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Thursday, December 21, 1967

The Beatles host a “Magical Mystery Tour” dress party

Last updated on May 5, 2024


Location

Westbourne Suite, Royal Lancaster Hotel, Bayswater Road, London, UK

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On this day, to celebrate the completion of the “Magical Mystery Tour” TV special and in anticipation of its broadcast on December 26, 1967, The Beatles hosted a dress party turned into a Christmas party. Paul McCartney and Jane Asher arrived in costumes as the Cockney Pearly King and Queen.


I was instructed by the boys to organise a party for everyone who had anything to do with it. That turned out to be quite a do. It was at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in Bayswater Road and, as it was heading towards Christmas, they decided to turn it into the Christmas party for all the Apple employees. That meant more work. Then John rang. ‘Al,’ he said. ‘We’re making it fancy dress.’ Great, I thought. I hope that’s the end of the instructions. The invitation list seemed to get longer and longer. […] I sat on Paul’s table with Jane and her parents. […]

Alistair Taylor – From “With The Beatles“, 2011

When filming eventually ended I thought it was back to normality or what passed for normality in 1967. Wrong! One morning, late in November, John, Paul, George and Ringo strode into my office. They sat on any available surface. They were grinning.

John was the first to speak.

“Al, how about making The Beatles’ Christmas Party a Magical Mystery Tour Party?”

“Great idea,” I said as I tore up the plans for the original party. I expanded the guest list and chose a larger venue and things were falling into place.

Two days later, The Beatles trooped into my office. Once again they were grinning.

This time it was Paul who spoke.

“AI, we have been talking. The Christmas Party. We’ve decided to include all of the people at Apple. Is it a problem?”

“No,” I said, trying to sound casual.

We now had “The Beatles and Apple Magical Mystery Tour Christmas Party”. I was just wondering how to fit that little lot onto the invitations when George said, “in fancy dress.”

I laughed loud and long before I realised that they were serious!

I hired a huge suite at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in Bayswater and it turned out to be a fantastic evening. I went dressed as a matador and Lesley as a Peruvian Princess. Paul and Jane Asher arrived dressed as Pearly King and Queen. And Lennon? He turned up dressed as a rocker, what else? We had a great, great time celebrating. […]

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

It was a fantastic night. I went as a Spanish matador, Lesley, my wife, went as a Peruvian princess. Paul and Jane went as Pearly Kings and Queens. John went as a Teddy Boy.

Alistair Taylor– From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman, 2008

I had originally planned to turn up as a Musketeer, but, at the last minute, John suddenly exclaimed, ‘Let’s go as Teddy Boys, and dress the way we always wished we could when we were at school. Let’s do it properly this time.’ We both made a terrific impression at the party, but were nonetheless eclipsed by such inspired impersonations as Peter Brown’s periwigged King Louis XIV of France, and Apple press officer Derek Taylor’s, Nazi-uniformed, Hitler. Cilla Black and her husband, Bobby Willis, came as, respectively, a Cockney labourer, and a Nun. However, Freddie Lennon, who appeared as a trash collector, achieved the most realistic impression of all.

Pete Shotton – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman, 2008

The “Magical Mystery Tour” premiere was celebrated with a fancy Ball Masque at “The Royal Lancaster Hotel”. The whole film crew and all the Beatles’ friends and usual assistants, including “The Fool” and Graham Nash were invited. Seated around large cloth covered tables bordering a spacious dance floor, the “Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band” (whose song was featured in the movie) played on stage. Everyone had rented costumes from a theatrical wardrobe warehouse. John was a Teddy Boy with pomaded quoif, George a cavalier a la d’Artagnan, Ringo a Regency dandy and Paul a Cockney Pearl King in suit and cap completely covered in mother of pearl buttons. Simon wore a star spangled magician’s cape and Yosha and Barry had gorgeous Chinese empiric outfits. I wore a sky blue organza Cinderella fairy gown and Graham Nash was a Renaissance Prince including an elaborate chaperon with liripipe. We were served great food and drinks and danced the night away until my beads fell off, scattering all over the dance floor early in the morning…

Marijke Koger – From 10. MEET THE BEATLES – (marijkekogerart.com)

On December 21, 1967, Mike was already in London prior to this event at the Westbourne Suite in the Royal Lancaster Hotel, and as Jim didn’t feel well enough to travel, Angie McGear and I took the train from Lime Street to Euston, where Mike picked us up and took us to our hotel. It was a costume party and he had rented outfits for us both. Mine was an Eastern Princess, complete with lots of veil-y things, voluminous pants, beaded headdress and curly slippers. The top half was a little snug on me, so I wore it back to front with a blouse underneath and left it open.

