In the Beatles’ musical history, there exists a hidden gem—a lost song that almost faded into obscurity. This intriguing tale belongs to “Shirley’s Wild Accordion,” a track that was meant to be part of the band’s iconic Magical Mystery Tour project.
The backdrop to this lost treasure was a time of chaos and change for The Beatles. Fresh off the success of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the band embarked on the ambitious Magical Mystery Tour venture. Paul McCartney, the driving force behind the project, envisioned an album and a film created and performed by the band. However, amidst the critical acclaim of Sgt. Pepper, the band found themselves in a period of uncertainty, taking most of the summer off.
Tragedy struck in August when the band’s manager, Brian Epstein, passed away due to an accidental drug overdose.
Determined to keep the band focused, McCartney pushed ahead with the Magical Mystery Tour, despite the lack of direction and organization. The band found themselves improvising, filming scenes without a script or plot.
During this experimental phase, McCartney conceived a scene featuring a bus singalong with an accordion player. To capture the right vibe, the band gathered in the studio on October 12th, 1967, to record ‘Shirley’s Wild Accordion.’ Credited to John Lennon and Paul McCartney, the song was a collaboration between the duo and scorer Mike Leander, who translated their musical ideas onto sheet music.
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The “Shirley” in the title referred to Shirley Evans, a British accordion player renowned for her work with artists like Cliff Richard and Engelbert Humperdinck.
With Ringo Starr on drums, McCartney on percussion, and Evans on the accordion, ‘Shirley’s Wild Accordion’ came to life. However, despite the effort, the scene featuring the song was eventually cut from the Magical Mystery Tour film, consigning the track to obscurity.
Sadly, ‘Shirley’s Wild Accordion’ didn’t make it to the Magical Mystery Tour soundtrack album, leaving it unheard for decades. It remained a forgotten fragment of The Beatles’ history until 2012 when it was included in the reissue of the Magical Mystery Tour TV special.
The Magical Mystery Tour film premiered on British television on Boxing Day, 1967, but due to the limitations of the time, it was shown in black and white, missing the psychedelic vibrancy intended. The film received harsh criticism, marking one of the first major setbacks in The Beatles’ career.