“I was different all my life. The second verse goes, ‘No one I think is in my tree.’ Well, I was too shy and self-doubting. Nobody seems to be as hip as me is what I was saying. Therefore, I must be crazy or a genius – I mean it must be high or low.
– John Lennon, 1980
It’s been a couple of weeks since ME last posted, this largely due to (what he believes to be) a well-earned vacation down on Olde Cape Cod. Since he likes to keep his brain stimulated even whilst on vacation, he brought along some deep intellectual fare. This is The Bourne Identity, later followed by The Bourne Supremacy and then of course, Bourne in the USA.
Anyway, for those who missed me (both of you), you will know that I like to do my One Song/Three Versions posts every now and again. I like to hear alternate versions of songs by others. Whether the alternates are better or not hardly concerns me so much as the fact that someone else gave it a shot. Especially with an impossible-to-top Lennon piece like “Strawberry Fields.”
Wikipedia: “Strawberry Fields Forever was released on 13 February 1967 as a double A-side single with “Penny Lane”. Lennon based the song on his childhood memories of playing in the garden of Strawberry Field, a Salvation Army children’s home in Liverpool.
Starting in November 1966, the band spent 45 hours in the studio, spread over five weeks, creating three versions of the track. The final recording combined two of those versions, which were entirely different in tempo, mood, and musical key. It features reverse-recorded instrumentation, Mellotron flute sounds, an Indian swarmandal, tape loops, and a fade-out/fade-in coda, as well as a cello and brass arrangement by producer George Martin.”
The song was initially destined for Sgt. Pepper which loosely held an idea of being about the Fab Four’s childhood in Liverpool. But the record company wanted a single and so a single they got.
The Beatles (and George Martin) did not like putting songs on albums that had been singles so both these tunes were left off of Pepper. Martin called this a “dreadful mistake.” But given that the album couldn’t have been any longer, what would they have left off one wonders? (Lads, let’s toss out ‘A Day in the Life’. Need to make room for ‘Penny fucking Lane.’)
“Lennon’s vocal was recorded with the tape running fast so that when played back at normal speed the tonality would be altered, giving his voice a slurred sound. After reviewing the acetates of the new remake and the previous version, Lennon told Martin that he liked both the “original, lighter” take 7 and “the intense, scored version,” and wanted to combine the two.
Martin had to tell Lennon that the orchestral score was at a faster tempo and in a higher key than the earlier recording. Lennon assured him: “You can fix it, George.” And so using studio magic, he and engineer Geoff Emerick did just that.
The result was a wonderfully weird song that only Lennon could have written. Let me take you down. (The video is considered one of the earliest music videos ever.)
Havens performance of Woodstock is the stuff of legend. Like John Sebastian, he was asked to go out and just keep playing to give other bands a chance to get their shit together. His semi-made up tune “Freedom” made it onto the album and in the movie.
But did you know he performed ‘Fields” there as well? It got cut from the flick but despite the shitty quality of the video, it sounds pretty damn good. He ends it by riffing on “Hey Jude.” (Havens also did ‘Here Comes the Sun” at some point in his career.)
The Spotify version is from a Paris gig.
By 2011, the level of graffiti left by visitors at Strawberry Field had forced the Salvation Army to have the entrance gates removed and later relocated to the Beatles Experience center in Liverpool
In July 2017, the Salvation Army began raising funds – through the sale of T-shirts and mugs emblazoned with “Nothing is real” and other lines from Lennon’s lyrics – to help finance the construction of a new building at Strawberry Field.
The purpose of the building is to help provide job opportunities for young adults with learning difficulties, and to commemorate Lennon, in both an indoor exhibition and a “garden of spiritual reflection”.