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Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)

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"Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)"
Song by The Beatles
Album Rubber Soul
Released 3 December 1965
Recorded 12 and 21 October 1965,
EMI Studios, London
Genre Folk rock
Length 2:05
Label EMI, Parlophone, Capitol
Writer Lennon–McCartney
Producer George Martin
Rubber Soul track listing


'Norwegian Wood' is my song completely. It was about an affair I was having. I was very careful and paranoid because I didn't want my wife, Cyn, to know that there really was something going on outside of the household. I'd always had some kind of affairs going, so I was trying to be sophisticated in writing about an affair. But in such a smoke-screen way that you couldn't tell. But I can't remember any specific woman it had to do with. ... [What about the title itself?] I don't know how the hell I got to 'Norwegian wood'.

—John Lennon, The Playboy Interviews, p.151, 1980

I came in and he had this first stanza, which was brilliant: 'I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me.' That was all he had, no title, no nothing. I said, 'Oh yes, well, ha, we're there.' And it wrote itself. Once you've got the great idea, they do tend to write themselves, providing you know how to write songs. So I picked it up at the second verse, it's a story. It's him trying to pull a bird, it was about an affair.

John told Playboy that he hadn't the faintest idea where the title came from but I do. Peter Asher had his room done out in wood, a lot of people were decorating their places in wood. Norwegian wood. It was pine really, cheap pine. ... So it was a little parody really on those kind of girls who when you'd go to their flat there would be a lot of Norwegian wood. It was completely imaginary from my point of view but in John's it was based on an affair he had. This wasn't the décor of someone's house, we made that up. So she makes him sleep in the bath and then finally in the last verse I had this idea to set the Norwegian wood on fire as revenge, so we did it very tongue in cheek. ... It could have meant I lit a fire to keep myself warm, and wasn't the décor of her house wonderful? But it didn't, it meant I burned the fucking place down as an act of revenge, and then we left it there and went into the instrumental.

George had become very interested in Indian music and it was his first sitar solo. ... It's 60-40 to John because it's John's idea and John's tune. But I filled out lyrically and had the idea to set the place on fire, so I take some sort of credit. And the middle was mine, those middle eights, John never had his middle eights.

—Paul McCartney, Many Years From Now by Barry Miles, p.270-71, 1994

George had just got the sitar, and I said, 'Can you play this piece?' We went through many different sorts of versions of the song, but it was never right, and I was getting angry about it. It wasn't coming out like I said. They said, 'We'll just do it how you want to do it.' And I said, 'Well, I just want to do it like this.' They let me go and I did the guitar very loudly into the mike and sang it at the same time.

—John Lennon, The Beatles Off The Record, p.190, 2000

We were growing very quickly and there were a lot of influences. That was the best thing about our band, we were very open-minded to everything. We were listening to all kinds of music, and they liked the sound of the sitar. On 'Norwegian Wood' it was one of those songs which needed that something extra. I had bought a very cheap sitar in a shop called India Craft in London, and it fitted on to the song and gave it that little extra thing. Even though the sound of the sitar was bad, they were still quite happy with it.

—George Harrison, The Beatles Off The Record, p.190, 2000

'This Bird Has Flown' was recorded in just one take although much rehearsing, head-scratching and overdubbing meant that it took 4 1/2 hours to complete. John's droll vocal, double-tracked in places, of lyrics which gave a new dimension to the usual boy-meets-girl situation (the song was an oblique reference to an extra-marital relationship), being augmented by George Harrison's double-tracked sitar, the Indian instrument being used on a pop record for the first time ... by subperb Paul McCartney vocal harmonies — a naturally acquired and underrated forte — and by Ringo's interesting percussion work, in which he forsook drums in favour of finger cymbals, tambourine and maraca. ... The Beatles felt that it wasn't right and gave the song a somewhat heavier approach on the remake.

—Mark Lewisohn, The Beatles Recording Sessions, p.63, 1988

[Regarding Bob Dylan's "version" on Blond on Blond - '4th Time Around'] I was very paranoid about Dylan's version of it. I remember he played it to me when he was in London. He said, 'What do you think?' I said, 'I don't like it.' I didn't like it. I was very paranoid. I just didn't like what I was feeling. I thought it was an out and out skit, you know, but it wasn't. It was great. I mean, he wasn't playing any tricks on me. I was just going through the bit.

—John Lennon, Rolling Stone interview, Nov 23 1968



 

Bob Dylan's "parody" of 'Norwegian Wood' ... '4th Time Around (live):


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