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STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER

The Beatles

Proto-Prog


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The Beatles Strawberry Fields Forever album cover
4.73 | 36 ratings | 4 reviews | 81% 5 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of
rock music


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Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, released in 1967

Songs / Tracks Listing


1. Strawberry Fields Forever (4.08)
2. Penny Lane (3.02)

Total Time 7:10

Line-up / Musicians


- John Lennon / guitars, vocals
- Paul McCartney / bass, vocals
- George Harrison / guitar, vocals
- Ringo Starr / drums, vocals

Releases information

Label Parlophone
Catalogue No. R 5570
Release Date 17th February 1967
U.K. Chart Detail :
Entry Date : 23rd February 1967
Highest Position : 2 (!!!) .... Amazing that the greatest record
EVER released, by ANY band ... NEVER made No.1 (and the reason ? ... Engelbert Humperdinck !)
Weeks in Chart : 11 Weeks

Thanks to mogorva for the addition
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THE BEATLES Strawberry Fields Forever ratings distribution


4.73
(36 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(81%)
81%
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(17%)
17%
Good, but non-essential (0%)
0%
Collectors/fans only (3%)
3%
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)
0%

THE BEATLES Strawberry Fields Forever reviews


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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars "Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever" is a single release by British pop/rock act The Beatles. The single was released through Parlophone Records (EMI) in February 1967. Itīs a double A-side single release where the John Lennon penned S"trawberry Fields Forever" was paired with Paul McCartney`s "Penny Lane". While it is widely considered a classic pop/rock single from the 60s it was actually the first Beatles single not to reach number #1 in the UK charts since "Love Me Do (1962)". The technicality that the single had two A-sides meant that the BBC counted the single as two seperate singles and because of that Engelbert Humperdinck's "Release Me", which sold only half as many copies as the "Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever" single, went number #1 and kept The Beatles on number #2. The single went number #1 in the US charts though.

When you wasnīt there itīs easy to forget how important singles were in the 60s, and how much time and effort were put into creating a single release like "Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever". The experimental and psychadelic tinged "Strawberry Fields Forever" and the beautiful and melodic "Penny Lane" werenīt just leftover tracks from an album session, or a hit album song with a leftover B-side track (although "Strawberry Fields Forever" was written during the sessions for "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)"). Both tracks could easily have been included on one of the bandīs albums, but they were specifically chosen to appear together on this single release.

The two very different sounding tracks, which tell the intriguing story of late 60s Beatles (from experimental psychadelic rock act to softer melodic yet still adventurous pop/rock), compliment each other extremely well. Both track were later released on the US/Canada album version of the "Magical Mystery Tour (1967)" but until then they were exclusively available on this single. Bearing that in mind this is an essential release by The Beatles and one of their most memorable and accomplished releases. A 5 star (100%) rating is well deserved.

Review by Guillermo
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars This Psychedelic single is maybe one of the most important singles in THE BEATLES's musical career, one of their best singles, and one of the most influential singles in the later development of Progressive Rock music, in my opinion.

Both songs of this single (which was released in February 1967) were recorded in late 1966, during the early recording sessions for their "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", which was released until June 1967. If their "Revolver" album from 1966 gave some indications about some changes in their music, which became more elaborated, this single also gave more indications for a new and more influential musical style from the band which was going to appear more in their "Sgt. Pepper's..." album. Both songs are "Nostalgical Psychedelic musical trips" to two places in Liverpool.

"Strawberry Fields Forever", composed by John Lennon, has a Mellotron part played by Paul McCartney, plus some use of backwards tapes and effects and an orchestral arrangement by Producer George Martin. As it is very known today, the song has two parts of two different recording takes put together in edition later by Martin, because Lennon liked a part from one take and another part from another take. This caused that the second part of the song has a bit of changes to Lennon's vocals, due to the slowing of the speed of the second part to match both parts because both parts had different tempos. This gave to the song an additional "psychedelic" effect. The song also has a "false ending" after which the "real ending" happens after a brief silence. The lyrics are not very clear to understand or to make some sense. Only the words "...living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see..." could have some sense, at least for me.

"Penny Lane", composed by McCartney, is a more melodic Pop Rock song and it is also more accessible than "Strawberry Fields Forever", but also being very Psychedelic. I like this song a bit more than "Strawberry Fields Forever". It has a very good bass guitar part played by McCartney plus a very good orchestral arrangement (also done by Martin) which has some trumpet melodies apparently inspired by one of J.S. Bach's "Bradenburg Concertos" which McCartney watched to on TV one night (as he said in the "The Beatles Anthology" TV documentary in 1995). The lyrics are a description of some places and persons in Liverpool and make more sense than the lyrics of "Strawberry Fields Forever", in my opinion.

Having a very good Producer like George Martin really helped THE BEATLES's as a band to have more freedom to make experiments in the studio. His more formal musical knowledge and trainning also helped them to "translate" their musical ideas to very good orchestral arrangements.

One of the best and most influential singles of the Sixties.

Review by patrickq
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 'Penny Lane'/'Strawberry Fields Forever' is probably the best 7" 45 RPM single ever. 'I Get Around'/'Don't Worry Baby' is close and 'When Doves Cry'/'17 Days' isn't far behind - - and there are plenty of others. But this one's the best. 'Strawberry Fields' is a great song, but in my opinion 'Penny Lane' is in an entirely different league.

