Strawberry Fields Forever

strawberry 1

This Friday we are featuring another Beatles song.  No, this is not my favorite Beatles song, but it is the song that made me a Beatles fan.  It was the spring of 1996 and I heard this song in my dorm room.  Larch Hall, 5th floor Kelenbeck.  We were having a party in one of the rooms.  It was a black light party.  This is where you take dtergent and paint it on the walls and then you get a few black lights and the dorm room is transformed into this magical dark and mysterious place.  This song came on and I was totally blown away.  I immediately wanted to know what this song was and who did this song.  When I found out it was by the Beatles, I couldn’t believe it.  I immediately got some Beatle’s albums and Beatle books and fell head first into a life long facination and love of the Beatles.  It was a real magical moment for me.

There have been many albums that have had a great influence on the direction of music through the years.  In my mind, Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the album that had the greatest effect of all.  Strawberry Fields Forever, a song that was intended to be on that album, but ended up being released as a single after the album came out, is in my opinion, the greatest phychedelic song ever recorded.  This song signalled a change in how music would be.

This song has a sound that sounds nothing like anything that ever came before it.  I haven’t really heard something like it since.  This song seems to stand alone.  Even though it is not my favorite Beatles song, that goes to In My Life, and while certainly not the Beatle’s song with the greatest commercial success, I think it is the best piece of work the Beatles put out as a whole. 

This song was written by John Lennon.  Truly an amazing song.  The great lyrics, the amazing instrumentals.  The use of the mellotron is so unique.  It had never been used befor like that.  It is like they created a whole new instrument for this song.  It literally transposrts you to another time and another place.  To a simpler time.  The ending of the song is one of the most unique ending ever created.  In fact, you can easily miss it because of the silence between what you think is the end and the actual ending.  Be sure to keep listening even if your brain tells you the song is over.  If you have never heard this song, you are really in for a treat.  I hope you enjoy it as much as i did the first time I heard it.  I would never be the same.  Enjoy!

Official promotional video created for the song.

Recording of the released version and the original demo.  I love the original demo the best.

Cover of the song from the movie Across the Universe.

Cover of the song by Cyndi Lauper.

Cover of the song by Peter Gabriel.

Cover of the song by The Flaming Lips on 1/1/12.

Fantastic improvisation cover of the song. I really like this one.

strawberry 2Strawberry Fields Forever” is a song by the English rock band the Beatles.  The song was written by John Lennon and attributed to the Lennon/McCartney songwriting partnership.  It was inspired by Lennon’s memories of playing in the garden of a Salvation Army house named “Strawberry Field” near his childhood home.

“Strawberry Fields Forever” was intended for the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), as it was the first song recorded for it, but was instead released in February 1967 as a double A-side single with Paul McCartney’s “Penny Lane“. “Strawberry Fields Forever” reached number eight in the United States, with numerous critics describing it as one of the group’s best recordings.  It is one of the defining works of the psychedelic rock genre and has been covered by many artists. The song was later included on the US Magical Mystery Tour LP (though not on the British double EP package of the same name).  The Strawberry Fields memorial in New York City‘s Central Park is named after the song.

Strawberry Field was the name of a Salvation Army Children’s Home just around the corner from Lennon’s childhood home in Woolton, a suburb of Liverpool. Lennon and his childhood friends Pete Shotton, Nigel Walley, and Ivan Vaughan used to play in the wooded garden behind the home.  One of Lennon’s childhood treats was the garden party held each summer in Calderstones Park near the Salvation Army Home every year, where a Salvation Army band played.  Lennon’s aunt Mimi Smith recalled: “As soon as we could hear the Salvation Army band starting, John would jump up and down shouting, ‘Mimi, come on. We’re going to be late.'”

Lennon’s “Strawberry Fields Forever” and McCartney’s “Penny Lane” shared the theme of nostalgia for their early years in Liverpool.  Although both referred to actual locations, the two songs also had strong surrealistic and psychedelic overtones. Producer George Martin said that when he first heard “Strawberry Fields Forever”, he thought it conjured up a “hazy, impressionistic dreamworld”.

