Editing of “Magical Mystery Tour”

September 25 to early December 1967
Timeline More from year 1967
Norman's Film Productions, Old Compton Street, London, UK

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Magical Mystery Tour (TV Special)

1967 • For The Beatles • Directed by The Beatles

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Production of The Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” TV special took place throughout September 1967, with some additional scenes filmed in late October / early November. The first leg of filming occurred from September 11 to 15 in and around Newquay. On September 18, filming resumed with the crew choosing the Raymond Revuebar strip club in London’s Soho district as the location for the day’s shoot. From September 19 to 24, the Beatles relocated to West Malling Air Station in Maidstone, Kent, where they filmed interior and exterior shots for the project.

After two weeks of intense filming, the Beatles had no time for a break as they immediately began the arduous process of editing “Magical Mystery Tour“. Despite initially believing that the editing process would take only a week, it took a total of 11 weeks to complete.

The editing was done by Roy Benson at Norman’s Film Productions on Old Compton Street in London’s Soho. Paul McCartney was present for the entire 11-week editing process, with occasional visits from other members of the group. However, the unclear hierarchy within the Beatles at the time slowed down the work considerably, as different members would often give different orders.

Roy Benson, who had previously worked as an editor on “A Hard Day’s Night,” worked tirelessly to cut down approximately 10 hours of footage to just 52 minutes, resulting in a considerable amount of unused footage. Some of the unused footage was later released for the first time on the 2012 reissue of “Magical Mystery Tour.”

In addition to the editing process, some additional audio recording was done at Norman’s Film Productions, including occasional narration by John Lennon. After the daily edit sessions, which typically lasted from 10 am to 6 pm, the Beatles often went to Abbey Road for recording or mixing sessions for the film’s soundtrack.

Moreover, during the editing process, the Beatles realized that some additional scenes were needed to enhance the film. These scenes were filmed on October 1October 29, October 31, and November 3.

Magical Mystery Tour” was broadcast on Boxing Day on BBC1.

On September 4, NEMS announced that The Beatles would travel to India in early October, to continue studying transcendental meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. But the longer-than-expected editing process meant the trip had to be further postponed. The Beatles eventually travelled to India in February 1968.

Paul took all the developed footage and disappeared into an editing room he’d hired on Old Compton Street to piece it together. Each Beatle had a say about the film, and it was edited and reedited and tinkered with a thousand times. Often it was changed back and forth four times in the same day, with Paul countermanding John’s suggestions of that very morning.

Peter Brown – From “The Love You Make: An Insider’s Story of the Beatles“, 2002

[Roy Benson] and I got our heads together and I said, ‘Well, look, we’ve shot all this, and we’ve got clapper boards on some of it.’ He said, ‘Not on everything?’ I said, ‘No, no. No, some of it we just shot, but I’m sure it synchs.’

Paul McCartney – From “Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now” by Barry Miles, 1997

Originally The Beatles reckoned it wouldn’t take more than a week or so to edit all the film and make up a 60-minute programme. In fact the job took more than SIX WEEKS. Each day you’d find two or more Beatles busy in a tiny editing room in Old Compton Street, Soho. The work began around ten in the morning and they very seldom knocked off before six or seven in the evening.

Editing is something which could have been left to other people but The Beatles wanted to get everything exactly the way it should be and they know it was well worth spending all the time looking at strips of films and joining up all the scenes. All told there must have been TWENTY OR THIRTY HOURS of colour film to plough through!

Mal Evans & Neil Aspinall – From The Beatles Monthly Book, December 1967

When Magical Mystery Tour was finally finished, Paul screened it for everyone at NEMS. The reaction was unanimous: it was awful. It was formless, disconnected, disjointed, and amateurish. I told Paul to junk it. “So what, we lost £40,000,” I said. “Better to junk it than be embarrassed by it.”

But Paul’s ego wouldn’t let him consider this. He was positive that Magical Mystery Tour would be as warmly greeted by the public as all the Beatles products that came before it. Reluctantly, we sold the TV rights to the BBC, who put it on the air on December 26, Boxing Day in England, when millions of Britons were at home celebrating the holidays.

Peter Brown – From “The Love You Make: An Insider’s Story of the Beatles“, 2002

Beatles’ Indian trip postponed till next year

BEATLES’ proposed trip to India to extend their study of transcendental meditation has now been definitely postponed until early next year. And details and dates of their visit will be kept a close secret.

