Strawberry Fields Forever - The Beatles

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"Strawberry Fields Forever" - The Beatles (1967)

"Strawberry Fields" is the name of a real place- a children’s home in Liverpool operated by the Salvation Army. It no longer exists.

The single was accompanied by a “promotional film” which was the first “pop video” that MTV would later make famous as a new type of media exposure for musicians.

George Martin didn’t want to put "Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields" out on a single in February 1967 but rather on the Sgt. Pepper’s album in June. Brian Epstein insisted because EMI and Capitol Records were impatient waiting six months for a new album and no more singles. Epstein wouldn’t or couldn’t stand up for his clients. George Martin has publicly stated many times how much he regretted not forcing the issue with Epstein by not allowing him to dictate what they recorded and when it would be released. It was that it was the first Beatle single ever not to reach Number One in the UK on its release.

One of the most complex songs the band recorded, Strawberry Fields changed shape and form several times before it was done. George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick reasoned that if they sped up the remix of the original version, and then slowed down the remix of the latter version, they could align both recordings in terms of key, tone and tempo. Lennon, who played the intro to the song on a Mellotron, said that the song was badly recorded- and blamed McCartney for interfering in the studio.

Beatle author Ian Macdonald writes:

“While there are countless contemporary composers qualified to write music much more sophisticated in form and technique, few if any are capable of displaying feeling and fantasy so direct, spontaneous, and original.”

In religious terminology, this song serves something of a secular answer to the 23rd Psalm. “John leadeth me beside the still waters to a place of safety and calmness where “nothing is real, and nothing to get hung about.”

From the first melancholy flute sounding organ chords to the orchestra in the park strings, the whole record is basically pastoral. John doesn’t make as many specific lyrical references to outdoorsy things as the Psalm did, but the whole tone of the melody and the mood is about a lazy afternoon in a meadow, literally, as a memory from his childhood. 

Although there were no precedents in Western pop music for musicians as spiritual leaders, there were in other cultures. The Beatles didn’t consciously base themselves on being spiritual leaders but at least in this song, they did announce how they were descending to the lower world on behalf of their public in the line, “Let me take you down.”

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