♫ Norwegian Wood ♫ (Redux)

Day #5 of Beatles Week, and since a couple of people mentioned this one, I thought it only right to give it a slot.

A bit of interesting history accompanies this one …

This was the first pop song to use a sitar – George Harrison played it. Harrison was new to the sitar and took many takes to get it right. He bought the instrument, which he described as “crummy,” and taught himself to play. It was David Crosby of The Byrds, and Crosby, Stills & Nash who had introduced Harrison to the sitar shortly after the folk musician Shawn Phillips had shown him the basic steps. A few months later, Harrison studied the sitar with Indian musician Ravi Shankar, who helped Harrison explore Eastern music and religion.

John Lennon, who wrote the song, explained why it was decided to use the sitar on this song …

“I think it was at the studio. George had just got the sitar and I said ‘Could you play this piece?’ We went through many different sort of versions of the song, it was never right and I was getting very angry about it, it wasn’t coming out like I said. They said, ‘Well 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 and then George had the sitar and I asked him could he play the piece that I’d written, you know, dee diddley dee diddley dee, that bit, and he was not sure whether he could play it yet because he hadn’t done much on the sitar but he was willing to have a go, as is his wont, and he learned the bit and dubbed it on after. I think we did it in sections.”

Paul McCartney said he came up with the title, inspired by the Norwegian Wood furniture in the Asher household, where he was staying.

But the trivia I thought the most intriguing was what John Lennon said about the writing of the song …

“I was trying to write about an affair without letting my wife know I was having one. I was sort of writing from my experiences – girl’s flats, things like that. 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 on, 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.”

Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
The Beatles

I once had a girl
Or should I say she once had me
She showed me her room
Isn’t it good Norwegian wood?

She asked me to stay
And she told me to sit anywhere
So I looked around
And I noticed there wasn’t a chair

I sat on a rug biding my time
Drinking her wine
We talked until two and then she said
“It’s time for bed”

She told me she worked
In the morning and started to laugh
I told her I didn’t
And crawled off to sleep in the bath

And when I awoke I was alone
This bird had flown
So I lit a fire
Isn’t it good Norwegian wood?

Songwriters: John Lennon / Paul Mccartney
Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

13 thoughts on “♫ Norwegian Wood ♫ (Redux)

  1. It has been said that “every pop artist wants to make a Rubber Soul of their own” and this song, along with every other song on the album, attests to why that should be so! Years later Lennon said that Rubber Soul was their “pot album” and Revolver was “the acid”. This album was certainly a turning point in their music. Apparently they benefited artistically from their drug use and mayhaps their fans did as well. It is difficult, nigh onto impossible, to choose the best song from the album and “Norwegian Wood” only adds to the difficulty. Excellent choice, though “I’m Looking Through You” rates highly with me too! Thank-you!

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  2. I have the John Lennon biography and the story is as you stated above. He says so in the book. It makes sense if you really delve into the thought processes and personality of John Lennon. People always choose to assign meanings to poetry and songs that are relevant to their own experiences, which is what art is about; however, when searching for the truth of its originality there is often a very different history associated with the work. The semi auto biographical film Imagine gives so much insight into John and his transformation as a person and musician. I really appreciated the authenticity of it.

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    • You are so right when you say people always assign meanings to poetry and music that is relevant to their own life. I am a complete moron when it comes to both … I’ve am a pragmatist who reads poetry and music quite literally and never understands the ‘below-the-surface’ meanings, which is why as a rule, I don’t even read poetry. And music? I either like it or I don’t … usually it’s the tune that does it for me, for rarely can I hear the lyrics anyway! I would like to see that film … Imagine … though, for that is one song that the lyrics made sense to me, one of my favourite songs, actually.

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      • It is my mantra. I think I may have suggested it to you before but the movie Beautiful Boy also sheds a lot of light on the young John in his early days when they first started the group. It focuses on his emotional challenges and the troubled family life he had. My son bought me the biography Imagine which follows the movie closely. So many photographs and behind the scenes stories. I hope you get to see the film someday.

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