The ideas, it seems, were flowing; with Sgt. Pepper finished but not yet released, today The Beatles started work on the song “Magical Mystery Tour.” According to Steve Turner’s A Hard Day’s Write,

Paul arrived at Abbey Road with studios with nothing more than the song title, the first line and a general idea for the tune. He said he wanted his new song to be like a commercial for the television programme [which he envisioned MMT becoming], letting viewers know what was in store. Mal Evans was dispatched to find some real mystery tour posters from which they could lift phrases but, after visiting coach stations, returned empty-handed. When the backing track had been recorded, Paul asked everyone to shout out words connected with mystery tours which Mal wrote down. They came up with “invitation,” “reservation,” “trip of a lifetime,” and “satisfaction guaranteed,” but it wasn’t enough and so the vocal track was filled with gobbledygook until Paul returned two days later with a completed lyric.

The word “trip” does not actually appear in the finished song, but anyone who was paying attention knew that in 1967 a Magical Mystery Tour was not going to be taken without some pharmaceutical assistance. And anyone who was the least bit hip couldn’t miss Paul’s repeated encouragement to “roll up.” But for some reason this song was never as controversial as, say, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”; maybe because it is just so damn jaunty.

“MMT” walks the line between clever and cutesy but, in my estimation anyway, never quite crosses it. I’d give it a solid A–, with the caveat that it promises — in terms of the album or movie that share its title — something that is not going to be delivered. In describing the actual “mystery tours” he took as a kid, Paul said, “you’d get on a bus, and you didn’t know where you were going, but nearly always it was Blackpool. From Liverpool, it was inevitably Blackpool.” And he should maybe have remembered that before undertaking this whole project. They can promise the moon, but you’re still going to end up in Blackpool.

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