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Second half of April 1967

Alistair Taylor investigates the opportunity for a “Magical Mystery Tour”

Last updated on October 27, 2023


  • Location: Eastbourne, UK


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Though the recording of the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album was still in progress, Paul decided to take a ten-day break from April 3 to April 12, 1967. He travelled to the United States to surprise his girlfriend, Jane Asher, on her 21st birthday. At the time, Jane was touring the US with the Old Vic Company, performing in the classic play, Romeo and Juliet.

During his return flight, Paul asked a flight attendant for a notepad and proceeded to write the lyrics for the song “Magical Mystery Tour.” Additionally, he drafted a preliminary plan for the film, using a circle divided into eight segments to represent the 60-minute duration of a television special.

Visiting America for the 21st birthday of his long term girlfriend, actress Jane Asher who was working over there in the spring of 1967, Paul had been impressed by a West Coast company of hippy entertainers, the Merry Pranksters, whose outrageously experimental performance fired his enthusiasm for developing Magical Mystery Tour. On the homeward flight from the US, Paul wrote most of the show’s title song. What would remain undecided for some months was whether The Beatles should aim for a full-blown theatrical film release or, more cautiously, a television special.

Tony Barrow – From “The Making of The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour” by Tony Barrow, 1999

Upon arriving back in London, Paul tasked The Beatles’ assistant, Alistair Taylor, with investigating whether coach companies still offered mystery tours. Alistair not only confirmed their existence but also booked a bus for the “Magical Mystery Tour.” However, the tour was not set to begin until September 11th.

The next topic was the Magical Mystery Tour film, which on paper sounded original and creative and all those artistic things, but which looked as if it might turn out to be a nightmare. Alistair Taylor was sent off to hire a sixty-seater coach for the Mystery Tour. […]

Tony Bramwell – From “Magical Mystery Tours: My Life with the Beatles“, 2005

In fact, my involvement began with a phone call from Paul one evening in April 1967. This was not uncommon but, on this occasion, Paul was particularly excited. “Come on over to Cavendish Avenue,” he said. “I’ve had this great idea and need your help.”

When I arrived, Paul was stretched out on the floor. He was surrounded by several large sheets of paper. On one he had drawn a large circle which he had subdivided into segments. It looked like a bird’s eye view of a cake. My curiosity was aroused. “Al, can you remember mystery tours?” he asked.

My mind went back to childhood holidays by the seaside and the coach trips to unknown destinations – mystery tours. Paul continued. “Can you find out if they still do them? Take Lesley and see what you can find out.”

“Why?” I asked.

Paul began to tell me that the boys intended making another film which would be based upon a coach trip. However, instead of a courier pointing out the sights, the castles and the tourist attractions, something magical would happen – it would be a MAGICAL mystery tour. He showed me the large sheet of paper with the segments, each segment being an adventure. It was very exciting!

A few days later I took off with my wife, Lesley, for our favourite resort, Eastbourne, on England’s south coast. It was a good excuse to get away for a few days and when I returned I was able to tell Paul that mystery tours were alive and well and very popular. “Great!” he said. “Now find me a really brightly coloured coach.” So, the following weekend, we trooped off to Eastbourne amidst some of the heaviest rain I have ever seen.

The weather was atrocious. The rain was made worse by high winds which turned the sea into huge, churning waves which crashed against the sea walls. We stayed in the hotel on Sunday morning watching the weather worsen and we decided on an early lunch. I was tucking into roast beef and two veg when a coach pulled into the hotel car park.

I leapt to my feet and began yelling “I’ve found it! I’ve found it!” before dashing out into the driving rain, leaving Lesley looking bemused. stood on the car park, getting drenched, staring at this acid yellow and vicious blue coach. It was perfect.

During the coming months I was kept busy preparing for filming which began on 11 September. […]

Alistair Taylor – From “The Making of The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour” by Tony Barrow, 1999

Paul rang me one day and asked me to come round to Cavendish Avenue. He said, ‘I’ve had this idea. Do they still do mystery tours on buses.’ I had no idea but I was prepared to find out. Paul had this happy memory from somewhere of getting on a coach and paying five bob and being taken off who knows where. At Paul’s request, I took Lesley down to the seaside for a week to investigate whether they still existed. Paul’s idea for MMT was to have a coach trip complete with courier saying, ‘If you look out to your left you will see such and such a castle and so on.’ Paul thought this would be a great starting point for something magical then to happen. ‘And we will be the four magicians creating all this.’

I thought it was a fantastic idea, I genuinely loved it. So Lesley and I went off to Eastbourne. I loved the place and always used it as my bolt-hole. If ever life got a bit too hectic, Lesley and I would go off for a few days to the Queen’s Hotel in Eastbourne and it was the one place I never gave Brian the number.

This time it was a Sunday and, just our luck, the rain was bucketing down. I happened to glance out of the window at a fairly empty car park and in pulled this gaudily coloured bus. It was bright and packed with people and it looked elderly with a sort of faded style, just as Paul had described to me. It was citrus yellow and hideous blue. I just dropped my knife and fork and shouted, ‘I’ve found it.’ Lesley knew what I meant and sighed as I went running out into the pouring rain and jumped straight on the bus. ‘Do you hire this bus out?’ I blurted to the astonished driver. ‘Yes,’ he said as if he was speaking to someone so stupid he didn’t know what function buses had in the scheme of things. I was so excited I ignored the sarcasm and got a card with the operator’s name, address and telephone number. The coach was owned by a firm called Fox’s of Hayes.

The following day, I rushed back to London with the good news for Paul and we hired the bus. At that stage, this was just one of those mad McCartney schemes. He hadn’t even told the other boys what he was planning.

Alistair Taylor – From “With The Beatles“, 2011

Flying home to London (Tuesday April 11) Paul worked on the first words for a “Magical Mystery Tour” song. On the plane he borrowed a pad of paper from the stewardess and drew a big circle, dividing it up into sections. The circle represented 60 minutes, the sections were marked off into bits for songs and sketches. When we got home this was the sheet of paper Paul used to describe to the others what he had in mind. There were lots of sections of the circle left blank. The others threw in extra ideas and, one by one, the blank sections were filled until The Beatles decided they had the makings of a 60-minute TV programme.

In the Bag O’ Nails discotheque club one night towards the end of April we (Neil and Mal!) were brought into the group’s discussions on possible items for the “Coach Show”. Basically it was agreed that the plan should be “all-inclusive, non-exclusive”. This meant trying to fit into the show something for everyone, as wide a variety as possible.

On April 25 the backing track for the song “Magical Mystery Tour” was recorded. Two nights later voices were added and on May 3 trumpet accompaniment was put on.


From The Beatles Monthly Book, December 1967

Going further

The Beatles Diary Volume 1: The Beatles Years

"With greatly expanded text, this is the most revealing and frank personal 30-year chronicle of the group ever written. Insider Barry Miles covers the Beatles story from childhood to the break-up of the group."

We owe a lot to Barry Miles for the creation of those pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - a day to day chronology of what happened to the four Beatles during the Beatles years!

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