- Timeline This film has been released in 1967
- Release date:
- Feb 16, 1967
- Filming date:
- Jan 30-31, 1967
- Filming location:
- Knole Park, Sevenoaks, UK
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By January 1967, Epstein was under pressure from the Beatles’ record company to release a new single by the group. Martin told him that they had recorded “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane”, which, in his opinion, were “two all-time great songs”. The decision was made to issue them as a double A-side single, a format the Beatles had used for their previous single, “Eleanor Rigby” / “Yellow Submarine“, in August 1966. The Beatles produced a film clip for “Strawberry Fields Forever”, in a continuation of their policy since 1965 of avoiding the need to promote a single with numerous personal appearances on television. It was filmed on 30 and 31 January 1967 at Knole Park in Sevenoaks, Kent. The following week, the band shot part of the promotional film for “Penny Lane” at the same location.
The clip was directed by Peter Goldmann, a Swedish television director who had drawn inspiration in his work from Lester’s style in the Beatles’ 1964 film A Hard Day’s Night. Goldmann was recommended to the Beatles by their mutual friend Klaus Voormann. One of the band’s assistants, Tony Bramwell, served as producer. Bramwell recalls that, inspired by Voormann’s comment on hearing “Strawberry Fields Forever” – that “the whole thing sounded like it was played on a strange instrument” – he spent two days dressing up a large tree in the park to resemble “a piano and harp combined, with strings”. Writing in 2007, music critic John Harris remarked that Bramwell’s set design reflected the “collision of serenity and almost gothic eeriness” evident in the finished song.
The clip presented the Beatles’ new group image, since all four now sported moustaches, following Harrison’s lead when he left for India in September 1966. In addition to a horseshoe moustache, Lennon wore his round “granny” glasses for the first time as a member of the Beatles, in keeping with his look as Private Gripweed in How I Won the War, for which he had also shorn off his long hair. Combined with their psychedelic clothing, the band’s appearance contrasted sharply with the youthful “moptop” image of their touring years; this former image and identity had instead been adopted by the Monkees, an American television and recording act based on the Beatles as they had appeared in A Hard Day’s Night and Help! In author Kevin Courrier’s description, Lennon now resembled a character from an Arthur Conan Doyle mystery, while Harrison looked equally austere, with his beard and heavy balaclava.
Instead of a performance of the song, the clip relies on abstract imagery and features reverse film effects, long dissolves, jump-cuts including from day- to night-time, superimposition and extreme close-up shots. The Beatles are shown playing and later pouring paint over the upright piano; at one point, McCartney appears to leap from the ground onto a branch of the tree. In his commentary on the promo clip, music critic Chris Ingham writes:
Beautifully and spookily lit … much attention is given to close-ups of The Beatles’ faces and facial hair, as if the viewer is invited to contemplate the significance of the newly furry Fabs. There’s an appropriately surreal air about the film … which, when experienced simultaneously with The Beatles’ extraordinary new music, is deliciously disorientating. The final scene of The Beatles pouring pots of coloured paint onto the “piano” is oddly shocking, but brilliantly memorable as a statement of iconoclastic artistic intent.
[…] The promotional film for “Strawberry Fields Forever” was the more experimental of Goldmann’s clips and underlined the Beatles’ ties to the avant-garde scene. The band’s new look was the focus of much scrutiny, as promotion for the single and its musical content left many listeners unable to recognise the act as the Beatles. The films were first broadcast in America on The Ed Sullivan Show and in Britain on Top of the Pops, a day before the respective release dates in those two countries. On 25 February, they aired on The Hollywood Palace, a traditional US variety program hosted by actor Van Johnson. Amid screams from female members of the studio audience, Johnson bemusedly introduced “Strawberry Fields Forever” with the comment: “It’s a musical romp through an open field with psychedelic overtones and a feeling of expanded consciousness … If you know what that means, let me know …” The films attracted a similar level of confusion on the more youth-focused American Bandstand, on 11 March, where Dick Clark invited comments from his studio audience. In the description of author Doyle Greene, the varied opinions towards the “rebranded ‘counterculture Beatles'” and their new music demonstrated a “gendering” of popular culture: male reaction was marginally more favourable than female, and women variously focused on the “weird”, “ugly” or “grandfather”-like appearance of the band members. Courrier says the hostility towards “Strawberry Fields Forever” was reflective of how pop fans felt abandoned by the Beatles, with one teenager commenting that the group had turned “deliberately weird” and “ought to stop being so clever and give us tunes we can enjoy”.
From the liner notes of The Beatles’ 1+ Video Collection, 2015:
Filming took place in the grounds of historic Knole House, a National Trust property, on 30 January 1967 with director, Peter Goldmann. That first evening’s shoot, on 35mm film, took place on and around a dead oak tree close to the birdhouse. The following day they returned to film the daytime sequence of the film.
What Goldmann and The Beatles created was a defining pop promo film, at a time when few even realised that a band needed such a thing. The catalyst was the Musicians’ Union ban on miming on TV, which put pressure on The Beatles to come up with something imaginative. The MU may have inadvertently deprived their members of work, but then again the signs were definitely pointing towards MTV and the online video bonanza that makes worldwide promotion so simple. While the short clip from ‘Penny Lane’ was shown on the BBC’s Juke Box Jury on 11 February 1967, just an audio clip of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ was featured; four days later both were shown in their entirety on Top of the Pops.
During the day of filming at Knole Park, John went shopping in nearby Sevenoaks, buying an antique circus poster that would be the starting point for the lyrics of ’Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!’. The Beatles recorded the track soon after for inclusion on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Beatles on ‘Top of Pops’ — date set!
BEATLES are expected on BBC-TV’s “Top Of The Pops” on February 16 to promote their double single “Strawberry Fields For Ever” and “Penny Lane” which is released the next day.
Brian Epstein revealed to Disc and Music Echo that the boys spent Tuesday this week filming in the Kent countryside with Swedish TV film Peter Goldmann. Some of this film will be used for their “Top Of The Pops” appearance. Other clips may also be seen in America.
A TV spectacular featuring the group is to be based around their next album.
On Sunday, Beatles John and Paul joined Epstein in his box at London’s Saville Theatre to watch the Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Who.From Disc And Music Echo – February 4, 1967
BEATLES FILM CLIPS
A film clip of THE BEATLES singing “Penny Lane” will not be shown on “Juke Box Jury” this Saturday as the BBC did not agree to show the clip in full. Clips of both titles be shown on “Top Of The Pops” next Thursday (16) but will not be shown this week.
Negotiations are currently in progress for Regional stations such as Southern TV and Granada to show the film clips.
EMI Records announce the renewal of their contract with the Beatles. The new contract for nine years has been signed by Sir Joseph Lockwood, head of EMI Records Ltd and Beatles manager Brian Epstein.
The release of the first Beatle record “Love Me Do” was in October 1962 and that sold 100,000 copies. With the Gold Discs for their several million sellers, total world sales add up to 180,000,000 (that is in converting to single units as an LP counting as 6 singles and an EP as four). The announcement of the new contract ties up with the release of their first single of 1967, on Parlophone, of “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever”.
Last updated on January 22, 2023
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