various strawberries forever
i was 11 the first time i heard 'strawberry fields forever'. it was almost springtime in vegas and i was a virgin to most things rock, (tho i did love the beatles and not the monkees). i used to hang with my friend, doug, all the time. his dad worked on satellites for the military industrial complex and his supermom was a teacher and listened to pop radio while cleaning the house on weekends. doug was like some kinda mad child genius, always making liquid oxygen or some other vile substance and storing it in their freezer for future use, (we would spend hours in the hot desert shooting off these rockets he built. he always carried a shit-load of notebooks and would spend hours making these odd hieroglyphic-like symbols surrounding de vinci type drawings of devises better left alone by the hands of man. i often wonder whose nuclear/plasma power/laser program he is working on now).
it was a saturday morning, we were in the back room cooking up his latest concoction and his mom was doing the house up all suzy-homemaker-like with the radio blaring out the top 40 hits, (for the life of me i can't remember the vegas rock station's call letters, it was just some innoculous southern nevada a.m. station during the 60's).
then a song came on and filled the house with this incredible sound, permeating the walls and cutting thru the chemical stench. the sound from the tiny radio in the kitchen grew fat and thick as the song built in its majesty. the simple flute-like mellotron and dreaming vocals in the beginning verse, then the strings, punching and swirling, building into a stampede while being chased by tribal drums ... and then the horns chime in, all shiny and prancy, cascading around the maelstrom. the guitar kicks in for the false ending ... then the bitch turns the radio off. i heard her cry out, 'that's not my beatles!', and ranting something about 'rubber soul' and '. . . hold your hand'. i made excuses and split to my house across the street. i ran into my wreckroom, turned on my little box radio and duly waited the usual top-40-hour to hear the song again. it came back on, with big fanfare from the d.j., and by the end of it my life had changed. i had a purpose, a reason ... to accumulate as much of this sound as was humanly possible. it was sandwiched in between alot of motown tunes and pre-psychedlica garage band stuff, but that music seemed a lifetime away... it was my born the first time again experience. after that day, thru today, i have never stopped looking for that initial rush, kinda like a crack addict i guess, or sex addict, it is never as good as the first time ...
anyways, i have been working on this idea for awhile, to compile all the cover versions of 'strawberry fields forever' that exist, (or that i can find).
i found all the demos and outtakes of the beatles 'strawberry' tapes long ago, and to hear the song from germ to infection to complete plauge is beautiful. it took the wonderful internet to find all the demos and takes, and ebay supplied the bootleg cd.
over the years i have found an abundant amount of the wierdest versions of the song by sneaking around, hunting and pecking, looking high and low. some may think it a daunting task, but i just laff at their lack of feverish drive to achive the mundane. ha!
...well, it is just a bit daunting, (just how many people tried to pull it off anyways, i sure don't know), and trying to cop all these oddities by hook or crook can be time-consuming. but as with almost anything else there are a few gems in the dredge. i am up to 30 different artist's take on it. some versions are not too bad, like 'candy flip', 'xtc', 'todd rundgren', 'peter gabriel' or 'ben harper's' renditions, while a few are just weird and silly like a few whiny sounding a capellas by 'the swingle singers', 'king's singers' and 'the real group', 'zappa's' twisted take on it in oslo 1988, 'the runaways' doing it not at all punk, some nashville session players doing a bizarre bluegrass version from 'pickin' on the beatles' or 'fatboy slim's' feverish remix.
but as i say, there are some really good versions; 'tommorow's' crunchy, rocking, very 'move'-like 1968 cop on the classic, 'me first and the gimme gimmes' wild, sloppy and dead-on bar-mitzva attempt, 'los fabulosos caddilacs' excellent ska vision featuring deborah harry and 'laurence juber's' delicious acoustic rendition . . .
i keep looking, (i know there is a miles davis take on this i may have to buy), but i seem to be running out of sources, if anyone knows of a version that i need to finish my mission, please reply.
... here's some mp3s of the tastiest strawberries i've found (via yousendit):
me first and the gimme gimmes
tomorrow ('yes' man steve howe's first band)
los fabulosos caddilac (feat. deborah harry)
john's 'it's not too bad'