The period of the song’s writing was one of change and dislocation forstrawberry 3 Lennon.  The Beatles had just retired from touring after one of the most difficult periods of their career, including the “more popular than Jesus” controversy and the band’s unintentional snubbing of Philippines First Lady Imelda Marcos.  Lennon’s marriage with Cynthia Powell was failing, and he was using increasing quantities of drugs, especially the powerful psychedelic LSD, as well as cannabis, which he had smoked during his time in Spain.  Lennon talked about the song in 1980: “I was different all my life.  The second verse goes, ‘No one I think is in my tree.’ Well, I was too shy and self-doubting. Nobody seems to be as hip as me is what I was saying. Therefore, I must be crazy or a genius—’I mean it must be high or low’ “, and explaining that the song was “psycho-analysis set to music”.

Lennon began writing the song in Almería, Spain, during the filming of Richard Lester‘s How I Won the War in September–October 1966.  The earliest demo of the song, recorded in Almería, had no refrain and only one verse: “There’s no one on my wavelength / I mean, it’s either too high or too low / That is you can’t you know tune in but it’s all right / I mean it’s not too bad”.  He revised the words to this verse to make them more obscure, then wrote the melody and part of the lyrics to the refrain (which then functioned as a bridge and did not yet include a reference to Strawberry Fields). He then added another verse and the mention of Strawberry Fields. The first verse on the released version was the last to be written, close to the time of the song’s recording.  For the refrain, Lennon was again inspired by his childhood memories: the words “nothing to get hung about” were inspired by Aunt Mimi’s strict order not to play in the grounds of Strawberry Field, to which Lennon replied, “They can’t hang you for it.”  The first verse Lennon wrote became the second in the released version, and the second verse Lennon wrote became the last in the release.

strawberry 4The song was originally written on acoustic guitar in the key of C major.  The recorded version is approximately in B-flat major; owing to manipulation of the recording speed, the finished version is not in standard pitch (some, for instance consider that the tonic is A).  The introduction was played by McCartney on a Mellotron, and involves a I- ii- I- ♭VII- IV progression.  The vocals enter with the refrain instead of a verse.  In fact we are not “taken down” to the tonic key, but to “non-diatonic chords and secondary dominants” combining with “chromatic melodic tension intensified through outrageous harmonisation and root movement”.  The phrase “to Strawberry” for example begins with a highly dissonant G melody note against a prevailing F minor key, then uses extremely dissonant B♭ and B notes (against the Fm chord) until the consonant F note is reached on “Fields”.  The same series of mostly dissonant melody notes cover the phrase “nothing is real” against the prevailing F#7 chord (in A key). A half-measure complicates the meter of the verses, as well as the fact that the vocals begin in the middle of the first measure. The first verse comes after the refrain, and is eight measures long. The verse (for example “Always, no sometimes…”) starts with an F major chord in key of B♭ (or E chord in key of A) (V), which progresses to G minor, the submediant, a deceptive cadence. According to Alan Pollack, the “approach-avoidance tactic” (i.e., the deceptive cadence) is encountered in the verse, as the leading-tone, A, appearing on the words “Always know”, “I know when” “I think a No” and “I think I disagree”, never resolves into a I chord (A in A key)) directly as expected.  Instead, at the end of the verse, the leading note, harmonized as part of the dominant chord, resolves to the prevailing tonic (B♭) at the end of the verse, after tonicizing the subdominant (IV) E♭ chord, on “disagree“.  In the middle of the second chorus, the “funereal brass” is introduced, stressing the ominous lyrics. After three verses and four choruses, the line “Strawberry Fields Forever” is repeated three times, and the song fades out with guitar, cello, and swarmandal instrumentation.  The song fades back in after a few seconds in to the “nightmarish” ending, with the Mellotron playing in a haunting tone — one achieved by recording the Mellotron “Swinging Flutes” setting in reverse  — scattered drumming, and Lennon murmuring, after which the song completes.

The working title was “It’s Not Too Bad”, and Geoff Emerick, the sound engineer, remembered it being “just a great, great song, that was apparent from the first time John sang it for all of us, playing an acoustic guitar.”  Recording began on 24 November 1966, in Abbey Road’s Studio Two on a 4-track machine. It took 45 hours to record, spread over five weeks.  The song was meant to be on the band’s 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but was released as a single instead.

