Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown): Wikis


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"Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)"
Song by The Beatles

from the album Rubber Soul

Released 3 December 1965
Recorded 12 October and 21 October 1965,
Abbey Road Studios, London
Genre Folk rock
Length 2:05
Label EMI, Parlophone, Capitol
Writer Lennon/McCartney
Producer George Martin
Rubber Soul track listing
Music sample
"Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)"

"Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" is a song by The Beatles which first appeared on the 1965 album Rubber Soul. Credited to Lennon/McCartney, it was written primarily by John Lennon, with Paul McCartney contributing to the middle eight section.[1] It is the first example of a rock band actually playing the sitar in one of their songs; it was played by George Harrison.[2] The song is a lilting acoustic ballad featuring Lennon's lead vocal and signature Beatle harmonies in the middle eight.



Harrison - who would later be strongly influenced by transcendental meditation and eventually join the Hare Krishna movement - decided on using a sitar when the Beatles recorded the song on 12 and 21 October 1965. As he recounted later:

We were waiting to shoot the restaurant scene [in Help!] ... where the guy gets thrown in the soup and there were a few Indian musicians playing in the background. I remember picking up the sitar and trying to hold it and thinking, "This is a funny sound." It was an incidental thing, but somewhere down the line I began to hear Ravi Shankar's name.... So I went and bought a Ravi record; put it on and it hit a certain spot in me that I can't explain, but it seemed very familiar to me. It just called on me.... I bought a cheap sitar from a shop called India Craft in London. I hadn't really figured out what to do with it. But when we were working on "Norwegian Wood" it just needed something. It was quite spontaneous ... I just picked it up and found the notes and just played it. We miked it up and put it on and it just seemed to hit the spot. The Beatles Anthology

The song is written in E major and is one of the few Beatles songs in a triple metre.[3]


McCartney said the final line of the song indicates that the singer burned the home of the girl. As he explained:

Peter Asher [brother of McCartney's then-girlfriend Jane 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. But it's not as good a title, "Cheap Pine", baby. 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 decor 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. She led him on, then said, "You'd better sleep in the bath." In our world the guy had to have some sort of revenge ... so it meant I burned the fucking place down ....[1]

After a studio recording of the song (George Martin can be heard saying 'Take four' at the beginning), Lennon can clearly be heard saying 'I showed her!'. This would support McCartney's explanation of the lyrics being revenge-based. This can be heard on 'Beatles Artifacts Disc 2: Ticket to Ride'.

This exchange took place in a press conference in Los Angeles on 24 August 1966:

Reporter: I'd like to direct this question to messrs. Lennon and McCartney. In a recent article, Time magazine put down pop music. And they referred to "Day Tripper" as being about a prostitute...
Paul: Oh yeah.
Reporter: ...and "Norwegian Wood" as being about a lesbian.
Paul: Oh yeah.
Reporter: I just wanted to know what your intent was when you wrote it, and what your feeling is about the Time magazine criticism of the music that is being written today.
Paul: We were just trying to write songs about prostitutes and lesbians, that's all.[4]

Inspiration for the song

The song was apparently inspired by Lennon's extramarital flings. Ironically, he wrote it while he was on a holiday with his wife, Cynthia, at St. Moritz in the Swiss Alps. They were joined by the Beatles' producer George Martin, who had injured himself early in the holiday, and his wife. Martin recalled:

It was during this time that John was writing songs for Rubber Soul, and one of the songs he composed in the hotel bedroom, while we were all gathered around, nursing my broken foot, was a little ditty he would play to me on his acoustic guitar. The song was "Norwegian Wood".[citation needed]

Martin referred to the words as "a very bitter little story".[5]

Lennon said of the song: "I was trying to write about an affair, so it was very gobbledegooky. 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 ... girls' flats, things like that." He also said:

"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 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.[6]

Lennon's friend Pete Shotton speculated that the woman in question was a journalist of their acquaintance (possibly Maureen Cleave),[5] however Cleave says that in all her encounters with Lennon there was "no pass".[7] Many also believed that Norwegian Wood was a play on the phrase "knowing she would" which gives more to the story of the affair or a one-night stand.

