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Monday, September 21, 2015

MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR

At the end of 1967, Capitol Records faced a dilemma.  EMI and the Beatles had come up with a unique package for the six songs which made up the soundtrack of the group's film for television Magical Mystery Tour.  The British release was to be a deluxe double EP with three tracks per disc, featuring a booklet with photographs of the production.  Capitol knew that the American market would never go for the double EP format. The label wanted to issue an album, but the band had not recorded any additional new material as they had for A Hard Day's Night and Help! sufficient to make up a second album side.

The answer to the problem was to use the A-side of the concurrent single Hello Goodbye (its B-side I Am the Walrus was already part of the soundtrack) and the two other singles previously released that year to create a standard eleven track Capitol album.  The lineup was as follows:

SIDE ONE

Magical Mystery Tour
The Fool on the Hill
Flying
Blue Jay Way
You Mother Should Know
I Am the Walrus

SIDE TWO

Hello Goodbye
Strawberry Fields Forever
Penny Lane
Baby You're a Rich Man
All You Need is Love

The American release also featured a booklet of photographs, only album-sized instead of the size of the British EP.  Capitol tinkered with the sequence of the soundtrack songs on side one, improving upon it to my way of thinking.  There was once again only the briefest of pauses between tracks as on Sgt. Pepper.  And I Am the Walrus had a four beat intro in lieu of the six beat intro of the UK stereo mix.

The result was a curious hybrid of a soundtrack album and a compilation album, but what a compilation!  The quality of the songs on side two from the 1967 singles, particularly Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane, is incredible.

All in all, this was a very attractive package which quickly became popular as an import in Britain, where many fans preferred it to the double EP.  In 1976, EMI Parlophone took the unprecedented step of discontinuing the double EP and replacing it with the album in the British market.  And when the group's catalog was issued on CD for the first time in 1987, Magical Mystery Tour was the only album to appear in its American format - a nice tip of the cap to Capitol.

Astute observers probably noticed on the inner sleeve that the film for television was presented by a company called Apple.  And one credit on the booklet read, "Editorial Consultants (for Apple): Neil Aspinall & Mal Evans."  While it may not have been immediately apparent to us, something big was already underway on the business side of the Beatles' affairs.

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