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Strawberry Fields Forever: The Beatles

 21 Jun 2018  Blog

After John Lennon wrote Strawberry Fields Forever, which was a number two hit for the Beatles in 1967, he described it as his greatest achievement ever. Despite the single being prevented from reaching the number one spot by Engelbert Humperdinck's Release Me (after a four-year unbroken run of chart-topping UK hits), Lennon still felt it was his finest moment as a songwriter.

In 1966, guitarist, vocalist and keyboard player Lennon was in Spain, filming his role in the famous anti-war comedy, How I Won the War. During his leisure time, he wrote Strawberry Fields Forever, based on his memories of playing in the garden of the Salvation Army children's home, Strawberry Field, near where he grew up in Liverpool.

Although the song is credited to the Lennon/McCartney writing partnership, it was solely written by Lennon, who later described the many happy hours he spent as a child in the suburb of Woolton, playing with his friends Nigel Walley, Pete Shotton and Ivan Vaughan in the wooded gardens belonging to the home.

He recalled the annual garden party every summer in Calderstones Park, near the Strawberry Field home, when the Salvation Army band would play. He would hear the band start up and would excitedly urge his aunt, Mimi Smith, to take him to watch, saying, "Come on, we're going to be late!"

 

Recording the track

The Beatles were at the peak of their fame when they recorded Strawberry Fields Forever - the first track recorded for the Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Lennon was in the studio with bass guitarist and vocalist Paul McCartney, drummer Ringo Starr and guitarist George Harrison when they began the painstaking task of recording Lennon's masterpiece.

He had already identified the song as his best to date as a member of the Beatles and he was determined it was going to be perfect. Striving to fulfil his requirements, the band recorded three versions of the song, eventually editing two of them together.

Its dreamy, atmospheric ambience is a result of each track having a slightly different tempo and musical key. It also features innovative reverse-recorded instruments, fade-in and fade-out sections and tape loops. The final recording included a Mellotron keyboard, an Indian swarmandal, cello and brass sections, mixed by producer George Martin.

 

Critical acclaim

Suggestions by the critics and fans that the song was about drugs (in particular LSD) were refuted by Lennon, who insisted it had the altogether more innocent inspiration of the Liverpool children's home and its beautiful grounds.

Although Strawberry Fields Forever was a departure from the Beatles' usual style, it was instantly recognised as a classic and has become embedded in modern culture.

The NME reviewer Derek Johnson admitted to feeling "confused and fascinated" by the track, while a review in the Daily Mail described the Fab Four as "four mystics with moustaches." Time magazine hailed the Beatles as exhibiting "astonishing inventiveness" by releasing such an unusual track.

The promotional film used for the video is described as the oldest example of a music video and is included in the New York Museum of Modern Art's exhibition of the most influential music videos.

 

Philanthropy

The Strawberry Field home became a popular visiting place for Beatles' fans as a result of the song - and in 2017, the Salvation Army began raising money for the charity by selling T-shirts and mugs containing Lennon's Strawberry Fields lyrics, such as, "Nothing is real."

The money raised from the sales has helped to finance the construction of a new building to help young adults with learning difficulties at Strawberry Field, providing job opportunities. An indoor exhibition and a garden of spiritual reflection have been built at the centre to commemorate John Lennon.

If thinking about Strawberry Fields Forever has given you an inclination to grow your own strawberries, then the timing couldn't be better! The best way to eat healthily is to grow your own fruit - and this is the right time of year for strawberries.

Make sure the birds don't get to your crops first by using Henry Cowls' fruit cages and bird netting to protect your berries from airborne attacks! Please contact us for information on our full range of products.

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