The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” Lyrics Meaning
The actual Strawberry Field is a piece of land in Liverpool – an estate highlighted by a large, castle-like mansion that is owned by the Salvation Army to be precise. But even more importantly to its popularity, it is right near the home where John Lennon spent part of his childhood in the company of his Aunt Mimi and Uncle George. And he held a special affinity for Strawberry Field. For instance, he used to play with the child residents, i.e. orphans, on the field, even against official orders. Also there was summer events held there that he just had to attend.
And as implied by the name of the track, it is this particular locality which spurred the creation of this song. As such, the lyrics themselves have a strong nostalgic feel, one inspired by Lennon’s youth. Indeed some of the lyrics, such as the phrase “nothing to get hung about”, were directly influenced by his youthful experiences at “Strawberry Field”. And it can be said that the underlying sentiment of this entire piece, considering its name and all, is a desire for Lennon to hold onto the feelings he had back then.
Song’s Psychedelic Component
But that being said, he was an adult when he penned the tune. In fact he was an adult under the influence of LSD. And that is where what has been described as the psychedelic component of the song came from. In fact we can say that some of the lyrics aren’t necessarily decipherable unless you refer to how Lennon himself explains them. And a deep analysis of the track has ascertained that, influenced by his inebriation, the singer goes on to tackle the mature subject of self-doubt. Indeed if there’s one thing that can be gathered about the character of the vocalist from the lyrics, it’s that he’s a man of dichotomies.
So conclusively we can say that “Strawberry Fields Forever” was inspired by a location from Lennon’s youth. And there are some historical references related to such featured in the lyrics. Also the track itself may possess a childlike feel to some listeners. But at the end of the day, it also centers on reflections and allegories more mature than what the average child would come up with.
When was “Strawberry Fields Forever” released?
This classic was considered an art of innovation when it came out on 13th of February 1967. For instance, it featured what we now refer to as music videos long before creating visuals for songs became an industry standard. Additionally it was quite revolutionary in sound in terms of the pop music of its day. And why? The creators of the track actually used many unconventional techniques and instruments in putting it together.
For example, the band utilized an instrument known as a Mellotron. And even in the decades after its release, “Strawberry Fields Forever” is deemed as the most-effective use of this tool ever in a pop song. In fact the Beatles’ usage of the Mellotron proved so satisfactory that even the artist who introduced them to it experienced appreciation for being part of this song’s history.
This track was published by Parlophone Records in the UK and Capitol Records in the US. It was released alongside another Beatles’ classic, “Penny Lane“.
On which Beatles’ album does “Strawberry Fields Forever” appear?
This song along with “Penny Lane” were never issued on an album except for the US edition of the “Magical Mystery Tour”. The primary reason for this was that EMI wanted the Beatles to put the tracks out in early 1967, even though no album was ready at the time. In fact “Strawberry Fields” was the first song the Beatles were able to put together after finishing their 1966 album “Revolver”, and it was originally intended for “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. But the company was eager to get the songs out fast, as due to the recent trajectory of the band as a unit as well as individually, people were under the impression that they were breaking apart. Moreover overall the pop scene wasn’t treating the Fab Four favorably at the time.
The second reason this classic wasn’t eventually featured on Sgt. Pepper’s nonetheless is because the Beatles themselves had a thing against adding tracks to albums that had previously been released as independent singles. In fact they were even upset that Capitol included this song on their release of “Magical Mystery Tour”. However, this song as well as “Penny Lane”, via their nostalgic undertone, still influenced “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.
Writing of “Strawberry Fields Forever”
Lennon began writing this song in Spain during 1966. He was then in the Spanish city of Almería filming a movie he co-starred in called “How I Won the War”. He actually recorded the first demo to this iconic song while still in Spain. And what inspired him to compose it was the fact that the place he was staying at resembled the Strawberry Field from his childhood. Moreover, according to Lennon it “took (him) six weeks to write the song”.
And for the record, Paul McCartney penned “Penny Lane” as a response, i.e. being directly inspired by, what Lennon put together with Strawberry Fields. That is why the two tracks share a similar, nostalgic theme.
Analysts of this song have concluded that it has “psychedelic overtones” due to a number of factors. For instance, Lennon was using LSD at the time. Also he was deeply into the study of Hindu spirituality.
Concerning the aforementioned video, it was filmed in a place called Knole Park that is situated in a part of England known as Kent. And its director was a Swede named Peter Goldmann.
Said clip, along with that of “Penny Lane”, introduced the world to the Beatles as many of us have come to know them. For instance, it marked the first time they rocked their signature mustaches. Also it is noted as being Lennon’s inaugural appearance wearing his trademark round spectacles. That was a look that he had actually developed while working on “How I Won the War”. And this video was also the first time the Beatles notably embraced the psychedelic culture of the 1960s as opposed to the disciplined ‘mop-top’ look of their earlier days. And no, their decision to totally flip their image was not well received by all of their fans. In other words, contrary to how many people may perceive the Beatles, they were actually heavily influential in propagating the hippy-like culture of that era.
In terms of the aforementioned clip, there was one primary reason why the Beatles put it together in the first place. And this was so that it could be aired in place of them having to appear on TV numerous times to promote the song.
The video clip premiered on The Ed Sullivan Show in the United States. And in the UK, it was unveiled on the “Top of the Pops”.
“Strawberry Fields Forever” becomes a Significant Hit!
This song proved to be a major hit. It reached number one on music charts in five different countries. It also managed to peak at number 8 in the United States (the Hot 100). And the only reason it didn’t reach number one in the Beatles’ homeland, the UK, was that being released as a double A-side they counted record sales for “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” separately as opposed to in unison. However, Strawberry Fields still managed to hit number two in Britain.
This track has also been honored as one of the “500 Song That Shaped Rock and Roll” as deduced by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Moreover the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences inducted it into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. And in 2003 Rolling Stone also named it one of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. The magazine placed it as high as number 76 on that distinguished list in 2003.
In addition to the above, this classic reached number 1 in the countries below:
Impact of Song’s Success
The success of this track also resulted in the Strawberry Field in Liverpool itself becoming a tourist destination. Moreover Yoko Ono once donated almost half a million dollars to the children’s home that was resident there. And the Salvation Army, i.e. the owners of Strawberry Field, have been able to capitalize off of its popularity in other ways also, such as selling souvenirs.
In 2005 the Strawberry Field facility transitioned into a church and then a training facility and recreational area open to the public. But the site proved so enduringly-popular throughout the years that in 2019 it was officially opened as a tourist attraction. Actually you can even purchase purchase tickets to visit the attraction.
Yet despite being regarded as one of the Beatles’ greatest tunes, Lennon himself was not particularly fond of this track. In fact he even went as far as to reportedly accuse Paul McCartney of sabotaging it, albeit subconsciously. However George Martin, its producer, considered it a work of art.
“Strawberry Fields Forever” has been covered by a plethora of popular artists, such as the following:
- Bee Gees
- Cyndi Lauper
The most-successful cover of the 20th century though was rendered by a relatively-obscure British duo known as Candy Flip in 1990.
Recording of “Strawberry Fields Forever”
This song notably went through a number of takes and revisions before being finalized. It took 55 studio hours and eight days of work altogether, largely due to Lennon taking a vested interest in the production alongside Martin. And it has been noted that the final product sounded starkly different from its earlier recordings of the track.
“Paul is Dead”
For readers who are actually familiar with the “Paul is dead” conspiracy theory, this song fits into the elaborate hypothesis believed by its adherents. For it is said that the sole phrase uttered in the outro reads “I buried Paul.” But officially, what John Lennon actually says is “cranberry sauce”.