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Strawberry Fields Forever

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"Strawberry Fields Forever"
US picture sleeve
Single by the Beatles
A-side "Penny Lane" (double A-side)
Released 13 February 1967
Format 7-inch record
Recorded 29 November, 8–22 December 1966
Studio EMI Studios, London
Length 4:05
Label Parlophone (UK)
Capitol (US)
Songwriter(s) Lennon–McCartney
Producer(s) George Martin
The Beatles singles chronology
"Eleanor Rigby" / "Yellow Submarine"
(1966) Eleanor RigbyYellow Submarine1966
"Strawberry Fields Forever" / "Penny Lane"
(1967) Strawberry Fields ForeverPenny Lane1967
"All You Need Is Love"
(1967) All You Need Is Love1967
Audio sample

"Strawberry Fields Forever" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles. It was released in February 1967 as a double A-side single with "Penny Lane". The song was written by John Lennon and credited to the Lennon–McCartney songwriting partnership. Lennon wrote the song in Almería, Spain, where he was filming a role in the anti-war comedy How I Won the War. He drew inspiration from his childhood memories of playing in the garden of Strawberry Field, a Salvation Army children's home near to where he grew up in Liverpool.

The song was the first track recorded during the sessions for the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, starting in November 1966, and was intended for inclusion on the album. Instead, with pressure from their record company and management for new product, the group were forced to issue the single, and then adhered to their philosophy of omitting previously released singles tracks from their albums. The double A-side peaked at number 2 on the Record Retailer chart, behind Engelbert Humperdinck's "Release Me", breaking the band's four-year run of chart-topping singles in the UK. In the United States, "Strawberry Fields Forever" peaked at number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. To the Beatles' displeasure, the song was later included on the US Magical Mystery Tour LP.

Lennon identified "Strawberry Fields Forever" as his highest achievement as a member of the Beatles.[5] In an effort to satisfy Lennon's requirements, the band recorded three separate versions of the track. The released recording was created from the editing together of two separate takes – each one entirely different in tempo, mood and musical key – and incorporates reverse-recorded instrumentation, tape loops and a fade-out/fade-in coda. The finished recording also includes Mellotron, a cello and brass arrangement by producer George Martin, and an Indian swarmandal. The discarded first version of the song was issued on the 1996 outtakes compilation Anthology 2.

"Strawberry Fields Forever" represented a departure from the Beatles' previous singles and a novel listening experience for the contemporary pop audience. While the song initially divided and confused music critics and the group's fans, it is one of the Beatles' most influential works in the psychedelic rock genre.[6] The band's promotional film clip for the track, featuring experimental techniques such as reverse effects, stop motion animation, jump-cuts and superimposition, is similarly recognised for its influence in the medium of music video. The Strawberry Fields memorial in New York's Central Park is named after the song. Richie Havens, Todd Rundgren, Peter Gabriel, Ben Harper, and Los Fabulosos Cadillacs featuring Debbie Harry are among the many artists who have covered the track. In 1990, a version by the Madchester group Candy Flip became a top-ten hit in the UK and Ireland.

Background and writing[edit]

Entrance gates at Strawberry Field, near Lennon's childhood home in Woolton, Liverpool

Strawberry Field was the name of a Salvation Army children's home close to John Lennon's childhood home in Woolton, a suburb of Liverpool.[7][8] Lennon and his friends Pete Shotton, Nigel Walley and Ivan Vaughan used to play in the wooded garden behind the home.[9][10] One of Lennon's childhood treats was the garden party held each summer in Calderstones Park, near the home, where a Salvation Army brass band played.[11] 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!'"[10][12]

Lennon began writing "Strawberry Fields Forever" in Almería, Spain, during the filming of Richard Lester's How I Won the War in September–October 1966.[13][14] The Beatles had just retired from touring after one of the most difficult periods of their career,[15] including the "more popular than Jesus" controversy and the band's unintentional snubbing of Philippines First Lady Imelda Marcos.[7][16] Like "Penny Lane", which Paul McCartney wrote in late 1966 in response to Lennon's new song,[17] "Strawberry Fields Forever" conveys nostalgia for the Beatles' early years in Liverpool.[18] While both songs refer to actual locations, McCartney said that the two pieces also had strong surrealistic and psychedelic overtones.[7] George Martin, the Beatles' producer, recalled that when he first heard "Strawberry Fields Forever", he thought it conjured up a "hazy, impressionistic dreamworld".[19][nb 1] As with his Revolver compositions "Tomorrow Never Knows" and "She Said She Said", "Strawberry Fields Forever" was informed by Lennon's experiences with the hallucinogenic drug LSD, which caused him to question his identity and seek to dissolve his ego.[20] 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' ..."[21][22] He termed the song "psychoanalysis set to music".[14][19] In McCartney's view, the lyrics reflect Lennon's admiration of the nineteenth-century English writer Lewis Carroll, particularly his poem "Jabberwocky".[23]

