Strawberry Fields Forever
Writers: John Lennon and Paul McCartney
Mark Bittner: vocal, electric rhythm guitar, keyboard
Bruce Kaphan: pedal steel guitar, percussion, glockenspiel, cello score
Paul Olguin: bass
John Hanes: drums
Terry Adams: cello
Before I heard “Strawberry Fields Forever,” I was an enthusiastic music fan. But with this song, music became my religion. I was 15 and convinced that something profound was going on in the music world and that this song was a one of the keys to the kingdom. It was the gateway song to the next seven years of my life. I listened to it over and over. I wrote about it in my book, so it was a natural for the collection. The song works for me on several levels. One is that at the time the song came out, my summer job was picking strawberries. I used to work in strawberry fields that seemed to stretch on forever. It was also a time of innocence, when there was “nothing to get hung about.” Not as much as there is now, at least.
Although I loved the song, I’d never learned it until just a few years ago, when I started singing a quiet acoustic guitar-based version in the garden surrounding my house. But what worked in the garden didn’t work so well in the studio. The song began to accumulate layers and became something else entirely—more intense, more dramatic, especially after the addition of bass and drums. Strawberry Fields ended up one of the most elaborate recordings in the entire set. The instrumentation consists of me on electric guitar with heavy tremolo and a keyboard imitating flutes; Bruce Kaphan, the producer/engineer, on pedal steel guitar and miscellaneous instruments; Paul Olguin on bass; John Hanes on drums; and Terry Adams playing three cello parts written by Bruce Kaphan.
One of the resonant levels of “Strawberry Fields Forever” is Terry Adams on cello. The spring and summer of 1973, the period when I was singing on the street in Berkeley, is a major part of my book. It was a lonely time filled with a lot of doubt. I was poor. One of my few extravagances was seeing a Van Morrison concert at the Berkeley Keystone, a large nightclub. He used a string section on stage that night, and Terry was the cellist. She looked like an angel from one of Van’s more romantic songs. I have a strong memory of that show and wrote about it in my book. It seemed appropriate that she make an encore appearance.