a lyrical paradox
Released in 1967 as a double side single with Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields Forever remains timeless. Its imagination and abstract arrangement transcends lyrical understanding and transports the listener towards a bittersweet destination that is dreamily unfathomable.
What is the meaning behind Strawberry Fields Forever? It’s well documented to be an orphanage that Lennon frequented during his childhood but it isn’t the surroundings of the orphanage that makes the place a sweet escape. The chorus of the song invites us on a journey but do we all know the destination?
Let me take you down
‘Cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields
Nothing is real
And nothing to get hung about
Strawberry Fields Forever
The chorus acts as a preaching trance, intersecting between verses that justify the invite towards a magical land, oblivious to the troubles of reality. It cordially denounces corporeality as an undesirable environment to be in as compared to the innocent and mindless escape Strawberry Fields offers.
The paradox, however, lies in that if nothing in Strawberry Fields is real, it probably doesn’t exist. For all we know, Strawberry Fields is probably a state of nullity that could be interpreted as a dream, a fantasy, a coma, or death itself. While there are plausible termini in the interpretation of Strawberry Fields, the chorus undoubtedly represents a state of mind.
What further propels this explication is that, unlike the more literal Penny Lane, the lyrics of Strawberry Fields doesn’t describe anything scenic. It doesn’t operate on any primary senses; smell (e.g. fresh strawberries), sight (e.g. vibrant red strawberries), Hearing (e.g. birds, wind), taste (e.g. sweet), or touch (e.g. supple), are all excluded from its expression. In fact, utilizing those descriptions to paint the allurement of Strawberry Fields would be describing the appeal of reality itself.
What’s interesting however, are the verses in which the chorus intersects with. They artfully describe a progressive decline in a mindset that pronounces the lonely conundrums of an outcast. The verses are candidly honest, even gibberish towards the end, elucidating the lethargic voice of an individual who belongs nowhere.
Living is easy with eyes closed
Misunderstanding all you see
It’s getting hard to be someone
But it all works out
It doesn’t matter much to me
In the first verse, the usage of the sentencing, “Living is easy with eyes closed. Misunderstanding all you see,” lends itself to an impression of an ignorant society that succumbs to the ideas of the masses rather than their own. The criticism is a direct statement that condemns conformity. The following lines, “It’s getting hard to be someone. But it all works out. It doesn’t matter much to me,” addresses the facade of masquerading oneself and the opinion towards the pretence.
No one I think is in my tree
I mean it must be high or low
That is you know, you can’t tune in
But it’s all right
That is, I think, it’s not too bad
The second verse speaks of the plights of being ‘different.’ “No one I think is in my tree,” describes a state of loneliness and the choice of using a tree as an expression signifies the parable to knowledge or intellect. The verse dwells into a mental state of misplacement when it mentions “I mean it must be high or low.” Lurking under those words are a tremulous sense of fear and uncertainty in identity or social standing.
Always, no sometimes think it’s me
But you know I know when it’s a dream
I think a “no” will mean a “yes” but it’s all wrong
That is I think I disagree
The final verse disintegrates into gibberish formations, echoing defensive notions of being misunderstood and misplaced. The lyrics plunges into a sense of helplessness and defence that ridicules the discord and quandary of conflicts.
Chorus aside, the verses of the song delivers the sorrows of a social pariah who reaffirms the need to go to Strawberry Fields Forever, a place that will never be in the realms of reality.