Background and writing
Entrance gates at Strawberry Field, near Lennon's childhood home in Woolton, Liverpool
Strawberry Field was the name of a Salvation Army children's home close to John Lennon's childhood home in Woolton, a suburb of Liverpool. Lennon and his friends Pete Shotton, Nigel Walley and Ivan Vaughan used to play in the wooded garden behind the home. One of Lennon's childhood treats was the garden party held each summer in Calderstones Park, near the home, where a Salvation Army brass band played. Lennon's aunt Mimi Smith recalled: "There was something about the place that always fascinated John. He could see it from his window … He used to hear the Salvation Army band [playing at the garden party], and he would pull me along, saying, 'Hurry up, Mimi – we're going to be late.'"
Lennon began writing "Strawberry Fields Forever" in Almería, Spain, during the filming of Richard Lester's How I Won the War in September–October 1966. The Beatles had just retired from touring after one of the most difficult periods of their career, including the "more popular than Jesus" controversy and the band's unintentional snubbing of Philippines First Lady Imelda Marcos. Like "Penny Lane", which Paul McCartney wrote in late 1966 in response to Lennon's new song, "Strawberry Fields Forever" conveys nostalgia for the Beatles' early years in Liverpool. While both songs refer to actual locations, McCartney said that the two pieces also had strong surrealistic and psychedelic overtones. George Martin, the Beatles' producer, recalled that when he first heard "Strawberry Fields Forever", he thought it conjured up a "hazy, impressionistic dreamworld".[nb 1] As with his Revolver compositions "Tomorrow Never Knows" and "She Said She Said", "Strawberry Fields Forever" was informed by Lennon's experiences with the hallucinogenic drug LSD, which caused him to question his identity and seek to dissolve his ego. Lennon talked about the song in 1980: "I was different all my life. The second verse goes, 'No one I think is in my tree.' Well, I was too shy and self-doubting. Nobody seems to be as hip as me is what I was saying. Therefore, I must be crazy or a genius – 'I mean it must be high or low' ..." He termed the song "psychoanalysis set to music". In McCartney's view, the lyrics reflect Lennon's admiration of the nineteenth-century English writer Lewis Carroll, particularly his poem "Jabberwocky".
The earliest demo of the song was recorded in Almería, and Lennon subsequently developed the melody and lyrics in England throughout November. Demos taped at his home, Kenwood, demonstrate his progress with the song and include parts played on a Mellotron, a tape-replay keyboard instrument he had purchased in August 1965. On the first Almería recording, the song had no refrain and only one verse, beginning: "There's no one on my wavelength / I mean, it's either too high or too low". Lennon revised these words to make them more obscure, then wrote the melody and part of the lyrics to the chorus (which functioned as a bridge and did not yet include a reference to Strawberry Fields). After returning to England in early November, he added another verse and the mention of Strawberry Fields. The first verse on the released version was the last to be written, close to the time of the song's recording. For the chorus, Lennon was again inspired by his childhood memories: the words "nothing to get hung about" were inspired by Aunt Mimi's strict order not to play in the grounds of Strawberry Field, to which Lennon replied, "They can't hang you for it." The first verse Lennon wrote became the second one in the released version of the song, and the second verse he wrote became the last.