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ROLL UP FOR THE FARCICAL HISTORY OF THE MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR

It must have seemed like a brilliant coup for the BBC at the time.

The opportunity for an exclusive broadcast of the first film to be made by The Beatles themselves was impossible to resist and what better place to screen it than opposite ITV's Morecambe & Wise Show on December 26, 1967. Alas, things didn't quite work so well. As the British public sat down after their Boxing Day dinner, possibly expecting more Fab Four hi-jinx in the vein of A Hard Day's Night or Help! they were in for a rude awakening.

This was 1967 and the lads had been at the drugs. The Beatles were in their pomp and probably felt they could do no wrong. Wrong.

The project saw the band and a bunch of friends board a bus to film a series of random sketches.

Granted, it does contain some lovely songs -- the title track, The Fool on the Hill, Flying and Your Mother Should Know -- and then there's the small matter of John Lennon's I Am the Walrus.

This acid-drenched masterpiece stands as one of the Beatles' greatest songs, but it still brings a smile to my face thinking of how a TV audience in 1967 reacted to hearing Lennon yelling about "Yellow-matter custard/Dripping from a dead dog's eye''. On prime time television. At Christmas. There were a record number of complaints and it scored one of the lowest-ever approval ratings in the BBC's history.

As a piece of counter-culture subversion that counts as a result and tomorrow night on BBC2 you can hear how the whole thing was put together and judge the end result for yourself. Roll up!

>George Byrne

Arena: the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour is broadcast on BBC2 at 9.45pm tomorrow night followed an hour later by the film itself


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