Recording: Strawberry Fields Forever

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 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.

John Lennon's handwritten lyrics for Strawberry Fields Forever

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.

The backing track had Mellotron played by Paul McCartney in the introduction and coda, and bass guitar during the rest of the song; Lennon and Harrison playing electric guitars; and Ringo Starr on drums.

Lennon overdubbed his lead vocals onto a second track, with Harrison simultaneously adding a slide guitar sound played on the Mellotron. These were recorded with the tape machine running faster than normal, so the sound was slower upon playback.

Onto a third track Lennon double tracked his vocals in the first chorus and third verse. The fourth track was then filled with harmony vocals from Lennon, McCartney and Harrison. These latter two parts were omitted when the song was remixed for Anthology 2 in 1996. The backing vocals were included on the remix of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ on the Love album in 2006.

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 things. 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

The complete version of take one was made available on the 2017 super deluxe box set edition of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Last updated: 22 June 2023
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