I recently watched on the TV perhaps one of the most riveting and life-affirming installments of the PBS series The American Experience – perhaps ever! It was a retrospective of the year 1964. The nation was still recovering from the JFK assassination when that year began… a lot was going down that year: Freedom Summer and the brutal murders of the 3 civil-rights workers in Mississippi. The Free Speech Movement at U.C. Berkeley… Motown… LBJ v. Goldwater… Gulf of Tonkin… The Civil Rights Act of ’64… THE BEATLES!!!!!
OK, the pic shown here (a LIFE Magazine – Asian Edition – cover from ’66) is a little ahead of its time given the subject-matter at hand, but WTF. My interest in The Beatles is almost literally lifelong – my parents bought Meet The Beatles when I was barely into kindergarten and my youngest sister was born that spring of ’64. In May… which might mean she was conceived when “She Loves You” was first released, who knows.
1964 was a watershed year in our cultural history. Look at the music… pick your genre, across the board everything was changing, just like the Dylan tune said “the times, they are a’changin’”. Country music was getting a little more bad-ass in ’64 after Johnny Cash put out “Ring Of Fire”, then along came Buck Owens straight outta Bakersfield with “Act Naturally”. Jazz was changing as well… getting a little more freaky, “free jazz”, Coltrane, Mingus, Dolphy, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Pharoah Saunders, the list goes on… Motown was happening also! Then came along a bunch of dudes from England, and the rest is history.
Funny thing is… the British bands, for the most part, didn’t really come up with anything “new” but the delivery & packaging was “new” and it caught fire here in the States and around the Free World. In fact, the majority of their music came right here from the USA – the blues, country, soul – whatever originated from the streets, the bayous, the cotton-fields, any place where middle-class white conformism was completely foreign – and the Brits took our “race” music and flung it right back into our faces, and we were clueless!! But we dug it BIG TIME!!! And bought a shitload of their records.
No band understood this better than The Beatles. But 1964 was the heyday of their girl-crush “Beatlemania” period – syrupy love-songs and “yeah, yeah, yeah”… but the winds of change were blowing even then – listen to their Beatles For Sale (UK) LP. But what REALLY got my attention as a kid came along a year later with HELP! and Rubber Soul... the transformation that followed Revolver and evidenced by “Strawberry Fields Forever” in 1966 wasn’t simply just a band changing direction in their music, it was a complete and utter metamorphosis into an entire new identity for which there was no turning back!
And everybody transformed alongside them…
And now, for your listening (& viewing) pleasure: someone on YT compiled every single demo & take of “Strawberry Fields Forever” into a single video…