The earliest demo of the song, recorded in Almería, had no refrain and only one verse, beginning: "There's no one on my wavelength / I mean, it's either too high or too low". Lennon revised these words to make them more obscure, then wrote the melody and part of the lyrics to the chorus (which functioned as a bridge and did not yet include a reference to Strawberry Fields). He subsequently added another verse and the mention of Strawberry Fields.[24] The first verse on the released version was the last to be written, close to the time of the song's recording.[25] For the chorus, 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."[26] The first verse Lennon wrote became the second one in the released version of the song, and the second verse he wrote became the last.

Musical structure[edit]

"Strawberry Fields Forever" was originally written on acoustic guitar in the key of C major. The recorded version is approximately in B 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).[27] The introduction is played on a Mellotron,[15] and involves a I–ii–I–VII–IV progression.[28] The vocals enter with the chorus instead of a verse.[29] 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".[30] The phrase "to Strawberry" for example begins with a somewhat dissonant G melody note against a prevailing F minor key, then uses the semi-tone dissonance B and B notes (the natural and sharpened 11th degrees 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 F7 chord (in A key).[30]

A half-measure complicates the metre 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 chorus and is eight measures long. The verse (for example "Always, no sometimes ...") starts with an F major chord in the key of B (or E chord in the key of A) (V), which progresses to G minor, the submediant, a deceptive cadence. According to musicologist 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 I know – I mean" and "I think I disagree", never resolves into a I chord (A in A key) directly as expected.[31] Instead, at the end of the verse, the leading note, harmonised as part of the dominant chord, resolves to the prevailing tonic (B) at the end of the verse, after tonicising the subdominant (IV) E chord, on "disagree".[27] On the released recording, the second and third verses are introduced by a descending, raga-esque melody played on an Indian board-mounted zither, known as a swarmandal.[32]

In the middle of the second chorus, the "funereal brass" is introduced, stressing the ominous lyrics.[29] After three verses and four choruses, the line "Strawberry Fields Forever" is repeated three times, and the song fades out, with interplay between electric guitar, cello and swarmandal. The song fades back in after a few seconds for what musicologist Walter Everett terms a "free-form coda".[33] This section features the Mellotron playing in a haunting tone – one achieved by recording the instrument's "Swinging Flutes" setting in reverse[34] – scattered drumming, discordant brass, and murmuring, after which the song fades for a second time.[29][31]


The Beatles began recording "Strawberry Fields Forever" on 24 November 1966. This was the band's first recording session since completing Revolver, in June, and marked the start of recording for what became the 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was also the Beatles' first group activity since the end of their final US tour, on 29 August.[35][36] Recording took place in Studio 2 at EMI Studios (now Abbey Road Studios) in London,[37] using a 4-track machine.[38] The previous month, Brian Epstein, the Beatles' manager, had reluctantly informed EMI that the band would not be releasing a single or any new music for the Christmas market.[39] The news that the group were not performing any concerts in Britain, in contrast with previous years, when they had either played a season of Christmas shows or undertaken a national tour,[40] led to hundreds of fans demonstrating outside Epstein's home in Belgravia in early November.[41][42] This lack of activity by the Beatles and their highly publicised individual pursuits since September was interpreted by the press as a sign that the band were on the verge of splitting up.[43][nb 2] The band's return to the recording studio was given front-page coverage in some newspapers.[45]

The song's working title was "It's Not Too Bad".[46] The song took 45 hours to record, spread over five weeks.[47] Together with "Penny Lane" and "When I'm Sixty-Four",[48][49] "Strawberry Fields Forever" established the theme for the early part of the Sgt. Pepper project – namely, a nostalgic look back at the band members' childhoods in northern England.[50][51] McCartney has said that this was never planned or formalised as an album-wide concept, but acknowledged that it served as a "device" or underlying theme throughout the project.[50][nb 3]