On arrival we saw various incarnations of Charlie Chaplin; Ringo was a Regency Gent, Maureen an Indian Princess; John was an Elvis-styled teddy boy with Cynthia as a “Quality Street Chocolate Box” crinoline lady; Paul and Jane Asher were a matched pair of Pearly King and Pearly Queen; George showed up as an Errol Flynn type character with Pattie as an Eastern Princess too! Cilla Black’s husband Bobby Willis was a nun in full habit, and the hit of the night was Derek Taylor as Adolf Hitler. He had rented a perfect SS uniform, right down to the jackboots, and had dyed his hair jet black and slicked it down in the appropriate style. He had, of course, shaved his moustache to the regulation square.

As the night wore on and we all became increasingly hammered, Derek sent over a note inviting me to his room, saying, “I know I ain’t no Robert Taylor, but then you’re no f***ing Claudette Colbert, but do you want to get together later?” I resolutely declined his invitation, but later he wandered over and said “Sorry about that. I’ll buy you breakfast on the train back tomorrow morning.” […]

Angie McCartney – Step-mother of Paul McCartney – From “Angie McCartney: My Long and Winding Road“, 2013

From The Beatles throw a Magical Mystery Party to celebrate the launch of… Photo d’actualité – Getty Images – The Beatles throw a Magical Mystery Party to celebrate the launch of their new film ‘The Magical Mystery Tour’. They turned up in fancy dress. From left to right: Maureen Starr, Ringo, John Lennon (1940 – 1980), Paul McCartney and Jane Asher. (Photo by Ian Tyas/Getty Images)
From Beatles Archive on Twitter: “The Magical Mystery Tour Launch Party, London, December 1967 The #Beatles via @ToursBeatles https://t.co/2jEgmbPKVb” / Twitter

BEATLES HOST CHRISTMAS PARTIES

The Beatles invited Fan Club Area Secretaries from all over the U.K. to London on December 17. Forty secretaries plus their guests travelled to the capital — all expenses paid — and saw a preview colour screening of “Magical Mystery Tour”. Afterwards they chatted with John and George over tea before seeing “The Beatles at Shea Stadium”. Ringo was still in Rome filming “Candy” and Paul was up in Scotland so both missed the get-together. A few days later the Beatles again played hosts to over 200 guests at a “Magical Mystery Tour” Christmas Dinner Party held at the Royal Lancaster Hotel, London. The cast and production team of the T.V. film, plus the entire staff of Nems Enterprises were amongst those invited. Everybody wore fancy dress for the occasion.

From The Beatles Monthly Book – January 1968
From The Beatles Monthly Book – January 1968

BEATLES HAVE A BALL IN FANCY DRESS

A couple of hundred invitations went out a few days beforehand. They didn’t give much away. Just that something to do with “Magical Mystery Tour” was due to happen on the evening of Thursday December 21 in the Westbourne Suite of the Royal Lancaster Hotel, the plushy new place opened just recently by the Rank Organisation on Bayswater-road, London W.2. Not too far from the H.Q. of The Beatles Monthly Book, in fact. “Fancy Dress” said the cards.

It turned out to be the biggest-ever Beatle Party, a shindig to be remembered. The Beatles invited the entire cast of “Magical Mystery Tour”, all the “backroom boys” who had worked the lights and the cameras for them, the staff of NEMS, the staff of Apple plus a few carefully selected buddies, pals and mates. Not to mention relatives. People began to arrive soon after half past seven.

Even before things got under way guests were greeted by decorations which were, in themselves, breathtaking. Imitation trees with scores of colourful balloons “blossoming” from their branches were “planted” all round the enormous room. Clever lighting helped to make everything look even more splendid.