The band recorded three distinct versions of the song.  After Lennon played the song for the other Beatles on his acoustic guitar, the band recorded the first take.  Lennon played an Epiphone Casino; McCartney played a Mellotron, a new home instrument purchased by Lennon on August 12, 1965, (with another model hired in after encouragement from Mike Pinder of The Moody Blues); Starr played drums, and Harrison played electric guitar. The first recorded take began with the verse, “Living is easy…”, instead of the chorus, “Let me take you down”, which starts the released version. The first verse also led directly to the second, with no chorus between.  Lennon’s vocals were automatically double-tracked from the words “Strawberry Fields Forever” through the end of the last verse.  The last verse, “Always, no sometimes…”, has three-part harmonies, with McCartney and Harrison singing “dreamy background vocals”.  This version was soon abandoned and went unreleased until the The Beatles Anthology series in 1996.

Four days later the band reassembled to try a different arrangement.  The second version of the song featured McCartney’s Mellotron introduction followed by the refrain.  They recorded five takes of the basic tracks for this arrangement (two of which were false starts) with the last being chosen as best and subjected to further overdubs.  Lennon’s final vocal was recorded with the tape running fast so that when played back at normal speed the tonality would be altered, giving his voice a slurred sound.  This version was used for the first minute of the released recording.

After recording the second version of the song, Lennon wanted to dostrawberry 5 something different with it, as Martin remembered: “He’d wanted it as a gentle dreaming song, but he said it had come out too raucous. He asked me if I could write him a new line-up with the strings. So I wrote a new score (with four trumpets and three cellos) and we recorded that, but he didn’t like it.” Meanwhile, on 8 and 9 December, another basic track was recorded, using a Mellotron, electric guitar, piano, backwards-recorded cymbals, and the swarmandel (or swordmandel), an Indian version of the zither.  After reviewing the tapes of Martin’s version and the original, Lennon told Martin that he liked both versions, although Martin had to tell Lennon that the orchestral score was at a faster tempo and in a higher key (B major) than the first version (A major).  Lennon said, “You can fix it, George”, giving Martin and Emerick the difficult task of joining the two takes together.  With only a pair of editing scissors, two tape machines, and a vari-speed control, Emerick compensated for the differences in key and speed by increasing the speed of the first version and decreasing the speed of the second. He then spliced the versions together, starting the orchestral score in the middle of the second chorus.   (Since the first version did not include a chorus after the first verse, he also spliced in the first seven words of the chorus from elsewhere in the first version.)  The pitch-shifting in joining the versions gave Lennon’s lead vocal a slightly other-worldly “swimming” quality.

Some vocalising by Lennon is faintly audible at the end of the song, picked up as leakage onto one of the drum microphones (close listening shows Lennon making other comments to Ringo).  In the “Paul is Dead” hoax these were taken to be Lennon saying “I buried Paul.”  In 1974, McCartney said, “That wasn’t ‘I buried Paul’ at all—that was John saying ‘cranberry sauce’.  It was the end of Strawberry Fields.  That’s John’s humour.  John would say something totally out of sync, like cranberry sauce.  If you don’t realise that John’s apt to say cranberry sauce when he feels like it, then you start to hear a funny little word there, and you think, ‘Aha!'”.

Shortly before his death in 1980, Lennon expressed dissatisfaction with the final version of the song, saying it was “badly recorded” and going so far as to accuse McCartney of subconsciously sabotaging the recording.

strawberry 6When manager Brian Epstein pressed Martin for a new Beatles’ single, Martin told Epstein that the group had recorded “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane”, which in Martin’s opinion were their two finest songs to date. Epstein said they would issue the songs as a double A-side single, as they had done with their previous single, “Yellow Submarine“/”Eleanor Rigby“.  The single was released in the US on 13 February 1967, and in the United Kingdom on 17 February 1967. Following the Beatles’ philosophy that songs released on a single should not appear on new albums, both songs were ultimately left off Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but Martin later admitted that this was a “dreadful mistake”.

