The Beatles “Strawberry Field Forever” (Yellow Dog Japan YD 2007)
Strawberry Field Forever (Take 1) / Strawberry Fields Forever (Takes 2 – 4) / Strawberry Fields Forever (Takes 5 – 7) / Strawberry Fields Forever (Take 25) / Strawberry Fields Forever (Take 26) / How Do You Do It? / Message To Australia / Can’t Buy Me Love (Takes 2- 3) / If You’ve Got Troubles / Ticket To Ride / Norwegian Wood (Take 1) / She’s A Woman / Hello Goodbye (Take 1) / Not Guilty / Think For Yourself Studio Session. (72:08)
The Japanese arm of Yellow Dog has returned albeit this time without it’s own title. “Strawberry Field Forever” is a clone of an internet produced bootleg that was posted my one Masterjedi on various Beatles forums early in 2013. It’s intent, to fix and replace the glitches in the existing Roger Scott tapes that circulate by speed correcting, repairing dropouts and realigning channels for a neater, brighter listening experience.
Lately it it been the topic of those various Beatleg forums that the purloining of these fan generated releases crosses a metaphorical line but then the argument also stands that a straight copy of such a release is a just tribute to something thats been worked on to present the ultimate experience for the other fans. The argument could be pulled apart all day but for this review, we’ll just concentrate on how it sounds.
Strawberry Fields Forever (Take 1) – Strawberry Fields Forever (Takes 2 – 4) – Strawberry Fields Forever (Takes 5 – 7) – Strawberry Fields Forever (Take 25) – Strawberry Fields Forever (Take 26) – The single that would lead the way in to the Beatles path of psychedelia “Strawberry Fields Forever” was the child of two different variations and was afforded space for a lot of work within the studio. The takes are split over the few tracks here as that was how they were recorded – over different days.
Take one begins with a little Mellotron doodling and take announcement. Mainly a guitar and bass led version, it also features angelesque harmonies accompanying the middle verse. Also heard on the Anthology CD and video releases.
Takes 2 – 4 are the later remakes, Ringo is given a stronger role as the song becomes more familial although it still sounds a little under baked as the three takes here are without vocals. Take 2 comes to a loose ending as the band struggle to tie up the ends (as it would always be ..). Take three begins with a little more tuning up, John complains about the noise in his head phones and then the song begins after a pause of silence. Thankfully we’re treated to vocals this time and because John was quite insistent on recording a fresh vocal each time, we get a new vocal as the takes roll on. Take three also finishes with a fumbled ending.
Take 5 is much closer to the finished article. John this time sounds like he might have a cold and both George and Paul’s guitar and bass parts start to falter towards the end. Take six does not appear here but instead take 7 takes it’s place as a reduction of the four tracks to one single tracks so that the rest of the tracks could be overdubbed on Abbey Road archaic equipment. Here we get the second half that never was for the singular and album release (And you can hear why – it’s a methadone induced as the earlier takes of the track.)
Track 25 begins with a hum of studio noise, a whistle and the take announcement (“Strawberrys Fields, take 25”) leading in to part the heavily orchestrated version that would form the second half of the finished article (after John’s vocals and piano were added)
Take 26 is a confusing blend of everything – beginning with a little back room chatter (Someone seems to be talking about a “sign of stress”?) the tape flubs then the actual track starts, albeit with a few catch-ups in the vocals from John. This version originally appeared on Vigotone’s “Turn Me On Dead Man” where the vocals are completely different to the CV and the coda a much more rowdy affair.
How Do You Do It? – The loser in the round to find the winner of being the first single, beaten by “Love Me Do” to be successor. Although this appeared on the “Anthology” series, this take more probably comes from the assumed best source “Ultra Rare Trax Vol. 1”
Message To Australia – Originally released on the earlier Yellow Dog CD ‘Message To Australia” it is just as it says, a group of messages from the group to Bob Rogers, the Australian and an open message to the Australian record buying public. Theres no real difference to this version but it’s a worthwhile, humorous curio.
Can’t Buy Me Love (Takes 2- 3) – Originally on Swingin’ Pig’s “Ultra Rare Trax” and Yellow Dog’s “Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 7” as well as “Anthology 2” but with a different guitar solo shipped in, Take 2 is preceded with a quick count in and is a full take which breaks down towards the end as Paul forgets his place and the words. After a short break, the band return with a slow version of the song ( Take 3) featuring a sparser set of instrumentation. This breaks down shortly after Paul forgets his lyrics once again.
If You’ve Got Troubles – Unreleased until the “Anthology” series and rearing it’s head again once the John Barrett tape stash was uncovered.
Ticket To Ride – A longer version of the CV originally released on “Ultra Rare Trax Vol. 3”. Smoother than than the version on the Swingin’ Pig CD but just as clear.
Norwegian Wood (Take 1) – The first real version of the song with a rather monotonous sitar part before the band returned to it later, It originally appeared on “Anthology 2” as well as later from the John Barrett tapes. While there were variances between the two Vigotone versions of the track this is the version that appeared on “Another Sessions .. Plus” with the sitar scooped in to the left channel while the acoustic guitar is left to the right. It is still missing the engineers announcement.
She’s A Woman – Essentially the “UK” mix of the track without the heavy reverb used on the “Beatles ’65” version in the US.
Hello Goodbye (Take 1) – The backing track to the Magical Mystery track. Released in 2004 on another Yellow Dog production “Miscellaneous Tracks”.
Not Guilty – The true stereo version of the ‘White album’ outtake. Again, originally released on Vigotone’s “Another Sessions .. Plus” CD this outtake was also heard on the Anthology CD but in a much butchered form.
Think For Yourself Studio Session – Recorded during the session for the same track the Beatles can be heard to be airily theatrical as the off cuts from this session were to be used for their annual Christmas single. The idea was eventually scrapped but the tape leaked out, originally turning up on Yellow Dog’s “Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 7” it took a few years for more to be released but then, as with the Yoko tape from Vigotone’s “Revolution” CD the full tape appeared over different releases. The full (available) session is now available in one place and runs just short of 20 minutes. An anarchic and off beat mixture of jingles, half remembered lyrics, chatter about what the Beatles had watched on TV the previous evening, jokes and an amusing twist on the lyrics to “Do You Want To Know A Secret”.
The artwork is also an almost straight copy of the original art that was put together for the internet set (Not a bad thing in itself) but it is supplanted with various other era specific photos from 1967.
It’s generally up to you if you want to actually own this piece or keep it on your hard drive. I would certainly suggest it is worth it for your Beatles collection having been put together with care as no one boasts of owing a large FLAC collection surely?