When was it recorded? Sept. 8 & 28, 1967
When was it first released, and on which album? Dec. 8, 1967 on “Magical Mystery Tour”
Who wrote it? Harrison/Lennon/McCartney/Starkey
Have I heard this song before? No
What my research dug up:
“Flying” was written as incidental music for the “Magical Mystery Tour” film. Though I’ve written about similar pieces (see Day 1: “12-Bar Original” and Day 42: “Cry for a Shadow,” both of which were recorded before “Flying”), this was the first released Beatles song written by all four members. It was also the first instrumental Beatles song released by EMI.
Originally called “Aerial Tour Instrumental,” the Beatles began recording “Flying” on Sept. 8. John plays the melody on a mellotron keyboard. The tune originally ended with “a fast-paced traditional New Orleans jazz-influenced coda” (Wikipedia), which was later excised.
John and Ringo “then compiled a series of tape loops, effects and backwards recordings” and added them to the mix (Beatles Bible). By the time they were finished editing everything, “Flying” was nearly 10 minutes long. Oops.
Obviously, the band decided this was too long for a proper record, so it was pared down to 2:17 for the “Magical Mystery Tour” album.
As mentioned above, “Flying” was written for the film “Magical Mystery Tour.”
According to the Beatles Bible, it accompanies “landscape scenes of Iceland taken from an aeroplane. These sequences were unused outtakes from Stanley Kubrick’s film ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’” Neato. Here’s how it appears in the movie.
Quoth Alan Pollack, “When you consider the landscape of shifting colors… it seems obvious that the official outro is the more appropriate choice. Nonetheless, on strictly musical absurdist grounds, I actually prefer the jazz recording.” I’m inclined to agree. It doesn’t really mesh with the rest of the piece, but damn if it isn’t cool. It definitely put a smile on my face.
As much fun as I’m sure the Beatles had on the extended jam, I’m definitely a fan of the edited version of “Flying.” It’s not overly long but they didn’t chop it up too harshly. I love it.