For the first time since “Love Me Do” in 1962, a single by the Beatles failed to reach number one in the UK charts.  It was held at number two by Engelbert Humperdinck‘s “Release Me“, because the BBC counted the two songs as two individual singles; discounting the fact that the Beatles’ single outsold Humperdinck’s by almost two to one. In a radio interview at the time, McCartney said he was not upset because Humperdinck’s song was a “completely different type of thing”.  Starr said later that it was “a relief” because “it took the pressure off”.  “Penny Lane” reached number one in the US, while “Strawberry Fields Forever” peaked at number eight.  In the US, both songs were included on the Magical Mystery Tour LP, which was released as a six-track double-EP in the UK.

The song was the opening track of the compilation album 1967–1970, released in 1973, and also appears on the Imagine soundtrack issued in 1988.  In 1996, three previously unreleased versions of the song were included on the Anthology 2 album: Lennon’s original home demo, an altered version of the first studio take, and the complete take seven, of which only the first minute was heard in the master version. In 2006, a newly mixed version of the song was included on the album Love.  This version builds from an acoustic demo (which was run at the actual recorded speed) and incorporates elements of “Hello, Goodbye“, “Baby, You’re a Rich Man“, “In My Life“, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band“, “Penny Lane”, and “Piggies“.

“Strawberry Fields Forever” was well received by critics, and is stillstrawberry 7 considered a classic.  Three weeks after its release, Time magazine hailed the song as “the latest sample of the Beatles’ astonishing inventiveness”.  Richie Unterberger of Allmusic hailed the song as “one of The Beatles’ peak achievements and one of the finest Lennon-McCartney songs”.  Ian MacDonald wrote in Revolution in the Head that it “shows expression of a high order… few if any [contemporary composers] are capable of displaying feeling and fantasy so direct, spontaneous, and original.  In 2004, this song was ranked number 76 on Rolling Stone‘s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time“.  In 2010, Rolling Stone placed it at number three on the 100 Greatest Beatles Songs.  The song was ranked as the second-best Beatles’ song by Mojo, after “A Day in the Life“.

Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys said that “Strawberry Fields Forever” was partially responsible for the shelving of his group’s legendary unfinished album, Smile.  Wilson first heard the song on his car radio whilst driving, and was so affected that he had to stop and listen to it all the way through.  He then remarked to his passenger that the Beatles had already reached the sound the Beach Boys had wanted to achieve.  Paul Revere & the Raiders were among the most successful US groups during 1966 and 1967, having their own Dick Clark-produced television show, Where the Action Is. Mark Lindsay (singer/saxophonist) heard the song on the radio, bought it, and then listened to it at home with his producer at the time, Terry Melcher.  When the song ended Lindsay said, “Now what the fuck are we gonna do?” later saying, “With that single, the Beatles raised the ante as to what a pop record should be”.

The promotional film for “Strawberry Fields Forever” was an early example of what later became known as a music video.  It was filmed on 30 and 31 January 1967, in Knole Park in Sevenoaks.  It was directed by Swedish television director Peter Goldman. Goldman was a friend of Klaus Voormann, who had recommended Peter to the group.  The film featured reverse film effects, stop motion animation, jump-cuts from daytime to night-time, and the Beatles playing and later pouring paint over an upright piano.   During the same visit to Knole Park, Goldman produced the promotional film for “Penny Lane“, the reverse side of the “Strawberry Fields Forever” single (during this same stay in Sevenoaks, John Lennon wandered into an antiques gallery and purchased the poster for Pablo Fanque‘s Circus Royal that would inspire the song “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!“).  The promotional films for “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” were selected by New York‘s MoMA as two of the most influential music videos of the late 1960s.  Both were originally broadcast in the US on 25 February 1967, on the variety show The Hollywood Palace, with actor Van Johnson as host.  A cartoon based on the song was the final episode produced for The Beatles animated television series.

strawberry 8The song has been covered a number of other times, notably by Peter Gabriel in 1976 on the musical documentary All This and World War II, and by Ben Harper for the soundtrack of the film I Am Sam.  Vanilla Fudge, the debut album by Vanilla Fudge, also contains a cover of “Strawberry Fields Forever” titled “ELDS”; the album in fact spelt out an acrostic of the song as an homage, with preceding tracks titled “STRA”, “WBER” and “RYFI.”   Todd Rundgren‘s version of the song was released on his 1976 album Faithful.  The song was also covered by Jim Sturgess and Joe Anderson for the 2007 movie Across the UniverseLos Fabulosos Cadillacs recorded a ska version of the song featuring Debbie Harry for their album Rey Azúcar, which was a hit throughout Latin America.

