Subscribe to our newsletter

(Credit: Parlophone Music Sweden)


The set piece that ate up all the money for 'Magical Mystery Tour'


The Magical Mystery Tour film was a chaotic endeavour for The Beatles from the very beginning. Originally pitched by Paul McCartney so that the band could stay busy in the wake of manager Brian Epstein’s death, the film had no set script, no major direction, and no clear plot when shooting for the movie began. Things didn’t clear up very much when shooting was done, but McCartney knew one thing he wanted: a major set-piece.

That set-piece wound up being soundtracked by McCartney’s music hall track ‘Your Mother Should Know’. “I wrote it in Cavendish Avenue on the harmonium I have in the dining room there,” McCartney recalled in the book Many Years From Now. “My Aunty Jin and Uncle Harry and a couple of relatives were staying and they were in the living room just across the hall, so I just went to the dining room and spent a few hours with the door open with them listening. And I suppose because of the family atmosphere ‘Your Mother Should Know’ came in. It’s a very music-hall kind of thing, probably influenced by the fact that my Aunty Jin was in the house.

McCartney envisioned a giant dance to accompany the song, which eventually evolved into an old-Hollywood style grand ending for the film. Magical Mystery Tour had a relatively small budget, and when The Beatles were able to rent out the RAF West Malling Airfield in Kent, they jumped at the chance to build a gigantic staircase in one of the abandoned aircraft hangers.

“The big prop was that great big staircase that we danced down, that was where all the money went: in that particular shot on that big staircase,” McCartney added. “I said, ‘Sod it, you’ve got to have the Busby Berkeley ending,’ and it is a good sequence. Just the fact of John dancing, which he did readily. You can see by the fun expression on his face that he wasn’t forced into anything.”

The airfield was used for a number of other sequences in the film, including the race between the tour bus and the passengers and the filming of the ‘I Am the Walrus’ sequence. Despite the lack of any formal script, the film was largely finished in time for its Boxing Day premiere. No official budget was ever released for Magical Mystery Tour, but judging by McCartney’s comments, it’s fair to assume most of it went to the ‘Your Mother Should Know’ sequence.

Check out the ‘Your Mother Should Know’ sequence down below.