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notes on ...

Notes on "Flying"


Notes on ... Series #124 (F)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: C Major
     Meter: 4/4
      Form: Intro | Verse | Verse | Outro (fade-out)
        CD: "Magical Mystery Tour", Track 3 (Parlophone CDP7 48062-2)
  Recorded: 8th September 1967, Abbey Road 3;
            28th September 1967, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 8th December 1967 (2-EP "Magical Mystery Tour")
US-release: 27th November 1967 (LP "Magical Mystery Tour")

General Points of Interest


Style and Form

  Next note Yes, we do have to cover this one; if for no other reasons than it's there, and its uniqueness calls for comment, even if there is, alas, relatively little meat on the bone.
  Next note There's little if any proof of it in the officially recorded legacy, but we have indisputable evidence that the very Early and Late Beatles loved to jam; to set a simple chord progression (more often than not, but not always a twelve-bar blues frame) and improvise their instrumental hearts out until exhausted, bored, or both.
  Next note Look back at the 1960' Quarrymen tapes that survive: more than an hour of innocently aimless twelve-bar jam sessions plus a comparatively well thought out twelve-bar theme and variations, in the minor mode, no less, that makes the cut on "Anthology", Volume 1, as "Cayenne"; hmm..., my copy of the venerable "Quarrymen Rehearse With Stu Sutcliff [sic!] Spring 1960" identifies a more complete mastering of the same performance as "Thinking Of Linking (Inst.)," but of course we know that's wrong :-)
  Next note At the far end, you find the (unreleased) "Get Back" and "Abbey Road" session tapes full of jam sessions; in the case of the former, we have seemingly endless versions of "Dig It" and (my favorite), an extended version of "Sun King"'s intro on top of which is superimposed a vamp of "Don't Let Me Down". In the case of the latter, we have the unedited raw tapes of both "Something" and "You Never Give Me Your Money".
  Next note In the middle, there appears to be a dearth. Okay, there's the infamous take 7 ("We got a song and an instrumental there ...") of "She's A Woman", and "12-Bar Original". Anything else? Did they somehow loose the taste for it, or did they have the humility to just not tape it all?
  Next note And then, there is this "Arial Tour Instrumental" curiosity; a bit too fully choreographed to pass as a true improvisation, but rather less fully developed than we'd expect for a composition from our Own Sweet Boys by this point of their career. Hell, even "Cry For A Shadow" has more fully-invested calories than this one!

Melody and Harmony

  Next note The harmony is a straight-up twelve-bar blues form of the variety where measure 12 features a V chord instead of a sustained I from measure 11.
  Next note The makings of a tune fill play out a phrase pattern of AA'BA over the course of the first eight measures, but the final four bars are left vaguely without melody. It's a melodic equivalent of the Paul's tendency with lyrics during early takes to scat sing/half-mumble the line's he hadn't fully thought out yet.


  Next note We get a thick, heavy, much processed "Mellotron Music" mix of the period; okay. (Beatles Heresies notwithstanding, the "Misery Tour", both film and abstract aesthetic, do not thrill me. I'll be the first one to admit it may be my failing, entirely, but it is the one that is see when I turn out the lights.)

Section-by-Section Walkthrough



  Next note This intro, like the two verses which follow it, is a twelve-bar blues frame. You almost could call this a third verse, though I parse it as an intro since the tune, such as it will be, is not yet in evidence.
  Next note The rhythm guitar uses a "4-3" appoggiatura motif for this section.


  Next note The tune of the first one is scored for English Horn solo (oboe's cannot play the low G at the beginning), and the second one features a choral unison of what sounds like the whole four of them.


  Next note The music comes to a rather abrupt halt at the end of the second verse, but the track runs on for another om and about thirty seconds of mellotron noodling and other tape noises, creating a statically ethereal effect.

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note In spite of Lewisohn's tantalizing comments about a nine minute plus raw version of this track that sits on a shelf, the film soundtrack of "Flying" is identical to what appears on the album.
  Next note Then, of course, there's that outtake that's been available for years containing the original New Orleans jazz-style coda that was excised on the 28th September 1967 in favor of the special-effects one we're familiar with from the official version.
  Next note When you consider the landscape of shifting colors (prescient shades of the "2001, A Space Odyssey" landing on Jupiter sequence) to which "Flying" is the programmatic accompaniment in the "Magical Mystery Tour" film, it seems obvious that the official outro is the more appropriate choice. Nonetheless, on strictly musical absurdist grounds, I actually prefer the jazz recording.
  Alan (123096#124)
Copyright © 1996 by Alan W. Pollack. All Rights Reserved. This article may be reproduced, retransmitted, redistributed and otherwise propagated at will, provided that this notice remains intact and in place.