The lost Beatles song cut from ‘Magical Mystery Tour’

The creation of Magical Mystery Tour found The Beatles in a place of chaos. Just four days after the final production on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Herts Club Band wrapped sessions for Magical Mystery Tour began with the title song. Paul McCartney had a grand vision for the project – an album and a film written by and starring the band. McCartney’s bandmates were less enthused and as Sgt. Pepper was enjoying critical and commercial success; The Beatles took most of the summer off.

But then, at the end of August, the band’s manager, Brian Epstein, died of an accidental drug overdose. Desperate to keep the band focused and busy, McCartney once again pushed for the Magical Mystery Tour project. By September, time was split between filming and recording, with little direction or organisation for either. With no script, no plot, and no real idea of what they were doing, The Beatles were just winging it.

At one point, McCartney devised a scene that featured a bus singalong with an accordion player. In order to give it the proper feeling, the band assembled in the studio on October 12th, 1967 to record ‘Shirley’s Wild Accordion’. Technically credited to John Lennon and Paul McCartney, ‘Shirley’s Wild Accordion’ saw the duo pitch musical ideas to scorer Mike Leander, who then wrote out the ideas on sheet music.

The titular “Shirley” was Shirley Evans, a British accordion player who went on to accompany the likes of Cliff Richard, Engelbert Humperdinck and Liberace. Along with her percussionist husband, Reg Wale, Evans recorded the incidental music in a few takes at De Lane Lea studios. ‘Shirley’s Wild Accordion’ is the first track where John Lennon was ever credited as a producer and features Ringo Starr on drums with McCartney on percussion.

Although the singalong remained in the film, the scene meant to feature ‘Shirley’s Wild Accordion’ was eventually cut. Subsequently, the song didn’t feature on the Magical Mystery Tour soundtrack album, dooming ‘Shirley’s Wild Accordion’ to an obscure footnote in the long history of The Beatles. The song remained unreleased until its inclusion on the 2012 reissue of the Magical Mystery Tour TV special.

The Magical Mystery Tour film premiered on British television on Boxing Day, 1967. However, with the medium’s limitations at the time, the film was shown in black and white, robbing Magical Mystery Tour of its psychedelic vibrancy. The film was panned, perhaps the first major failure of The Beatles’ career. The hard feelings carried over to the band’s next project, The White Album, where relations between the band members dipped to an all-time low.

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