“Blue Jay Way” is a Beatles’ song from their 1967 album and double EP, “Magical Mystery Tour”.
Release Date: 27th November, 1967 (US) (LP), 8th December, 1967 (UK) (EP)
Recorded: 6th & 7th September; 6th October 1967
Studio: EMI Studios, London
Genre: Psychedelic rock
Track Duration: 3:54
Record Label: Parlophone (UK), Capitol (US)
Songwriter: George Harrison
Producer: George Martin
Unnamed session musician: cello
Blue Jay Way
Written by George Harrison, “Blue Jay Way” took the name of a street in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles. Indeed, this was one of the “bird streets” in the western area overlooking the Sunset Strip.
After arriving in Los Angeles on the 1st of August 1967 with his wife Pattie Boyd, Harrison composed the tune while waiting for Beatles’ former press officer, Derek Taylor. The plan was to spend a week with him as well as having a reunion somewhere along the line with his sitar tutor, Ravi Shankar. Also accompanying Harrison was Beatles aides Neil Aspinall and Alex Mardas.
Manager Brian Epstein arranged for Harrison to stay at the exclusive residence but Taylor was running late. In fact, he was two hours late due to the foggy conditions. While jet-lagged Harrison was waiting he started the composition by using a Hammond S-6 organ conveniently located in the house. Hence we get the opening lines:
“There’s a fog upon L.A.
And my friends have lost their way.”
George Harrison recalls events:
“Derek Taylor 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.”
Harrison’s Indian music influence shines through on this track as did many of his compositions around this time. Be that as it may, The Beatles didn’t use any Indian instruments on this track. However, Harrison’s drone-like Hammond organ part helps to complete the effect. In fact, this was his first composition in which he attempts to introduce his Indian music ideas.
The Summer of Love was at its peak during Harrison’s visit to California. While there, they took a tour of the international “hippie capital” of Haight-Ashbury, in San Francisco on the 7th August. However, to his dismay, Harrison found the area riddled with drug addicts, dropouts and “hypocrites”.
Disheartened by his trip to Haight-Ashbury, Harrison finished the song two days later after he returned to the UK. He also told John Lennon about his experience there, and soon after, The Beatles publicly denounced the use of drugs. In particular, the popular hallucinogen LSD (acid). Indeed, not long after this, the band were to express an interest in Transcendental Meditation. This is because, later that month, the band attended the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s seminar in Bangor, Wales.
Charles Manson adopted this song as one of the foundation songs for his Helter Skelter theory. In fact, this was one of the first ones because it was mainly the 1968 “White Album” which was his final inspiration.
The Beatles began recording “Blue Jay Way” on the 6th of September 1967 in Studio Two of the EMI Studios, London, during the 7.00pm-3.00am session. Only one take was necessary with the band recording their vocals on the next day. Prior to this recording, Paul McCartney also recorded a solo demo of “The Fool On The Hill“. During the 6th October 1967, the track was complete with the addition of the cello and tambourine parts.
Making good use of various studio techniques, they were able to create aspects of Indian classical music using only Western instruments. They also incorporated artificial double tracking, flanging, Leslie rotary effect and reversed tape sounds. However, the difference in the mono and stereo mixes are noticeable. This is mainly because of the complications surrounding the addition of the reverse tape sounds.
This song sits on side one of the “Magical Mystery Tour” album after track 3, “Flying” and before “Your Mother Should Know“. Meanwhile, on their 2006 album, “Love”, we get track 9, “Something” (with “Blue Jay Way” transition).
In the film, the song shows a psychedelic sequence with Harrison busking using a chalk drawing of a keyboard. Written in chalk next to him is a message, “2 wives and kid to support”.