This has been a good year for Beatles fans.
The Sgt. Pepper anniversary box set released this summer was, in my opinion, an archival release done right. And this month we'll finally see an official release of the band's fan club Christmas records (although I wish they'd put them on CD, not just vinyl).
But what didn't we get? A 50th anniversary edition of the other Beatles album released in 1967: The Magical Mystery Tour.
Yes, I realize Apple Corps hasn't complete ignored MMT in recent years. The MMT film came out on Blu-ray in 2012, packaged in a special edition that included a re-pressing of the original soundtrack EP. But an anniversary edition along the lines of this year's Pepper box would've been appropriate. And now, with the moment lost, who knows when we might see one?
Giles Martin, a few months back, let slip that an anniversary edition of the "White Album" is his next big Beatles project. After that, anniversary editions of Abbey Road and the Let it Be LP/film seem far more likely than a step back to revamp MMT.
Plus, who knows for how much longer we'll even see physical releases of albums? It may be that, in the future, we'll just get the Beatles catalog fully re-mixed but available only via high-resolution downloads or streaming. How depressing.
Nevertheless, we can imagine the Magical Mystery Tour Super Deluxe Anniversary Edition that might've been and, maybe, someday, might actually exist.
Here's my take on what it might include:
The Magical Mystery Tour 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition
Disk 1: Re-mix of the original Magical Mystery Tour album in stereo.
As with Sgt. Pepper, I presume Giles Martin or whoever is hired to re-mix the album would have access to the original multi-track session tapes. As with the re-mix of Pepper, this would allow the re-mixer to create new masters of each tune using the pre-bounce, first-generation tapes, resulting in vivid high-fidelity: MMT as we've never heard it before.
And, as with Pepper, the re-mixer could draw on elements from both mono and stereo versions of songs in an attempt to create a best-of-both-worlds "mono in stereo" mix, something I think Giles succeeded in with his Pepper remix.
There would be no need to re-mix "Penny Lane" or "Strawberry Fields," of course, since both were included on this year's Pepper box.
Tracks on this first CD would include:
- Magical Mystery Tour
- The Fool on the Hill
- Blue Jay Way
- Your Mother Should Know
- I Am the Walrus
- Hello, Goodbye
- Strawberry Fields Forever
- Penny Lane
- Baby, You're a Rich Man
- All You Need is Love
Disk 2: The Beatles 1967 Compilation
The American version of MMT is already a compilation, right? It includes music from the film on side 1 and a collection of A- and B-sides on side 2.
So why not treat this anniversary edition as an expanded compilation, one which rounds up other stray recordings from 1967?
My track list for the set's second CD would include:
- Only a Northern Song - recorded during the Sgt. Pepper sessions but held for the 1968 "Yellow Submarine" soundtrack album (about which more below).
- It's All Too Much - recorded in May and June 1967 but held for the "Yellow Submarine" soundtrack.
- All Together Now - recorded in May 1967 but held for the "Yellow Submarine" soundtrack.
- Magical Mystery Tour - film version, which includes somewhat different vocals and John's spoken, "When a man buys a ticket for a magical mystery tour..." section.
- The Fool on the Hill - Demo version, part of which was included on Anthology 2.
- All You Need is Love - TV broadcast version
- Aerial Tour Instrumental - a variation on "Flying," which has appeared on numerous bootlegs.
- Shirley's Wild Accordion - a Lennon-McCartney credited instrumental featured in the MMT film. The music is performed by Shirley Evans on accordion; her husband, Reg Wale, on percussion; Paul McCartney on maracas and Ringo Starr on drums. A version of the tune appears as a bonus on the 2012 MMT DVD/Blu-ray.
- Mellotron music - various musical cues created for the MMT film, which also are available on bootlegs.
- Jesse's Dream - instrumental music from this sequence of the MMT film.
- Christmas Time (is Here Again) - full version of the tune used in bits and pieces on the band's 1967 Christmas fan club record and excerpted on the 1995 "Free as a Bird" single.
