In a previous post I gave Five Reasons Why We Should Watch The Magical Mystery Tour. I missed out “idle curiosity”, “I don’t have anything better to do’ and “what’s the worst that could happen?” of course.
So to while away the time between now and the release of the DVD, here are Every Record’s Top Ten Things You Might Not Have Known About The Magical Mystery Tour:
- Paul got the idea from Ken Kesey‘s Merry Pranksters, who drove around the highways of California in a multi-coloured school bus spreading the LSD gospel. Flying home from Los Angeles, he borrowed a scrap of paper from a stewardess and jotted down some lyrics for the title song and some ideas for the film. This was as near to a script as the film got.
- It was not until they were on the coach that most of the actors realised they were expected to improvise.
- It cost £40,000 to make. The BBC paid £9,000 to show it. Peter Brown (Lennon’s best man) said it was awful and wanted to “junk it rather than be embarrassed by it”. But the film grossed $2m from rentals alone and the album $8m in the first ten days of release.
- The lack of a script and experienced director showed and it was savagely criticised by the British TV critics. The Daily Express called it “tasteless nonsense” and went on to say “I cannot ever remember seeing such blatant rubbish”. The Mirror called it “chaotic”, the Mail “a colossal conceit”. Only The Guardian praised it as “a kind of fantasy morality play about the grossness, warmth and stupidity of the (Beatles‘) audience”.
- Part of the reason for the negative reaction was that the film was expensively shot in colour, ignoring the fact that colour TV in Britain was just six months old, and only shown on BBC2. Few households owned a colour TV. The first broadcast was on the Black and White only BBC1, so the film’s visual impact was greatly diminished. In addition, the pre publicity had made most people forget it was an experiment and raised expectations. Paul acknowledged the criticism in The Evening Standard, saying “from the point of view of good Boxing Day entertainment we goofed really”.
- One of the scenes was inspired by a John Lennon dream. Said Paul: “John told me “God, I had the strangest dream”. I said “Come on then, remember it and we’ll film it”. He said “Oh, okay. I was a waiter and I’m shovelling spaghetti on this person”. I said “Fantastic! That’s on!”.
- For the aerial shots in the “Flying” scenes they used outtakes from Dr Strangelove (the film’s producer Dennis O’Dell was working at Apple).
- Despite attempts to keep filming secret, the bus was followed by a procession of carloads of Fleet St reporters plus ten or fifteen fans in their own cars. They caused such traffic chaos that at Teignmouth, Devon the local constable chased them on for disturbing the peace.
- When driving to Widdecombe fair, the bus got stuck on a narrow bridge and had to reverse half a mile. Lennon got so fed up with the traffic jams everywhere they went that he ordered the bus to stop, stormed out of the door and ripped the signs from the sides of the coach in fury. “They should have filmed that” barked road manager Neil Aspinall. Other scenes that didn’t make the film included McCartney meeting up with Spencer Davis in a Perranporth pub and singing at a piano until 2am, George meditating in a corn field, the band looking through telescopes on the lovely Watergate Bay Beach, McCartney cycling on Porth Beach and everyone on the bus crowding into a tiny Taunton fish and chip shop.
- A scene for Fool On The Hill was filmed by McCartney in France. He called Peter Brown who described the phone call: “I’m in Nice” Paul told me “with a camera crew”. “How can you be in France? I have your passport” I said”. It transpired that McCartney bluffed his way through both the English and French borders without a passport…
Record #92: The Beatles – Fool On The Hill
- The Beatles – Hunter Davies
- Can’t Buy Me Love – Jonathan Gould
- Revolution In The Head – Ian McDonald
- Many Years From Now – Barry Miles
- The Love You Make – Peter Brown
- The Complete Beatles Chronicles – Mark Lewisohn
- Shout! – Philip Norman
Images from The Magical Mystery Tour EP (1967). The DVD is released on the 8th October 2012