Magical Mystery Tour // The Beatles

The album cover for The Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour

Let’s all get up and dance to a song that was a hit before your mother was born.

I have my problems with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I understand its importance in the history of modern pop music. I do love it. But songs like “Fixing A Hole” and “Good Morning Good Morning” dampen the album for me. It’s unfortunate that the Beatles made an album with so many fantastic songs, but had those duds sprinkled in. If only they could release an album that had all the pep and wonder of Sgt. Pepper’s that was filled end-to-end with bangers.

Oh? They did? The same year, you say?

Yeah, baby, I’m talking about Magical Mystery Tour. While it’s hard to call the Beatles underrated1, Magical Mystery Tour is probably one of the albums less frequently touted as a favorite. To me, it rivals Abbey Road, and that’s because every song is incredible.

What was that? “Flying”? “Blue Jay Way”? You hate these songs, you say. You find them boring? Well, let me defend them for you. The first of these two is a smooth instrumental wonder, and instruments come in with a casual precision. They soar over one another, deftly using the stereo methods that the Beatles are renowned for. And “Blue Jay Way”? To me, this is a precursor to some of my favorite albums. It reminds me of The Glow, Pt. 2 and Deathconsciousness, a kind of ominous dirge with backing loops and these drums that approach with impending doom. The warble on Harrison’s voice, the organ, the backing vocals, the oh-so-subtle tambourine!

Magical Mystery Tour has some of the classics on it — “Strawberry Fields Forever,” which had always scared me as a kid with its trippy ending, dynamically relaxes and tightens. “Hello, Goodbye” is one of the Beatles’ greatest songs, and one of my favorites of all time. The rising guitar and the imaginative vocal layering is simply fucking awesome. It rocks!

The Beatles' music video for 'Hello, Goodbye'

This album perfectly toes the line between weird and wonderful. The Beatles seem to be having so much fun on this album, totally goofing around and successfully experimenting with tons of different sounds. Their singing is mature and their songwriting is playful. If I could change anything about this album, I would have loved to hear a Ringo song — I think this would have been the perfect place for him to shine.

Still, I can’t complain. This album has some terrific emotional moments. “The Fool on the Hill” and “Your Mother Should Know” both take me back to my childhood, songs that I practically worshipped. And who could forget “Penny Lane,” whose meaning has been the subject of much debate. Like so many songs by the Beatles, it is purported to have some sinister double meaning, but it’s the discussion, not the meaning, which is the interesting part.

And then, “La Marseillaise.” “All You Need Is Love” is such a sweet, uplifting song2. And the way those strings and horns come in as we hear the word “Yesterday,” reminding us of that other brilliantly sweet song. The way McCartney shouts “Oh, yeah!” reminds me of the Wings’ “Rock Show” off Venus and Mars.

What a delightful album. It demands nothing, and gives everything.

1Though that’s a take I’ll gladly fight on behalf of. Ask me about it.

2Surprising, then, that it was a Lennon track.