The Beatles, ‘The Ultimate Mystery Trip Volume 1; Hop On The Bus’ (TMOQ Gazette / HMC 044)
The latest release from the HMC label is one of the best visual releases that they could have struck up for Beatles collectors, this side of a bunch of dry “Let It Be” outtakes all in crystal clear clarity or dubs of missing “Help” rushes. A double DVD set of clips, oddities, entrails and parts for the Beatles much maligned Boxing Day treat to the British populace and the Fabs misguided attempt to shuffle their legacy along after the premature demise of their manager and friend, Brian Epstein.
Thankfully this production is no ‘Help’ outtakes comp of the style that initially saw release on the grey area market and there is much more of interest on show. Some of the chapters are short – mercifully so, the others longer but then reasonable and with less boredom factor so things do tend to chivvy along smoothy (With maybe just the one exception if we’re fair). Generally taken from silent film (Again, with one exception) the footage is over dubbed with it’s own soundtrack, corresponding to the film that it should soundtrack, very well timed apart from one segment that’s not really supposed to be.
Our prologue consists of a mock up screen of a mid ’60’s TV, with the earlier-that-night announcement of the Beatles film debut to TV, presented by Alan Fluff Freeman, Pete Murray and, er, Jimmy Saville (If you have to ask who he is, best to be aware first, that his past was an open secret to a lot of media folk or people in the know around his home county and his ‘legacy’ as it was, is now very much not discussed.) – As it was played out on the night, this hype would have had Beatles fans throughout the land salivating more than their dinnertime turkey leftover sandwich. Quite how they managed to find this little segment – giving the set a little more context in taking you back to 1967 – well, it’s another amazing find!
We’ll go through the rest of the chapters as they appear on the disk;
‘Magical Mystery Tour’, Slate 2 of take 3 is comprised of Frida sketching out ideas, the young lad from the film, a sleepy John, a long, lingering portrait of George, the ever amiable Mal Evans mugging up for the camera, Ringo playing with a ball, etc. A melange of smiling and dozing faces getting ready to set out on their devil-may-care journey.
‘Marathon’, consists of the tug of war sketch played out on the airfield while midgets wrestle, bikes are repaired and assorted passengers (Who aren’t the Beatles) are lined up to wave at the starting line. The flare is shot for the crowd to walk, run, skip across the field on their rumpus, mad dash.
‘I Am The Courier’, Slate 46, takes 1, 2 & 3 are a serious performances by ‘Buster Bloodvessle’ taking his lines, announcing that he is the courier and the crowd announce to the affirmative. Notable by the nightmares that you’ll have after watching too much of this – the takes are essentially the same. Quite why someone thought the passengers response required three different takes is beyond me.
‘I Am The Walrus’, is an alternate version of the music video. Starting with the clapperboard take, Paul signals that the band are ready to start as the music chimes in. We have a couple of alternate takes of the fish-eye-lens-from-the-side take (These shots are some of the most lengthy), a couple of John-from-under-the-piano-shots, and a shot of Paul, Ringo and George sat on the wall practicing their waves. The footage at the end is mixed with footage from King Lear as the music fades in to the radio broadcast – This is a different mix however as none of the interference from the radio is heard but the broadcast itself and it’s much louder than the released version.
‘Into The Tent’, is soundtracked by ‘Flying’. Firstly, a dwarf actor photographs everybody getting off of the bus. Slate 27, take one, then shows the crowd walking through the field, watched by two pheasant-shooters, who are watched by their dogs as they march in a very British line towards the tent. The camera angles are changed as the rest of the scene has the assemble all climbing in to the tent, then out of the other end. Another angle at closer proximity has them getting in to the tent but doesn’t show them getting out of the other side. The footage then ends with footage of planes gliding slow and low across the field.
‘Blue Jay Way’, is an alternate to George’s contribution. Firstly a hacked off looking Harrison sitting cross legged on the floor, prodding at his chalk keyboard as he sits surrounded by smoke. We then fade to footage of the double bass at the bottom of the stairs at George’s home, backed by fireworks as a sprinkler of sparks circles the screen. George runs down the stairs halfway to grinningly present himself, then runs back up in a hail of sparks (Health and safety be damned in 1967, then!), we then fade to John playing the bass in the flower beds, himself wearing a giant daffodil buttoner, as the camera pans back the other fabs run around throwing a football back and forth between themselves. They reappear a little later and chat to the camera but exactly what it is that they’re saying is covered by the soundtrack. The film ends as it started, with George’s crosslegged stance on the floor. As the music ends, he looks down to the camera to his left and exhales, shooting us a ‘will that do?’ look.
