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Magic Mystery Tour Bus Magic Mystery Tour Bus

Beatles collector acquires iconic bus to help children with cancer

Simon Mitchell was a 7-year-old student living with his family at West Malling Air Base in Kent, England, where his father worked for the Royal Air Force. One Tuesday morning at 9, a most unusual group appeared at the base in a brightly decorated bus packed with colorful characters.   

It was September 1967, and The Beatles had arrived for six days of shooting for their television film 'Magical Mystery Tour' a loosely constructed 'come what may' psychedelic caper through the British countryside that essentially served as a visual vehicle for six new songs.  

Young Simon and his 5-year-old sister were recruited to take part in the movie. 'The Beatles were only a couple of feet away from me for much of the time,' he recalled in a phone interview last week. Simon is clearly visible in his school uniform during the film's tug-of-war sequence. 'I also remember being in the hangar for the finale looking up and seeing all of these balloons coming down in different colors.' The building had been transformed into a ballroom for filming the sequence that accompanied the song 'Your Mother Should Know.' 

simon mitchell

Perhaps most memorably, the two tiny Mitchells were on board the Beatles' bus when it was commandeered by Ringo Starr for the movie's marathon race scene. Not exactly an experienced bus driver, the Beatles drummer soon had the bus racing around the base at top speed. 

Mitchell, now 53 and living in Germany, has vivid memories of the experience. 'He was really going too fast for those curves there,' Mitchell says. 'It's surprising that nothing happened, speeding along as he did.'

In addition to his brief time on camera, Mitchell is also visible in a 'making of' documentary included as a bonus in the recent DVD and Blu-ray issue of the movie. 'You can see me in several close-up stills. I'm wearing a grey top with shorts and a black tie,' Mitchell says.

Mitchell says that playing even a small role next to the most famous people in the world was a magical childhood experience which ignited an adult passion for collecting anything and everything connected to the movie and its accompanying soundtrack.         

A room in Mitchell's house has become a virtual museum packed wall to wall and floor to ceiling with 'Magical Mystery Tour' memorabilia valued at more than $150,000. There are hundreds of LPs, EPs and singles from around the globe - each with subtle variations.

'I have probably the largest Magical Mystery Tour collection in the world,' Mitchell told me. 'Magical Mystery Tour music boxes, miniature guitars, a Fender guitar which is painted up exactly to replicate George Harrison's Stratocaster (nicknamed 'Rocky') as seen in the film.'  

simon mitchell

On Jan. 18, Mitchell will pick up his most significant acquisition to date one of two original Magical Mystery Tour buses.     

Each day, Mitchell scans the internet in hopes of locating another elusive item for his collection. Last November, he struck gold. 'I saw an auction on eBay for the bus,' he said. 'It is identical to the bus used in the film but was made in 1968, a year after the movie. They were the only two buses of their kind made in yellow and blue. They're basically like identical twins.'

The original owner of both buses was Fox of Hayes, a coach company who supplied a bus to The Beatles for use in the film. That particular bus is currently owned by The Hard Rock Caf. Mitchell's 'Magical Mystery Tour' bus most recently saw service through Cavern City Tours, a sightseeing company that transports Beatles fans to various Fab Four-related spots around the band's home city of Liverpool, England.  

Mitchell says that he has always wanted to do something to help children with cancer and believes his new bus will provide the perfect opportunity. 'From the age of 12, I've had problems with my knees and was operated on every few years,' he said. 'During one of my operations, part of the hospital was being repainted, so they put me in a ward for children who were terminally ill with cancer.'  

During his three-week stay, all but one of the children in Mitchell's ward died. 'When I when I back to visit him two weeks later, I was told that he had also passed away.'  

As word spreads of Mitchell's plans for his new acquisition, his phone has been ringing. 'People are already booking the bus to use for exhibitions and tours,' he said. 'Two Beatles tribute bands here have made donations toward the bus and will be using it for their tours through the country.' Various towns near Mitchell have also rented the bus as a draw for upcoming exhibitions. 'All of the money that is coming in will be donated to places where children with cancer are being taken care of,' Mitchell said.  

According to Mitchell, a special charity account has been set up by his local bank to control the funds. If you're interested in donating, email Mitchell at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  or call 0-515-295-4592.  

Mitchell says funds will be distributed to children's charities in locations where the bus will be exhibited. 'If we find out about a child in need of money to pay for blood testing due to a rare blood type, we will be able to provide funds for the tests. Or if medication is needed for a child with cancer, we can pay towards that and help with hospice expenses.'

As John Lennon said during his 'Magical Mystery Tour' narration, 'Already the magic is beginning work.'  

    

'The Big Morning Show with Mike Dow' can be heard on Big 104 FM The Biggest Hits of the '60s, '70s & '80s - airing on 104.7 (Bangor/Belfast), 104.3 (Augusta/Waterville) and 107.7 (Bar Harbor)

     

Last modified on Wednesday, 08 January 2014 15:49

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