As chosen by Roger Daltrey, Ray Davies, Brian Wilson, Alex Turner and more…
1 STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER
The Beatles single (February 1967). Highest UK chart position: 2
Written while on location in Spain filming Richard Lester’s How I Won The War, this stylised portrait of Lennon’s youth remains British pop’s most timeless moment…
Paul Weller: Lennon’s a singer I admire not so much for the technical side but for the honesty and power. I was listening to “Don’t Stand Me Down” and he was just letting go on that track. I love it. And songs like “Twist And Shout”, “Money”, “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” and “Bad Boy” really put him up there as one of the great rock’n’ roll bawlers. They sound like he was gargling with razor blades before recording ’em. The flipside, of course, is songs like “Jealous Guy” and “Beautiful Boy” which show the more sensitive, soulful side to his voice. He’s been a massive influence on me right across the board… as a writer, lyricist and singer.
There are so many of Lennon’s tracks that I think are absolutely amazing. I’m currently into some of the less obvious ones like “Remember Love” [B-side of “Give Peace A Chance”]. But when it comes down to it, “Strawberry Fields Forever” is my all time favourite. I can still remember when I first heard it on the radio; I was only nine at the time. I didn’t know anything about drugs or psychedelia, I just knew it was a great, great tune. I was already well into pop music. My mum was quite young and she was still buying records – so I’d already absorbed the Beatles and The Kinks, but that song just blew me away, it took me to a different place. I only had four teachers at school – John, Paul, George and Ringo – but you could say my education really started with “Strawberry Fields”. I got really into them after that.
I remember being desperate to watch Magical Mystery Tour when it was first on TV – Boxing Day 1967. My mum and dad wanted to watch some crappy film on ITV, so I’d switch the TV over during the ad breaks to see it! That was the extent of my authority over the TV back then! From that point on I was obsessed. We had relations in Chester, and one time I went on a pilgrimage over to Liverpool with my dad. We went to Menlove Avenue, and Paul’s house in Allerton, but we never made it to Strawberry Fields itself, sadly.
Technically, the production on “Strawberry Fields” is phenomenal. There was a documentary on a few months ago where bands tried to recreate the tracks played on Sgt Pepper using the original gear with engineer Geoff Emerick, and it showed how difficult it must have been to make. There was no Pro Tools or any of that business – if you got it wrong you had to start again, it was as simple as that.
For me, it’s the first psychedelic record. People talk about “See My Friends” by The Kinks, but “Strawberry Fields” is far more experimental. George Martin did a brilliant job editing together the two different sections; the key change in the middle is amazing. I still always return to it. It’s one of those tracks where you still hear something new every time you hear it, it’s got so many textures. For me it’s still unsurpassed.
INTERVIEWS BY MICHAEL BONNER, CAROL CLERK, STEPHEN DALTON, NICK HASTED, ROB HUGHES, JOHN LEWIS, ALASTAIR McKAY, PAUL MOODY, TOM PINNOCK AND JOHN ROBINSON
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