Recording: Strawberry Fields Forever

7.00pm, Thursday 24 November 1966 (47 years ago)

Studio Two, EMI Studios, Abbey Road
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Geoff Emerick

With touring behind them, The Beatles retreated from public view to begin work on their eighth album. They were keen to use the studio to its full potential, experimenting with different sounds with the intention of producing their best work to date.


The first song of the late-1966 sessions was John Lennon‘s Strawberry Fields Forever, which was issued as a standalone single along with Penny Lane in February 1967.

I came back to England [from India] towards the end of October and John got back from Spain. It was all predetermined when we’d meet again. Then we went in the studio and recorded ‘Strawberry Fields’. I think at that point there was a more profound ambience to the band.
George Harrison
Anthology

Following considerable discussion and rehearsal, just one take of Strawberry Fields Forever was recorded on this first day. The Beatles performed the song in the key of C, as had Lennon on his most recent home demos of it.

It began with a Mellotron introduction performed by Paul McCartney, and featured Lennon and George Harrison on electric guitars, and Ringo Starr on drums. Onto track two Lennon recorded his first lead vocal, with the tape running fast so it was slower and at a lower pitch upon playback, and Harrison simultaneously added a slide guitar part.

Now we were off the road and in the studio with new songs. Strawberry Fields is the song that John had, about the old Salvation Army home for kids he used to live next door to in Liverpool. We related it to youth, golden summers and fields of strawberry. I knew what he was talking about.

The nice thing is that a lot of our songs were starting to get a little bit more surreal. I remember John having a book at home called Bizarre, about all sorts of weird thoings. We were opening up artistically and taking the blinkers off.

We used a mellotron on Strawberry Fields. I didn’t think it would get past the Musicians’ Union, so we didn’t advertise it; we just had it on the sessions. It had what would now be called ‘samples’ of flute, which are actually tapes that play and then rewind. We had eleven seconds on each tape, which could be played on each key.

Paul McCartney
Anthology

Track three was filled with double-tracked vocals by Lennon during the first chorus and the third verse, and the fourth track featured harmony vocals by Lennon, McCartney and Harrison. These latter two parts were omitted when the song was remixed for Anthology 2 in 1996.

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