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Tuesday, December 26, 1967

“Magical Mystery Tour” premiere on BBC 1

Last updated on May 2, 2024


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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.

On September 25, 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. During the editing process, they realized that some additional scenes were needed to enhance the film. These scenes were filmed on October 29, October 31, and November 3.

On this day, December 26, the British television channel BBC1 aired “Magical Mystery Tour” for the first time. However, the initial broadcast was in black and white, and it was met with harsh criticism from both viewers and critics, marking the first major failure for The Beatles.

Undeterred, Paul McCartney appeared on The Frost Programme the following day, December 27, to defend the film. In an interview with Ray Connolly in the Evening Standard published the same day, he acknowledged the criticism, saying “I suppose if you look at it from the point of view of good Boxing Day entertainment we goofed really.On December 28, another interview, where Paul acknowledged “We boobed“, was published in The Daily Mirror.

Magical Mystery Tour” was broadcast in colour on BBC2, on January 5, 1968. The film’s negative reception in the UK press dissuaded US television networks from broadcasting it.

From Wikipedia:

Magical Mystery Tour was broadcast in the UK on 26 December on BBC1, which at the time only broadcast in black and white for technical reasons. George Martin, the band’s producer, later said: “When it came out originally on British television, it was a colour film but shown in black and white, because they didn’t have colour on BBC1 in those days. So it looked awful and was a disaster.” Lennon later said: “What the BBC – stupid idiots – did, they showed it in black and white first. Can you imagine, around Christmas? And then they [the critics] reviewed it in black and white. It’s like reviewing a mono version of a stereo record.” It was the Beatles’ first critical failure. The film had a repeated showing on 5 January 1968, this time broadcast in colour, on BBC2, but there were only about 200,000 colour TV receivers in the UK at the time. As a result of the unfavourable reviews, networks in the US declined to show the film there. Beatles aide Peter Brown blamed McCartney for its failure. Brown said that during a private screening for NEMS management staff, the reaction had been “unanimous … it was awful”, yet McCartney was convinced that the film would be warmly received, and ignored Brown’s advice to scrap the project and save the band from embarrassment.

On 27 December, McCartney appeared on ITV’s The David Frost Programme to defend the film. He was introduced by David Frost as the “man most responsible” for Magical Mystery Tour. Hunter Davies, the Beatles’ official biographer at the time, said: “It was the first time in memory that any artist felt obliged to make a public apology for his work.” McCartney later spoke to the press, saying: “We don’t say it was a good film. It was our first attempt. If we goofed, then we goofed. It was a challenge and it didn’t come off. We’ll know better next time.” He also said, “I mean, you couldn’t call the Queen’s speech a gas, either, could you?” Writing in 1981, sociomusicologist Simon Frith said that the film was symptomatic of the transformation of “pop” into “rock”, the latter being concerned with art and self-expression over mass entertainment. He described Magical Mystery Tour as “a willfully inexplicable TV special which put most of the audience to sleep” and added: “The Beatles were no longer in control of their time. Whereas they had once been able to seize on any idea and ‘Beatlefy’ it, make it common currency, they were now running vainly after a trend that was determined to leave the common audience behind.”

The bigger they are, the harder they fall. And what a fall it was … The whole boring saga confirmed a long held suspicion of mine that The Beatles are four rather pleasant young men who have made so much money that they can apparently afford to be contemptuous of the public.

From The Daily Express – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman, 2008

Whoever authorised the showing of the film on BBC1 should be condemned to a year squatting at the feet of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

From The Daily Sketch – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman, 2008

The BBC switchboard was overwhelmed last night by people complaining about The Beatles’ film Magical Mystery Tour. Some people protested that the BBC1 programme was incomprehensible.

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

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

The film was made in colour for theatres, yet it wound up on BBC TV in black & white. There was nobody to make the artistic and career judgement as to whether it was good or bad, or to decide whether we should go with it or not. I’m sure Brian would have been capable of saying, ‘Oh, so we blew twenty-thousand quid, so what?’

