The Story and Meaning Behind “Blue Jay Way,” One of the Spookiest Beatles Songs

The Beatles experimented throughout their careers with different sounds and techniques, perhaps never more so than on their 1967 EP Magical Mystery Tour, the songs of which appeared in the psychedelic film they made of the same name. “Blue Jay Way” represents George Harrison’s lone contribution to that collection of songs.

Videos by American Songwriter

What is the song about? How was it inspired by a real-life incident? And why did Harrison choose to write the song on organ instead of guitar? Let’s take an in-depth look at “Blue Jay Way,” which has to go down as one of the spookiest songs in the Fab Four’s hallowed catalog.

Waiting on a Friend

The year 1967 was an extremely busy and productive one for The Beatles. The decision to stop touring left them with more time for music creation, which is how they were able to squeeze in the recording of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Magical Mystery Tour, and several huge singles (not to mention making the Magical Mystery Tour movie).

Somehow, in the middle of all that activity, George Harrison had some time to visit Los Angeles. He arranged to rent a house for a short stay in August 1967. The house belonged to a man who once managed the star actress Doris Day, and it was located on, you guessed it, Blue Jay Way.

Not long after Harrison arrived, Derek Taylor, The Beatles’ press secretary, was supposed to join him. Considering it was a foggy night, and the hills of LA aren’t that easy to navigate even in the best of conditions, Taylor, somewhat predictably, got lost. Harrison was beat from his own flight, but he didn’t want to sleep until Taylor made it to the house. What to do?

Organ-ic Material

While investigating the house, Harrison found an old Hammond organ. To stave off slumber, he decided to write a song on the organ. Perhaps because his mind was too weary to think of anything else, the lyrics to the song, which he titled “Blue Jay Way,” turned out to be a play-by-play of that evening’s events.

In composing the song on the old organ, Harrison created a somewhat askew vibe via the stalking pace and odd chords. The Beatles then went about playing up those weird vibes in the studio. Harrison’s voice, thanks to the artificial double-tracking that the band liked to use, leaves psychedelic trails in its wake with every word he intones.

The backing vocals of John Lennon and Paul McCartney are made to sound like they’re a pair of apparitions being dragged back into the corporeal world. Even the cello, played by Peter Willison, is unsettling. “Revolution 9” might give it a run for its money, but “Blue Jay Way” would have to be in the pole position in the race for Beatles song most likely to score a horror movie scene.

What is the Meaning of “Blue Jay Way”?

When you read them on paper separate from the music, the lyrics to “Blue Jay Way” seem like a quite innocuous retelling of Taylor’s escapades (and Harrison’s reaction to them) that fateful evening. Even the line about the policeman on the street was a reference to Taylor having told Harrison he could just ask a cop if he got lost.

But when you add them to the music, they take on a much more menacing tone. There’s a fog upon L.A. is an ominous table-setting line in that context. Suddenly, the friends who have lost themselves instead seem to be caught in a purgatorial limbo. And when Harrison warns, Please don’t you be very long / Or I may be asleep, we can’t help but wonder if it’s the kind of repose from which you don’t awaken.

Such is the strange spell cast by this song. “Blue Jay Way” emerged from George Harrison’s boredom and fatigue. And, thanks to his skills and those of his band, that street became an address out where mortals fear to tread.

When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Photo by David Redfern/Redferns

Leave a Reply

Eddie Vedder Explained How Pearl Jam Illness "Felt Like a Near-Death Experience"

Eddie Vedder Explains How Pearl Jam Illness “Felt Like a Near-Death Experience”

Beatles Ringo Starr Credits Music Icon for Inspiring Him To Go Country

Beatles Legend Ringo Starr Credits Fellow Music Icon for Inspiring Him To Go Country