The Beatles and National Lampoon: “Magical Misery Tour” (1971)

Michael Gerber
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National Lampoon October 1971

Yeah, the covers kicked ass, too

Last week, as I was cleaning up my office, I came upon this wonderful piece from the American humor magazine National Lampoon. In print and on vinyl, the Lampoon talked about the Beatles a lot, quite irreverently — and it was (so I’ve heard) the magazine’s irreverence towards Yoko that soured their relationship with John Lennon. (He hung out at Lampoon‘s offices for a while right after making the move from Tittenhurst Park to the Big Apple.) I don’t know specifically what caused the rift, but I think we can all agree that it was inevitable.

We’ve posted some Lampoon material previously here on Dullblog, and as I’m going to a screening of a new documentary tomorrow (“Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead“) I thought I’d put this up now.

Like all classic Lampoon stuff, it’s chock-full of inside jokes, so read closely. I was going to drop all six pages into this post, but then saw where the jpgs were coming from — the very interesting blog of a wonderful satirical illustrator named Stephen Kroninger. (And Randall Enos himself shows up in the comments.) So here’s page one, but go to Kroninger’s site for the rest.

Magical Misery Tour page 1 by Enos and O'Donoghue

The blue meanies to the right and left of the title are portraits of O’Donoghue and Enos, respectively.

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  1. Avatar Rob Geurtsen wrote:

    Wow, this is a nice gem, Michael. I am going to dig into my archive, there are quite a lot of National Lampoon stuff in there. This is really lovely.

  2. Avatar evilpants wrote:

    Ha, what a brilliant cartoon. I’m 45 – born in 1969, and therefore never experienced anything of the Beatles in their time. So, with that said, I wonder how many people knew all the stuff in the in-jokes – we all know so much now, would people have known it back then?

    “Contact High Street” and “Benny Lane” are both brilliant. I know they’re not in-jokes, but as wordplay they’re excellent.

    • @Evilpants, I think many many people knew the in-jokes. Part of the breakthrough of The National Lampoon was how uncompromisingly smart it was; it took the high/low techniques of college humor magazines and cranked up the amplitude on both ends. But by 1971, the entire counterculture knew a version of the Beatles story to a practically Talmudic degree — that’s why something like “Lennon Remembers” had such an impact. It was overturning the version they’d all learned by heart.

      This kind of humor writing becomes a game, a hunt-and-find in the dusty corners of your mind. (I did a ton of it in my Beatle novel, Life After Death for Beginners.) But it’s particularly great in a visual piece like this, where you can sprinkle textural references around the main narrative. For example, on page 2, there’s a map where “Oz” is censored. This references the 1971 court case where the underground paper “Oz” was being tried for obscenity.

      It’s wonderful fun. This piece is where nine-year-old me learned what a “butterfly flick” was.

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