“It took me six weeks to write the song," Lennon said in a 1980 interview with David Sheff of Playboy magazine. "I was writing it all the time I was making the film. And as anybody knows about film work, there's a lot of hanging around. I have an original tape of it somewhere. Of how it sounded before it became the sort of psychedelic-sounding song it became on the record” (page 154). The original tape Lennon refers to is a series of six recordings, the first take of which will be discussed here.
A recording of that first take may be found in this YouTube video from 0:27-1:14.
A transcription of this first take is below. (Click the picture to enlarge.)
Note: In many instances, the rhythms have been simplified for the sake of visual simplicity.
True to his description, the recording contains just Lennon's vocals and guitar playing, and consequently is very light in nature - far removed from what "Strawberry Fields Forever" would eventually become, and rather evocative of the warm, breezy summer nights in the south of Spain. This very first version also reveals the lyrics that would ultimately become the second verse nearly in tact - save for the very first line.
The chord progression for the first half of the song will change greatly, but quite the opposite for the second half - just one additional chord will be added. That being said, everything else (including verse 1, verse 3, the introduction, the coda, and the chorus - with it's title lyrics) had yet to be written. There is, in fact, no mention of Strawberry Field at all in this initial version - no doubt why the song was originally called "It's Not Too Bad".
Scheff, David. All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. St. Martin's Griffin, New York, NY, 1981.
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This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.