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Music

Listen to John Lennon's mind-bending isolated vocals on 'Strawberry Fields Forever'

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that The Beatles ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ is one of the greatest songs John Lennon ever wrote. With its pioneering mellotron flute lines and dustings of sitar, the 1967 track managed to capture everything swilling around Lennon’s head at the time of its composition in 1966 — from the psychotropic residue of some recent LSD trip to the nostalgia the musician was feeling for his native Liverpool. And yet, despite all of this introspection, the single still manages to evoke something universal. The mind really does boggle. Below, you can listen to an incredibly insightful isolated recording of Lennon’s languorous vocals, recorded in Abbey Road in 1966.

For me, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, a song Lennon himself described as “Psychoanalysis set to music”, perfectly captures that rose-tinted nostalgia that overcomes us when we think back to our childhoods— and it’s no wonder. Lennon wrote the song while living far away from home, in Almerí­a, Spain, where he was filming his role as Private Gripweed in Richard Lester’s black comedy, How I Won The War. As Lennon recalled: “Dick Lester offered me the part in this movie, which gave me time to think without going home. We were in Almerí­a, and it took me six weeks to write the song”.

The sheer amount of time Lennon spent waiting around on set allowed him the opportunity to really expand on his songwriting, bringing to it a sense of the uncanny. There is something so familiar about ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, and yet it is completely unlike any other song written at the time. Its serpentine chord progressions seem as though they should lead only to a dead-end, and yet, somehow, they bring us crashing towards that recurring refrain: “Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields” as it were the only possible outcome.

Listening to Lennon’s isolated vocals, it seems as though, even as he was recording the track in the studio, he couldn’t help his mind from wandering back to his childhood in Liverpool, when his Aunt Mimi would take him to Strawberry Fields, a Salvation Army children’s home with a wide garden, and let him play in the sunshine. “I’ve seen Strawberry Fields described as a dull, grimy place,” Paul McCartney recalled in Anthology.

Adding: “But in the summer it wasn’t dull and grimy at all: it was a secret garden. John’s memory of it wasn’t to do with the fact that it was a Salvation Army home; that was up at the house. There was a wall you could bunk over and it was a rather wild garden, it wasn’t manicured at all, so it was easy to hide in.”

Stream the isolated audio, below.