Recording "Strawberry Fields Forever" #5

Friday, December 9, 1966 • For The Beatles

Part of


Recording "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"

Nov 24, 1966 - Apr 20, 1967 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Mono)

Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Strawberry Fields Forever / Penny Lane 7" Single.
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

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About

On November 24, 1966, The Beatles were back at EMI Studios, Abbey Road, to start recording their next single and album. After three days spent on John Lennon’s “Strawberry Fields Forever“ (November 24, 28 and 29), they thought the work on this track was over.

But John was unsatisfied with the result. On December 8, 1966, The Beatles re-recorded the rhythm track, ending the day with an edit of takes 15 and 24.

On this day, December 9, 1966, from 2:30 pm to 10 pm, The Beatles continued the work on “Strawberry Fields Forever“. The first task was to do a tape reduction of the edit of takes 15 and 24, reducing from four tracks to one track, and adding various effects. The end result was named Take 25. Various overdubs were then added onto it, all combined on a single track:

After editing together takes 15 and 24, the tape was played backwards while copied to a four-track tape. Now called take 25, the other three tracks received overdubs of some rather wild drumming heard backwards and forwards and a reversed hi-hat section. This tape captured the sound of John saying, “Calm Down, Ringo!” and “Cranberry sauce”. George added two glissandos from a swaramandala and Paul played electric guitar. George Martin added Mellotron, as did John using the ‘Swinging Flutes’ setting for the ending of the song.

Kevin Howlett – From Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (50th anniversary boxset), 2017

[George Harrison] brought in a swordmandel — a sort of North Indian table-harp. The only way he knew how to play it was to stroke it as you would a real harp, so he spent ages tuning it to produce the right selection of notes. His patience rewarded us well, because the glissando he charmed out of the instrument was tremendous, adding a fantastically good effect when we dropped it into our rhythm track. John discovered a way of making the mellotron play not just one but a whole random sequence of notes, which gives ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ another marvellous touch of madness towards the end. Paul then came up with an inspired piece of ringing lead guitar work that rounded the song off brilliantly.

George Martin – From “With A Little Help From My Friends: The Making of Sgt. Pepper“, 1995

In the middle of the overdubbing process, a rough mono mix was created to cut some acetates. The latest overdub of the day was the addition of backwards cymbals.

Rather like the two backward guitar solos in ‘I’m Only Sleeping,’ the taping of the cymbals was no easy task. The pattern was worked out in the normal manner but it was then written down in reverse so that when recorded and the tape was played backwards the sounds would fit the bars precisely.

From The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions by Mark Lewisohn, 2004

Part of the results of the day was released in Anthology 2, in 1996.

Take 7 and edit piece. Just five days after that initial take of Strawberry Fields Forever the song’s arrangement was undergoing dramatic change. The master was a composite of two separate recordings – the first minute came from Take 7 the remainder from Take 26. Presented here, issued for the first time, is the full Take 7, going beyond those first 60 seconds (indeed, including within that first minute a 23-second verse that was later excised). The sound is mono because the recording presented here is an original mono mix – labelled RM3 – made, like Take 7, on 29 November 1966. The conclusion of the original master (embracing Take 26) included sections flown in from a combination of edit piece taped on 9 December featuring backwards cymbals, a “wild drum track” played by Ringo and some extemporal vocalising by John. A much longer section of this edit piece is released here, again for the first time, crossfaded on to the end of RM3. At the conclusion one can hear John twice mutter “cranberry sauce”, a phrase which, less clearly audible right at the end of the master mix, has long puzzled listeners.

From the Anthology 2 liner notes

Work on “Strawberry Fields Forever” would continue on December 15, 1966.

Last updated on January 15, 2023

Songs recorded


1.

Strawberry Fields Forever

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Tape copying • Tape reduction from edit of takes 15 and 24 into take 25


2.

Strawberry Fields Forever

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • SI onto take 25

Album Officially released on Anthology 2


3.

Strawberry Fields Forever

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 4 from take 25


4.

Strawberry Fields Forever

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • SI onto take 25

Staff

Musicians on "Strawberry Fields Forever"

Paul McCartney:
Electric guitar
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Mellotron
George Harrison:
Swarmandal
George Martin:
Mellotron

Production staff

George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer
Phil McDonald:
Second Engineer

Going further


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!

Shop on Amazon


The Beatles Recording Reference Manual - Volume 2 - Help! through Revolver (1965-1966)

The second book of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC)-nominated series, "The Beatles Recording Reference Manual: Volume 2: Help! through Revolver (1965-1966)" follows the evolution of the band from the end of Beatlemania with "Help!" through the introspection of "Rubber Soul" up to the sonic revolution of "Revolver". From the first take to the final remix, discover the making of the greatest recordings of all time.

Through extensive, fully-documented research, these books fill an important gap left by all other Beatles books published to date and provide a unique view into the recordings of the world's most successful pop music act.

Shop on Amazon


If we like to think, in all modesty, that the Paul McCartney Project is the best online ressource for everything Paul McCartney, The Beatles Bible is for sure the definitive online site focused on the Beatles. There are obviously some overlap in terms of content between the two sites, but also some major differences in terms of approach.

Read more on The Beatles Bible


http://www.beatlesebooks.com/strawberry-fields-forever


http://www.columbia.edu/~brennan/beatles/strawberry-fields.html

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