Mixing, editing: Strawberry Fields Forever

7.00pm, Thursday 22 December 1966 (47 years ago)

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

After reviewing the tapes of previous sessions, John Lennon decided that he liked both the original recording of Strawberry Fields Forever and the later remake. He asked George Martin to join them together, despite them being in different keys and tempos.

That November John came into the studio, and we went into our regular routine. I sat on my high stool with Paul standing beside me, and John stood in front of us with his acoustic guitar and sang the song. It was absolutely lovely. Then we tried it with Ringo on drums, and Paul and George on their bass and electric guitars. It started to get heavy – it wasn’t the gently song that I had first heard. We ended up with a record which was very good heavy rock. Still, that was apparently what John wanted, so I metaphorically shrugged my shoulders and said: ‘Well, that really wasn’t what I’d thought of, but it’s OK.’ And off John went.

A week later he came back and said: ‘I’ve been thinking about it, too, George. Maybe what we did was wrong. I think we ought to have another go at doing it. Up to that time we had never remade anything. We reckoned that if it didn’t work out first time, we shouldn’t do it again. But this time we did. ‘Maybe we should do it differently,’ said John. ‘I’d like you to score something for it. Maybe we should have a bit of strings, or brass or something.’ Between us we worked out that I should write for cellos and trumpets, together with the group. When I had finished we recorded it again, and I felt that this time it was much better. Off went John again.

A few days later he rang me up and said: ‘I like that one, I really do. But, you know, the other one’s got something too,’

‘Yes, I know,’ I said, ‘they’re both good. But aren’t we starting to split hairs?’

Perhaps I shouldn’t have used the word ‘split’, because John’s reply was: ‘I like the beginning of the first one, and I like the end of the second one. Why don’t we just join them together?’

‘Well, there are only two things against it,’ I said. ‘One is that they’re in different keys. The other is that they’re in different tempos.’

‘Yeah, but you can do something about it, I know. You can fix it, George.’

All You Need Is Ears
George Martin

And indeed he could, during this 7-11.30pm session. The first recording had been performed in C major, while the second was in A major. Against the odds, Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick found that by speeding up the first version and slowing down the second, they matched perfectly. The resulting pitch was around B flat.

We gradually decreased the pitch of the first version at the join to make them weld together.
Geoff Emerick
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

First of all new mono mixes were made of both versions. These were numbered RM10 (remix mono 10) from take 7, and RM11 from take 26 (the remake). The mixes were then edited together, and the resulting version was named RM12.

The edit can be found at approximately one minute into the song, following the words “Let me take you down, ’cause I’m”. From the first cello note onwards, the sound of the remake is heard.

One Response to “Mixing, editing: Strawberry Fields Forever”

  1. Tim

    It was seemless. I would have never known about it if I hadnt read it. I’ve tried to recreate it using Audacity, and it is hard. I’ve also messed around using the opposite parts of the takes, and it never comes out quite like George did it.

    Reply

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