‘Dining Scene Workprint’, Now for something a little different. A film with it’s own unique soundtrack – Albeit a little wobbly. A couple of seconds of colour footage has the tour bus pull in to the hotel, switching back to black and white at the passengers depart the bus. They’re all lead in to the dining room and sat down (John first, ladies!), The cameras then catch them ordering food (Baked beans for Ringo, no doubt.) and chatting. Paul plays drums with his cutlery as Nicola also joins in. Ringo smokes, Nat drinks wine rather a lot (See ‘Nat’s Dream Workprint’). The second part of the segment is synched to it’s own soundtrack as Aunt Jessie plays drums and entertains alongside the house band with her own brand of skin beating as the camera pans around the rest of the musicians. Paul drums along with his fork and knife again, John and George, sat together, continue to eat. As the cacophony continues, George turns around and laughs heartily, John blithely smirks to himself. At the finale, Magic Alex runs over with a bunch of flowers from the table and presents them, gushingly, her trip back to the seats is interspersed with clips of from the crowd shot from above, applauding wildly.
The rest of the scene has the house band play through some tin-pan alley classics before, Jolly Jimmy, our bus compere, giddily asks if everyone is having a good time and enjoying their dinner before rushing back to his place with a campy skip. The band strike back up and everybody continues their meal. In the interim before leaving, Paul removes his sweater and John and George enjoy a wine-glass of milk each. Once time comes to leave, John is helped back on with his jacket, Paul seems to be decorated with lumps of food in his hair. The passengers crowd back on to the bus and we’re away again.
‘Nat’s Dream Workprint’, – A fan of actors you know next to nothing about spending an autumn’s day making a fool of themselves in-between wearing an obviously fake toothbrush moustache and stripping down to his luridly patterned pants? Bingo! You’ll love this segment. However, if you’re no fan of the above, you’ll watch this scene once just to see if what I’m written is correct. See I’m right, then skip this segment next time. As a taster for the sketch from the film, it’s nice to see as Apple would most certainly not have considered this for the DVD re-release – Because it’s just far too overly weird! – but also features next to no Beatle involvement.
‘Your Mother Should Know’, Possibly the jewel of this disk, Slate 118, take 7 is the Beatles, white suited, stood on the stairs preparing their descent. Expertly synced with the CV, the film is a nice alternate to the original film, even if the first half features more sparkly dancers than Beatles. Mainly shot on super-8, there are many alternate shots there from the main cameras too – An excellent set of alternates!
‘On The Bus’, Sound tracked by various BBC radio interviews – The first featuring George, the second featuring Ringo, John is next to be briefed in an interview with couple of various interviews. The visual clips are taken from the end of the day as various members of the cast sleepily nod away on the bus (George notably nudging John back to his sleeping spot as John, deliberately or not, tips over on to him like a sleepy kid.), gurn for the camera, Paul lears at a dozing Wendy Winters after handing her his small bouquet of flowers (There’s a bit of seat hopping by Paul, strangely enough, he never seems to sit next to a gent.) Some of the older cast either gaze through the window, gossip between themselves or take a nap. Essentially, this is a true odds and ends clips reel though it is quite fun to see some of the off cuff footage that was snipped from the eventual film.
The extra trailer for Vol. 2 might surpass your wildest expectations too – Without letting you all in on too much, that’s why we’re reviewing this set here – you’ll quake with delight with what’s due to come but that’s another reason to purchase this set.
Disk two takes us on a trip of an alternate version of the Magical Mystery Tour film. Billed as being “more enjoyable”, I might suggest it is but then, being a Beatles fan, I might think that 30 minutes of home moves presenting Mal Evans preparing his Sunday lunch could be interesting – That is if he was discussing Ringo’s part in the making of Revolver and how he learned his technique. The film is made of a patchwork of oddities and outtakes using the few true-cameras that the Fabs took with them plus the super-8 film that was shot on location, pieced together with musical outtakes (The alternate, instrumental for SFF for example).
Some of this footage is rough and grainy, some of it beautiful and of a-near official quality. There’s not much story to be had (Was there ever?) but better still, very little double up with the outtakes or the film itself. Made from ‘outtake footage’, or more specifically, footage that has been collected from various documentaries detailing the film all spliced together – Painstakingly so, I might add, to look like the official film rather than attempting to be put together as the film was shot, hence the ‘alternate’ version tag – what makes this ‘How We Spent Our Holidays’ sharabank interesting is the amount of good old Beatles footage, twinned with their guest’s turns such as Victor Spinetti, Ivor Cutler and the Bonzos. Less a ‘remake’ more of a rogues gallery of shots and snippets set to music. Very, very interesting for the Beatles historian and the British historian of the 60’s.
Not a case of you may like it, one of the most thoroughly enjoyable Beatles releases this year and if you’re not knocked out, you’re most certainly a Rolling Stones fan.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)