On October 12, 1965, The Beatles were in the thick of their Rubber Soul studio sessions. At a time when the creative forces of The Beatles were at a collaborative peak, John Lennon introduced a new song about an extramarital affair, called “This Bird Has Flown”. With George Harrison recently inspired by Ravi Shankar, this marks one of the first Beatles songs to prominently feature the sitar, bridging the gap between Eastern and Western music.
The initial recording of the song is drastically different, dropped a full key (in D-major instead of the more familiar E-major) and notably featuring some light drumming from Ringo Starr. The harmonies are a bit lazier on this original demo as well; all in all, the original version just doesn’t have the charming Beatles pop that we all know and love. You can listen to it for yourself below.
[Video: Joe Filippini]
It wasn’t until October 21, 1965, fifty years ago today, that the Beatles returned to “This Bird Has Flown”. After three takes and some compositional tampering, the song had shifted to its immortal title, “Norwegian Wood”. The title is a play on the cheap pine walls present in contemporary guitarist Peter Asher’s home, according to Paul McCartney. In the new version, the guitar is featured a bit more prominently, and the lines between guitar and sitar are more adeptly integrated. The result, well… we’d be surprised if you’ve never heard “Norwegian Wood” before. Enjoy:
Happy 50th birthday, “Norwegian Wood”!