photo & text by nacrowe
lets get something straight: there are no bad BEATLES albums.
that said, the longtime critical knock against MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR (PARLOPHONE, 1967) has been its supposed stylistic and conceptual in-cohesiveness. such criticism is hard to dismiss outright, especially given that its predecessor, SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND (PARLOPHONE, 1967), besides being a cultural milestone and landmark album, is arguably on the short list of greatest concept albums of all-time. if not the greatest. so there is that.
i look at it from a different tack. where critics see in-cohesiveness i see eclecticism. THE BEATLES were constantly attempting to push the boundaries of their work in terms of PRODUCTION, SONG CONSTRUCTION and PRESENTATION. each time they made an artistic breakthrough, such on celebrated releases like RUBBER SOUL (PARLOPHONE, 1965), REVOLVER (PARLOPHONE, 1966) and the aforementioned SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND, the subsequent release was an earnest attempt to break out of expectations both in terms of the public and within themselves. so even SGT. PEPPER'S as an CULTURAL ARTIFACT became a gilded cage of a sort for THE BEATLES.
that is why i totally love the fact that they embraced nonsense on MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR. yes there are poignant INTROSPECTIVE songs with an observational bent like the PAUL MCCARTNEY-penned "PENNY LANE" and "THE FOOL ON THE HILL" tracks, but far and away the most enjoyable are more LEWIS CARROLL-adjacent psychedelic songs like "HELLO GOODBYE," "STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER" (which was a double A-side non-album single with "PENNY LANE" originally but has been included on subsequent rereleases), "BLUE JAY WAY," "MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR" and of course most famously "I AM THE WALRUS." the album is a soundtrack to a television film the band directed about a bus of BRITISH tourists being taken on a tour (presumably in ENGLAND near LIVERPOOL) with fantastical happenings taking place along the way. its a ludicrous premise devised by MCCARTNEY with KENEY KESEY's MERRY PRANKSTERS exploits almost certainly front of mind, but what said premise did was free up the band to essentially create nearly anything on such a broad canvas without worry of it being THE BEATLES. its almost an anti-concept concept album in a sense. further releases, most famously THE BEATLES [WHITE ALBUM] (PARLOPHONE, 1968) had a subtext regarding the fragmentation and ultimately the dissolution of the band. MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR represents the last team effort of sorts, maybe due to the fact of the recent passing of their beloved manager BRIAN EPSTEIN (but who really knows?).
the FREE-ASSOCIATION, CODED NONSENSICALITY of the lyrics may be in part a result of the bands collective embrace of TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION and its focus on settling the mind into a state of restful alertness. its a technique since made famous by famous adopters like DAVID LYNCH, MIA FARROW and even HOWARD STERN who swear by its creative benefits in allowing outside and internal noise to dissipate and allow uninhibited expression to prevail. again, i cant imagine the constraints and pressures of being a member of THE BEATLES, notwithstanding a creative unit that had since lost their leader and primary support system in EPSTEIN.
MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR is one of my favorite BEATLES albums, in part because of its IDIOSYNCRASIES and just plain WEIRDNESS. dont ask me what its about, i couldnt tell you.