Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)

Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
"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,[1] raga rock[2]
Length 2:05
Label EMI, Parlophone, Capitol
Writer Lennon–McCartney
Producer George Martin
Rubber Soul track listing
Music sample
"Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)"

"Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" (also known as simply "Norwegian Wood") is a song by The Beatles, first released on the 1965 album Rubber Soul.

Credited to Lennon–McCartney, it was written primarily by John Lennon, with some lyrical contributions by Paul McCartney.[3] It is the first example of a rock band playing the sitar in one of their songs; it was played by George Harrison.[4]



Lennon started writing the song in January 1965 whilst on holiday with his wife, Cynthia, in the Swiss Alps.[5] Lennon later explained that the song was about an affair he had been 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.[6]

McCartney explained the title and lyrics as follows:

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 place down ....[3]

There has been various speculation as to the subject of Lennon's affair: his friend Pete Shotton suggested a journalist of their acquaintance, possibly Maureen Cleave[7] (though Cleave has said that in all her encounters with Lennon there was "no pass"),[8] while writer Philip Norman claimed that the woman was model, Sonny Drane, the first wife of Beatles photographer, Robert Freeman.[9]


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.[10]

The song as first released is performed in E major and is one of the few Beatles songs in triple time.[11] An earlier take, released on Anthology 2, is in the key of D major.[12]


Personnel per Ian MacDonald[13]


The song is described by writer Mark Lewisohn as "pure Lennon genius ... one of the most original pop music songs recorded to date",[14] and by music critic Richie Unterberger as "undoubtedly the Beatles' greatest lyrical triumph during their folk-rock phase".[1] In 2004, "Norwegian Wood" was ranked number 83 on Rolling Stone's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[15]


  1. ^ a b Unterberger 2010.
  2. ^ Paul Williams, The Crawdaddy! book: writings (and images) from the magazine of rock, (Hal Leonard Corporation, 2002), ISBN 0634029584, p.101.
  3. ^ a b Miles 1997, p. 270–1.
  4. ^ Lavezzoli 2006, p. 171.
  5. ^ Miles 2001.
  6. ^ Sheff 2000, p. 178.
  7. ^ Spitz2005, p. 585.
  8. ^ Norman 2008, p. 418.
  9. ^ Norman 2008.
  10. ^ The Beatles Anthology
  11. ^ Pollack 2008.
  12. ^
  13. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 162.
  14. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 63.
  15. ^ site


External links

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