A 1960s-era Mellotron, similar to that used on the Beatles recording

The group recorded three distinct versions of "Strawberry Fields Forever". 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 tape replay keyboard instrument purchased by Lennon in August 1965[53] (with another model hired in after encouragement from keyboardist Mike Pinder of the Moody Blues);[54] George Harrison played electric slide guitar, and Ringo Starr played drums.[55] McCartney wrote the melody for the Mellotron introduction.[56][nb 4] The first recorded take opened with a verse, starting "Living is easy with eyes closed", instead of the chorus, 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, beginning "Always, no sometimes", has three-part harmonies, with McCartney and Harrison singing "dreamy background vocals".[24][57] This version (take 1) was soon abandoned and went unreleased until the Anthology 2 compilation in 1996.[58]

On 28 November, the band reassembled to try a different arrangement. The second version of the song featured McCartney's Mellotron introduction followed by the chorus.[59][nb 5] They recorded five takes of the basic track for this arrangement (two of which were false starts), with the last – taped on 29 November – being chosen as best and subjected to further overdubs.[59][61] 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.[59] This version, numbered take 7 after the reduction mix and overdubs, was used for the first minute of the released recording.[62]

After recording the second version of the song, Lennon wanted to do 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) ..."[38] For this purpose, another basic track was recorded on 8 and 9 December, using Mellotron, electric guitar, piano, backwards-recorded cymbals, and swarmandal.[63][64][nb 6] Once the brass and cellos were overdubbed, on 15 December, this became take 26.[66] After reviewing the tapes of the new remake and the previous version, Lennon told Martin that he liked both,[67] although Martin had to tell Lennon that the orchestral score was at a faster tempo and in a higher key (B major) than the earlier recording (A major).[31] Lennon assured him: "You can fix it, George." On 22 December, Martin and Geoff Emerick, the band's recording engineer, carried out the difficult task of joining takes 7 and 26 together.[68][69] 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.[15] He then spliced the versions together,[67] starting the orchestral score in the middle of the second chorus.[68] Since take 7 did not include a chorus after the first verse, he also spliced in the first seven words of the chorus from elsewhere in that take.[38] The pitch-shifting in joining the versions gave Lennon's lead vocal a slightly other-worldly "swimming" quality.[57][70]

Some vocalising by Lennon is faintly audible during the song's coda, picked up as leakage onto one of the drum microphones (close listening shows Lennon making other comments to Starr). In the "Paul is Dead" hoax – in which McCartney was said to have died in late 1966 and been replaced in the Beatles by a lookalike – these were taken to be Lennon intoning, "I buried Paul." In fact, Lennon says the words "cranberry sauce".[66][71] Shortly before his death in 1980, Lennon expressed dissatisfaction with the final version of the song, saying it was "badly recorded" and accusing McCartney of subconsciously sabotaging the recording.[72][73]

Promotional film[edit]

The Beatles filmed their promo clip for the song around a large tree in Knole Park in Kent.

By January 1967, Epstein was under pressure from their record company to release a new single by the Beatles.[74][75] Martin told him that the group had recorded "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane", which in his opinion were their two finest songs to date.[76] Epstein said they would issue the songs as a double A-side single, a format the Beatles had used for their previous single, "Yellow Submarine" / "Eleanor Rigby", in August 1966.[76] The Beatles produced a film clip for "Strawberry Fields Forever", in a continuation of their policy since 1965 of avoiding the need to promote a single with numerous personal appearances on television.[77] It was filmed on 30 and 31 January 1967 at Knole Park in Sevenoaks, Kent.[74]

The clip was directed by Peter Goldmann,[74] a Swedish television director who had been recommended to the Beatles by their mutual friend Klaus Voormann.[78] One of the band's assistants, Tony Bramwell, served as producer. Bramwell recalls that, inspired by Voormann's comment on hearing "Strawberry Fields Forever" – that "the whole thing sounded like it was played on a strange instrument" – he spent two days dressing up a large tree in the park to resemble "a piano and harp combined, with strings".[79] Writing in 2007, music critic John Harris remarked that Bramwell's set design reflected the "collision of serenity and almost gothic eeriness" behind the finished song.[79]

The Beatles (McCartney, Harrison, Starr and Lennon) pouring paint over the piano–harp construction

