- Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Penny Lane / Strawberry Fields Forever 7" Single.
- Timeline More from year 1966
- EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road
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[…] The working title was “It’s Not Too Bad“, and Geoff Emerick, the sound engineer, remembered it being “just a great, great song, that was apparent from the first time John sang it for all of us, playing an acoustic guitar.” Recording began on 24 November 1966, in Abbey Road’s Studio Two on a 4-track machine. It took 45 hours to record, spread over five weeks. The song was meant to be on the band’s 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but was released as a single instead.
The band recorded three distinct versions of the song. After Lennon played the song for the other Beatles on his acoustic guitar, the band recorded the first take. Lennon played an Epiphone Casino; McCartney played a Mellotron, a new home instrument purchased by Lennon on 12 August 1965 (with another model hired in after encouragement from Mike Pinder of The Moody Blues); George Harrison played electric guitar, and Ringo Starr played drums. The first recorded take began with the verse, “Living is easy …“, instead of the chorus, “Let me take you down“, which starts the released version. The first verse also led directly to the second, with no chorus between. Lennon’s vocals were automatically double-tracked from the words “Strawberry Fields Forever” through the end of the last verse. The last verse, beginning “Always, no sometimes“, has three-part harmonies, with McCartney and Harrison singing “dreamy background vocals“. This version was soon abandoned and went unreleased until the Anthology 2 compilation in 1996. […]
From Anthology 2 liner notes:
After five months away from the studio, and three apart from each other, the Beatles came together at Abbey Road on Thursday 24 November 1966, encumbered no longer by deadlines and touring schedules, and keen to explore new song ideas and methods of recording. In the next five months they would deliver the two sides of their forthcoming single, Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever, and the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. After issuing 116 titles in 46 months, a rate of 30 per year, in between concert dates, film shoots, TV recordings and radio sessions, the Beatles were clearly giving themselves and their music a chance to breathe. The result was startling – few could dispute that this was an era of tremendous creativity.
Strawberry Fields Forever typifies this: a succession of fine recordings captured the gist of the song but no one performance wholly seizes its spirit (at least, not to the satisfaction of its composer), and the final master was not completed almost a month after this initial session. As it took shape on 24 November, with an alternative lyric order and arrangement, [Take 1] was considerably different from that master.
Too much criticism to George Martin because on Anthology CDs Vol. 2 he “erased” Paul and George’s backing vocals, when in reality, he gave us the actual TAKE 1 without any overdubs as Mark Lewisohn documented, a version that wasn’t bootlegged before that. The very same day of this recording, November 24th, 1966, John recorded a second vocal (double tracked vocal) and Paul and George added backing harmonies, all over that first take and that’s the version that was bootlegged before and it’s the same version appearing now. Now, on this Deluxe edition: Giles edited out some mellotron warm up sounds after the “Take One” announcement, missing 22 seconds that are available on bootleg, and also he faded out 8 seconds of post-take studio sounds.
Last updated on April 30, 2021
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions • Mark Lewisohn
The definitive guide for every Beatles recording sessions from 1962 to 1970.
We owe a lot to Mark Lewisohn for the creation of those session pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - the number of takes for each song, who contributed what, a description of the context and how each session went, various photographies... And an introductory interview with Paul McCartney!