"Flying" is an instrumental song by The Beatles which first appeared on the 1967 Magical Mystery Tour release (two EP discs in the United Kingdom, an LP in the United States).
A rare Beatles instrumental (the first since "Cry for a Shadow" in 1961), although wordless chanting is heard at the end, it was the first song to be credited as being written by all four members of the band, with the writing credits of "Lennon/McCartney/Harrison/Starkey" (another being "Dig It" off the Let It Be album). It was recorded on September 8, 1967 with mellotron, guitar, bass, maracas, drums, and tape loops overdubbed September 28.
"Flying" was originally titled "Aerial Tour Instrumental." The end of the recording originally included a fast-paced traditional New Orleans jazz-influenced coda, but this was removed and replaced with an ending featuring tape loops created by John Lennon and Ringo Starr during the September 28 session. The loops initially made the song last 9 minutes 38 seconds, but the track was cut after only 2 minutes 17 seconds. Part of the loops were used alongside an element of the ending jazz sequence to make "The Bus," an incidental piece used at various points, for the TV movie. The track is likely to have originally started simply as a jam session — it is in simple 12-bar blues form in a straight-forward 4/4 time and the key of C major.
On the track as recorded and officially released, John Lennon plays the main theme on mellotron, accompanied by Paul McCartney and George Harrison (both on guitars, plus a later bass overdub) and Ringo Starr (on maracas and drums). All four Beatles added the chanting, and the track fades in an assortment of tape effects created by Lennon and Starr. This released version is identical to that heard on the soundtrack of the Magical Mystery Tour film; the music is accompanied in the film by color-altered images of landscape in Iceland taken from an airplane. Those shots are outtakes of the Stanley Kubrick's movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.
A different version can be found on some Beatles bootleg albums (such as Back-track 1), and features added Hammond organ and strange whistling noises in the early parts of the track. The jazz-influenced ending is also present on this version, which is slightly shorter, clocking in at around 2:08.
Influence on music by other artists
In 1977, The Residents covered "Flying" on the Residents Play the Beatles side of their The Beatles Play the Residents and the Residents Play the Beatles single release. Reportedly, the only reason they chose "Flying" was because it was the only song they could find that was credited to all of The Beatles as composers. The single is now fairly difficult to obtain, although the track can be found on the discontinued CD release of The Third Reich and Roll as a bonus track, as well as the re-released radio interview Eat Exuding Oinks.
It has been said that Noel Gallagher of Oasis used the song "Flying"'s chords to create the song "Shakermaker" on the album Definitely Maybe.
Album: Magical Mystery Tour
Released: November 27, 1967 (US) (LP), December 8, 1967 (UK) (EP), November 19, 1976 (UK) (LP)
Recorded: September 8, 1967
Genre: Psychedelic rock
Label: Parlophone, Capitol, EMI
Producer: George Martin