The clip presented the Beatles' new group image, since all four had recently grown moustaches,[80][81] following Harrison's lead when he went to India in September 1966.[82] In addition to a handlebar moustache, Lennon wore his round "granny" glasses for the first time as a member of the Beatles,[80] in keeping with his look as Private Gripweed in How I Won the War,[12] for which he had also shorn off his long hair.[83] Instead of a performance of the song, the clip relies on abstract imagery and features reverse film effects, stop motion animation, jump-cuts from day- to night-time, superimposition and close-up shots.[84] The Beatles are shown playing and later pouring paint over the upright piano; at one point, McCartney appears to leap from the ground onto a branch of the tree.[80][81][nb 7]

In his commentary on the promo clip, music critic Chris Ingham writes:

Beautifully and spookily lit … much attention is given to close-ups of The Beatles' faces and facial hair, as if the viewer is invited to contemplate the significance of the newly furry Fabs. There's an appropriately surreal air about the film … which, when experienced simultaneously with The Beatles' extraordinary new music, is deliciously disorientating. The final scene of The Beatles pouring pots of coloured paint onto the "piano" is oddly shocking, but brilliantly memorable as a statement of iconoclastic artistic intent.[81]

During the same visit to Knole Park, the band shot part of the promotional film for "Penny Lane".[86][87][nb 8] In 2015, the promo film was included in the three-disc versions (titled 1+) of the Beatles' compilation 1.[89]


The double A-side single was issued by Capitol Records in the US on 13 February 1967 (as Capitol 5810),[90] and by EMI's Parlophone label in the United Kingdom on 17 February (as Parlophone R 5570).[91] Aside from the compilation album A Collection of Beatles Oldies, issued in the UK but not the US,[92] it was the first release by the Beatles since Revolver and their August 1966 single.[93] It was also the first Beatles single in the UK to be presented in a picture sleeve.[94][95] The front of the sleeve contained a studio photo that again demonstrated the band's adoption of facial hair and abandonment of the matching suits that had typified their unified look as live performers; on the back cover were individual pictures of the four Beatles as infants.[94] Recalling the reaction to the new single and the expectations it created for Sgt. Pepper, music critic Greil Marcus later wrote: "If this extraordinary music was merely a taste of what The Beatles were up to, what would the album be like?"[96] Comparing the two sides in his book Electric Shock, Peter Doggett likens "Penny Lane" to pop art in its evoking "multifaceted substance out of the everyday", and describes "Strawberry Fields Forever" as art pop, "self-consciously excluding the mass audience".[2]

The promotional film for "Strawberry Fields Forever" was the more experimental of Goldmann's clips and underlined the Beatles' ties to the avant-garde scene.[97] The films were first broadcast in America on The Ed Sullivan Show and in Britain on Top of the Pops,[98] a day before the respective release dates of the single in those two countries.[99] On 25 February, they aired on The Hollywood Palace, a traditional US variety program hosted by actor Van Johnson, who bemusedly introduced "Strawberry Fields Forever" with the comment: "It's a musical romp through an open field with psychedelic overtones and a feeling of expanded consciousness … If you know what that means, let me know …"[85] The films attracted a similar level of confusion on the more youth-focused American Bandstand,[100] on 11 March, where Dick Clark invited comments from his studio audience.[101] In the description of author Doyle Greene, the varied opinions towards the "rebranded 'counterculture Beatles'" and their new music demonstrated a "gendering" of popular culture, with male reaction marginally more favourable than female, and women variously focusing on the "weird", "ugly" or aged appearance of the band members.[102]

In Britain, "Strawberry Fields Forever" / "Penny Lane" was the first Beatles single since "Please Please Me" in 1963 that failed to reach number 1 on Record Retailer's chart (later the UK Singles Chart).[103][nb 9] The single was held at number 2 behind Engelbert Humperdinck's "Release Me",[105][106] because, even though the Beatles' record sold considerably more, its double A-side status meant that the two sides were deemed to be individual releases.[107] Following speculation in late 1966 that the Beatles were due to disband, their failure to secure the number 1 spot was trumpeted in the UK press as a sign that the group's popularity was declining.[108] At the time, McCartney said he was not upset because Humperdinck's song was a "completely different type of thing",[109] while Harrison acknowledged that "Strawberry Fields Forever", like all of the Beatles' latest music, was bound to alienate much of their audience but would also win them new fans.[110][nb 10] On the national chart compiled by Melody Maker magazine, however, the combination topped the singles list for three weeks.[112] In the US, "Penny Lane" topped the Billboard Hot 100 for one week, while "Strawberry Fields Forever" peaked at number 8.[113][114] With "Penny Lane" as the favoured side, the single was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America on 20 March 1967.[115]

