Song facts: Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)

On October 12th 1965, The Beatles recorded a new song Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) for their forthcoming Rubber Soul album. At this same session the band also recorded and completed Run for Your Life in five takes; another John Lennon song which appears at the end of Rubber Soul.

Norwegian Wood was the first Beatles' song to feature an Indian instrument. George Harrison became interested in the sitar while The Beatles were filming Help! - after hearing a group of session musicians playing a medley of Beatles' songs on sitar, this sparked his love affair with the complex Indian instrument.

"I went and bought a sitar from a little shop at the top of Oxford Street called Indiacraft - it stocked little carvings, and incense. It was a real crummy-quality one, actually, but I bought it and mucked about with it a bit. Anyway, we were at the point where we'd recorded the Norwegian Wood backing track and it needed something.
We would usually start looking through the cupboard to see if we could come up with something, a new sound, and I picked the sitar up - it was just lying around; I hadn't really figured out what to do with it. It was quite spontaneous: I found the notes that played the lick. It fitted and it worked." - George Harrison
"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, 'Just do it how you want to do it,' and I said, '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, 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 learnt the bit and dubbed it on after. I think we did it in sections." - John Lennon

 Personnel - Norwegian Wood

  • John Lennon – double-tracked vocal, acoustic guitar
  • Paul McCartney – bass guitar, harmony vocal
  • George Harrison – 12-string acoustic guitar, double-tracked sitar
  • Ringo Starr – tambourine, maracas, bass drum, finger cymbals

Personnel - Run for Your Life

  • John Lennon – vocal, acoustic 12-string guitar, slide guitar
  • Paul McCartney – harmony vocal, bass
  • George Harrison – harmony vocal, lead guitar
  • Ringo Starr – drums, tambourine
"I came in and he had this first stanza, which was brilliant: 'I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me.' That was all he had, no title, no nothing. I said, 'Oh yes, well, ha, we're there.' And it wrote itself. Once you've got the great idea, they do tend to write themselves, providing you know how to write songs. So I picked it up at the second verse, it's a story. It's him trying to pull a bird, it was about an affair. John told Playboy that he hadn't the faintest idea where the title came from but I do. Peter 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 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. It could have meant I lit a fire to keep myself warm, and wasn't the decor of her house wonderful? But it didn't, it meant I burned the fucking place down as an act of revenge, and then we left it there and went into the instrumental." - Paul McCartney
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John and Cynthia Lennon in the Swiss Alps, January 1965. 

John and Cynthia Lennon in the Swiss Alps, January 1965. 

John Lennon, 1965. 

John Lennon, 1965. 

 

 

Origins

Norwegian Wood was written by John Lennon while on holiday in the Swiss Alps, with his wife Cynthia and producer George Martin. Martin broke his foot on January 26th 1965 and recalled John playing an early version of the song on guitar that same day.

"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, 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." - John Lennon
John Lennon recording vocals, 1965. 

John Lennon recording vocals, 1965.