When was it recorded? Sept. 6/7 and Oct. 6, 1967
When was it first released, and on which album? Nov. 19, 1967 on “Magical Mystery Tour”
Who wrote it? Harrison
Have I heard this song before? No
What my research dug up:
“Blue Jay Way” was written George; in August 1967 he, his wife, Neil Aspinall and Alexis Mardas visited Los Angeles, California. The four rented a house on Blue Jay Way — a street in the Hollywood Hills – belonging to Ludwig Gerber, a US Army colonel, entertainment attorney and former manager of singer Peggy Lee (a jack of all trades, that one).
Quoth Wikipedia, Blue Jay Way “affords panoramic views of Hollywood and much of the Los Angeles Basin. It is located on a hillside of narrow, winding roads.” Here’s a modern picture of some houses on Blue Jay Way and, more importantly, the valley they look down on (courtesy of Davis Design and Development).
“Derek Taylor [the Beatles’ former press officer] got held up. He rang to say he’d be late. I told him on the phone that the house was in Blue Jay Way. And he said he could find it OK… he could always ask a cop. So I waited and waited. I felt really knackered with the flight, but I didn’t want to go to sleep until he came. There was a fog and it got later and later. To keep myself awake, just as a joke to pass the time while I waited, I wrote a song about waiting for him in Blue Jay Way. There was a little Hammond organ in the corner of this house which I hadn’t noticed until then… so I messed around on it and the song came.” – George Harrison
Seriously, one of the Beatles’ most transcendental songs is about getting bored while waiting for a friend. My favorite description of the song actually comes from Beatles Bible commenter Beatless, who wrote, “I like how the song’s words – which are literally a description of a rather mundane situation – take on an ominous, metaphoric overtone when they are married to the song’s spooky music and instrumentation.” Spot on.
Alan Pollack describes the composition of “Blue Jay” as “a veritable kitchen-sink mix of various special recording and mixing effects used by the Beatles over the course of the ‘Revolver’ and ‘Sgt. Pepper’ albums, with the texture generally increasing in thickness and intensity over the course of the piece.” He also pointed out the influence of Indian music found in most of George’s later work.
The strange vocal effects on the track were produced by putting the vocal tracks through a Leslie speaker, which, quoth Wikipedia, “employs flanging, an audio delay technique.” Wiki also notes, “For the stereo version, a full-length copy of the song was played backwards and faded in at key points in the mix. This was not done for the mono or film versions.” Interesting.
The music video for “Blue Jay Way” is technically part of the “Magical Mystery Tour” movie; its sequence was shot at West Malling, Kent and Weybridge, Surrey on Nov. 3. George “performs” the song on the keyboard drawn on the sidewalk in chalk and later appears overlaid in double-exposure with other video sequences like the other Beatles playing cello and soccer and small children frolicking. It’s a trip. The Wikipedia says prism refractions were used to create the multiple images.
Wikipedia also provides this factual gem: “At the end of the song, there is what might be perceived as a malfunction of the cello tape loop. It is in fact a cover-up of what had been planned to occur in the music video featured in the Magical Mystery Tour film; in the planned ending George was supposed to be hit by the Magical Mystery Tour bus. That ending was never filmed, and the revised repeated ending is shown instead.”
I had never heard this song before, but I loved it.