Magical Mystery Tour is a song, the opening track and theme song for the album, double EP and TV film of the same name. Richie Unterberger of Allmusic called it "a pleasant, get-up-and-go tune, but not one of the Beatles' very best songs." Unlike the theme songs for their other film projects, it was not released as a single.
The song is credited to Lennon/McCartney, though written primarily by Paul McCartney. McCartney said it was co-written. John Lennon said, "Paul's song. Maybe I did part of it, but it was his concept.". In 1972, Lennon said, "Paul wrote it. I helped with some of the lyric."
McCartney said the "Roll up! Roll up!" introduction was inspired by a barker. The remaining lyrics explain in a general way the premise of the film: a mystery tour of the type that was popular in Britain when the Beatles were young. Lennon and McCartney expanded the tour to make it magical, which allowed it to be "a little more surreal than the real ones."
Recording began on 25 April 1967, less than a week after the final sessions for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The song was not complete when the session began and much of the evening was spent in rehearsals, but by the end of the evening the basic rhythm track was complete. The Beatles added bass guitar and vocal overdubs on 26 and 27 April. On 3 May, the brass fanfare and other parts were added in a disorganized session where the trumpet players began the evening without a score. According to Philip Jones, a friend of one of the players who was present, one of the players eventually took matters into his own hands and wrote a score out for them.
"Magical Mystery Tour" was released on a six-song double EP in the United Kingdom on 8 December 1967. In the United States the double EP was stretched to an LP by including five songs previously released as singles. When the band's whole catalogue was being re-released in 1987, the LP version was issued on CD in both countries.
The version heard in the movie differs somewhat from the one released on the album. The "Roll up, roll up" intro at the beginning had been re-recorded and also slightly expanded. Also, during the song's middle, a short monologue spoken by John Lennon was heard:
When a man buys a ticket for a Magical Mystery Tour'He knows what to expect.'We guarantee him the trip of a lifetime'And that's just what he gets.'The incredible Magical Mystery Tour!
This version has never been officially released.
- Paul McCartney – Lead and Harmony Vocals, Piano, Bass Guitar (Rickenbacker 4001S), Percussion
- John Lennon – Lead and Backing Vocals, Rhythm Guitar (Gibson J-160E), Hammond Organ, Percussion
- George Harrison – Backing Vocals, Rhythm Guitar (Fender Stratocaster), Harmony Vocals, Percussion
- Ringo Starr – Drums, Percussion
- Mal Evans – Percussion
- Neil Aspinall – Percussion
- David Mason – Trumpet
- Elgar Howarth – Trumpet
- Roy Copestake – Trumpet
- John Wilbraham – Trumpet