Friday 11 April 2014

Strawberry Fields Forever / Penny Lane

This old black and white version of the Strawberry Fields Forever promo clip to me looks like a genuine sync of audio and video like I remember it. The full colour clip was presented on Swedish Television in 1980 and I had it on VHS for years, but the tape got damaged and was rendered useless. Since the promo was directed by Swede Peter Goldmann who later came to work for Swedish television, my guess is he provided them with his original.
The Swedish "Penny Lane" EP made use of a still photo from the video clip for its front cover.

Paul McCartney: “I remember one night meeting this Swedish director in a nightclub and he started saying, “Well, we could really be far out, you know? Yeah, wow, really heavy, psychedelic, up a tree”. That turned out to be the “Strawberry Fields” promo, which was pretty far out for its time.”

Tony Bramwell was credited as the producer of the two clips, as well as a host of earlier and later Beatles music videos. Director Peter Goldmann told Swedish magazine Vecko-Revyn, “Everything went so fast. It wasn’t until I sat on the plane for London I realized what I was up to. I felt the nervousness and the excitement crawling under my skin. How in the world could I make something funny, bizarre, clever, crazy, sophisticated enough to satisfy the Beatles. It was there in the plane that I came up with the idea of the horses.”

Filming for Penny Lane began on January 30, 1967 in Angel Street, Stratford, London. The four Beatles climbed on their horses to trot down the narrow lane. When a crowd of onlookers frightened the horses, Peter, the Beatles and the film crew fled to a nearby pub.

The next day shooting moved to Knole Park, Sevenoaks, Kent together with Ringo Starr’s diminutive poodle and Paul McCartney’s much larger dog. Peter Goldmann: “Ringo had a dog named ‘Tiger’ that he was very proud of. Tiger wasn’t the most terrifying dog in his class, not in the least. It was the smallest and the most taken cared of little white poodle I’ve ever seen. Paul had a dog that looked like a little pony; named Martha.”

The German compilation LP "The World's Best" had the same photo in reverse.

Here they completed the Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever films over the next week. Goldmann recalled: “In John’s special built Rolls Royce they had a real big laugh. Through a microphone and a loudspeaker they tried to shore me up with comments and advice that echoed out over the neighbourhood.”

The ‘Tree piano’ in Strawberry Fields Forever brought its own problems: “The wind blew on the strings and they kept falling all the time and made a mess.”

Ahead of their time, the films were made in colour for the US market. But then again, so were the "Paperback Writer" and "Rain" music videos they made the year before.

Two weeks later part of the Penny Lane film was shown on the BBC’s Juke Box Jury, followed by a showing of both films on Top of the Pops on February 16. Later they appeared in the US on the Ed Sullivan show. The films proved to be a remarkable achievement, one not always recognized. In The Rolling Stones Book of Rock Video History, Michael Shore notes: “In America, they were shown on The Hollywood Palace (I can still remember host Van Johnson shaking his head and clucking, “What was that all about?”) and American Bandstand (after showing them in an atmosphere of hushed reverence, Dick Clark polled his teen audience for their generally mystified reactions to the two clips)”

Goldmann died in 2005 at 69. I saw Swedish TV make use of his Strawberry Fields Forever clip once more in the late nineties or early 2000's as well, and it looked gorgeous - but they didn't show the whole promo then. When shown on The Beatles Anthology, some home movie footage was intercut with the original promo - and some orange effects applied to some bits. The version pieced together from various sources for the underground promo collection "Unsurpassed Promos" release is now the best looking one, and the one to get - it also has the complete ending, which the b/w clip didn't have, but the audio and video don't quite sync like I remember it from the Swedish version I had for years.

The Strawberry Fields Forever footage resurfaced in the early eighties on the TV show "The Tube", but they had a silent version and didn't know which song it was meant to accompany - so they used "Good Day Sunshine" or something as audio accompaniment. I had the pleasure of visiting the "Beatles at Abbey Road" presentation at Abbey Road Studio 2 in 1983, here they showed the clip with its correct soundtrack.
This the best representation of the video I could find while searching around the internet:

And here's a 39 seconds clip from the official Beatles channel on YouTube:

With Penny Lane, it's a different story. The full, original colour clip without interference from new edits has been around since the eighties in colour.

The Beatles' official YouTube channel has a 30 second sample of it here.
Hopefully, we'll be able to see both these promo films in pristine quality on an official DVD before long.

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