“Strawberry Fields Forever” has also been covered by Treystrawberry 9 Anastasio, the Bee Gees, the Bobs, Campfire Girls, Eugene Chadbourne, Justin Currie, Design, Noel Gallagher, Richie Havens, Hayseed Dixie, Laurence Juber, David Lanz, Cyndi Lauper, Zlatko Manojlović, Marilyn Manson, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Mother’s Finest, Odetta, Andy Partridge, Plastic Penny, the Residents, Miguel Ríos, the Runaways, the Shadows, Gwen Stefani, Tomorrow, Transatlantic, the Ventures, Cassandra Wilson, XTC, and Ultraviolet Sound.

The song returned to the charts 23 years later when British dance group Candy Flip released an electronic version of the song.  The song was generally well-received, Allmusic describing it as “funkier and more club-happy than the Beatles’ original” and was a commercial success on both sides of the Atlantic, reaching number three in the UK pop charts and number eleven on the US Modern Rock Tracks chart.

Strawberry Fields Forever

by John Lennon and Paul McCartney

Let me take you down, ‘cos I’m going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hungabout.
Strawberry Fields forever.Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see.
It’s getting hard to be someone but it all works out, it doesn’t matter much to me.
Let me take you down, ‘cos I’m going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hungabout.
Strawberry Fields forever.No one I think is in my tree, I mean it must be high or low.
That is you can’t you know tune in but it’s all right, that is I think it’s not too bad.
Let me take you down, ‘cos I’m going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hungabout.
Strawberry Fields forever.

Always, no sometimes, think it’s me, but you know I know when it’s a dream.
I think I know I mean a ‘Yes’ but it’s all wrong, that is I think I disagree.
Let me take you down, ‘cos I’m going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hungabout.
Strawberry Fields forever.
Strawberry Fields forever.

About wmarsau

Most of the people who visit this blog already know me so it is kind of pointless to try to describe my life in this short little blurb. What is the purpose of this blog is the question. Over the course of this last year I have been exposed to some amazing people and have made personal development an important focus of my life. Being successful, not by the world's standards, but by God's has become my main focus. Mainly, I want to work to develop myself as a person who is kinder, reaches out to help those in need, and truly makes a difference in this world. To this end I am constantly reading and am exposed to so many differnet things along the way. These have been amazing and it is helping me grow so much. Then I started to think, "Why am I being so selfish?" You need to share with others these amazing things you are learning and being exposed to. That is where this blog comes into play. As I am reading and experiencing things that are truly amazing and life changing, I will be posting them on this blog. Obviously, I will not be able to post everything in it's entirity, but I will be summarizing them and letting you know the source of the article or book they come from so you can check them out later if you wish. I want this blog to be a place where you can go to often and be inspired and leave here with a smile on your face. I will be covering all kinds of different topics dealing with success and personal development. Topics like taking action, relationships, living to your potential, reinventing yourself, finances, leadership, presenting, goal setting, time management, etc. I will also be occasionally including topics on cooking, music, and gardening because they are special interests of mine. As a little disclaimer, I have given my life to the Lord and he is #1 in my life. I am his servant and everything I do in life is for his glory. With that being said, religion influences all areas of my life. There will be references to God in this blog because I can't seperate God from this or any other area of my life. I want you to know that if you do not believe in God, that is fine. That is your choice. This blog is open to anyone who wants to better their life. I will not be trying to influence or pressure anyone into having a relationship with the Lord from this site. Please don't feel uncomfortable. You can just read the portions of the blog that you wish to. I am inviting you to go on a journey with me. We will learn together to be the kind of people we were designed to be. Anyone can make a difference in this world, but it starts%
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