In 1966, John Lennon found himself in Almería, Spain working on Richard Lester’s film, How I Won the War. Between shots, he began writing Strawberry Fields Forever, a song Lennon later called “psychoanalysis set to music” and “one of the few true songs I ever wrote.” Although the song became one of the Beatles’ most refined and intricate recordings, it started off simply, with Lennon trying out lyrics and chords on his acoustic guitar, then recording solo demos upon his return to England. Listen above.
Once the Beatles started recording the song in November, 1966, the band spent at least 45 hours, spaced over a month, working through new versions. Around and around they went, tweaking, polishing, recording new takes, trying to get it right. Eventually the song, as we know it, came together when George Martin, the Beatles’ producer, pulled off the “Big Edit,” a technological feat that involved speeding up one recording and slowing down another and fusing them into the song we know today. (Amazingly, the two tracks were recorded in different keys and tempos.) Strawberry Fields Forever was released as a double A-side single in February 1967 along with Penny Lane, and it was accompanied by a promotional film, a precursor to music videos we know and love today. You can watch it below.