- Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Magical Mystery Tour (US LP - Mono) LP.
- EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road
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In April of 1967, Paul McCartney spent two weeks vacationing in the United States before boarding a flight back to London on April 12. During the flight, he borrowed a notepad from a stewardess and defined a rough plan for a Beatles television film.
Upon returning to London, the first order of business was to complete the mixing process for the soon-to-be-released “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album. Paul also introduced the “Magical Mystery Tour” project to the other Beatles for their approval, although a working schedule had yet to be established.
On the evening of April 25, from 7 pm until 3:45 am, the Beatles began working on the theme song for “Magical Mystery Tour,” which was still unfinished at this point. The majority of the session was spent rehearsing the track extensively, with Paul guiding the group from the piano before proper recording began.
When they arrived at the EMI studios at 7.30 one evening to record ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ all they had was the title and a few bars of the music. […] Paul played the opening bars of ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ on the piano, showing the others how it would go. He gestured a lot with his hands and shouted ‘Flash, Flash,’ saying it would be like a commercial. […]
They leaned round the piano while Paul was playing, going over and over the opening. Paul told Mal to write down the order of how they would do the song. In a very slow schoolboy hand, Mal wrote down the title and got ready for Paul’s instructions. Paul said Trumpets, yes they’d have some trumpets at the beginning, a sort of fanfare, to go with ‘Roll Up, Roll Up, for the Magical Mystery Tour.’ Mal had better write that line down as well, as it was the only line they’d got. Paul told Mal to write down DAE, the first three chords of the song. Mal sucked his pencil, waiting for more of Paul’s inspired words, but nothing came.From “The Beatles – The Only Ever Authorised Biography” by Hunter Davies, 1969
The group recorded three takes of the backing track, with Paul on piano (fed through a Leslie speaker), John Lennon on acoustic guitar, George Harrison on electric guitar, and Ringo Starr on drums. Take 3 was deemed the best, and five reduction mixes (Takes 4 to 8) were then done to reduce the recording from four tracks to one.
The instruments were then set up and they got ready to record the backing, which as usual was to be the first track they would do. […] It took a couple of hours to work out the first backing track and get it recorded. After it was done, Paul went up to see George Martin in the control room. Paul had the track played back to him, again, and again. […]From “The Beatles – The Only Ever Authorised Biography” by Hunter Davies, 1969
During the recording session, the group also created a tape loop of traffic noises from EMI’s sound effects collection “Volume 36: Traffic Noise Stereo“, which they added to the song during a final mixing session on November 7, 1967.
I did that leaning over a bridge on the M1 moterway. It was a quiet day, a Sunday, because that was the only way one could capture the sound of individual vehicles. On any other day all I would have had was a mass of traffic noise.Stuart Eltham – From “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” by Mark Lewisohn, 1988
The first track to be recorded for Magical Mystery Tour was the title song, and everyone was quite up for that session, which began, as usual, late in the evening. There was a long period of rehearsal punctuated by discussion about the various scenes they wanted to shoot for the film. Paul’s vague concept — and it was quite vague at that point — was to have the four Beatles and a group of actors pile onto a coach, destination unknown, in emulation of the “bus trip to nowhere” that was so popular in England in the fifties and sixties —really just an excuse for an extended booze-up on wheels. Finally, a backing track was laid down, with Paul thumping away on the piano. Once that was done, Richard raided the EMI archives and found a tape of transportation effects recorded on location by Stuart Eltham, which I put into a loop, complete with the sounds of busses whizzing by in glorious stereo, panning from right to left.Geoff Emerick – From “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles“, 2006
Work on “Magical Mystery Tour” continued the following day.
Flying home to London (Tuesday April 11) Paul worked on the first words for a “Magical Mystery Tour” song. On the plane he borrowed a pad of paper from the stewardess and drew a big circle, dividing it up into sections. The circle represented 60 minutes, the sections were marked off into bits for songs and sketches. When we got home this was the sheet of paper Paul used to describe to the others what he had in mind. There were lots of sections of the circle left blank. The others threw in extra ideas and, one by one, the blank sections were filled until The Beatles decided they had the makings of a 60-minute TV programme.
In the Bag O’ Nails discotheque club one night towards the end of April we (Neil and Mal!) were brought into the group’s discussions on possible items for the “Coach Show”. Basically it was agreed that the plan should be “all-inclusive, non-exclusive”. This meant trying to fit into the show something for everyone, as wide a variety as possible.
On April 25 the backing track for the song “Magical Mystery Tour” was recorded. Two nights later voices were added and on May 3 trumpet accompaniment was put on.From The Beatles Monthly Book, December 1967
Last updated on April 30, 2023
The definitive guide for every Beatles recording sessions from 1962 to 1970.
We owe a lot to Mark Lewisohn for the creation of those session pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - the number of takes for each song, who contributed what, a description of the context and how each session went, various photographies... And an introductory interview with Paul McCartney!
The third book of this critically - acclaimed series, nominated for the 2019 Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) award for Excellence In Historical Recorded Sound, "The Beatles Recording Reference Manual: Volume 3: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band through Magical Mystery Tour (late 1966-1967)" captures the band's most innovative era in its entirety. From the first take to the final remix, discover the making of the greatest recordings of all time. Through extensive, fully-documented research, these books fill an important gap left by all other Beatles books published to date and provide a unique view into the recordings of the world's most successful pop music act.
If we like to think, in all modesty, that the Paul McCartney Project is the best online ressource for everything Paul McCartney, The Beatles Bible is for sure the definitive online site focused on the Beatles. There are obviously some overlap in terms of content between the two sites, but also some major differences in terms of approach.