'Strawberry Fields Forever'

To my ears, in mid-2019, 'Strawberry Fields Forever' sounds like an old record. It's evident in retrospect that the Beatles were attempting something for which they didn't possess the technology. But on the other hand it's amazing that this record was made by splicing two different takes, each of which was made using only a four-track tape recorder. It's equally amazing that these takes were recorded in different keys at different speeds. We usually remember to credit Beatles producer George Martin for the group's successes - - and rightfully so. But here engineer/technician Geoff Emerick is also responsible for some studio magic that most would've thought was impossible in December 1966.

If there's a 'proto-prog' side of this single, it's 'Strawberry Fields.' While 'Penny Lane' has some progressive lyrical, structural, and sonic elements, 'Strawberry Fields' is archetypal British psychedelic rock. In terms of sound, it has it all, from instrumentation like backwards percussion, the Mellotron and a swarmandal (I had to look that up; it's an Indian harp-like instrument used to mark the transitions into the verses) to sound effects like phased vocals and tape loops. The lyrics are also classic psychedelia. Especially with the knowledge that Strawberry Fields was a place songwriter and singer John Lennon enjoyed as a youngster, the song exemplifies the balance of nostalgia: the happiness of remembering a past which, sadly, can never return. Even without this knowledge, the three words of the title speak volumes. There are also more than a few turns of phrase suggesting that the singer is tripping, which only adds to the psychedelic feel.

In my opinion, the major weakness of 'Strawberry Fields' is the repetition of the tedious transition from chorus to verse. At the end of each of the first three choruses, after Lennon sings the song's title, the song moves from melodic and rhythmic to dreary and static. While this makes a lot of sense artistically, it already sounds monotonous the second time, never mind the third. The Beatles were early adopters of the bridge in pop-music structure; here's a song that would've benefited immensely from such a device. On the other hand, 'Strawberry Fields' reflects Lennon's attempts to bring a very specific vision to sonic fruition. Lennon was famous for being what we'd now call 'technologically challenged' (a rare similarity between him and Nixon) and thus relied on Martin to realize his vision. It seems that, during the creation of this song, adherence to Lennon's ideal took precedence over other concerns. Creating a bridge or having a constant beat would have made the song more radio-friendly, but as it stands, 'Strawberry Fields' would've fit perfectly on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, for which it was initially intended. Despite the group's decision not to prioritize commerciality in the creation of 'Strawberry Fields,' it reached the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 and hit #2 in the UK as part of this double a-side single

'Penny Lane'

I'm sure that there have been thousands of musings on the ways in which 'Strawberry Fields Forever' and 'Penny Lane' are polar opposites. To begin with, Lennon and 'Penny Lane' writer and singer Paul McCartney have themselves long been viewed as opposites, and each of these songs seems to exemplify the contrasting qualities of its originator.

Compared to Lennon, McCartney is seen as more down-to-earth, organized, commercial, and comprehensible, and these same contrasts exist between the sides of 'Penny Lane'/'Strawberry Fields Forever.' For example, the nostalgia of 'Penny Lane' is less pronounced, yet clearer. The literal nostalgia in 'Strawberry Fields' (i.e., that which is not inferred by the listener knowledgeable about the Strawberry Fields of Lennon's youth) is in the introspective verses in which Lennon is intentionally unclear. In 'Penny Lane,' McCartney's chronology is circular; the punctuated transition 'and meanwhile back' occurs three times to remind the listener that while time does pass in Penny Lane, Penny Lane never really changes. McCartney expertly creates the impression that the scenes are being viewed by youth, and we interpret these remembrances as McCartney's own. Thus, when McCartney says that 'Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes / there beneath the blue suburban skies,' we understand that McCartney is reminiscing.

In the final seconds of the song, McCartney's last recitation of 'Penny Lane' is followed by something like a terminal fermata, perhaps invoking a sense of suspension in accordance with the song's nostalgia. While some songs end with a stop, and other fade, 'Penny Lane' somehow does both.

But generally, musical symbolism doesn't get in the way of the commerciality of 'Penny Lane.' Yes, a bell is played to remind us of the fireman and his engine. Some might regard this as so literal as to be childish; if so, it's all the more symbolic because the scene is a childhood memory. A toe-tapping beat throughout helps ensure radio friendliness.

Summary

As someone who prefers McCartney to Lennon, I (unsurprisingly) prefer 'Penny Lane' to 'Strawberry Fields Forever.' I do enjoy Lennon's experimental, progressive, and psychedelic music, beginning with 'Tomorrow Never Knows,' which was among the most important landmarks in Beatles history. And as good as 'Strawberry Fields' is, two of Lennon's other 1967 songs, 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,' and especially 'I Am the Walrus,' are just as psychedelic, but are, in my opinion, better compositions and better recordings.

On the other hand, McCartney never surpassed 'Penny Lane,' before or after. He's perhaps the greatest pop songwriter, and - - again, in my opinion - - this is his masterpiece.

====

P.S. To me, even the best singles don't qualify for five stars on the Prog Archives scale, simply because singles and albums are on equal footing otherwise.

Latest members reviews

5 stars Quite simply, very few singles measure up to this. In particular the elegant fusion of the surreal and melancholic on "Strawberry Fields Forever" never fails to strike a chord, and is the marginally better side than "Penny Lane", though of course the latter - being largely McCartney's work - was mor ... (read more)

Report this review (#201213) | Posted by Mogorva | Saturday, January 31, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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