So I have started the journey of watching all 5 original Beatle movies.
Magical Mystery Tour, Help!, A Hard Day’s Night, Let It Be and Yellow Submarine.
In the lineup of the 5 Beatle movies, this movie was the one I was most worried about, having been panned at the time of release as being just too silly. Here is the VHS (LOL) cover. I can laugh because my father had a Beta player.
Looking at the stills online, I don’t know if I recall the movie, or just recognize pictures from the album’s 24 page booklet. This is one of my favorite Beatles albums, behind only Abbey Road.
I find 2 distinct moods on this album. Side 1 dark and moody, and Side 2 improving and sunny. The tracks:
The pomp of “Magical Mystery Tour” as the opener is awesome. Then the quiet “The Fool On The Hill” with it’s odd flute sound throughout and the weird noise at 2:40 whatever that is. This is then followed by “Flying” which is one of the few credited to all 4 members. Then you get to the detached melancholy of “Blue Jay Way”.
“Your Mother Should Know” a pleasant Paul ditty and the John classic “I Am The Walrus” fades out the side with much eerie weirdness and voices. Quite a ride.
Then Side Two opens with “Hello, Goodbye” which despite being ridiculous, probably was responsible for me choosing Paul as my favorite Beatle. I would sing along to this loudly, particularly the “hey la” and “cha cha cha” parts. “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” are of course classics. The background phasing in “Baby, You’re A Rich Man” is awesome and the tempo shifts are perfect. Rounding it out is the ultra classic, and even the most cynical Beatle fans can’t ignore the perfection of the album ender “All You Need Is Love”. This was also on the “Yellow Submarine” soundtrack and thus comes with an old friend familiarity. The pomp at the end matches the pomp at the start of the album.
THAT is why I was nervous to watch the movie. I was afraid the movie may tarnish my image of these songs…
Well, I watched it this morning. Silly? Yes. Weird? Yes.
It’s a bit like trying to portray a psychedelic freak out, but toning it down for TV.
I have to say there were parts that made me laugh. Particularly the scene where Paul sits stoically behind a desk in uniform while another officer blurts out nonsense for a few minutes.
If I had seen this as a child, I probably forgot it all, because there was little I recalled except for the things I had seen in the album booklet. Which is many pages and lots of shots of pivotal scenes from the movie.
The editing was brutal. I know, I know… it was 1976.
I did enjoy the “I Am The Walrus” scene. The masks and the egg hats. It certainly gives you some perspective on the song, which I always took to be a bit dark. It is more a smiling jolly affair here.
I certainly didn’t recall the whole stripper scene.
…and the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band singing “Death Cab For Cutie”. Is that where the current band took it’s name? Interesting.
At any rate, I don’t think any of the songs from the album are outright ruined by me having watched this, and I’m glad I did, but I can certainly see where the panning and grumbling of the critics came from. It’s a bit like watching a psychedelic mashup of Benny Hill and Monty Python.
I must admit it has a sort of whimsical charm, though brutally dated now and silly without a doubt. I’m glad I watched it.
On to movie # 2. A Hard Day’s Night.