(Introduction: She’s now known as Sylvia Hiller, but as she notes in this interview, back in 1967, she was Sylvia Nightingale and was one of the passengers on the Magical Mystery Tour bus and in the movie. Now she’s writing a book about it all that will be out early next year. Here’s our exclusive interview with her. For more information on Sylvia’s book, see her Facebook page.)
Q: “Your book ‘Magical Mystery Tour — My Journey’ by Sylvia Nightingale’ is scheduled to come out in February. What can readers expect?
Sylvia Hillier: “The book spans 50 years of my life from the moment I heard ‘Love Me Do, in 1962 through until 2012, when I met Paul McCartney again at the gala screening of the remastered ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ and the documentary ‘Magical Mystery Tour Revisited,’ which I was also in. The core of the book is about my time on Magical Mystery Tour in 1967 and I want to the reader to feel as if they are right there with me on that bus! The rest of the book encompasses how the Beatles’ music has touched my life in so many ways and helped me through some dark times. There are funny moments, a couple of surprises, but most of all the book will share the fun I had in those two weeks I was lucky enough to spend with the most phenomenal group the world has ever known!”
Q. Your book is authored as Sylvia Nightingale, but your real name is Hillier. Why the alias?
Sylvia Hillier: “Simply because that was my name when I was on ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ and the one that they used in the documentary. Hillier is my married name (now widowed…).
Q: How did you get to go?
Sylvia Hillier: “I was area secretary for the fan club in my county and on 8th September 1967, I received a telegram asking me to ring a London number, which I did and they asked me if I would be interested in going on a coach trip with the Beatles. I didn’t need asking twice!! I got a phone call on Sunday 10th to confirm my place on the bus. I was to be in London early the next day on 11th September, so I simply popped a note into my place of work and said I would not be coming in. When I came back from the tour, I found I had lost my job, but it was worth it though and I soon found another one!!”
Q: What did you think of the “Magical Mystery Tour” film? Was it really that way?
Sylvia Hillier: ‘When I saw the film with friends and family on Boxing Day 1967, I felt a bit let down as it was in black and white and it was a film you needed to see in color to appreciate it. For me it epitomized the psychadelic era of the 60’s, when new things were being experimented with in music and film making. The music was great as always, but I think people were expecting something along the same lines as ‘Help’ and ‘A Hard Day’s Night.’ I loved it because I was in it, so perhaps I was biased!! It was a complete mystery from one day to the next, but for me it was magical.”
Q. What kind of contact did you have with each Beatle and which one left the best impression?
Sylvia Hillier: “We had contact with all four on a daily basis as we were all on the same bus, but I did interact with Paul, John and Ringo, but not so much with George as he was very quiet and meditated a lot. Ringo was funny and very sweet, Paul was charming and he was my favorite Beatle anyway, but John was the surprise I think as I saw a different side to him on that bus that I didn’t expect, a kind and gentle side. I had a long chat with him on the coach one day and learned more about John the person.”
Q: Which non-Beatle from the bus was your favorite?
Sylvia Hillier: “I think my favorite non-Beatle has to be little George Claydon, he was a little man with a bit heart and I got on famously with him.”
Q: Since Freda Kelly was on the bus, just wondering if you’ve seen ‘Good Ol’ Freda’ and what did you think?
Sylvia Hillier: “No I have not seen the film, ‘Good ‘Ol Freda’ yet, but I am so pleased that she has had the recognition she so richly deserves and I look forward to seeing it when it comes out on DVD.”
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