Strawberry Fields Forever
Strawberry Fields Forever was written by John Lennon. His inspiration was a Salvation Army children's refuge by that name in Liverpool, near his boyhood home. He used to play in the woods behind it, and enjoyed going to Salvation Army band events in the summer. The Beatles had intended to put Strawberry Fields Forever on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, but instead it was released as a single in February of 1967. The other side was McCartney's Penny Lane, another nostalgic song about the days of youth in Liverpool. Strawberry Fields Forever also was later released in the US on the 1967 LP, Magical Mystery Tour. The song also leads off the 1973 compilation, The Beatles, 1967-1970.
Strawberry Fields Forever represents one of the Beatles' most loved and remembered recordings, and it still stands as perhaps the best example of the genre known as "psychedelic rock," with its dreamlike melody and impressionistic lyrics. Critics praised it. Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys said that his group desisted from completing their album, SMILE, in part because, when he first heard this song, he concluded that the Beatles had already achieved the sound he was looking for. Rolling Stone ranked it 76 on its list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.
Lennon started his composition in Almería, Spain, while playing "Private Gripweed" in Richard Lester's film, How I Won the War. This was in the early fall of 1966. He spent 6 weeks working the song over in his head. When he arrived back home, he made a demo of the song; it had just one verse (verse two) and no chorus. After that, he revised the words to make them less precisely descriptive, and he added the refrain. The first verse of the song was written last, just before recording began on November 24.
The group did not finish until almost a month later. As many as 55 hours of studio time were dedicated to the number. The first take had Paul and George on background vocals, creating the dream-like quality of the musical line, with Paul on the mellotron. Lennon was double-tracked. A few days later the group executed a second version, and the fifth take was considered the best. Overdubs were then added. Lennon's voice was recorded faster than normal, so that when it was slowed back down, it would have an unusual, dreamy quality to it. The entire song was slowed down electronically, putting it approximately into B-flat (instead of its "real" key of C major). On December 8 & 9 Martin recorded another base track, using orchestra, mellotron, the Indian swarmandel and other instruments. Lennon wanted the two versions spliced together somehow. Recording engineer Geoff Emerick accomplished the feat, compensating for the different tempos and pitches of the two versions. The orchestral version starts in the middle of verse 2. In 1996, the Anthology 2 compilation came out, offering us three different, historical versions of the song: The home demo made by Lennon himself, the first take in the studios in November of 1966, and the whole of take seven, of which only the first part was used in the final version (when Emerick spliced it with the orchestral version made in December).
In the final version, Paul plays a mellotron as an introduction, and the vocals begin with the refrain. Then there are three verse-refrain sequences, followed by "Strawberry Fields Forever" and a fade (including an Indian harp (Swarmandal) and a cello). The mellotron then comes back with dissonant chords and un-rhythmic drums, and Lennon signs off with a barely audible "cranberry sauce" (ad lib leaked in from the drum track) which many believed was "I buried Paul" fueling rumors that Paul had died. The chord sequences in the verses and the refrain involve unexpected jumps and false cadences (like a conventional deceptive resolution of V to I via IV and the commencement of the verse on V followed by vi minor). Alan Pollack called this composition technique "approach avoidance," and it mirrors the sentiment in the lyrics.