Aug 172007

Roll up!

The Beatles, “Magical Mystery Tour” (German true stereo mix)

My promise of a slightly mind-expanding take on The Beatles’ oft-derided Magical Mystery Tour album is likely to be met with skepticism on Day 1, as I roll out the title track for review. Listeners who are familiar with the conventional release of this album may notice a little added brightness and definition in the horns and string – and the rhythm guitar is a little more distinct – but this song is still what it is, a poor man’s “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. Perhaps you will hear more than even I hear. Hold tight for tomorrow’s first dramatic ear-opening selection!


  15 Responses to ““Magical Mystery Tour”…In True Stereo”

  1. saturnismine

    nice and warm…yet crisp.

    it reminds me of listening to this album on my cousin’s macintosh component system…the cadillac of stereos.

    i think the person who really shines the most with this pressing is ringo, at least on this song. some really nice fills in there that separate themselves and cut through the mix rather than getting compressed and lost in the mire.

    i was never a HUGE fan of this song. it’s a nice framing device, however, with plenty of great bells and whistles. i’m with alex, however, regarding the supermarket horns. it seems, in this pressing, they’re in their proper place: not to garish.

    thanks for sharing mod!!!

  2. hrrundivbakshi

    Pro: the bass really jumps out in a nice way, and Ringo is revealed to be doing some very nice things back there.

    Con: the SFX of the bus rolling by doesn’t swoosh from left to right speaker anymore!

  3. mockcarr

    I like that they are messing with tempo, and the rolled R in the last “reservation”. I’d have to directly compare it to my old vinyl to see where the subtle differences are, but I do agree the horns seem to sound better; I always heard the bass well. Fritz is right – the most obvious thing is that the motorcoach is not going by me, it’s comin’ right for my bloody ear! Must have been a DC bus driver.

  4. BigSteve

    Hvb, you don’t hear the bus going from left to right?

    And what is the effect on the group vocal — chorus?

  5. hrrundivbakshi

    BS: okay, it sort of *vaguely* goes from center to left, but you gotta be listening for it. Not like the “normal” mix, where it most definitely goes rrrrRRRRROOOARRR from your left ear to your right, which I prefer.

    Re: vox FX — it’s a chorus effect of a sort — probably a hand-flange or something.

  6. BigSteve

    I must be missing something. I thought the “normal” mix was mono, and this version Mod has up on the site is the stereo version.

  7. I’m with Saturn on the chronology PL/SFF thing.

    In fact, I like the songs they added on more than the original MMT songs by and large.

    MMT – the song. This has always been a fav of mine. Ringo’s heavy bass drum pattern has been a major influence on me. Ya gotta love the “roll up” part in a sophomoric sense. In my mind’s ear, I always here the spoken part from the movie version during the “it’s a mystery trip” – the “Trip of a lifetime..time..time..time”


  8. saturnismine

    BigSteve, it’s evident if you start reading up on this stuff that they often went back and remixed each time. it’s not like today, when a song gets mixed, and THAT’S THE MIX.

    beatles songs often appear with noticeably different mixes, especially where features like these are concerned.

    i have a 45 of paperback writer that has a completely different delay effect on the vocals.

    so it’s entirely plausible that when they sent acetates to a pressing plant in germany, they sent slightly different mixes.

  9. saturnismine

    forgot to say: thanks for the backing andy arrrr!

  10. sammymaudlin

    This song is actually one of the songs that has this sense of looseness for me. It’s hard to put my notion to words (as usual) but the drumming and the thumping bass and the hard downbeat feel like its live for me. And the effects feel a little dirtier and/or overt in a-sort-of-a-kind-of Satanic Majesties way. As “garagey” as The Beatles could get to my ear.

    Maybe its laziness or sloppiness but the result to my ear is a groovier vibe. It is for these same, and other, reasons that I may be the only one that thinks the movie is brilliant.

  11. I think the movie does have moments of brilliance, where the reality of riding a bus through the British countryside transforms into a (figuratively) psychedelic “trip”

    And I love the scene with the Bonzos playing “Death Cab for Cutie.”

    Still, the whole thing tends to drag through some rather, well, underdeveloped scenes. If they had more time, I think they could have done much more with, as I suggest above, a a premise that is both imaginative and remarkably subversive.

    Which reminds me that, on a similar note, the film “The Trip” fails in much the same way. A brilliant script (written by Jack Nicholson) wrecked by low-budget, rushed production.

  12. sammymaudlin

    Its the low budget and ill preparedness which I find so great from a band that is here-to-fore known for absolute perfection and studio nitpickery and such. Both the album and the movie have a haphazardishness about them that I’ve always felt was intentional. Sort of like “we’ve got half a script” or “a chunk of a song”, “let’s not think too much and just do it.” I think this is the “looseness” I feel.

