Monday, March 8, 2010

Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed

And so it goes...the Revolver LP was released in August and the Beatles toured for the last time. In fact, none of the Revolver LP tracks were ever played in concert. Only the single (Paperback Writer) was performed. The Beatles decided to quit touring - the last show being at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California on August 29 1966.

Once it was time to go back to the studio to record new material, John Lennon had an original composition written while he had been filmed in the role of "Gripweed" for the Richard Lester film: "How I Won The War" a 60s type satirical movie. Paul McCartney had been working on various compositions as well as coming up with film music for the Bolton Brothers movie: "The Family Way". George went to India and Ringo went to join Lennon in Spain (where he was filming the Richard Lester movie) and hanging out with his family.

The Beatles entered EMI Studios on Thursday November 24 1966 with the express intent of recording an original Lennon/McCartney composition written mainly by John entitled "Strawberry Fields Forever". They gathered in studio two.

Only one take was recorded on this date with Paul playing a mellotron (the flute intro), John on the vocals, George on guitar and Ringo on drums. Overdubs onto take one included maracas, John double-tracking his vocals, a slide guitar by George and Paul and George supplying the backing vocals. The song was recorded slightly faster so that it would sound a little slower when played back. This version of "Strawberry Fields Forever" appears on various bootlegs including "Nothing Is Real" and "Ultra Rare Trax, Volume 5 and 6". This version also appeared on the EMI/Apple 3-LP/2-CD "Anthology 2" although this version does not include the second Lennon vocal and eliminates the backing !!

On November 28 1966 in Studio two, three more takes of the song were undertaken by The Beatles. This consisted of basically the same instrumentation along with maracas. Take two and three were rejected but take four was the keeper. Once again, Lennon overdubbed his vocal which was slowed down so that it sounded sped up during playback and Paul McCartney added bass. Once this was completed, three mono mixes of the song were attempted. This version can be heard on the bootleg "Ultra Rare Trax, Volume 5 and 6" as well.

The next day on November 29 1966 and again in Studio two, The Beatles decided to try and take the rhythm track with a better performance than the previous session. Two take were recorded (takes 5 and 6). Take six was kept while John added his lead vocal (once again) and Paul added the bass track (once again). Take six was reduced to take seven as all of the tracks on the tape were taken. Take seven added a doubled Lennon vocal via ADT (Artificial Double Tracking) with more bass from Paul and a piano overdub. This take was given three mono mixes and an acetate of the song at it's present state was taken away by the band. This version of "Strawberry Fields Forever" is available on the bootleg LP "Strawberry Fields Forever" on NEMS records ( take 7, remix 3).

On Thursday December 08 1966, The Beatles (and composer John Lennon) returned to EMI Stduio one with the intention of a "Strawberry Fields Forever" re-make with a different arrangement, tempo and feel. Fifteen takes of the song (takes 9-24) were accomplished with various percussion intruments added including backwards cymbals, timpani, tambourine, finger cymbals and various other percussion instruments. Lennon had also asked George Martin to score this version for trumpets and cello. (This session was strictly related to the rhythm track, though). Part of take 15 and part of take 24 were edited together in order to create the fresh rhythm track. The first three quarters of take 15 and last quarter of take 24 were edited together. No mixes were conducted at this stage although part of the a mono one track excerpt of this session is available on the EMI/Apple 3-LP/2-CD "Anthology 2".

Friday December 09 1966 saw more activity on this recording. Takes 15 and 24 were taken and reduced (as all four tracks were full) to take 25 and the addition of more drums and George's Indian instrument: the "swordmandel" were overdubbed. This version (take 25) received a mono mix for acetate purposes only. Once this was completed, the addition of more backwards cymbals was added to the recording of take 25.

Not quite a week later on Thursday December 15 1966 in EMI Studio two, the four trumpets and three cells were added to the recording of take 25. The brass and cells took up tracks three and four of the tapes and the four-track was then reduced to take 26. Two tracks were taken up with Lennon's vocals including the "Cranberry Sauce" voice at the end of the song. Once this was completed, the tune received four mono mixes from take 26 and everyone was happy..well...

On December 21 1966, recording started up again on this song as Lennon added another vocal and another piano overdub. This took place in Studio two.

The next day on Thursday December 22 1966, an extremely lucky edit was performed. It seemed that the composer of the song (John Lennon) liked take 07 ; the mellower portion at the beginning of the song and also liked take 26; the brass section of the song; equally. John was wondering if both could be used for the final product. The producer George Martin decided to splice the two takes together using remix 10 from take 07 (the slower beginning) and remix 11 of take 26 (the brass version) and while speeding the take 07 portion and slowing down the take 26 version both of the takes matched the key and speed (almost). This mono mix of 10 and 11 was eventually titled mix 12 from the two takes. This is the commercial product and the classic song we all know and love. The edit is approximately 60 seconds into the song. If you hear the edit, you will never listen to the song the same way again. The mono mix created this day is the one that is heard on the commercial version

The commercial stereo mix for the song was conducted on Thursday December 29 1966 from the control room of EMI studio three. The song was first tape copied and the the stereo mix consisted of aone stereo mix of take 7 and two mixes of take 26. The third stereo mix was the edited mix from the two previous versions. Remix four was an improvement of remix two and remix five consisted of remix one and four mixed together. Confused yet? This is just an example of how the Beatles music and the work in the studio were starting to show more work and care as time went on.

On Friday December 30 1966, a tape copy of "Strawberry Fields Forever" was conducted although I really don't have an answer as to why. A tape copy was also made on Monday January 02 1967 from the control room of Studio two and to be sent to the North American market.

"Strawberry Fields Forever" was released as a single (along with "Penny Lane") on Parlophone R 5570 on February 17 1967 and was released in North American on the single with the same titles as Capitol 5810 on February 13 1967. The song was also available on the North American Capitol LP/CD "Magical Mystery Tour" and on the Apple compilation 2-LP/2-CD "The Beatles 1967-1970". "Strawberry Fields Forever" evaded the greatest hits packages as it never technically reached number one ( the flip side did, though).

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