Neil Aspinall – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman, 2008

My dad brought the bad news into me this morning like the figure of doom. Perhaps the newspapers are right, perhaps we’re right. We’ll have to wait and see.

Of course, we could have got together a good director and editor, even some good songwriters, and asked them to produce a first-class show for Christmas with the Beatles in it. It would have been the easiest thing in the world. Perhaps we should have done it that way, but we wanted to do it ourselves.

I know it wasn’t the slickest job and may have looked a bit amateur, but I still think it better that we try ourselves, and that we try to present the viewers with something different from all the phoney tinsel of Christmas shows.

Paul McCartney – Interview with the Evening Standard, December 27, 1967

What happened is that we totally presented it in the wrong way. We had it on Boxing Day, in the traditional Bruce Forsyth slot — you know — which is everyone sitting there after Christmas, just recovering from the piss-up the night before. ‘Uh, what’s on there?’ It’s Brucie: “Bring me sunshine . . . Hey! Having a good Boxing Day?’ But instead it was ‘Maagicalll Mystereee Tooour … Hey maan’, with eggheads and everything.

People were up in arms. ‘Beatles’ bomb flops!’ Terrible. They came round to my house the next day. ‘What did you think then, Paul?’ ‘Oh, I don’t know, I thought it was rather good? Ha! Tried to bluff my way out. I took it in the neck, cos I had kind of directed it. But the credits said ‘Directed by the Beatles’, cos I didn’t want to ego-trip.

Paul McCartney – From “Conversations with McCartney” by Paul du Noyer, 2016

If we did have to justify it, I think “I Am the Walrus” alone makes it. It’s the only time John ever sang “I Am the Walrus” on film, so right there it’s historical. There’s quite a few good little musical scenes: “Blue Jay Way”, “Fool on the Hill” “Your Mother Should Know”. This is a good start, isn’t it?

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

I thought it was worth showing, and I still think so. The Beatles started work on the film, their own production, during the summer and, in November, the BBC and ITV were asked if they would be interested in it. Rightly or wrongly, the ITV side had the firm impression that The Beatles’ management was insisting on Christmas screening as part of the agreement. ITV couldn’t give such an assurance and pulled out. The BBC was shown some rough cuttings and, later in the month, I was invited to view the complete show. I said that, irrespective of everything else, I could not televise it without some changes. There were two sequences I was not prepared to have. They weren’t obscene, but I didn’t want those sequences. It took some organising, but the film was cut from 55 to 50 minutes. After that, I thought it was worth showing. Remember, it was written by, made by, and starred The Beatles. The music was good. I agree that it wasn’t the easiest film to understand. I saw it four times before I began to understand it. You get out of it what you care to put into it. Most of my discussions were with Paul McCartney and I found The Beatles very reasonable. I saw the film in colour, but I don’t think it loses much in black and white. I found a sense of enjoyment and relaxation in it, yet also realised there were large parts that were unprofessional as far as filmmakers are concerned. But there were also moments of drama and poignancy which I found quite fascinating. I think they used their songs intelligently. Paul’s song ‘Your Mother Should Know’ had some fine moments. My final verdict is ‘touching, amusing and enjoyable’. I would guess we had 20,000,000 viewers for the programme and I doubt whether any switched off. It was probably our biggest Christmas audience.

Paul Fox, the head of BBC 1 – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman, 2008


MILLIONS of British televiewers will see the Beatles’ TV film, Magical Mystery Tour, on Christmas Day. But the mystery is — which channel will they see it on?

John, Paul, Ringo and George were busy this week in a Soho studio editing the film which will be finished in a week.

Both BBC and ITV are said to be ready to show the film on Christmas Day but, at presstime, none of the companies would commit themselves except the BBC whose spokesman said: “We’d be interested to see it and then take things from there.”

The Beatles film clip, which they made on stage at London’s Saville Theatre to promote their current single will be seen on Top Of The Pops today (Thursday) and in many countries throughout the world including Sweden, Italy, France, America, Denmark, Belgium and Hong Kong.