Later releases and remixes[edit]

In keeping with the Beatles' usual philosophy that tracks released on a single should not appear on new albums, both songs were left off Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.[116] Martin later stated that this was an approach that he had encouraged, and it was a "dreadful mistake".[109] The Beatles were displeased that Capitol then included the two songs, along with the band's other non-album singles tracks from 1967, on the Magical Mystery Tour LP, which the company released as a full-length album, in contrast to the six-track double EP released in the UK and many other countries.[117][118]

The stereo version of the Magical Mystery Tour LP contained a 29 December 1966 mix of "Strawberry Fields Forever", in which the trumpets and cellos pan abruptly from left to right at the point where takes 7 and 26 are joined.[119] By the time that album was released on CD, this mix had been superseded by a stereo remix, originally prepared for a 1971 West German issue of Magical Mystery Tour, which omitted the panning effect at the join point, but added a right-to-left panning to the swarmandal scale introducing the second and third verses.[119]

"Strawberry Fields Forever" was sequenced as the opening track of the 1973 compilation album The Beatles 1967–1970,[120] and the single charted again in Britain, peaking at number 32, when EMI reissued all 22 of the Beatles' UK singles in March 1976.[121][nb 11] In 1996, three previously unreleased versions of the song appeared on the Anthology 2 outtakes compilation:[123] one of Lennon's home demos from November 1966; an altered version of the first studio take (minus Harrison and McCartney's harmony vocals); and the complete take 7, in mono, edited with the coda's drums and percussion track from 9 December.[124] In 2006, a newly mixed version of the song was included on the album Love.[15] This mash-up takes sections from an acoustic demo,[125] take 1 and then take 26, and the ending incorporates elements from "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", "In My Life", "I'm Only Sleeping", "Penny Lane", "Piggies" and "Hello, Goodbye".[119] In 2015, a new stereo mix of "Strawberry Fields Forever" was created by Giles Martin to accompany the song's promo film on the three-disc versions of the Beatles' compilation 1. This version appeared on CD in 2017 on the two-disc and six-disc 50th-anniversary editions of Sgt. Pepper, together with a selection of outtakes from the "Strawberry Fields Forever" sessions, including a complete take 26.[126]

Critical reception[edit]

Among contemporary reviews of the single, the NME's Derek Johnson confessed to being both fascinated and confused by "Strawberry Fields Forever", writing: "Certainly the most unusual and way-out single The Beatles have yet produced – both in lyrical content and scoring. Quite honestly, I don't really know what to make of it."[127] According to Beatles biographer Robert Rodriguez, these comments typified the "bewilderment" and "mood of disquiet" that the song initially aroused in the music press.[94] The Daily Mail's entertainment reporter wrote: "What's happening to the Beatles? They have become contemplative, secretive, exclusive and excluded – four mystics with moustaches."[128] By contrast, Time magazine hailed the song as "the latest sample of the Beatles' astonishing inventiveness".[129] In his review of Sgt. Pepper in June 1967, William Mann of The Times recognised the Beatles as the originators of the vogue for "electronically-manipulated clusters of sound", and he added: "In some records, it's just a generalised effect. But in Strawberry Fields, it was poetically and precisely applied."[128]

Richie Unterberger of AllMusic describes "Strawberry Fields Forever" as "one of The Beatles' peak achievements and one of the finest Lennon-McCartney songs".[29] 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."[130] In his commentary on the track in The Beatles' Diary, Peter Doggett describes the song as "the greatest pop record ever made" and "a record that never dates, because it lives outside time". He rues the single's failure to top the now-official UK chart as "arguably the most disgraceful statistic in chart history and to the eternal shame of the British record buying public".[131]

In the June 1997 issue of Mojo magazine, Jon Savage included "Strawberry Fields Forever" in his list "Psychedelia: The 100 Greatest Classics" and wrote: "When this first came on radio in early 1967, it sounded like nothing else, with its wracked vocal, out-of-tune brass section and queasy strings."[132] In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked the track at number 76 on its list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time",[133] a placing the song retained in the magazine's 2011 "definitive" list.[5] On a similar list compiled by Q in 2006, it appeared at number 31.[133] In 2010, Rolling Stone placed "Strawberry Fields Forever" at number 3 on its list of the "100 Greatest Beatles Songs".[71][134] It was ranked as the second-best Beatles song by Mojo in 2006, after "A Day in the Life".[135] The song is ranked as the 8th greatest of all time by Acclaimed Music.[136] During an interview with the Beatles' official biographer Hunter Davies in 2017, Irish rock music journalist and disc jockey Dave Fanning said that, during his 40-year career, "Strawberry Fields Forever" was "the best song I've ever heard in my entire life".[137]

