by Jay Taysom; Far Out Magazine
We have been digging around in the Far Out archives and have uncovered this beautifully trippy acid bootleg of ‘Norwegian Wood’ by The Beatles which re-imagines the classic as you have never heard it before.
The track, of course, featured on 1965’s Rubber Soul as a gorgeous acoustic number and it marked the first time that George Harrison would debut his soon-to-be trademark sitar on a Beatles track as his love of Indian music added another dynamic layer to The Fab Four’s sound.
On this rare acid version of the track, Harrison’s new instrument takes on a life of its own at the front and centre of the song which produces hypnotic, spell-binding results that leave you wooed by its majesty. The Beatle was new to the sitar when they were recording and it took him many takes to get it perfect for the track but he eventually got there and you’d never guess that this was new to him when you listen back to the recording.
Harrison had only recently bought the instrument at the time of recording quickly he teaching himself to play. It was David Crosby of The Byrds who first introduced Harrison to the sitar shortly after the folk musician Shawn Phillips had enlightened him on the beauty of the instrument.
A few months later, Harrison studied the sitar with Indian musician Ravi Shankar, who helped Harrison explore Eastern music and religion, this link with The Beatles man would also elevate Shankar’s career as demand increased for this style of music thanks to its adoption by George.
In an interview with Rolling Stone in 1971, John Lennon explained why it was decided to use the sitar on this song. He recalled: “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.’
Adding: “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.”
The addition of the instrument also helped distract the audience from the meaning behind the song which Lennon later revealed was about him having an affair. He disclosed: “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.
Lennon then honestly stated: “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.”
This re-imagined version of the track sees The Beatles at there experimental best which proves if it was ever in doubt, that The Fab Four could mix it up with the best of London’s burgeoning underground psychedelic scene as well as making classic pop songs for the masses at the same time.
Listen to the beautiful acid bootleg of ‘Norwegian Wood’, below.
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