The recordings from the Beatles TV Magical Mystery Tour film, which are to be released in a special booklet on December 1, will be heard this Saturday on Radio One’s Where It’s At. On the show John will be interviewed by Kenny Everett.

The Traffic, who filmed a segment for the Magical Mystery Tour film, will not now be seen due to difficulty in fitting in their part.

The Beatles intend to visit the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India for transcendental meditation instruction early in the New Year. Other 1968 plans include an LP before the summer and a feature film

From Melody Maker – November 25, 1967
From Melody Maker – November 25, 1967

Beatles ‘Magic’ disc-book held up, gold ‘Hello’, Traffic cut from TV

RELEASE of the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” disc-book package has been delayed by one week until this Friday (8th), because EMI has been overwhelmed by 400,000 advance orders. The main hold-up has been the book, which is more difficult to reprint than the pressing of additional records. However, 750,000 copies have now been supplied and distribution is in full swing. Provided there is no disruption due to the rail go-slow earlier this week, all advance orders should be met by this weekend.

Meanwhile, American sales of the “Hello Goodbye” single — it is No. 7 in “Cash Box” and No. 8 in “Billboard” this week — passed 900,000 on Tuesday, and were expected to have reached the million mark by today (Friday). In this country sales were nearing half a million on Wednesday.

Transmission details of the “Mystery Tour” TV spectacular are to be announced within the next few days. Meanwhile it was learned this week that Traffic’s contribution to the show has been “edited out” in the process of cutting down the six hours of filmed material to minutes. However, the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band has a spot in the show’s strip-club sequence.

The fifth annual Christmas record is being distributed to all Fan Club members within the next two weeks. Titled “Christmas Time (Is Here Again),” the EP runs over six minutes and features a specially written title song, a linked series of comedy items, and a guest appearance of “the feet and voice of Victor Spinetti”!

The disc has a full-colour sleeve, including an oil painting by four-year-old Julian Lennon. It is being made available to disc-jockeys for broadcasting during the pre-Christmas week. As usual, the record is being sent free to Fan Club members in Britain and America, but is not available to the general public.


From New Musical Express – December 9, 1967
From New Musical Express – December 9, 1967

Beatles ‘Tour’ for Boxing Day TV

BEATLES’ “Magical Mystery Tour” will be screened by BBC 1 on Boxing Day at 8:35 pm. The spectacular, which lasts for 50 minutes is to be repeated in colour on BBC 2 a fortnight after the first transmission.

Paul McCartney flew off for a short holiday on his Scottish farm at Campeltown with Jane Asher this week while Ringo Starr (above left) returned today (Thursday) from filming in “Candy” in Rome. Candy herself – played by 17-year-old Ewa Aulian – is on the right.

First news for Ringo was that chart-topping “Hello, Goodbye” has now topped the half-million sales mark while the “Magical Mystery Tour” EP has so far sold just under 400,000 copies.

Apple Music, the new company owned by the Beatles, has just signed its first group, Grapefruit.

Group comprises three former members of Tony River and the Castaways – John Perry, Peter and Geoff Swettenham – and according to unconfirmed rumours the trio were specially selected by Beatle Paul McCartney. […]

From Disc And Music Echo – December 16, 1967
From Disc And Music Echo – December 16, 1967
From Sunday Mirror – December 24, 1967

Beatles’ anarchic mystery

Christmas television is, thank goodness, relaxed and uncompulsive enough to leave time for other occupations. The viewer who feels that a marathon stint of three hours with comedians whom he normally admires is too much of a good thing can pursue his social inactivities undisturbed.

The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour was B.B.C. 1’s main contribution to last night’s entertainment. It is their own film, written, devised and directed by them. They are the four magicians, sitting in the clouds “where human eye has never trod” (there are a number of lines like that) who organize the pleasures of themselves and a coachload of others all of whom seem, I suppose, to be “taking a trip” rather than making a tour.

Realities are annihilated by cinematic devices few of which seem particularly new, and a sort of well-meaning, good-humoured anarchy prevails.

