Book Review: Magical Mystery Tours (2005)

It seems as if books on the Beatles will never end. Tony Bramwell’s Magical Mystery Tours is the latest “insider” view of the band. Of course, when a John Lennon lyric sheet is selling for $1 million, the market is evidently there.

Bramwell grew up in Liverpool with Harrison, Lennon and McCartney. He was their friend and became one of the band’s indispensable jack-of-all-trades, eventually working for their manager, Brian Epstein, and Apple. In fact, Bramwell was part of the worldwide television broadcast of “All You Need Is Love,” the lyric sheet for which sold at auction today.

Written in a gossipy, conversational style, Bramwell’s book doesn’t reveal much those familiar with the story of the Beatles don’t already know. And Bramwell certainly reinforces the popular view of the impact of Yoko Ono on the band and her insistence on being “the fifth Beatle.” You know where Bramwell stands on Ono when the first time she is mentioned in the book she is described as an “artist of mass destruction.” She also is described as, among other things, “a she-wolf garbed in black,” “the Princess of Darkness” and “the snake-haired Wicked Witch of the East.” Lennon is not subject to as much criticism as Bramwell attempts to figure out whether Ono somehow brainwashed him or Lennon was suffering from mental illness. Bramwell paints a more favorable picture of Paul and Linda McCartney, views George as reserved and gentle and Ringo as the Beatle who tended to go more his own way.

At times, Magical Mystery Tours is muddled and disjointed. Still, if you don’t mind a bit of gossip and a lot of name-dropping, the book serves its purpose as a firsthand look at the cultural and music revolution the Beatles were and created.

[T]he standard [by which bands are judged] is so poor now that most artists and bands today couldn’t come up through pure talent and a gig circuit.

Tony Bramwell, Magical Mystery Tours

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