Cultural influence and legacy[edit]

Featuring backwards cymbals, cascading Indian harp … guitar solos, timpani, bongos, trumpets and cellos, this was the lushest music The Beatles had recorded up to then … From its weird Mellotron opening to its fake drum forward reprise where John's voice could be heard saying "Cranberry sauce", "Strawberry Fields Forever" inaugurated 1967 like no other song on earth.[138]
– Author Mark Prendergast, 2003

Mark Lindsay of the US band Paul Revere & the Raiders recalled buying the single in 1967 and first listening to it at home with his producer at the time, Terry Melcher. According to Lindsay: "When the song ended we both just looked at each other. I said, 'Now what the fuck are we gonna do?' With that single, the Beatles raised the ante as to what a pop record should be." Lindsay then ensured that the clips for both sides of the single were broadcast on the Raiders' television show, Where the Action Is.[139] Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys heard "Strawberry Fields Forever" while he was underway with Smile, his intended follow-up to the band's 1966 album Pet Sounds. According to author Steven Gaines, this event was one of several factors that accelerated Wilson's plummeting emotional state and led to the project's collapse, as Wilson could not find a way to complete the album to his satisfaction.[140][nb 12] In response to a fan's question on his website in January 2014, Wilson stated that he thought "Strawberry Fields Forever" was "a very weird record ... I liked it", but denied that it had "weakened" him.[142]

Although the Mellotron had been a feature of Manfred Mann's late 1966 hit single "Semi-Detached Suburban Mr James",[143] its appearance on "Strawberry Fields Forever" remains the most celebrated use of the instrument on a pop or rock recording.[144][145] Pinder, whose band the Moody Blues went on to make extensive use of Mellotron and swarmandal in their work,[146] said he was "in bliss" when he heard the keyboard's flute sound on the Beatles' single.[54] Together with the resonant tone of Starr's drums, the cello arrangement on "Strawberry Fields Forever", as with "I Am the Walrus", was much admired by other musicians and producers, and proved highly influential on 1970s bands such as Electric Light Orchestra and Wizzard.[147] Ian MacDonald recognises the track as having "extended the range of studio techniques developed on Revolver, opening up possibilities for pop which, given sufficient invention, could result in unprecedented sound images".[147] He views it as having launched both the "English pop-pastoral mood" typified by bands such as Pink Floyd, Family, Traffic and Fairport Convention, and English psychedelia's LSD-inspired preoccupation with "nostalgia for the innocent vision of a child".[8][nb 13] Walter Everett identifies the song's ending as an example of the Beatles' continued pioneering of the "fade-out–fade-in coda", further to their use of this device on the 1966 B-side "Rain". He cites "Helter Skelter" as a later example, as well as Led Zeppelin's 1969 track "Thank You" and, as a direct response to the Beatles' lead, both sides of the Rolling Stones' August 1967 single, "We Love You" and "Dandelion".[149]

Heavily graffiti-ed gatepost sign at Strawberry Field – with the word "Forever" added in acknowledgement of the Beatles song

Further to the Beatles' pioneering use of promotional films since 1965, the clip for the song served as an early example of what became known as a music video.[150][151] In 1985, the "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" clips were the oldest selections included in the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)'s exhibition of the most influential music videos.[152] The two films occupied a similar place in MoMA's 2003 "Golden Oldies of Music Video" exhibition, where they were presented by avant-garde artist Laurie Anderson.[153][nb 14] The "Strawberry Fields Forever" clip also provided the inspiration for the start of the fan vidding phenomenon in 1975.[155] Kandy Fong, influenced by the Beatles not attempting to perform the music,[156] set images from the Star Trek TV series to an apparently unrelated musical soundtrack.[157]

