The Paul McCartney Project

Flying

Written by Paul McCartneyRingo StarrJohn LennonGeorge Harrison Instrumental

Album This song officially appears on the Magical Mystery Tour (Stereo) EP.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1967
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

Flying” is an instrumental by the Beatles which first appeared on the 1967 Magical Mystery Tour release (two EP discs in the United Kingdom, an LP in the United States). It is one of the very few songs written by all four of the Beatles: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr.

Origins

The first instrumental written by the Beatles since “12-Bar Original” in 1965, this was the first song to be credited as being written by all four members of the band with the writing credits of “Harrison/Lennon–McCartney/Starkey”. It was recorded on 8 September 1967 with mellotron, guitar, bass, maracas, drums, and tape loops overdubs on 28 September.

Flying” was originally titled “Aerial Tour Instrumental“, The end of the recording originally included a fast-paced traditional New Orleans jazz-influenced coda, but this was removed and replaced with an ending featuring tape loops created by John Lennon and Ringo Starr during the 28 September session. The loops initially made the song last 9 minutes 38 seconds, but the track was cut down to only 2 minutes 17 seconds. Part of the loops were used alongside an element of the ending jazz sequence to make “The Bus“, an incidental piece used at various points, for the TV movie.

Recording

On the track as recorded and officially released, Lennon plays the main theme on mellotron, accompanied by McCartney and Harrison (both on guitars, plus a later bass overdub) and Starr (on maracas and drums). All four Beatles sing the melody without lyrics of any kind, and the track fades in an assortment of tape effects created by Lennon and Starr. This released version is identical to that heard on the soundtrack of the Magical Mystery Tour film; the music is accompanied in the film by colour-altered images of landscape in Iceland taken from an aeroplane, as well as some unused footage from the 1964 Stanley Kubrick film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

A different version can be found on some Beatles bootleg albums (such as Back-track 1), and features added Hammond organ and strange whistling noises in the early parts of the track. The jazz-influenced ending is also present on this version, which is slightly shorter, clocking in at around 2:08. This coda, which Mark Lewisohn speculated was “seemingly copied straight from an unidentifiable modern jazz record“, was in fact played on a mellotron. (In addition to the familiar samples of instruments playing single notes, mellotrons had entire banks of a pop orchestra playing popular styles of music, with optional accompaniment. The piece here was played with the Dixieland Rhythm Mellotron setting.)

Paul McCartney in "Many Years From Now", by Barry Miles:

Flying was an instrumental that we needed for Magical Mystery Tour so in the studio one night I suggested to the guys that we made something up. I said, ‘We can keep it very very simple, we can make it a twelve-bar blues. We need a little bit of a theme and a little bit of a backing.’ I wrote the melody. The only thing to warrant it as a song is basically the melody, otherwise it’s just a nice twelve-bar backing thing. It’s played on the Mellotron, on a trombone setting. It’s credited to all four, which is how you would credit a non-song.

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

  • [a] mono 28 Sep 1967. edited.
    UK: Parlophone MMT 1 (EP) Magical Mystery Tour 1967.
    US: Capitol MAL 2835 Magical Mystery Tour 1967.
    CD: EMI EP box set 1991.
  • [b] stereo 7 Nov 1967. edited.
    UK: Parlophone SMMT 1 (EP) Magical Mystery Tour 1967.
    US: Capitol SMAL 2835 Magical Mystery Tour 1967.
    CD: EMI CDP 7 48062 2 Magical Mystery Tour 1987, EMI EP box set 1991.

A section of several minutes at the end was edited off. Stereo [b] is a few seconds longer, long fade; on [a] the tape loop track begins earlier. The mono [a] has louder guitars near the beginning. The home video Magical Mystery Tour has a 1988 stereo mix similar to the old mono mix [a].

Last updated on November 30, 2016

Officially appears on


Magical Mystery Tour (Stereo)

Official album

2:16 • Studio versionB

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Guitar, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Maracas, Sound effects, Vocals
John Lennon:
Mellotron, Organ, Sound effects, Vocals
George Harrison:
Guitar, Vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer
Ken Scott:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Sep 08, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Sep 28, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Nov 07, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


Magical Mystery Tour (Mono)

Official album • Released in 1967

2:16 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Guitar, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Maracas, Sound effects, Vocals
John Lennon:
Mellotron, Organ, Sound effects, Vocals
George Harrison:
Guitar, Vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer
Ken Scott:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Sep 08, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Sep 28, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Sep 28, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Magical Mystery Tour (Mono)

EP • Released in 1967

2:17 • Studio versionA • Mono

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Guitar, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Maracas, Sound effects, Vocals
John Lennon:
Mellotron, Organ, Sound effects, Vocals
George Harrison:
Guitar, Vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer
Ken Scott:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Sep 08, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Sep 28, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Sep 28, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Magical Mystery Tour (Stereo)

EP • Released in 1967

2:17 • Studio versionB • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Guitar, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Maracas, Sound effects, Vocals
John Lennon:
Mellotron, Organ, Sound effects, Vocals
George Harrison:
Guitar, Vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer
Ken Scott:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Sep 08, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Sep 28, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Nov 07, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Bootlegs


Magical Mystery Tour Sessions

Unofficial album

2:05 • Alternate take • Take 6 RM4 acetate mono


Magical Mystery Tour Sessions

Unofficial album

9:40 • Alternate take • Take 8 + overdubs takes 1-5 mono


Magical Mystery Tour Sessions

Unofficial album

0:18 • Alternate take • RS from take 8 DVD mix stereo


Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 3 (1966-1967)

Unofficial album • Released in 1989

2:06 • Alternate take


The Complete Roger Scott Tapes

Unofficial album • Released in 2015

9:43 • Outtake • take 8 + overdubs 1-5

Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.


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