The Beatles – “Strawberry Fields Forever” b/w “Penny Lane” (R 5570) (1967)

SAM_0350“Strawberry Fields Forever” b/w “Penny Lane” single represented a watershed moment in the Beatles’ career. The two original Lps preceding the single had been highly successful, transitional albums; the writing deepened and became more adult, the music became sonically and melodically richer.

Bursting with creativity and hubris, the band challenged itself, no longer satisfied with the roles they’d chosen/had foisted on them. They became self-consciousness artists, stopped touring and grew mustaches. Depending on your point of view, the move was a brilliant, creative re-birth or the death-knell of something spontaneous and pure.

The first product of this calculated change was the double A-sided 7″ under consideration. (Significantly, it followed the early era-defining Collection of Beatles Oldies–one of the most edifying aspects of the Beatles story is its neatness, even the details.) Despite its unified theme, and unlike other Beatle non-Lp singles (e.g. “I Want To Hold Your Hand”, “Paperback Writer” “Hey Jude”, etc.), “SFF/PL” wasn’t conceived as a stand-along issue, but was instead shorn from its ostensible parent Lp, Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, when EMI demanded a new single, the previous 45 having come six months earlier, a lifetime in the whirligig of 60s pop.

The writers had dealt with personal subject matter before (cf. “Norwegian Wood”, “She Said, She Said”, “I’m Looking Through You”), but this was different. Sensitized by experiments with marijuana and LSD, John and Paul harkened back to their childhoods in ways both predictable and wondrous. John’s view is equivocal, Paul’s sunny. And yet both express their respective equivocation and sunniness with such precocious artistry, that any accusations of calculation and self-consciousness become, to my mind, moot.

SAM_0351I’d been earlier unsuccessful at the Etchinghill Boot Fair (having ruefully spied the competition leaving at 8:00 with a clear plastic bag chocka with records including, on the top, A Nice Pair, and, on the bottom, Rubber Soul), so when, travelling back from the garden center around noon, I saw a hand-drawn sign directing me to the Etchinghill Village Hall to buy Beatles vinyl “starting at £1”, I made Mrs. Asbo double-back with haste in abundance so’s I could investigate.

This original single (which I don’t own–in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever even heard these songs before–so it made perfect sense for me to buy it for £4), was the happy fruit of that visit. I think it’s the first UK Fabs single with a bespoke sleeve.

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Published in: on May 3, 2014 at 8:46 pm  Comments (8)  

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. i’m sure it’s no great shock to you asbo that i see this as (to quote yourself) as “the death-knell of something spontaneous and pure”!

    • In fact, I had you in mind when I wrote that.

  2. Visions of Mrs Asbo doing a handbrake turn. Being driven to vinyl – on demand – a strong relationship there, congratulations. (Mrs Darce would have done the same I’m sure).

    I have been rapidly approaching a crisis of confidence on the boot fair front. After a reasonable start to the season the last few weeks have been barren – I do get to them early nowadays too, but quite probably still not early enough. Or are rekkids drying up? Today’s trawl restored some confidence, but only some. My faith is still fragile, let’s hope May delivers. (Garden Centre for us next weekend – but wait, daughter returns from Canada, so the pots will have to wait another week I think.)

    • I’ve been in this game for nigh on decades now and I’m afraid there’s just too many record creeps makin’ the rounds these days–and I just refuse to get up and out earlier than 8am on a weekend. There was even a female woman flipping thru the racks today at Wincheap Bootfair near Cantos this morning, would you believe. Mind you, she was looking hard at “52nd Street” Billy Joel album, so I didn’t consider her competition as such.

      • what? a female woman?!? reminds me of the monty python “life of brian” stoning sketch: “are there any WIMMIN here?”! due to diminishing returns i’ve long since retired from scratching about for records at car boots at the crack of dawn, but i presume any sightings of the fairer sex rummaging through crates is still as rare as they were at palestinian stonings. you could say that anyone (never mind a woman!) taking more than a cursory glance at a billy joel album is no threat, but then again i once came across an album by a pre-fame heavy metal band he was in called “attila” (and didn’t realise without checking it out that it was him on the cover!) which is worth a few bob…

  3. I used to regularly rub shoulders (figuratively speaking) with a female woman digger at boots. She used to ask me if there was any such and such genre in the heap that I was looking at. The genre would change. It turns out she makes cake stands out of them to order for friends.
    Thinking about it again now I should have ordered one with a sweet soul theme. Of course you could have one made for your rock cakes … etc etc …

    • The Cream Horns, Rolling Scones and, um, that’s it.

  4. Oooh, did someone say ‘cake puns’?

    The Jam (tarts)
    The Silver Apple-turnovers
    The Pink Fairies
    The Red Velvet Underground

    …ok, I’ll get me coat


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