- Carnival of Light - the never-bootlegged studio freakout recorded as Paul's contribution to the Million Volt Light and Sound Rave, held in London in early 1967. I felt that this really should've been included in the Pepper box since it was recorded during sessions for that LP. But MMT is a compilation album of 1967 recordings, so why not include it here?
- All Together on the Wireless Machine - Maybe as a hidden cut. This is a short ditty used as a jingle for BBC Radio's "Where It's At" program hosted by Kenny Everett and Chris Demming. It reportedly features Paul on vocals and piano (and it sounds like Paul to me), but that's the topic of some debate. At any rate, it seems like the Beatles camp would know whether it's Paul or not and, if so, include it here.
- BBC"Where It's At" broadcast from May 20 featuring John and Paul discussing Sgt. Pepper. Should've been on the Pepper box, but let's include it here.
- BBC Kenny Everett interview with Paul about the "All You Need is Love" TV broadcast.
- BBC "Where It's At" broadcast from Nov. 25 featuring John discussing MMT.
"Hey Bulldog," also included on the YS soundtrack, was recorded in 1968, as were the non-album single tracks "Lady Madonna," "The Inner Light," "Hey Jude," and "Revolution" (fast version). It makes sense to include those on a "White Album" anniversary edition.
What, then, do we do when it's time to re-mix and reissue the "Yellow Submarine" soundtrack itself? I suggest a straight reissue of the original - no need for a big box set. I like the George Martin instrumental tracks and believe those should be a part of the package. And, while I enjoyed the 1999 Yellow Submarine Songtrack album, which included remixed tunes, I say leave that as is. It's not a part of the official catalog and doesn't need to be archived.
One more note, I don't include "You Know My Name, Look Up the Number" on this disk. While much of the tune was recorded in 1967, the vocals and other parts were added in 1969.
Disks 3 and 4: Sessions
As with the Pepper box, we'd want to include outtakes and work-in-progress material from the MMT recording sessions, along with the other 1967 tracks included in this package. A variety of things have surfaced on bootlegs, but access to the full sessions would yield much more. Over these two CDs, we'd get a sense of how the album was constructed.
Disk 5: Magical Mystery Tour mono version, German true stereo version, plus bonus tracks
This disk would include a straight transfer of the original mono MMT LP, the excellent German true stereo version, plus mono versions of the tunes included on the "Yellow Submarine" soundtrack LP.
Disk 6: Magical Mystery Tour film on Blu-ray with bonus material
I figure the Blu-ray would include all of the supplemental material included on the 2012 release although, as we've seen from recent bootlegs, there is plenty of material available that didn't make it into the final film. It would be nice to include some of that.
Plus we'd want the newly restored "All You Need is Love" TV broadcast and "Hello, Goodbye" promo film, as were featured on the 1+ compilation.
Supplemental materials in the 2012 edition included:
- Director's commentary by Paul McCartney
- The Making of Magical Mystery Tour
- Ringo the Actor
- Meet the Supporting Cast
- Three new edits of "Your Mother Should Know," "Blue Jay Way," and "The Fool on the Hill" featuring footage not seen in the original film.
- "Hello Goodbye" as featured in Top of the Pops 1967
- Nat's Dream - A scene directed by John featuring Nat Jackley. Not included in the original film.
- Ivor Cutler 'I'm Going In A Field' - Ivor performs 'I'm Going In A Field', in a field. Not included in the original film.
- Traffic 'Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush' - The filming of Traffic acting out their 1967 hit single 'Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush' was commissioned by The Beatles for possible inclusion in Magical Mystery Tour but was not used in the final edit.
We'd want to include a book, of course. Plus the 28-page photo booklet that came with the original LP/EP. Capitol Records also issued a promo poster for the album in 1967, which could be included as a reproduction with this set.
Altogether, that's a pretty nice package, on par with the Sgt. Pepper box, and a worthy archival project.
What did I miss? What do you think such a set should include?