Strawberry Fields Forever
Director – Peter Goldmann. Producer – Subafilms Ltd.
Filmed – 30 and 31 January 1967.
Location – Knole Park, Sevenoaks, Kent.
‘Yellow Submarine’/‘Eleanor Rigby’ had come out in early August 1966 and Parlophone were in need of a follow-up; back then, six months without a Beatles single was an eternity. So although ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ was originally intended for inclusion on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, it was decided to release the track, coupled with ‘Penny Lane’, as a double A-side. John’s composition was inspired by a real place – Strawberry Field, a Salvation Army children’s home in Woolton, Liverpool that was just around the corner from where he grew up.
John began writing the song during September and October in Almería, Spain, the location for Richard Lester’s film, How I Won the War. The process of getting the song down on tape was drawn-out and complex, and it took some time before John and the other band members had the sound they wanted. From its original development on acoustic guitar, the track turned into a psychedelic classic.
There were initially two versions recorded and John liked the start of the first one and the ending of the second, so he suggested joining the two together. When George Martin pointed out they were in different keys, John simply said, “You can fix it.” And fix it George Martin did, helping to create a defining moment in rock history. Despite its status, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ only made No.2 in Britain and No.8 in America.
Filming took place in the grounds of historic Knole House, a National Trust property, on 30 January 1967 with director, Peter Goldmann. That first evening’s shoot, on 35mm film, took place on and around a dead oak tree close to the birdhouse. The following day they returned to film the daytime sequence of the film.
What Goldmann and The Beatles created was a defining pop promo film, at a time when few even realised that a band needed such a thing. The catalyst was the Musicians’ Union ban on miming on TV, which put pressure on The Beatles to come up with something imaginative. The MU may have inadvertently deprived their members of work, but then again the signs were definitely pointing towards MTV and the online video bonanza that makes worldwide promotion so simple. While the short clip from ‘Penny Lane’ was shown on the BBC’s Juke Box Jury on 11 February 1967, just an audio clip of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ was featured; four days later both were shown in their entirety on Top of the Pops.
During the day of filming at Knole Park, John went shopping in nearby Sevenoaks, buying an antique circus poster that would be the starting point for the lyrics of ‘Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!’. The Beatles recorded the track soon after for inclusion on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.