"Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)"
Song by The Beatles from the album Rubber Soul
Released 3 December 1965
Recorded 12 and 21 October 1965,
EMI Studios, London
Genre Folk rock
Length 2:05
Label EMI, Parlophone, Capitol
Writer Lennon/McCartney
Producer George Martin
Rubber Soul track listing
Template:Rubber Soul tracks
<span /> Template:Extra musicsample

"Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" (also known as simply "Norwegian Wood") is a song by The Beatles that 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.Template:Sfn It is the first example of a rock band actually playing the sitar in one of their songs; it was played by George Harrison.Template:Sfn 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 Indian culture and become a practitioner of transcendental meditation - decided on using a sitar when The Beatles recorded the song on 12 and 21 October 1965. He later said

During the filming of Help! there were some Indian musicians in a restaurant scene and I kind of messed around with a sitar then. But during that year, towards the end of the year anyway, I kept hearing the name of Ravi Shankar. [...] So I went out and bought a record and that was it. It felt very familiar to me to listen to that music. It was around that time I bought a sitar. I just bought a cheap sitar in a shop called India Craft, in London. It was lying around. I hadn't really figured out what to do with it. When we were working on Norwegian Wood it just needed something, and it was quite spontaneous, from what I remember. I just picked up my sitar, found the notes and just played it. We miked it up and put it on and it just seemed to hit the spot.[1]

The song is written in E major and is one of the few Beatles songs in a triple metre.Template:Sfn The alternate version on Anthology 2 is in the key of D major.


McCartney said the final line of the song indicates that the singer burned the home of the girl:

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 ....Template:Sfn

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.Template:Sfn

Inspiration for the songEdit

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".Template:Sfn

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.Template:Sfn

Lennon's friend Pete Shotton speculated that the woman in question was a journalist of their acquaintance (possibly Maureen Cleave)Template:Sfn; however, Cleave says that in all her encounters with Lennon there was "no pass".Template:Sfn

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.Template:Sfn


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 matterTemplate:Sfn 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.[2]

Rolling Stone ranked it #83 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. "Norwegian Wood" has been covered many times by such artists as Waylon Jennings, Alanis Morissette, Mahogany Rush, 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, Radio Stars, and the jazz duo Asaro and Wolcott. The cover by Cornershop, from their album When I Was Born for the 7th Time, is entirely in Punjabi."

Japanese author Haruki Murakami wrote a novel titled Norwegian Wood, published in 1987. In the beginning of the novel, hearing a cover of the song leads the protagonist Toru to recall his relationship with his friend Naoko some 20 years before.


Personnel per Ian MacDonaldTemplate:Sfn


  1. The Beatles Anthology
  2. Dylan: Visions, Portraits, and Back Pages



External linksEdit

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