    It is the very fact that the album is more a collection of stuff than a proper A-Z Beatles production that I find endearing which is not a word I normally would use to describe anything Beatles. The movie too I find very much like something a bunch of friends with $75 bucks, access to a bus, 16mm Bolex and some killer weed might produce on a lark.

    I don’t feel it had anything to do with being bored rather just a different approach for them, more of a by the seat of their pants. I sense that after years and years of such tight control, musically and image-wise and such that they were cutting loose and not overthinking it.

    Maybe it had something to do with Epstien’s death. I dunno.

    But this Beatle-recklessness allows me to do something inside of their creations that I don’t really get to do in any other of theirs and that is to “wallow about.”

  13. BigSteve

    The issue of the different mixes also raises the question of the state of the current Beatles catalog. A lot of people were unhappy with the original CD reissues, and there have recently been rumors that the entire catalog is being remastered for release in the near future, though whether they will finally be available as downloads remains to be seen.

    Anyway, what version will come out when this finally happens? I hope the German MMT ends up as the ‘real’ one, but who knows? Mr Mod is ahead of the curve here as usual. I hope he gets through this week’s MMT reissue campaign before Apple brings the hammer down on him. Is that why he left the country?

  14. saturnismine

    great stuff sammy!

    some thoughts:

    it’s hard to know whether a spot like the end of this song is an enthused leap into uncharted waters, or a shrug of the shoulders and no idea what to do next, coupled with a lack of enthusiasm, and reliance on george martin to do something with that swishy, non-committal playing at the end before bringing it to a fade. i gather that you’re inclined to hear the former. but i hear the latter.

    also, with the particular passage in question, i hear why you’d want ot use a word like “haphazard”, but i think you’re going way overboard with the idea.

    listen to the multi tracked precision harmonies on the title track.

    or listen to right speaker and hear ringo drop out almost completely, pulling back from his instincts to want to do fills, in order to let mccartney’s vocals take center stage during the second chorus.

    note how the acoustic guitar and bass plunk and strum on the same note during the song’s hook.

    listen to the various patterns ringo uses throughout the song to give it different colors.

    and as ringo moves through these various patterns, the bass goes with him, and rather than an acoustic guitar, we have an electric guitar doubling the bass.

    note how they’ve arranged a nice tight slowing of the tempo at the end.

    few bands bothered with this kind of detail. and this is to say nothing of the overdubbing, or the planned out, precision playing we’ll hear on some of the other stuff from the actual material they recorded for the film.

    so this is hardly haphazard stuff, on which they “cut loose” with a new “beatle recklessness” from their previous overthinking. it’s a planned out, highly rehearsed effort, an attempt to follow up pepper that burned them the eff out.

    and even in the process, it finds them frayed around the edges. but not with the enthusiasm you attribute to the project.

    the notion that they were bored or tired with this approach at the time, isn’t really worth contesting, unless it’s paul we’re talking about (then again, enthusiasm is a part of his public persona). the others are on record describing their disenchantment and burnout and fatigue with the beatles and this particular project.

    epstein’s death was a catalyst for mmt, however: mccartney felt that “someone had to step in and be the grown up” after brian had died, and he really quarterbacked this project. cleary, he wasn’t all that comfortable with it. the lack of enthusiasm by john, george, and ringo probably didn’t help.

    the randomness of the film came from their interests in the concept as it pertains to artistic experiementation. it’s an approach they would soon abandon, based largely on the experience of filming mmt “by the seat of their pants” as you so rightly put it, and cranking out the first beatle project that was roundly slammed by critics and the public alike.

  15. sammymaudlin

    I don’t really hear technical recklessness exactly. More of a creative recklessness which results in a sound to me that is, surely rehearsed and such, but not put thru a conceptual ringer. A bypassing of the brain and more of a direct tap into the psyche.

    I don’t get the impression that the songs at the core of the sounds were labored over or mapped out to excruciating degree prior to beginning the production process.

    More like they had a rough idea and just sort of assumed that the end result would be magnificent. I hear these songs as if they had played “with” them as opposed to designing first and then recording them. More of painterly approach as opposed to an architectural one.

    The experimental/unscripted film quality of the movie is a very British extension of what experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage and others (especially in Germany) were doing just 3-4 years earlier. They throw in a dash of The Goons and Neil Innesness and the result is so incredibly ballsy for a band in that position…

    I’m a very visual person and it could well be that the experimental, low budget, scriptless, ballsy film is coloring my impression but the music has a similar appeal to me. I realize that this seems at odds with the obvious high studio production quality of the music. But it is there for me grooving and flowing throughout and I dig it!

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