul McCartney was dead judging by some of the extremely quiet samples later in the song. Paul is dead? I’m not sure that I have heard weirder.

Although the album, like life, sometimes meanders on the strange stuff, there is a fair share of great accessible pop that marks every Beatles album. The second song The Fool On The Hill is quite a contemplative tune, giving a philisophical edge to the album. People like this exist, and that will come as very obvious after giving the song a good listen. Hello Goodbye is one of the bands best songs ever, and the explosion of an outro is breathtaking, one of the best moments the band has ever had. Two very underrated songs are Baby You’re A Rich Man and You’re Mother Should Know, and they are both very simple tunes for how effective they are. Two other killer tunes are both glances into the past of the members of The Beatles, Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane. They both teeter on the same issues, fond memories of their childhood homes or neighborhoods, but Strawberry Fields is a little more psychedelic while Penny Lane is more reminiscent of the Rubber Soul era.

And the album ends with the Beatles most open and important message yet with “All You Need Is Love.” The title speaks for itself, and the melody is enough to melt your heart. For whatever reason, I find that this Beatles album may damn well be my favorite. This is both a snap into reality and the unreal, with it’s frank commentary on how tough and stressful life can be and also with it’s clear drug influence. This may be the only Beatles album that manages to be dreary while also being abrasive as always. Like all Beatles albums, this is best complemented by more happy albums like Revolver or Rubber Soul, but if you ever feel the need to listen to a Beatles album that gives a bit more of a realistic view on life and isn’t afraid to say some things that can’t be said in the radio friendly pop world, this classic is well worth checking out. It is an album that I love from my childhood and it stands tall alongside other great Beatles classics.

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