Strawberry Field became a popular visiting place for fans of Lennon and the Beatles as a result of the song.[158][159] By 2011, the level of graffiti left by visitors had forced the Salvation Army to have the entrance gates removed[158] and later relocated to the Beatles Experience centre in Liverpool.[160][nb 15] In July 2017, the Salvation Army began raising funds – through the sale of T-shirts and mugs emblazoned with "Nothing is real" and other lines from Lennon's lyrics – to help finance the construction of a new building at Strawberry Field. The purpose of the building is to help provide job opportunities for young adults with learning difficulties, and to commemorate Lennon, in both an indoor exhibition and a "garden of spiritual reflection".[160]

"Strawberry Fields Forever" is one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll" and in 1999 was inducted into the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences' Grammy Hall of Fame.[133] The Strawberry Fields memorial in New York's Central Park is named after the song.[161] The memorial and the Strawberry Fields area of the park, spanning 3.5 acres, was officially dedicated by Yoko Ono in Lennon's memory in October 1985.[162][nb 16] In addition to referencing "Strawberry Fields Forever" in its title, the 2013 Spanish film Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed is a fictional account based on real-life events when a 41-year-old teacher from Cartagena visited Lennon in Almería when he was writing the song.[164]

Cover versions[edit]

"Strawberry Fields Forever" has been recorded by many other artists. Tomorrow, a band that, along with Pink Floyd and Soft Machine, spearheaded the British psychedelic scene,[165] drew heavily from the Beatles' work in their February 1968 release Tomorrow and included a cover of the song on that album.[166] The self-titled debut album by American rock band Vanilla Fudge, released in August 1967, contained a brief homage to "Strawberry Fields Forever" at the end of their cover of "Eleanor Rigby". (The homage is entitled "ELDS" on CD versions of the album, and CD versions of the album in fact additionally spell out an acrostic of the song as an homage, with portions of preceding tracks entitled "STRA", "WBER" and "RYFI".)[167] In August 1969, Richie Havens performed "Strawberry Fields Forever" as part of his set to open the Woodstock Festival.[168] In 1976, a version by Todd Rundgren was released on his album Faithful, and Peter Gabriel covered the track in the musical documentary All This and World War II. Highlighting the line "Living is easy with eyes closed", the song accompanies newsreel footage of British prime minister Neville Chamberlain's "Peace for our time" declaration after his meeting with Adolf Hitler in Munich in 1938.[169] A recording by Ben Harper was used in the 2001 film I Am Sam,[170] and Jim Sturgess and Joe Anderson covered the track for the 2007 film Across the Universe. Los Fabulosos Cadillacs recorded a ska version of the song[171] featuring Debbie Harry for their 1995 album Rey Azúcar, which was a hit in Latin America.[172]

In March 1990, "Strawberry Fields Forever" returned to the charts when Candy Flip, one of the British groups associated with the Madchester revival of 1960s psychedelia and fashion,[173] released an electronic version of the track. It peaked at number 3 on the UK Singles Chart[174] and number 7 in Ireland.[175][nb 17] "Strawberry Fields Forever" has also been covered by the Bee Gees, the Bobs, Eugene Chadbourne, Sandy Farina, Laurence Juber, David Lanz, Cyndi Lauper, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Mother's Finest, Odetta, Andy Partridge, the Shadows, the Ventures and Cassandra Wilson.[116]

The vocal melody for "Strawberry Fields Forever" provided the piano score of experimental classical composer Alvin Lucier's 1990 composition "Nothing Is Real". [177]


According to Ian MacDonald:[178]

The Beatles

Additional musicians and production staff


Beatles version[edit]

Chart (1967) Peak
Australian Go-Set National Top 40[179] 1
Austrian Singles Chart[180] 13
Belgian Singles Chart (Wallonia)[181] 1
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[182] 1
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[183] 1
New Zealand Listener Chart[184] 9
Norwegian VG-lista Singles[185] 1
Swedish Kvällstoppen Chart[186] 1
UK Record Retailer Chart[187] 2
US Billboard Hot 100[188] 8
US Cash Box Top 100[189] 10

Candy Flip version[edit]

Chart (1990) Peak
Australian ARIA Report[190] 29
Belgian Ultratop 50 Singles (Flanders)[191] 47
Irish Singles Chart[175] 7
New Zealand RIANZ Singles Chart[192] 20
UK Singles Chart[174] 3
US Modern Rock Tracks[193] 11


