“Magical Mystery Tour” launch party

Thursday, December 21, 1967

About

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 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

Last updated on September 18, 2021

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!

Shop on Amazon

Contribute!

Have you spotted an error on the page? Do you want to suggest new content? Or do you simply want to leave a comment ? Please use the form below!

Your comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.