Probably this was an attempt at a fantasy of wish-fulfilment, decorated with youthfully fashionable ideas “psychadelic” designs and the coarsely grainy photography which not very long ago was a sign of spontaneity and originality. This was a programme to experience rather than to understand; I was unfortunate — I lacked the necessary key.

From The Times – December 27, 1967
From The Times – December 27, 1967

Beatle puts controversy before boredom

Paul McCartney answered newspaper reporters yesterday criticising the Beatles’ first television film, “Magical Mystery Tour,” shown on BBC-1 on Tuesday night. It was better to be controversial than just boring, he said.

“We tried to present something different for the viewers. But according to the newspapers it did not come off.” He added that the group was not discouraged, and would probably now make a feature film. They had decided against producing a typically Christmasy show with lots of phoney tinsel. “We thought we would not underestimate people and would do something new.”

Those critical of the film had expected it to have a plot, whereas it was a fantasy. It was a tour in which anything could, and did, happen. There was not meant to be any good reason for what happened.

Being themselves

He said that a possible defect was that the magical aspect had not been emphasised. They could have obtained the assistance of a good director and editor and, asked them to produce a Christmas show for them, but they had wanted to be themselves. The response to the film was “a pity,” but lessons had been learnt which would be borne in mind in making another film.

“Magical Mystery Tour” had been shown to members of Beatles’ fan clubs, who had thought it “a lovely film.” Mr McCartney said he and the other Beatles had not regarded it as “too far out.”

Earlier, a spokesman for Nems Enterprises said “Magical Mystery Tour is being accepted all over the world as an important and successful experimental film.” The 50-minute colour film — shown in black and white on BBC-1 — will be seen by millions of viewers overseas including the United States. Some countries have seen it already.

From The Guardian – December 28, 1967
From The Guardian – December 28, 1967

TELEVISION : THE BEATLES – by Keith Dewhurst

My feelings on finding myself almost alone in praising the Beatles’ television film “MagicaI Mystery Tour” are amazement, and the sad conviction that as a mass the public is more stupid and ignorant than it is as individuals, and does not like to be told so. It particularly does not like something which it cannot understand but dimly feels to be a depiction of its qualities and its romantical view of show business. In deference to this the film should no doubt have gone out under some late-night banner like “Omnibus” or “Contrasts” – a bureaucrat’s device which says switch over to the wrestling. This programme does not concern you or your life in any way at all. My amazement is for the way in which the film has been dismissed as pretentious rubbish without any attempt to analyse its content.

The film is a deliberate parody of mass communication so it parodies the techniques. Most of its technical tricks are used now even in commercial films, and in shows like “Top Of The Pops” every week. They are known, and that being so people should be able to accept them and advance through them to the images and the content of the film. Why therefore do people automatically deny that the content exists? Answer: because they don’t want to know what it has to say. They don’t want to have to face the fact that their idols and their modern mythology is a lot of mass-produced hooey and that most ot us are fobbed off most of the time with utter banal rubbish. The film is about the predicament of people who have become such idols. They are trapped inside an image and a wealth machine which simply cannot express what they really feel. This is a valid modern theme and the Beatles seem most qualified to comment upon it. Maybe they will be entirely trapped: maybe like Chaplin they never will quite struggle in the way they would like into the world of “real art.” But the struggle itself is indicative and the film whatever its faults is a comment and a documentation. The Beatles’ image of themselves as magicians is not conceited, because It is we who want them to be magicians. They know that they are not.

From The Guardian – December 28, 1967
From The Guardian – December 28, 1967


A LITTLE unnerved but totally unrepentant, Paul McCartney yesterday faced the highly critical music of the Beatles’ first flop. He spent the day answering questions about the group’s first venture into film-making, a £30,000 “Magical Mystery Tour,” shown on BBC-1 on Boxing Night.

It was generally regarded by the critics as 50 minutes of boredom. But the film should bring the Beatles a £100,000 profit.

“Okay, so maybe we boobed, maybe we didn’t. The critics didn’t like it, but plenty of people did. I’ve had friends ringing me all day saying how good it was,” he explained at his London home. “We thought we would do a fantasy film without a real plot.”

