It’s not easy to find an unexplored corner of Beatlemania, but PBS brings viewers inside Magical Mystery Tour, the 1967 British TV film behind the album from the Fab Four by the same name. The show interviews Beatles as well as Martin Scorsese, Peter Fonda, and a slew of British personalities about the impact of the film. Full of veiled references to psychedelic drugs and anarchy, it never aired in the United States, but now “Great Performances offers Magical Mystery Tour Revisited Dec. 14 at 9 p.m., followed by the film itself at 10 p.m.
That The Beatles’ shambolic Magical Mystery Tour film never even aired in the US explains a lot to me. Their career appears to be divided into two distinct parts, with Sgt Pepper being the dividing line. I have a lot of difficulty explaining to friends of mine, who agree with my more alternative musical preferences, why I love The Beatles. I think it’s partly a case of first impressions.
When I was a teenager, the music of the 80’s in the UK was almost all unspeakably s–t. Working out how to operate a vinyl player and popping the critically hated Magical Mystery Tour EP on was a right of passage. The first tune just seemed so ‘real’ compared to Bobby Brown, Bon Jovi and Janet Jackson. I had no idea it was widely seen as the moment the band lost the plot.
This film was the next thing of theirs I consumed. Again, to me, it seemed so authentic. The whole thing made absolute sense to my crazed teen mind. Watching their self made (and self congratulatory) Anthology documentary years later I realised even they were a bit ashamed of it. That was something of a surprise because I thought it was one of the coolest things they’d ever done.
There’s a reason most people don’t like this period of The Beatles’ output: it’s shoddy and confused. However, if you’re in the right state of mind, I think this film is one of the best bits of telly you can watch. There’s something very satisfying about watching a major pop band go wrong in such a realistic fashion.
Furthermore, if you do enjoy it there was an unofficial big budget sequel made by The Monkees called Head which is equally as good.
 It’s an EP in the UK, not an album. Better for it to be honest although naturally I own both.
 In my opinion The Beatles were more surreal than “psychedelic”. The word surreal means hyper real or more-than real. It’s French roots speak to its European influences. I think that’s why I believed their work from this period was so genuine, not because I understood this history and the definition but because it is in fact so successfully surreal.
In the real world I'm a freelance TV/radio presenter. I've worked for LBC, Kerrang Radio, The Bay, Edge Media TV, Hallam FM and The BBC.
My podcast is here: http://thecultofnick.libsyn.com/
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