Then, while people picked up their first drinks, there was the fun of finding out who had dressed up as what. There were cow-boys galore, a heavily bearded Mystic, some lovely Eastern beauties, Cilla Black dressed as Charlie Chaplin and her boyfriend (Bobby Willis) looking very much like a nun. There was little Lulu dressed as a Little Girl with a wig styled in cute ringlets (looking very much like the wig she wore on the final “Juke Box Jury” programme on telly the following Wednesday!).

PAUL AND JANE FANCIED THE ROLES OF PEARLY KING AND QUEEN. RINGO CAME AS A REGENCY BUCK BUT SOME OF THE NEWSPAPERS DECIDED TO DESCRIBE HIS OUTFIT AS A “RINGMASTER’S COSTUME”. MAUREEN WAS A TINY RED INDIAN PRINCESS WEARING HEAP SHORT MINI-SKIRT! JOHN LOOKED LIKE ONE OF HIS OWN EARLY PHOTOGRAPHS — REMEMBER THE LEATHERY PICTURES OF HIM TAKEN SEVEN YEARS AGO IN HAMBURG AND AT THE CAVERN? HE CURLED HIS HAIR INTO A BIT OF A WAVE ABOVE THE FOREHEAD AND LOOKED LIKE EARLY-VINTAGE ROCKER LENNON! CYNTHIA LOOKED MARVELLOUS (AS ALWAYS) IN A FULL AND FLOWING LILAC DRESS AND BIG FEATHERED HAT. I’M NO GOOD AT PLACING PERIOD COSTUME AND TWO DIFFERENT “EXPERTS” CLAIM SHE WAS FROM THE VICTORIAN AND EDWARDIAN ERAS. ANYWAY SHE LOOKED MARVELLOUS! GEORGE AND PATTIE ARRIVED A BIT LATE—BY WHICH TIME THE NEWSPAPERS HAD TAKEN THEIR ARRIVAL-TYPE PHOTOGRAPHS AND GONE TO PRESS. SO A COUPLE OF REPORTS SAID THE HARRISONS WERE MISSING. NOT SO! GEORGE LOOKED ELEGANTLY HEROIC IN A SORT OF ERROL FLYNN OUTFIT, COMPLETE WITH CAVALIER’S TIGHTS AND GLEAMING SWORD. PATTIE LOOKED PERFECT DRESSED AS AN EASTERN PRINCESS.

Shortly before nine everbody was invited to take seats for dinner. What a splendid – feast THAT proved to be — full-scale Christmas Dinner with turkey and Christmas pud!

After the eating came the entertainment. Certainly no shortage of THAT! Music For Dancing was provided by The Chasers, The Symbols and The Dave Bartram Quintet. Music For Eating had been supplied by a small Palm Court Orchestra!

A special surprise came when The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band took to the stage to begin one of their hilarious sessions. A second surprise (for The Bonzo Band as well as the guests!) came when various unbilled performers joned in the musical entertainment! These included Mr. Freddie Lennon, John’s father, who was (and probably still is) staying with him out at Weybridge. And there were Beach Boys Mike and Bruce who had just flown in from Paris to become very welcome last-minute guests.

Any good Magical Mystery Party should have a Father Christmas. The Father Christmas who dished out bars of chocolate and similar goodies at this particular function looked suspiciously like Robert Morley. Indeed as soon as he began to speak we realised that it WAS Robert Morley.

The most unusual part of the night’s music came a little later on — after we’d all watched the “Magical Mystery Tour” film in colour on a large screen. A folk group called The McPeake Family was announced. There was quite a fittie story behind their appearance at the party. Apparently John and Paul had seen The McPeake Family on telly a few weeks earlier and been extremely impressed. John was so keen on the group’s “fairy music” that he wanted one of their pipes. So Alistair Taylor, General Manager of the Apple organisation, traced the Family in the North of England where they were preparing to head home to Belfast. Instead they postponed cheir return trip and came to London.

Their delicate playing and full-of-feeling singing impressed everybody at the party. When they’d finished Paul and Jane spent ages chatting to the Family — to father (Francis), son (also Francis) and daughter (Kathleen). Now and again the Family’s 84-year-old grandfather travels and performs with them but he had not accompanied them to London. The McPeake Family have performed all over the place — from Russia to America — winning something like 16 awards at top international music festivals. I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear more of them. Certainly we shall if The Beatles have their way!