LOOKING FOR PLOT – Badly received

In the Frost Programme on Independent Television last night, Paul McCartney said he thought the film was badly received because people were looking for a plot. “But there wasn’t one. We thought we would do a selection of things and pat them together and see what happened.”

The film was “a success-failure.” It could not be called a success because the newspapers did not like it, but the Beatles learned a lot from making it. “If you watch it a second time it grows on you. This often happens when we make records.”

In their publicity material, the BBC did not make it clear that there was no plot. They proclaimed their “scoop” and described the film as “a wild and tuneful journey featuring new sights and new sounds.” They also plan to show it again on Jan. 5 – in colour.

The “plot” was a coach tour by the Beatles, covering mainly the West Country, with visits to a military camp, a race track and a strip club.

“FIRST ATTEMPT” – “Learned a lot”

Paul McCartney said: “They told us not to underestimate the audience and we tried not to. And we don’t say it was a good film. It was our first attempt. It is like making a record. The first is never the best. If we goofed, then we goofed. And that’s that. Possibly it was a bit too soon for the audience, a bit sudden. But that’s a good thing.

“The next film will be better. I think we will do a feature film with a proper plot. But that’s the problem, you see. We can’t find a plot.” The next film was planned for early in the New Year.

Commercially the film was a success before it was made. The BBC paid an estimated £10,000 for the British rights and two showings. It has also been sold — in black and white and colour — to about 14 countries, including America.


I SHALL watch “Magical Mystery Tour” in colour on Friday week hoping to discover why the BBC thought it was worth screening as a peak period attraction on Boxing Night. In black and white it looked appalling.

Even the songs, which were sung with Beatle efficiency, failed to compensate for a sequence of visual incidents that had no connection with each other except that they were supposed to be taking place during a coach tour.

When the Beatles were on the screen alone there was a certain attraction but they had taken with them on the tour a party of people who just fooled around for most of the time without being funny.

One amusing sequence

Apparently they were under direction to do so, but from this side of the screen it did not appear that there had been a director in attendance at any time during the lamentable proceedings.

The only sequence that was in any way amusing was a visit to an army unit, where the party met a remarkably fast-talking drill sergeant.

But maybe there is such a thing as Beatlemagic that comes through only to their own generation. My teenage daughters watching with me thought it all “just wonderful.” Their tape recording of the music has been playing all day.

From The Daily Telegraph – December 28, 1967
From The Daily Telegraph – December 28, 1967

Beatle reply to TV film critics

Mr. Paul McCartney yesterday answered press criticism of the Beatles’ first television film. Magical Mystery Tour, shown on B.B.C. 1 the night before. “We tried to present something different for the viewers, but according to the newspapers it did not come off”, he said.

They were not discouraged, and would probably make a feature film.

They had decided against “a Christmassy show with lots of phoney tinsel”, he said. “We thought we would not underestimate people and would do something new. It is better being controversial than purely boring.

Those who criticized the film had expected a plot, whereas it was a fantasy, a tour in which anything could happen. There was not meant to be any good reason for what happened.

Beatles’ Fan Club members had thought it “a lovely film”. The Beatles had not regarded it as “too far out”. Possibly the magical aspect had not been sufficiently emphasized.

The response to the film was “a pity”, but lessons had been learnt. If the plot this time had been “very thin”, any future film would have a “very thick” plot.

Nems Enterprises said: “Magical Mystery Tour is being accepted all over the world as an important and successful experimental film.

The B.B.C. said last night that it was considering devoting pan of the next Talkback programme to a discussion by viewers of the Beatles film. The repeat in colour on January 5 on B.B.C. 2 would go ahead. “There is no reason to change our plans.

The film cost the B.B.C. a little under £10,000 and attracted an estimated 20 million viewers, possibly the highest total for any programme in the holiday period on any channel.

Henry Raynor wrote of the film in later editions of The Times yesterday: “Realities arc annihilated by cinematic devices, few of which seem particularly new, and a sort of well-meaning, good-humoured anarchy prevails.

From The Times – December 28, 1967
From The Times – December 28, 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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