Saturday, July 25, 2015

"Strawberry Fields Forever" - Take 1

The Beatles gathered into EMI Studio 2 on November 24 1966 in order to begin sessions for what was to become the new LP. Of course, no title yet, but most of the evening - starting at 7 PM - and into the early morning was spent on a new Lennon song entitled "Strawberry Fields Forever".
The instrumental line up for this session consisted of John Lennon conducting lead and backing vocals as well as playing electric guitar. Paul McCartney playing a keyboard named the Mellotron which was an early version of a keyboard sampler including tapes of strings, flutes and whatever could be sampled on tape, basically an early version of a synthesizer. George Harrison also on guitar and slide guitar and finally Ringo Starr on his drums.
The track reminds me a bit of a King Crimson-type structure. Lots of mellotron, a slow type melody and overdubs of exquisite backing vocals on the later verse. The first verse was probably composed lyrically between the last set of composing tapes and this session. The famous flute mellotron intro is not yet present on this version. No outside musicians were used during this session. A very satisfactory performance but the song would eventually be remade in later sessions.
This take can be found on various bootlegs including the bootleg vinyl LP, "Nothing Is Real", and on the 2-LP "Ultra Rare Trax, Volume 5 and 6". It can also be found on the bootleg CDs "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Unsurpassed Masters, Volume 3". The television special "The Making of Sgt. Pepper" has a version of the session with an isolation of the slide guitar and various parts from the original tapes manipulated by George Martin. Finally, the song was released commercially on the Apple 3-LP/2-CD "Anthology 2" although Lennon's second overdubbed vocal and the backing vocals are mysterious cut out and missing from the original version. I've included the commercial version for you from youtube if you haven't heard it:

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