This was the official publishing date of the third issue of Rolling Stone, with The Beatles again on the cover. The accompanying article is fawning, uncritical PR for Magical Mystery Tour, which in theory sounds very promising:

“Records can’t be seen, so it’s good to have a film vehicle of some sort to go with the new music,” said John Lennon about the Beatle’s [sic] television film, Magical Mystery Tour. As it is, we’ll be seeing both. The film is complete and will be shown in England at Christmas, and in America on NBC-TV in March. In addition Capitol will release a special Magical Mystery Tour LP shortly before Christmas.

Magical Mystery Tour is full of visual and musical fantasy, dream sequences, and the Beatles. “A lot of laughs, some off-beat characters, a few very glamorous girls, a bit of dancing and quite a bit of magic,” is how John describes it.

The plot involves the adventures of a bus load of passengers on a Mystery Tour trip. It has a cast of hundreds, including teams of formation dancers who appear in a spectacular finale. Victor Spinetti, who has appeared in both Beatles films as well as “How I Won the War,” makes a guest appearance as an Army recruiting sergeant. Some of the “off-beat characters and very glamorous girls” are Derek Royle as Tour Courier Jolly Jimmy Johnson, Mandy West as Tour Hostess Wendy Winters, midget actor George Claydon as Little George the Amateur Photographer, heavyweight actress Jessie Robins as Ringo’s Auntie Jessie, and Maggie Wright as Paul’s girlfriend, Maggie the Lovely Starlet. Spencer Davis and Traffic also appear.

The original idea to make a TV film about a bus tour was Paul’s. He thought it up in April while on a week’s vacation in America and started to work on the song “Magical Mystery Tour” on the plane back to London. It clicked with the rest of the group because, says John, “At the beginning of 1967 we realized that we wouldn’t be doing any more concert tours because we couldn’t reproduce on stage the type of music we’d started to record. So if stage shows were to be out we wanted something to replace them. Television was the obvious answer.”

The Beatles also realized that if they were to have exactly what they wanted they would have to do the whole thing themselves: devise the format, write the script, cut, direct, and edit the film.

And here, of course, is where it all went wrong. When The Beatles made records they didn’t “do the whole thing themselves” — they had a whole team of pros captained by the steady hand of George Martin to implement their visions. If only they’d had a George Martin of cinema for this project; if only Stanley Kubrick had been willing to drop what he was doing (2001: A Space Odyssey) and take the helm of Magical Mystery Tour. They might have ended up with something worthwhile instead of the piece of dreck shortly to be loosed on the unwitting British Isles.

The planned NBC broadcast was, I believe, scotched after the scathing response to the UK showing. American audiences would not get to see MMT until years later, and then they would mostly wish they hadn’t.

And again, I hate to keep harping on what a fiasco this was. It brings me no joy. But hype must be answered with truth, even if it takes 50 years to do it. Having now fulfilled my duty, I will get on with the rest of my day.

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