In sixth or seventh grade, I had this friend who was a Beatles fanatic, and that was my first experience with a girl who was really crazy about music. She introduced me to the concept of playing a record backward, she knew every fact – she kind of opened my eyes to the mystery of it all.
In our mind, Magical Mystery Tour was about them reacting to the situation they were in. They had become really famous and it all became a circus to them, and they were playing with the idea that society is a farce and using absurdity as a weapon against authority. There are lines in every single song about the struggle between what’s real and what’s not. “The Fool on the Hill” is kind of the thesis statement.
But then on the second side, with the singles, it’s like they’ve given us the peek behind the curtain, showed us how absurd it all is, and now the curtain closes again and they deliver the magic, the big entertainment. And then it ends with “All You Need Is Love.” Once your eyes have been opened, where you end up is the state of love. That’s what the magical mystery tour delivers. It’s like the Matrix, where you take the blue pill or the red pill and you wake up.
Beatlemaniacs took everything they did to mean something, and their material never failed to bear out the best, deepest theories you threw at it. Think about how many things reference this kind of dumb movie – Monty Python, Death Cab for Cutie. They go into a tent and then come out in a different place – J.K. Rowling totally ripped that off for Harry Potter!
It’s amazing how influential something so not-thought-out actually became. But it’s because even though it was spontaneous and silly, it’s still broadcasting everything the Beatles were thinking and feeling.
They were outliers, stuck in a surreal world, and they reflected that back on all of us.