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:

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Composing Tape 2 For "Stawberry Fields Forever"

Sometime probably in early to mid November of 1966, John Lennon made a cassette with experimental instrumentation - mainly electric guitar and mellotron and vocals - for arrangement purposes and composing purposes related to the song "Strawberry Fields Forever" which would be the first song recorded for the new (at the time) Beatles LP sessions at Abbey Road. It was eventually released on a single with "Penny Lane" and issued on LP until the end of 1967 when it was included on the North American version of "Magical Mystery Tour".
These takes were likely home recordings from "Kenwood" - John Lennon's home in Weybridge near London, England.
The first seven takes consist of John playing both guitar and lead vocals while strumming the guitar in various ways while searching for words to fill out the melody. There is another set of takes that have John overdubbing mellotron over takes 3 to 7.
Most of these demos could be heard on the "Lost Lennon Tapes" radio series in the late 1980s and were copied onto various volumes of the "Lost Lennon Tapes" bootleg vinyl LP series (namely, volumes one, three and nine). Take 6 and an edit of take 7 were commercially issued on the Beatles Apple 3-LP/2-CD "Anthology 2" albums. You can also find the complete demos on the bootleg CD "It's Not Too Bad".
I've included a part of the demoes listed at takes 2 to 7 from the youtube site:

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Composing Tape 1 for "Strawberry Fields Forever"

Sometime in September 1966, while John Lennon was filming the anti-war film "How I Won The War" in Spain, a new creation popped into his head and the tune was to be released for the new Beatles recordings commencing the following month in late November. The new song would be entitled "Strawberry Fields Forever" and the composing tape for the song exists in two parts. The first part was recorded in a hotel room at Santa Isabel in Spain.
The proceedings were recorded on a cassette. First up is a short instrumental lasting less than thirty seconds which was probably a warm up and then "Take 1" begins with a verse and lasts less than a minute. A second take is performed and once again only contains a verse with a lyric change for the first line of the song as it stands.
The next take and the fourth take introduce the chorus part of the song: "Let me take you down..." and then some ad libbed lyrics.
The last two takes feature a couple of verses and the very last section of the composing take also contains the lyrics to the chorus being put in place.
Most of these takes can be found on the CD "Revolution" as well as the bootleg LP "The Lost Lennon Tapes Volume Thirty. These can also be found on the bootleg "It's Not Too Bad".
I've included takes 5 and 6 from these sessions: