Saturday, April 26, 2008

How the Magical E.P.s Were Made

John Lennon during filming of Magical Mystery Tour in Plymouth, 1967by MAL and NEIL

At the end of last month's piece we said we'd planned to tell you about each of the Beatles' new recordings in detail but space had run out on us. So here we go with answers to all your questions. Let's start with the Fan Club Record, "CHRISTMAS TIME (IS HERE AGAIN)" before we talk about "Hello, Goodbye" and all the "Magical Mystery Tour" tracks.

The Christmas disc was not recorded until the evening of Tuesday November 28, a few days before Ringo went to Rome for "Candy" filming. John brought along the handwritten script he and the others had worked out earlier the same day. The first job was to record the theme song before going on to the bits of dialogue.

John got hold of a pair of tympani drums and put his coat across the top to muffle the sound. Paul sat down at the piano, George got his guitar ready and Ringo set up his own drum kit because Mal had nipped off down the road to take a mate for a pint!

Everyone Sang

Everyone joined in to sing the chorus--not just four Beatles but everyone who happened to be around including producer George Martin and actor Victor Spinetti who had dropped in for a chat!

Now it isn't usual to have dance routines on a record but The Beatles decided it would be a nice touch. Instead of using a sound effects record Ringo and Victor gave us all a "live performance" tap display specially for the recording!

After all the "talking" bits had been put on tape Paul and George had to leave but John stayed on to supervise the job of piecing together all the recorded bits. That took them until nearly three in the morning--with John deciding at the last moment to add the Poetic Scotsman sequence (George Martin playing "Auld Lang Syne" on the organ behind him) as a bonus for all North O' The Border Beatle People!!!

Julian's Design

The colourful sleeve for "CHRISTMAS TIME (IS HERE AGAIN)" was designed by John, Julian and Ringo the following afternoon at John's house. Julian got stuck in with his oil-painting set to produce the bright colours for the back while John and Ringo cut up dozens of ancient photographs for the front. If you count 'em up you'll find about 161 people on the front of the sleeve--plus one or two unfortunate folk who lost their heads! Where did all those pictures come from? No, they're NOT family album snaps of 19th century Lennon relatives! They were taken from the bundle of very old photo albums John has amongst his incredible collection of antique-type books.

That's enough about that. Now we'll go through the seven other new records--the ones you CAN buy in the shops.

"MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR" was the first to be recorded--at the end of April and the start of May. That's Paul voice you hear doing the "commercial" at the beginning and he's also the lead singer with the others joining in behind and doing the answering bits. Three trumpet players came in to add "Penny Lane" sounds to the accompaniment. Paul played the piano with special echo effects added at the end where it sounds as though someone is actually singing with the piano.

On August 22 work began at Chappell Studios in New Bond Street on "YOUR MOTHER SHOULD KNOW". Paul was lead singer again on this track and he played piano. At one point you hear John joining him on organ.

In date order the next track was George's "BLUE JAY WAY", started on September 6. All the way through you hear two Harrison voices--he recorded the second one on top of the first to get the "duet" effect. Later he recorded the vocal backing with Paul. A technical process called "phasing" was used on the vocal sound and on George's Hammond Organ playing to create that fascinating "swirling" effect. The only additional instrument heard here is a single cello but there are studio-built technical effects used on the very end of the record.

Lots of Strings

Around the same time (first week of September) John got busy on "I AM THE WALRUS". As you can imagine this one took a lot of time and The Beatles kept coming back to it right the way through September. The opening features Master Mellotroneer John. Then you hear 8 violins and 4 cellos making all the string music for which producer George Martin did the score. John's singing is double-tracked which means you hear his voice twice-over all through the song. The other instruments are three horns--plus "radio voices" which keep butting in at odd moments. And, of course, there's a full-scale choir on this track. Six boys and six girls belonging to the Michael Sammes Singers. You hear the boys singing "Oompah, oompah, stick it up your jumpah!" and the girls do that "Everybody's got one" bit. Dunno who says "Sit down, father, rest you!" but it sounds very pleasant there at the end doesn't it!

Next on the agenda came the instrumental, "FLYING", which was started on September 8. John plays the main tune on his Highly Intelligent Trained Mellotron and Paul and George play an assortment of guitars. The whole group got together to do the chanting bit later on in the arrangement and at the end electronic sounds take over. John and Ringo built up these sounds in the studio and you hear some of their recorded tape loops played backwards.


Before beginning "THE FOOL ON THE HILL", the group decided to do "Your Mother Should Know" again. They didn't like various things about the first version and thought of ways in which it should be improved. After that "THE FOOL ON THE HILL" got under way on September 25. A decidedly Paul sort of ballad with him singing and playing piano. Ringo plays the finger cymbals, George and John use harmonicas and Paul double-tracked his playing of the recorder to make it sound like two. The solo guitar passage is (of course) George. The only other instrument heard on "The Fool on the Hill" is a flute played by Paul.

The last few days of September were used to put the finishing touches on "Walrus". And that was it so far as the "Magical Mystery Tour" soundtrack numbers were concerned.

On October 2 it was time to get going on "Hello, Goodbye". Work on this recording was spread over quite a few weeks because all the four boys were busy editing and doing other jobs connected with the "Magical Mystery Tour" film. You already know that Paul is the lead singer on "Hello, Goodbye" with George joining him and John to supply the answering voices. Those spiky, metallic guitar chords are played by John and George. Session men added the sound of two violas. Paul is on the piano and extra percussion rhythm instruments like bongos and conga drums were brought in towards the end for the Maori finale! Incidentally sessions were delayed a couple of days in October when Paul got a swollen face caused by a hole in one of his teeth. But he's O.K. now!

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