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Notes on "Flying"

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This article is from Alan W. Pollack's groundbreaking series "Notes on the Beatles". Links in the orginal article is written in this colour: index to the series, while links I have added appears as standard links. Go here for more information on my site about the song

Notes on "Flying"

KEY C Major


FORM Intro -> Verse -> Verse -> Outro (fadeout)

General Points of Interest

Style and Form

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.

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 12-bar blues frame) and improvise their instrumental hearts out until exhausted, bored, or both.

Look back at the 1960 Quarrymen tapes that survive: more than an hour of innocently aimless 12-bar jam sessions plus a comparitively well thought out 12-bar theme and variations, in the minor mode, no less, that makes the cut on Anthology I as "Cayenne;" hmmm..., 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 :-)

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."

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?

And then, there is this "Arial Tour Instrumental" curiosity; a bit too fully coreographed 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

The harmony is a straight-up 12-bar blues form of the variety where measure 12 features a V chord instead of a sustained I from measure 11.

The makings of a tune fill play out a phrase pattern of AA'BA over the course of the first 8 measures, but the final 4 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.


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


This intro, like the two verses which follow it, is a 12-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.

The rhythm guitar uses a 4->3 appoggiatura motif for this section.


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.


The music comes to a rather abrupt halt at the end of the second verse, but the track runs on for another ~30 seconds of mellotron noodling and other tape noises, creating a statically etherial effect.

Some Final Thoughts

In spite of Lewisohn's tantalizing comments about a 9 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.

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 9/28/67 in favor of the special-effects one we're familiar with from the official version.

When you consider the landscape of shifting colors (prescient shades of the _2001, 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 (

"As it disappears, a shower of photos come from its window."     123096#124

Copyright (c) 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.

These articles were originally posted in the News Group The content from this newsgroup is archived at, and Alan W. Pollacks "Notes On" series can be found at

. I used to link to the versions published in Soundscapes before I decided to include them on my own site.

If you want to learn more about the musical side of song writing, chord progressions, harmony and theory through The Beatles songs (and/or The Beatles in particular), I recommend the following book:

Artist: Dominic Pedler

Arranged by The Beatles

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