  1. ^ Martin described Lennon's performance of the song, on acoustic guitar, as "magic … absolutely lovely".[7]
  2. ^ In December, when announcing the winners of the NME's annual readers' poll, Billboard said that the Beatles' lack of a single release since August 1966 and their failure to tour the UK all year was a likely reason for the band finishing second in the World Group category behind the Beach Boys, who had a hit single during the voting period and had recently toured the UK.[44]
  3. ^ Author Ian MacDonald identifies allusions to the Beatles' upbringing throughout Sgt. Pepper that are "too persuasive to ignore". These include evocations of the postwar Northern music hall tradition, references to Northern industrial towns and Liverpool schooldays, Lewis Carroll-inspired imagery, the use of brass instrumentation in the style of park bandstand performances such as at Sefton Park,[49] and the album cover's flower arrangement akin to a floral clock.[52]
  4. ^ Although "Strawberry Fields Forever" is primarily Lennon's composition, in 1967 Lennon said that McCartney had contributed to the song, just as he had helped McCartney complete "Penny Lane".[56]
  5. ^ According to author John Winn, the group's instrumentation was the same as for take 1 of the song, but on some takes from 28 November, Harrison played his slide parts, including "Morse code blips", on one of the Mellotrons, using its slide setting.[60]
  6. ^ Harrison's use of swarmandal marked the instrument's introduction into Western pop music.[46] It had 21 strings, which he tuned specifically to suit the part.[65]
  7. ^ Discussing the clip in The Rolling Stone Book of Rock Video, Michael Shore said it was "Richard Lester meets Kenneth Anger in the Twilight Zone".[85]
  8. ^ While in Sevenoaks, Lennon wandered into an antiques shop and purchased the poster for Pablo Fanque's Circus Royal that would inspire the song "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"[88]
  9. ^ There was no standardised UK chart until February 1969, when it was established through the British Market Research Bureau. The Official Charts Company recognises the listings published by Record Retailer from March 1960 onwards as representing the UK Singles Chart for that period.[104]
  10. ^ Starr recalled that the single's failure to top the chart was "a relief" because "it took the pressure off".[111]
  11. ^ "Strawberry Fields Forever" was also among the Beatles tracks included on the soundtrack album to the 1988 documentary film Imagine: John Lennon.[122]
  12. ^ According to his friend Michael Vosse, Wilson first heard the song on his car radio and commented to Vosse, his passenger, that the Beatles had achieved the sound he had been striving for.[141]
  13. ^ Author Simon Philo describes much of Pink Floyd's first album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, as being in the style of the "patented British psychedelia" introduced by "Strawberry Fields Forever".[148]
  14. ^ In his book on the history of the music video, Saul Austerlitz recognises the two 1967 clips as superior to efforts by the Beatles' contemporaries and a development on the band's work with director Michael Lindsay-Hogg in 1966.[77] He also says they lack a satisfactory resolution to the concepts and innovative ideas they introduce, however, and concludes: "The Beatles' videos laid the table for future music-video experiments in symbolism, but their own symbols were, for the most part, muddled and unclear."[154]
  15. ^ The children's home closed in January 2005. On his death in December 1980, Lennon left money to Strawberry Field in his will,[116] and in 1984 his widow, Yoko Ono, donated £50,000 to help maintain the home.[159]
  16. ^ The song also inspired the title of the most widely known of the Beatles' many US fanzines, Strawberry Fields Forever. Its publisher, Joe Pope, organised the prototype for the official Beatles fan conventions (such as Beatlefest) with an event held in Boston, Massachusetts in July 1974.[163]
  17. ^ Following this, McCartney began including the song in his 1990 live performances, as part of a "Lennon Medley". He first played it at the Lennon tribute concert organised by Ono and held at Liverpool's King's Dock on 28 June.[176]


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  • Turner, Steve (1999). A Hard Day's Write: The Stories Behind Every Beatles Song (2nd edn). New York, NY: Carlton/HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-273698-1. 
  • Turner, Steve (2016). Beatles '66: The Revolutionary Year. New York, NY: HarperLuxe. ISBN 978-0-06-249713-0. 
  • Unterberger, Richie (2006). The Unreleased Beatles: Music & Film. San Francisco, CA: Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-0-87930-892-6. 
  • Winn, John C. (2009). That Magic Feeling: The Beatles' Recorded Legacy, Volume Two, 1966–1970. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press. ISBN 978-0-307-45239-9. 
  • Womack, Kenneth (2014). The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-0-313-39171-2. 

External links[edit]