Their press officer Tony Barrow told Disc this week: “The Beatles have been very disturbed by the build-up of world publicity it has attracted. Consequently they intend to keep details to a minimum.”

Reason behind the postponement is that editing and recording of their “Magical Mystery Tour” TV film is taking longer than expected.

From Disc And Music Echo – October 28, 1967
From Disc And Music Echo – October 28, 1967

Mystery of the Beatles’ Tour…

THE Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour television film is, I understand, still not completed… with only five weeks left to Christmas, and neither the BBC nor any of the independent television companies has had a chance to assess its worth.

It is, however, I think, a pretty safe bet to say that on one channel or the other we’ll be getting Beatles on Christmas evening.

A couple of days ago John and Paul explained how the concept of the Magical Mystery Tour had come about. “At the beginning of the year we realised we couldn’t do any more stage shows and we wanted to do something else to replace them,” said Lennon. “Television seemed the obvious answer. We knew most of the scenes we wanted to include, but if somebody wanted to do something extra they went ahead, and if it worked we kept it in.

Said Paul : “As we came close to filming time we all realised that each of us had very specific ideas about the show, and the best way to make sure that our ideas came out as we wanted them was to direct and edit ourselves. So if we’re not satisfied with anything in the finished film we have only ourselves to blame. For the first couple of days when we went out in this big bus full of people we all took things easy, and we let everyone get to know what it was all about. After a while they were as enthusiastic as us. The main thing was to get rid of all the traditional tensions and hangups and to cut through all the red tape.

The music from the film, which is to be released on December 1, on two E.P. records, contains the first-ever purely instrumental recording from the Beatles — Flying. It is also the first song which they have all helped to write.

From London Evening Standard, November 18, 1967
From London Evening Standard, November 18, 1967


The crudely written sign on the door read ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ and from within came the strains of ‘She Loves You’ being played on a barrel-organ. A handful of young girls waiting patiently outside eyed me up and down as I pushed open the door and entered.

The small room was hot and smokey. Long strips of film hung from steel coat racks and dozens of LPs lay scattered around the floor. Empty coffee cups were dotted everywhere with ashtrays spilled over with cigarette butts.

That was the scene last weekend in a small studio in the heart of Soho where the Beatles are at work editing their TV film.

John and Ringo were sitting at a table watching the film through a viewfinder, while Paul was synchronizing the sound of the barrel-organ. George was having a day off work.

Ah, Drummond’s here. Must be time for lunch,” said Paul, switching off the music.

The three Beatles pulled on their jackets, and with road manager bodyguard-friend Mal Evans and Peter Brown (the late Brian Epstein’s personal assistant), we left for a small restaurant about two blocks away.

Anyone walking through Soho following us with a film camera could have made a wonderful short just by filming the expressions of passers-by. Some looked and recognized. Others looked and puzzled. But most just stared. And as we entered the restaurant one middle-aged lady almost choked over her spaghetti.

“You know, it’s just great to be back at work again,” declared Paul as we settled down at our table. “For the past eight weeks we’ve been working regularly – just like people! We start at about eleven every morning. Have an hour for lunch, and finish about seven in the evening. What’s more, we work seven days a week.”

Just last week Peter Brown called George at home and his wife Patti declared quite proudly, “Oh no, George isn’t here. He’s out at work.”

Magical Mystery Tour was the Beatles’ first attempt at editing and directing their own film. […]

From article in New Musical Express – November 25, 1967
From New Musical Express – November 25, 1967

From And Now It’s All This !: She Said She’d Always Been a Dancer: Soho in the 60s (andnowitsallthis.blogspot.com), November 2019:

[…] One of the most memorable Soho characters was Billy Davis, an alcoholic semi-vagrant who had a distinctive line in street performance. He wore thick horn rim glasses and would stick a carnation behind each ear, along with two more in the buttonholes of his threadbare army surplus overcoat. The flowers were sourced from nearby Covent Garden market each morning and they earned him the nickname “Rosie”. Billy’s arrival was typically heralded with plenty of shouting and swearing, so we’d invariably hear him long before he came into view. His party piece involved standing in the middle of the street and, casually indifferent to the traffic chaos building up around him, he would carefully balance a wine bottle on his head while singing ancient music hall songs at the top of his lungs. He’d presumably consumed the entire contents of the bottle beforehand. The spectacle was usually accompanied by the impatient tooting of car horns and the cursing of taxi drivers. Billy’s performance was repeated almost daily around Soho and he would gather crowds of bemused onlookers. Inevitably, he eventually crossed paths with the Beatles.