Writer Philip Norman has claimed in his 2008 biography of Lennon that the inspiration for the song was Sonny Drane, the first wife of Beatles photographer, Robert Freeman. Freeman’s wife was a German-born model who became successful after her husband featured her in the inaugural Pirelli Calendar in 1964.[8]


Lennon acknowledged being strongly influenced by Bob Dylan during this time period, and the rather opaque lyrics of "Norwegian Wood" seem to reflect this. It is commonly speculated that Dylan responded with "4th Time Around", a song with a similar melody, subject matter and lyrical delivery. Rock journalists and ostensibly even Lennon himself felt it to be a rather pointed parody of "Wood" (some even went as far as to think the song's closing line—"And I, I never took much/I never asked for your crutch/Now don't ask for mine"—was directed toward Lennon), though Lennon later told his biographer that he considered Dylan's effort to be more a playful homage. Lennon's paranoia in this matter[9] is wholly expected if one takes it as fact that Dylan played "4th Time Around" to the Beatles prior to "Norwegian Wood," as explained by Dylan to Al Kooper. [10]

"Norwegian Wood" has been covered many times by such artists as Waylon Jennings, Alanis Morissette, The Fiery Furnaces, Jan and Dean (whose "surf"-style version was intended to showcase the new style of production Jan Berry envisioned for the group, until Berry was nearly killed in a car accident before the song was released), Acker Bilk, Buddy Rich, Herbie Hancock, P. M. Dawn, Colin Hay, Victor Wooten (who uses it as a solo spot live), Mia Doi Todd, Milton Nascimento, Sérgio Mendes, the Porchboys, Radio Stars and Cornershop; Cornershop's version, from their album When I Was Born for the 7th Time, is entirely in Punjabi. It was played live during U2's Vertigo Tour. Frank Zappa recorded a version satirising the sex scandal involving Jimmy Swaggart, but it is only available on bootleg recordings.

One of the most unusual covers was done in 1967 by Los Nómadas the Mexican rock group. Produced by their lead guitarist Zane Ashton, the version incorporated a steel guitar, almost giving the song a country feel. The Alan Copeland Singers' recording of the lyrics of "Norwegian Wood" to the tune of the Mission: Impossible theme song won a 1969 Grammy for "Best Contemporary Pop Performance, Chorus". Neil Young used the guitar lick of Norwegian Wood in live performances of Cinnamon Girl.[citation needed]

The song has had impact outside musical circles as well. For instance, Japanese author Haruki Murakami wrote a novel entitled Norwegian Wood, a reference to the song. Norwegian-American presidential nominee Walter Mondale was nicknamed "Norwegian Wood" during the 1984 presidential election.

Rolling Stone ranked it #83 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

The Norwegian music festival Norwegian Wood, which takes place in Oslo, is named after the song. The Norwegian Beatle fan club is named "Norwegian Wood" after this song.

Dave Matthews often includes the lyric "I once had a girl. Or should I say, she once had me. She showed me her room. Isn't it good Norwegian wood?" in his song "Pay for What You Get".

Alex Lifeson of Rush incorporated part of the song during his performance of "Hope" in Oslo, Norway during the band's Snakes & Arrows Tour.

A version of the song without lyrics was recorded by Jackie Mittoo at Studio One in 1967 as "Darker Shade of Black". This recording would go on to form the riddim of countless reggae songs including "Pass The Tu Shen Peng" by Frankie Paul.


Personnel per Ian MacDonald[11]


  1. ^ a b Miles 1997, p. 270–1.
  2. ^ Lavezzoli 2006, p. 171.
  3. ^ Pollack 2008.
  4. ^ Spangler 1966.
  5. ^ a b Spitz 2005, p. 585.
  6. ^ Sheff 2000, p. 178.
  7. ^ Norman 2008, p. 418.
  8. ^ Norman 2008.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Dylan: Visions, Portraits, and Back Pages
  11. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 162.


External links

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