Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)

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"Norwegian Wood" redirects here. For other uses, see Norwegian Wood (disambiguation).
"Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)"
Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) - The Beatles.jpg
The 1996 Australian single release of the song, backed with "Nowhere Man"
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)" is a song by the Beatles, mainly written by John Lennon, with the middle eight co-written with Paul McCartney, released on the 1965 album Rubber Soul.[3][4] It was the first example of a rock band including a sitar in one of their songs, played by lead guitarist George Harrison.[5]

Composition and lyrics[edit]

Lennon started composing the song on his acoustic guitar in January 1965, while on holiday with his wife, Cynthia, in the Swiss Alps.[6] He later explained that the lyric was about an affair he had been having:

Lennon indicated that Paul McCartney helped him finish off the lyric.[8] McCartney explained the title and lyric as follows:

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[9] (though Cleave has said that in all her encounters with Lennon that he made "no pass" at her),[10] while writer Philip Norman claimed that the woman was model Sonny Drane, the first wife of Beatles photographer Robert Freeman.[11]

Musical structure[edit]

"Norwegian Wood" was initially composed in D major, but was played in E major in the version on Rubber Soul (with a capo on the second fret). It is in triple time. An earlier take, released on Anthology 2, is in the key of D major.[12] The song opens with I (E) chord and a vocal melody B-natural (on the word "I") which is the 5th scale degree in E Mixolydian. This shifts to a D natural harmony (supported by scale degree 7 in E Mixolydian) with a (Dadd9) chord on "she" and "once", to return, via a passing C# on "had", to the tonic (E maj.), supported in the vocal line by a double entendre 5th (B) melody note on "me" (an octave below the opening B-natural on "I").[13] Meanwhile the bass emphasizes the E tonic in a static harmony.[14] In the bridge (in Em key) the root chord begins at "She asked me", transforms to an IV chord (A) at "where", goes back to i (Em) at "looked" before the bridge runs back to the major verse with a ii7 (F#m7)- V (B) progression that resolves on the appropriate E chord of "I sat on a rug."[15]


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:


Personnel per Ian MacDonald[17]

Reception and legacy[edit]

The song is described by writer Mark Lewisohn as "pure Lennon genius ... one of the most original pop music songs recorded to date",[18] 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".[19]

Cover versions of the song were performed by many artists, including Sergio Mendes, Herbie Hancock, Herbie Mann, Count Basie, Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams Jr., P.M. Dawn, Tangerine Dream, Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush, Arjen Anthony Lucassen, Jan & Dean, Buddy Rich, and José Feliciano. The British band Cornershop recorded a version of the song in the Punjabi language for the album When I Was Born for the 7th Time.

The standard Japanese translation of the song's title is Noruwei no Mori.[20] The popular 1987 Japanese novel Norwegian Wood, which often mentions the song, takes its name from it.[20] The novel was adapted into a film in 2010, which featured the song.


  1. ^ a b Unterberger 2010.
  2. ^ Paul Williams, The Crawdaddy! book: writings (and images) from the magazine of rock, (Hal Leonard Corporation, 2002), ISBN 0-634-02958-4, p.101.
  3. ^ a b Miles 1997, p. 270–1.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Lavezzoli 2006, p. 171.
  6. ^ Miles 2001.
  7. ^ Sheff 2000, p. 178.
  8. ^
  9. ^ Spitz2005, p. 585.
  10. ^ Norman 2008, p. 418.
  11. ^ Norman 2008.
  12. ^ "Norwegian Wood" by The Beatles. The in-depth story behind the songs of the Beatles. Recording History. Songwriting History. Song Structure and Style
  13. ^ Dominic Pedler. The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles. Music Sales Limited. Omnibus Press. NY. 2003. pp258
  14. ^ Dominic Pedler. The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles. Music Sales Limited. Omnibus Press. NY. 2003. pp 258–259
  15. ^ Dominic Pedler. The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles. Music Sales Limited. Omnibus Press. NY. 2003. pp 182–183
  16. ^ The Beatles Anthology
  17. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 162.
  18. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 63.
  19. ^ 500 Greatest Songs of All Time: The Beatles, 'Norwegian Wood This Bird Has Flown' | Rolling Stone
  20. ^ a b Nimura, Janice (September 24, 2000). "Rubber Souls". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-20. 


External links[edit]