Working in Soho we’d see famous actors and musicians on the street daily and while it was always a thrill for a lad from the provinces, after a while it became commonplace and a matter of routine.  “Just seen Sean Connery in the sandwich shop on Wardour Street” someone would say, prompting a co-worker to counter with a bored “Really? the Small Faces were in the Gioconda cafe on Denmark Street this morning” and so the game of celebrity Top Trumps would continue.  But I don’t care how blasé or world-weary you are, seeing the Beatles in the flesh is something else entirely. A few yards along from Paxton’s at 76 Old Compton Street, on the second floor above a shop, was Norman’s Film Productions. It was here that the Fab Four came almost every day for eleven weeks in late 1967 to edit their Magical Mystery Tour television movie.

Word started going around that Paul McCartney had been spotted coming and going at Norman’s and, sure enough, a few days later I saw a green Aston Martin DB6 (registration number LLO 840D) coming down Dean Street with Paul at the wheel.  Then, returning from lunch one day, I encountered all four Beatles walking together along Old Compton Street.

They were dressed in their colourful psychedelic finery with neck scarves and beads and George had on a bright yellow Afghan coat.  Chatting and wisecracking among themselves, they were clearly in high spirits. My memory tells me they were walking in single file, like on the Abbey Road sleeve, but that’s probably not true.  As they passed an eatery named The Yodelling Sausage (yes, really) on the corner of Greek Street and Old Compton Street, Lennon became quite animated, laughing and repeating the name in that unmistakable nasal accent.  As for me, I became frozen to the spot. The hysteria of Beatlemania had long since passed and this was Soho, after all, where well-known people were an everyday sight, but here were all four members of the most famous group in the world, casually walking unmolested (and mostly unnoticed) among the shop workers and tourists. It was a truly heart-stopping moment. Then they were gone towards Charing Cross Road and it was back to the workaday drudgery, eccentrics and misfits at Paxton’s.

In November 1967 Norrie Drummond from the New Musical Express interviewed Paul McCartney at Norman’s Film Productions.  The Beatles had encountered Billy by this point and invited him up to the editing suite for a singalong.  Drummond wrote in the NME “As we walked back through Soho, Paul suddenly spotted Billy, an old friend of the boys.  Billy is about sixty and wanders around Soho with a bottle on his head and a carnation behind each ear.  ‘We’d have loved him for the film,’ whispered Paul as he, John, Ringo and Billy broke into a chorus of [Guy Mitchell’s 1956 hit] “Singing The Blues”.  ‘Long live the Beatles!’ shouted Billy as they continued down the street, ‘And the Stones!’” The Beatles took such a shine to Billy that a year later they invited him to Twickenham for the filming of the “Hey Jude” promo clip.  Look out for him standing next to Ringo’s drum kit during the fade out. […]

Stuart Penney – From And Now It’s All This !: She Said She’d Always Been a Dancer: Soho in the 60s (andnowitsallthis.blogspot.com), November 2019
From The Beatles with Bill Davies – The Beatles History (beatles-chronology.ru)
From The Beatles with Bill Davies – The Beatles History (beatles-chronology.ru)

BEATLES enjoy being BEATLES!

The BEATLES on the right seem to be wondering what the BEATLES above are doing. Actually they are working in a film editing room in Soho, cutting their “Magical Mystery Tour” TV film and being cheered by some music by PAUL. And on the left, BILLY, a famous Soho “flower child” (dig the carnations!), dropped in and had a duet with RINGO, to the enjoyment of Beatles’ long-time helper MAL EVANS (right). The picture on the right is how you should have seen them on “Top Of The Pops” last week — in the Cardin suits designed for them by Pierre four years ago. But the film was never shown. Some say the miming was bad on it ; others that the Musicians Union stopped it. Anyway, “Hello Goodbye” is in at No. 3 this week, and that’s what matters, isn’t it ?

From New Musical Express – December 2, 1967
From New Musical Express – December 2, 1967

Last updated on April 25, 2024

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