Magical Mystery Tour
Release Date: November 27, 1967 (in the U.S.)
Magical Mystery Tour is an anomaly: it's the only Capitol LP that's become an established part of the modern Beatles canon. That's because the band initially released the six songs from the soundtrack to Magical Mystery Tour (the film) as a double-EP in Britain, a rarely issued format that didn't work too well. Capitol, the American division of EMI, knew that American audiences didn't really go for EPs, much less double EPs, so they expanded the songs into an LP by throwing a bunch of recent singles onto the B-side. And though this was something Beatles didn't like to do themselves, in an age dominated by album-length releases it's proven to be a decent idea.
Unfortunately, it also makes for an LP that feels, in contrast to Sgt. Pepper, pretty uncohesive. It would have been hard to match the greatness of Sgt. Pepper anyway, especially coming so soon on the heels of it. But the MMT film soundtrack isn't nearly as compelling as what came before, and ultimately sounds like a bunch of retreads, as if the Beatles once again aren't sure where to go next. The B side ends up being better, composed as it is of some of their strongest past singles, like "Penny Lane," "Strawberry Fields Forever," and the sticky pop confection that is "Hello Goodbye." And of course the A-side has some gems, most notably "I Am the Walrus." All in all, though, Magical Mystery Tour is a slide downward. The film was the Beatles' first flop, and while the LP did just fine commercially, it might well be, for all of its incredibly strong moments, one of the weakest LPs yet.
High Points: "I Am the Walrus," "Strawberry Fields Forever," "Penny Lane," "All You Need Is Love"
My Secret Favorite: Not very secret, but "I Am the Walrus." (Though I'm saying this to avoid another "Strawberry Fields Forever" vs. "Penny Lane" debate, as much as anything else.)
The Song I'm Not Supposed to Love So Much But Totally Do Anyway: "Hello Goodbye"
(The Song I'm Supposed to Love But Totally Don't: "The Fool on the Hill")
"I Am the Walrus"