I was going to write something about the Beatles festival on BBC 2 at the weekend – the first TV screening of Magical Mystery Tour since 1967, an Arena documentary about the making of the film, plus a workmanlike survey by Stuart Maconie of the cultural context of the Beatles first release, Love Me Do, in 1962. But Fred Garnett has done such an excellent job on his blog that I thought I’d simply repost his superb survey of this cultural artefact that
captured the spirit of its time and, yet again, provided another cultural breakthrough … this surreal slice of English holiday nostalgia inspired by The Goons … a fantastic cheery summer of love trip …
Suffice it for me to say that this overview rivals the Arena documentary for its musical perceptiveness, noting that
it was fuelled by several factors as well as a belief in the value of the psychedelic consciousness, not least being nostalgia for the good old days out of their childhood.
whilst at the same time
It responded to many aspects of the sixties avant-garde (it’s real crime I guess); surrealism, Goonery, experimentation, playing with form.
Best of all, Fred reminds us of that great overlooked psychedelic masterpiece, ‘It’s All Too Much’, which ranks alongside the Beatles greatest psychedelia – Strawberry Fields Forever, I Am The Walrus, Tomorrow Never Knows, and Rain.
One last thing … Fred he mentions a really interesting TV programme, presented by musical expert Howard Goodall, in which he analyses the technical reasons why The Beatles were so great. Watch it in six parts on YouTube here.
Footnote: Jarvis Cocker on The Beatles:
The whole point of the Beatles is that they were ordinary. Four working-class boys from Liverpool who showed that not only could they create art that stood comparison with that produced by “the establishment” – they could create art that pissed all over it. From the ranks of the supposedly uncouth, unwashed barbarians came the greatest creative force of the 20th century. It wasn’t meant to be that way. It wasn’t officially sanctioned. But it happened – and that gave countless others from similar backgrounds the nerve to try it themselves. Their effect on music and society at large is incalculable.
5 thoughts on “A Magical Mystery Tour: It’s All Too Much”
Praise indeed Gerry, thanks! BTW I quote your piece on Scorsese’s George Harrison documentary Living in The Material on Quora
Saw a recent TV prog about this – according to which ( and excuse my memory if wrong) it was all the idea of one Paul McCartney, wasnt really scripted, mostly featured Ringo arguing with an older woman on the coach ( and that wasnt scripted – it was ad lib) and basically the Yanks just didnt get it !( Americans didnt have coach mystery tours in the 1960s – am sure they still dont jeez just look how big that country is.) Much as I like Macca’s music this was not his finest (cinematography) hour and very very much a home movie only more so indeed a home movie on speed!! Still I do so still love the psychedelic music!!
PS Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was apparently not a ref to LSD!
I lived in America for 2 years in Boulder Colorado in 1979 & 80. Whilst I was there the Student Cinema, which showed several films every weekend, screened Magical Mystery Tour every week after a main feature, usually between 11pm & midnight. I finally went to see it, in colour, having not been able to see it in 1967. The Americans absolutely loved it and treated it as a psychedelic experience to be enjoyed with modified minds, you could still smoke in cinemas in those days, they certainly got it’s counter cultural vibe. Magical Mystery Tour was released as an album in the USA and it was common to see it next to, say Springsteen’s The RIver in hip 70s student record collections. The White Album remains Americans preference though.
I never saw MMT in 1967 because we didn’t have a telly (we were poor, but the real reason was puritanical parents), so it’s quite comforting to read on your post that most people didn’t see it because it was on BBC2 which needed a new-fangled 625 line set!
Astonishing, therefore, that whatever its faults, it’s taken until now for the BBC to screen it again. And, could it be that it was the nostalgia that the Beatles evinced in MMT for their working class childhood days that made the film so much less stimulating for English hippies than their American counterparts?
Good point Gerry!