Sunday, June 01, 2008

Neil's Column

Ever since Tuesday, January 31st, I've been inundated with requests for bits of information about the new single. January 31st? Well, that was, just for the record, the day Radio London became the first station to play "Penny Lane" on the air.

So the whole of my page this month is going to be devoted to telling you at least some of the extra things you want to know about "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields Forever".

"Strawberry Fields" was the first number The Beatles recorded before Christmas when their current series of sessions at E.M.I. began. Two finished tapes were scrapped because John was worried about the tempo--the first version seemed to be too slow, the second sounded right from the speed point of view, but other things didn't come up to the boys' required standard.

The instrumental sound you hear at the very beginning of "Strawberry Fields" is made by a Melotron (played by Paul) which can imitate a variety of other instruments. Here the flute stop was used.


At one stage George and Paul played tympani and bongo drums and Mal sat in with them on tambourine!

"Penny Lane" has got a lot of people guessing about who sings what. I've seen various newspapers claim that Paul does all the solo singing on this track. Actually John sings with him quite a bit on "Penny Lane". Incidentally this was recorded during the first two weeks of January and the last bits to be added were the harmony voices and those fantastic trumpet figures. One of the country's most famous and most skilled classical trumpet players came in to put those finishing touches to "Penny Lane". In fact Paul had been thinking of all sorts of different ideas before he hit on the trumpet suggestion. The boys all sat round for ages playing the unfinished tape over and over and coming up with thoughts for filling in with different instrumental bits at those particular points in the arrangement.


Maybe you've already sorted out in your own mind the different instruments--other than guitars and drums--heard during "Penny Lane". That's definitely the simpler of the two arrangements. In fact you can hear (apart from the trumpet) a string bass, flutes, piccolos, a flugelhorn and John and George Martin playing pianos.

For "Strawberry Fields" you've got, in addition to Paul's Melotron, a vast variety of percussion sounds, cellos, trumpets, an electronic drum track by Ringo and a sort of table harp played by George.


I hope I've answered some of your questions about the single. It's difficult to remember everything that happens when the boys are working on new tracks because there are four of them and they're all thinking up ideas while we're in the studios. But the result is what counts and it's a great disc, isn't it?

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