“Flying” is a Beatles’ instrumental piece which is on their “Magical Mystery Tour” album from 1967. Obviously, in the UK, this was originally on their double EP release. However, the album version became standard after the CD release in the 1980s.
Release Date: 27th November, 1967
Recorded: 8th, 28th, September, 1967
Studio: EMI Studios, London
Genre: Instrumental rock, space rock
Track Duration: 2:17
Record Label: Parlophone
Producer: George Martin
Engineers: Geoff Emerick, Ken Scott
John Lennon: wordless vocals, mellotron, Hammond organ, sound effects
Paul McCartney: wordless vocals, bass, guitar
George Harrison: wordless vocals, guitar
Ringo Starr: wordless vocals, drums, maracas, sound effects
The last time that The Beatles recorded an instrumental track was in November, 1965, with “12-Bar Original“. Then, all four band members took credit for that track. And, just like that instrumental, Harrison/Lennon-McCartney/Starkey also take the credit for “Flying”. In fact, they based this track on the classic twelve-bar blues chord progression too.
Although the track is an instrumental it does feature “non-lexical vocables” or “wordless vocals”. Non-lexical vocables come in the form of utterances, for example, “la la la”, “na na na” or “da da da”. In this case, the “wordless vocals” appear in the middle of the track. They recorded the piece as incidental music for the 1967 film, “Magical Mystery Tour”.
“Flying was an instrumental that we needed for Magical Mystery Tour so in the studio one night I suggested to the guys that we made something up. I said, ‘We can keep it very very simple, we can make it a twelve-bar blues. We need a little bit of a theme and a little bit of a backing.’ I wrote the melody.
The only thing to warrant it as a song is basically the melody, otherwise it’s just a nice twelve-bar backing thing. It’s played on the Mellotron, on a trombone setting [and] it’s credited to all four, which is how you would credit a non-song.”
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
The Beatles began recording the track, “Flying”, on the 8th September, 1967, in Studio Three of the EMI Studios, London during the 7.00pm-2.45am session. There were 6 takes and the last of those became the master track over which the band members overdubbed their “wordless vocals” as well as other instrumentation.
On the 28th September there were more additions to the master track, for example, John Lennon’s Mellotron piece and Harrison’s guitar piece. As well as adding more of Ringo Starr’s percussion instruments, they added tape loops, sound effects and backward recordings.
Due to the tape loops, the track became 9 minutes and 38 seconds long. So, with ruthless editing, the track eventually became 2 minutes and 17 seconds long. There’s also a different version of this instrumental on the bootleg album, “Back-track 1”.