Monday, October 29, 2012

Escaping into Beatles Psychedelia in the Throes of the Storm

To drown out the HISSING, HISSING, WHIPPING winds outside the window and the enveloping sickly wet grayness, I am escaping into the psychedelic COLORS of the Magical Mystery Tour, and then crawling over to Pepperland.

The Paley Center screened the newly remastered print of MMT, with a panel discussion with Elvis Costello, Steven Van Zandt, Tony Gilroy, Jonathan Clyde of Apple Films, moderated by Bill Flanagan. Magical Mystery Tour is the film the Beatles created themselves. They decided to wing it with no script,  just the Fab 4 on a holiday bus trip to nowhere. For more background and analysis, here is John Harris in the Guardian.

Observations from the panel:

Flanagan: MMT is the film everyone thinks they have seen, but very few have.

It was shown once on the BBC on Boxing Day, 1967,  and Elvis Costello was one of the 15 million who sat down with families at 8:35 pm to watch. On the whole, the audience was not amused, and the BBC was inundated with complaints about this "rubbish."

Elvis reminds the audience that they were watching it in black & white, because almost no one had a color TV in 1967.

Little Stevie called it "a curiosity, with a masterpiece [Walrus] at its center."

Gilroy saw it as a "toolbox" for so much that came after, from the Monkees episodes to Easy Rider to Monty Python. Also how the Beatles could be that unique combination of revolution and nostalgia: "Ken Kesey would not have brought his Aunt on the bus."

Clyde brought up several times what an influence Richard Lester had on the Beatles. When they wanted to do their own film he told them to forget about making a film and approach it like an album.

I can watch "I Am the Walrus" endlessly: I love their clothes, which are much more hip than their the Sgt. Pepper costumes; Paul looks tired but the close-ups on his hands show that easy command of the musician beyond the pop star; John looks happy; Lewis Carroll, even if John said in later interview that he didn't realize the Walrus was the bad guy; "Goo goo ga 'jobb" John swore he made up nonsense after getting a letter from a student at his old Quarry Bank High School who said the teacher was making them analyze Beatles lyrics.

Yellow Submarine

Lucy in the Sky

Hello, Goodbye (which was shown on the Ed Sullivan show and has the most Beatles views on YouTube at 4.1 million)


Anonymous said...

Such a nice trip down memory lane. I drifted off to simpler times and warm memories....