England - Full Moon 127 - 02/02/07
Following up our retroscope series of last year - here's Speakers' corner! Luna Kafé's focused eye on great events, fantastic happenings, absolute milestones, or other curious incidents from the history of rock. This album should've seen the light of day 40 years ago this month...
Strawberry Fields Forever b/w Penny Lane
It was about 40 years ago today that the band started to play, in a new way. Well, Mr. Lennon had written a couple of psychedelic songs earlier. "Rain", the single B-side of "Paperback Writer" and "Tomorrow Never Knows" that ends Revolver are classics in their own rights. Still, "Strawberry Fields" was a lot more, not only where he reached his psychedelic peak. My main source says The Beatles' third double A-side single was released on February 13 1967 in the USA and four days later in Britain. Or it might have been the other way round...
· It was the first studio recordings after The Beatles stopped touring. By now they didn't have to bother about how the songs were to be performed live when they arranged and recorded them.
· It was the first Beatle single about places in their native Liverpool.
· It was the first pop single to include the mellotron. (Wasn't it?) It's Paul who plays the flute mellotron at the start.
· It was the first single with a promotional film for both songs. A very early celluloid start of the video age, really.
· It was the first Beatle single in the UK with a picture sleeve. (Wasn't it?)
· It was the first Beatle single not to be a no. 1 hit in the British charts since "Please, Please Me" climbed to that position in early 1963. It only reached no. 2, after "Release Me" by Englebert Humperdinck. What a shame, Mary Jane!
· "Strawberry Fields Forever" was the first recording by the Beatles that included extensive editing and tape manipulating; backwards percussion, editing different takes together, slowing down and speeding up those takes to match the tempo and keys of the takes, audio compression and equalisation. And only four analogue tracks available.
Beatles' engineer Geoff Emerick and producer George Martin were the masters of the latter. But there are more. If you listen to the early simple demo version and start of the studio recording take 1 of "Strawberry Fields" on The Beatles Anthology 2, only guitar and John singing, it's easy to notice what a strong song it is. A quite different melody line compared to the average Beatles' song until then. And the mystic hazy lyrics... '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.'
Anyways, the arrangements with a fairly straight rock band instrumentation plus mellotron from the first recording edited together with the heavy orchestrated version were a stroke of genius. It made a great song unique and fabulous. It is said that Brian Wilson abandoned his Smile project after he had heard "Strawberry Fields Forever" for the first time. He reckoned The Beatles had achieved what he was striving for with Smile.
Oh yes, the other song of the single "Penny Lane" is one of Paul McCartney's better nostalgic feel-good songs with a French horn and all. But, well, you know, "Strawberry Fields" is my favourite Beatles' song. Forever! Of course I mean the original 1967 single version of the song. The 2006 Love version doesn't add any new dimensions, methinks...
PS! What does John really say towards the end of the song? Some believes 'I buried Paul', that added to the Paul is dead myth. The official version by now is 'Cranberry sauce'. I still think it is 'I'm very bored'...
Just remember: Nothing is real!
Copyright © 2007 JP