Best of the Beatles: Magical Mystery Tour

After the Sgt. Pepper poll, it’s time for Magical Mystery Tour!
Despite never quite making the “legendary” group of Beatles albums, Magical Mystery Tour contains some truly ground breaking rock songs. The album was a soundtrack to the corresponding film - a film many people don’t actually know exist, as it has been all but forgotten, especially in America.
The film was based off the idea of “mystery tours” - bus rides where the final destination was unknown. Its filming was very experimental; there was no plot or script, and the whole concept was just to turn the camera on, drive the bus, and see what happened. A combination of poor planning and, well, the film being pretty much incoherent resulted in extremely negative reviews. The soundtrack, however, was well-received. The Rolling Stone review for it consisted of just one sentence, a quote from John Lennon: “There are only about 100 people in the world who understand our music.”
Fun fact: Two songs on the album, “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” were released as a single. Must have been an awesome single, right? Probably preformed well in the charts? Not quite. It was actually the first Beatles single to not reach No. 1 in the UK since “Love Me Do.” This was because it was a double-A sided release, meaning the purchases were divided in two. Even split in half, it managed to reach No. 2 (it was second to “Release Me” by Engelbert Humperdinck).
Let’s vote!

Strawberry Fields Forever is one of the best songs they ever did, easy choice on a pretty weak album.

SFF is one of the best songs anyone has ever done.

This is an almost-classic album. In my opinion it has the most number of great Beatles songs, yet it doesn’t gel as much as the earlier albums. The first two tracks were well placed, but it would have been better if Flying, Blue Jay Way, Your Mother Should Know, and (to a lesser extent) I Am the Walrus were interspersed with the rest of the absolutely amazing tracks that follow them.

For me, there’s a good number of songs here to put into consideration: “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Penny Lane,” “All You Need is Love,” “Hello Goodbye,” “I Am the Walrus.” In my opinion, this is an underrated album. I’m assuming SFF is going to easily win, so I voted for my favorite, “Penny Lane.”

I kind of feel it’s the opposite of Revolver - while Revolver is greater than the sum of its parts (it’s an amazing album, but no one song explains why) Magical Mystery Tour manages to have “Strawberry Fields,” “Penny Lane,” and “All You Need is Love” (three of my favorite Beatles songs, or even just songs, period) and be lukewarm.

I’m not counting “Strawberry” or “Penny,”, recorded about year before this disc was released… So that leaves “Baby You’re a Rich Man”!

(“Walrus” is awesome, too. That BBC Shakespeare was so fortuitous.)

Flying and Blue Jay Way are the only two I’m not interested in. The rest are all solid songs.

SFF is the greatest Beatles song though, so the voting here wasn’t hard for me. Remove that song from the album, and I’d’ve had a harder time picking.

As much as I’m a big fan of John Lennon, Penny Lane is McCartney at his best, so that gets my vote. Also love the title song.

Gotta go with the title track. It’s an invitation to make a reservation.

Another no-brainer for me. Fool On The Hill has been my favorite MMT track since 1967.

The “best” track on the album IMO is I Am The Waitress.

I had never understood the lyrics to “Baby You’re a Rich Man,” but recently I read that it was about people born into wealth (“rich men”) who became hippies (“beautiful people”) and wanted to look less privileged. The whole “big brown bag inside a zoo” is still gibberish to me, though. I’d guess “drugs”.

Also, I’m surprised at the lack of votes for “All You Need is Love”. For me, it tied with “Penny” for second place - it’s the perfect example of how Lennon could make an incredible song out of two or three notes, just using rhythm.

I do not consider this a truly canonical album, as it was not originally released in Britain in this form. Magical Mystery Tour was released as a double EP of songs that were used for the (execrable) Magical Mystery Tour TV Special (the TV show was awful, but the songs were well up to standard). For the US market these songs were released as the first side of an album, with the second side filled up with songs that had been previously released as singles and B sides, and whose original single releases had already been major media events. (Well, “Hello, Goodbye” may have been released as a single roughly simultaneously, but all the others were from several months earlier, and had already been major hits.) The album version was not released in the UK until many years later.

The best song that really belongs to Magical Mystery Tour is undoubtedly “I Am the Walrus”, but it is overshadowed by the content from what was almost certainly their strongest ever single release, from almost a year earlier, the double-A-side of “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” (both recorded during the Sgt. Pepper sessions, but released well before even that album was, let alone Magical Mystery Tour).

I find it truly hard to choose between “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields” (and I rather regret not being able to give a vote to “I Am the Walrus” too). I think I actually like the sunny and beautifully produced “Penny Lane” better, but I am voting for “Strawberry Fields” on account of its more innovative sound, greater emotional depth, and the sheer strangeness of its melody. (ho else but Lennon could have got away with a whole line of a song being on a single note?)

I really couldn’t vote for any on this album. Both Walrus and Strawberry Fields strike me as grossly over produced. Actually, a lot of his album were the boys seeing how far they could go in a studio and in post. On the other hand, Sgt P was recorded on two 4 track machines ping-ponging each other. If they produced Walrus and SF on the same equipment, they could serve as the curriculum for a class in “Recording Engineering”.

In the form found here (never heard the EP) this album doesn’t really get going for me until “Walrus”.

I ended up taking going with the herd and selected “Strawberry Fields Forever” but I have to admit “Baby You’re a Rich Man” has grown on me over the years. “Penny Lane” is great too. Most of the rest I can live without.

One of my fave Fabs albums. I went with Strawberry Fields Forever with Magical Mystery Tour being my second choice, Penny Lane three and I Am The Walrus number four. The whole album is strong. The only thing I don’t like is the end of Baby You’re A Rich Man with the anti-Semitic and homophobic slur.

They did produce those songs on the same equipment. The Beatles didn’t have access to an eight-track recorder until they went to Trident Studios to record “Hey Jude” in 1968.

Has this ever been confirmed? I think maybe Lennon once said to someone that this lyric change had occurred to him as a funny little thought, but he never actually sang it.

But if that’s still reason enough for you to dislike the song, I understand. (But perhaps your criticism would be softened a little by remembering the thought was directed at a particular wealthy homosexual Jewish man, one who probably made an uncomfortable advance at Lennon during a vacation in Spain a few years before.)

I’m not trying to excuse Lennon’s well documented nasty streak, though.

I voted for Fool on the Hill. Going to have to be the odd man out, and say I really enjoy this album as a set. It was one of the first CDs I ever bought, and it got a lot of play when I was a bit…mellow.

Care to explain this?