The Back Story of The Beatles' Strawberry Fields Forever Song
As any artist will tell you, even a nobody artist, their art inspiration comes and goes. A whole song may suddenly come, out of nowhere, or just fragments that are slowly pieced together.
In September, 1966, John first started working on Strawberry Fields Forever while hanging around on the movie set of , "How I Won the War", a movie that John starred in. John's only serious dramatic acting. The original track was just him and a guitar, stumbling across chords and words until some sense began to be created. Strawberry Fields was near where Lennon grew up in Liverpool. It was about his insecurities about how he was different than others in his youth, which made him think that something was wrong with him.
John finished the song while in solitude on a Spanish beach. When the filming wrapped up, he returned to the UK. One day, while in the studio, John played it for the first time for the others. Once done, everyone in the studio was speechless. No one really knew what to say about it until Paul told John, " It was absolutely brilliant". By now, it was November, 1966, and the song was like a Dylan song. For two weeks straight, the Beatles tried different takes on the vocals, music, tempo. Paul wrote the intro to the song (now so famous) on a then primitive synthesizer called a Mellotron. Recording sessions ran from Nov 24 to just before Christmas. The band had taken over 26 takes!
The song became a marriage of diverse takes, some totally in a different tempos and keys and were "joined" by slowing or speeding them up ever so slightly. This is where George Martin (called the 5th Beatle) did his magic as the recording engineer. The marriage of different takes made the song eerie and ghostly.
By Christmas, 1966, the song was in the can. It, and one Paul wrote, Penny Lane, both were to be the first songs for their newly planned LP called, Sgt. Pepper. The record company, EMI, was demanding a new single from the Band since it had been six months already with no new release. So, Martin, decided to release a double A side single for Capitol to release.
Both Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane were released on Feb 13, 1967. Both songs were longer than most other Beatle songs, so radio stations had a problem playing it. Penny Lane seemed to be played more often than Strawberry Fields because the tempo was much more pop music than the latter. Early FM stations tended to play Strawberry Fields more because of its sounds.
Neither song got to #1. However, it remained in the Top 10 for over two months. It eventually found its home on the "real" next Beatle LP, called Magical Mystery Tour (which was filmed by Paul and meant to be a TV special show. However, it was an utter failure).