By now it was well after midnight and the party took on a definite discotheque atmosphere. People started to get their second wind, so to speak. The beat grew boider, the singing sounded soulier and the floor filled up with two hundred curiously costumed merrymakers fully prepared to make a night of it!

The hosts of the Magical Mystery Party stayed right until the end. Amongst the very last to leave were Paul and Jane plus Ringo and Maureen. A thousand Christmas greetings must have been exchanged across that crowded reom in the last half hour – to the accompaniment of clinking glasses and bursting balloons.

A terrific success! A truly enjoyable party! A friendly thought on the part of The Beatles to gather together so many mates and business associates for such a fine Christmas celebration! It was thoroughly appreciated.

And talking of appreciation I must add a few words of special thanks to a party guest who combined work with his pleasure that night at the Royal Lancaster. I’m thinking of photographer John Kelly who took the party pictures you can see in this issue and gave us all some great souvenirs with which to recall a very pleasant occasion.

From the Beatles Monthly Book, N°55, February 1968
From the Beatles Monthly Book, N°55, February 1968
From the Beatles Monthly Book, N°55, February 1968

During the Christmas holidays, the Beatles threw a fancy dress party to launch their MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR TV Spectacular. Pictured in colourful costume at the celebrations were (left to right) MAUREEN STARR (an Indian Princess), RINGO STARR (a Ring-Master), the Commissionaire (how did he get in there JOHN LENNON (a Rocker) and PAUL McCARTNEY and JANE ASHER (a Pearly King and Queen). The Beatles have every reason to feel pleased with themselves this week for, despite unfavourable national Press reviews of their TV show, they occupy first and second positions in this week’s NME Chart.

From New Musical Express – December 30, 1967
From New Musical Express – December 30, 1967

From Beatles Complete Magical Mystery Tour Fancy Dress Party Invitation | Lot #89119 | Heritage Auctions (ha.com)
From Beatles Complete Magical Mystery Tour Fancy Dress Party Invitation | Lot #89119 | Heritage Auctions (ha.com)
From Beatles Complete Magical Mystery Tour Fancy Dress Party Invitation | Lot #89119 | Heritage Auctions (ha.com)Beatles Complete Magical Mystery Tour Fancy Dress Party Invitation (London, December 21, 1967). A 6.625″ x 7.5″ four panel foldout on cardstock (opens to 26.75″ x 7.5″), printed in blue, red, and purple psychedelic designs. Text reads, in full: “Magical Mystery Tour Fancy Dress/ Thursday 21 December at 7:45pm/ Royal Lancaster Hotel Bayswater Road/ Entrance to Westbourne Suite/ Telephone 262-6787/ No admittance without this card”. As the Beatles typically celebrated Christmas with a party, John Lennon suggested that they have a costume ball for the launch of their Magical Mystery Tour movie, scheduled to be shown on BBC television on December 26, and invite friends, family, and the film crew. This is a rare and very desirable invitation for that party, apparently not used. Near Mint condition. From the Uwe Blaschke Beatles Collection.

All the Beatles and their partners attended the costume ball. John was an Elvis-style rocker while Cynthia Lennon dressed as a Victorian lady. Paul and Jane Asher wore matching King and Queen outfits. Ringo was a Regency gentleman and Maureen Starkey an Indian maiden. George came as an Errol Flynn-style swashbuckler while Pattie Harrison was in an Eastern Princess costume later described by Cynthia as “incredibly sexy in an eastern dancer’s seven-veils-and-not-much-else outfit.” At the party, the nineteen year-old singer Lulu, who was riding high on the success of her movie and single To Sir With Love, came dressed as Shirley Temple in a blond wig and carrying a large lollipop. Seeing a drunken John Lennon ignoring his wife and concentrating his attention on the sexily-dressed Pattie Harrison, Lulu went over to John and scolded him in a loud voice, waving her lollipop in the air at him. The normally-macho Lennon sat quietly and contritely with his head bowed, taking the criticism. Cynthia later wrote about the incident: “It was such a lovely sight, Lulu cornering John and giving him what for. John was much taken aback by Shirley Temple’s serious lecture on how to treat his wife.”

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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