- Album This interview has been made to promote the Magical Mystery Tour (US LP - Mono) LP.
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It was Paul McCartney’s idea that The Beatles emulate The Merry Pranksters’ hippy road trips by driving a coach to the West Country. In his own words, McCartney explains how all they needed was a bus, some random actors and “a couple of voluptuous girls“
“WE MADE IT UP AS WE went along, I recall. We thought it would be a good idea to just make a film, have some ideas, and go somewhere and film them. I basically said to the guys, have some ideas and we’ll pool them all and see if we can make something of it.
So we went off in this bus to film it with a couple of voluptuous girls to help us on the way and a real driver, which was helpful. We had the bus painted and headed down south, thinking it might be a good idea to go towards Cornwall: I’d hitchhiked down there when I was a kid with George.
We found the actors through a directory, just looked through it for likely faces. We didn’t want to do lengthy auditions, as we didn’t have a very firm idea of what they were going to do. I just talk to them and say, We’re gonna set up the camera here and, er, Wendy’s gonna say to you, “Who’s that guy”, and that way we’d introduce Ivor Cutler who was playing a character who at first didn’t have a name, but he suggested ‘Mr Bust-a-blood-vessel’, who then later became a singer of the same name, many years later. It was quite a communal effort.
The most difficult thing was to marry the sound with the picture, get them in sync. We just thought we’d sort it out later, but when we got in the editing room the editor said, ‘Where’s the Clapperboard?’. We said, ‘Oh, errr, I don’t think we put one on that’. It meant that where we thought it would take a couple of weeks to edit it took more like 12. But, you know, 12 weeks of fun.
The high spot for me was the music. To be able to include I Am The Walrus was a great bonus for us. We had our outfits made by The Fool in London, who used to read the tarot cards. I always used to come out as the Fool. At first I thought, that’s a bit lousy, couldn’t I be a King or something, and they would say, ‘No no, that’s a very good card’. I never really understood why, but it gained significance as the film went along.
We were at our disused airfield and we set off. One minute I had the walrus mask on, the next John had it. People were always reading into our lyrics so we kind of knew this would get talked about and we would actually set these false clues just for a bit of fun…
Eventually, we got it put together and we took it to the BBC. In the Christmas holidays they had a Boxing Day special which always got a big audience so we thought, This would be great, this would be for our kind of people, it’d be a sort of modern, wacky surrealist romp. But people were used to seeing a certain kind of variety show, like Morecombe & Wise, we were offering this very strange fare. I think a lot of younger people at home enjoyed it, but a lot of older people, including television critics, didn’t, so it got hammered mightily.
We knew the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, and their singer, Viv Stanshall, so we cooked up this scene where we’d go down to a Soho strip joint called Raymond Revuebar. I think we just wanted to see a stripper, it was as simple as that. Viv was a great comedian, very clever, and the rest of the band understood completely what we were doing and were happy to do their music accompanying a stripper. I don’t think she was impressed.
So that was it, we made up these sequences, we went off on a trip, we did the trip, and we came back singing songs. And the wizards appear to have been in control all the time, but who were the wizards? The wizards were us. And who was the Walrus? We will never know.
Hear more of Paul’s commentary on The Beatles’ Mystery Tour DVD.