Norwegian Wood Analysis
“Norwegian Wood” first appeared on The Beatles’ sixth full length album, Rubber Soul, which was released December 3rd, 1965. Not only is the song unique in the context of the album, but it is an example of one of The Beatles’ more experimental tracks. Written primarily by John Lennon, it was in fact George Harrison’s idea to use a sitar during the recording, which is the instrument that makes the song so recognizable, and also marks the first time a sitar was used by a pop/rock band.
The song opens with a sweepingly catchy acoustic melody that seamlessly evokes a sense of nostalgic longing. This feeling of sadness and reflection permeates throughout the piece. While the arrangement is actually quite complex, the music appears stripped down to the casual listener; the song is centered around a main lick performed simultaneously on acoustic guitar and sitar, which is introduced at the beginning and decidedly does not evolve into anything beyond this. The simplistic structure brings to mind a sensation of loneliness, which is heightened by Lennon’s yearning vocals. The soothing melody can be described as dreamlike, and the repetition is used to almost hypnotic effect, succeeding in mesmerizing the concentrated listener into a peaceful, contemplative daze. The short length of the song is somewhat jarring (it ends just after two minutes) because just as the listener has been subdued by the infectious melody, they are abandoned by it just as quickly. It feels as though there should be more; as if there is something missing. I would argue, however, that this is exactly the effect The Beatles intended, as it adds to the ambiguous nature of the song. The production of the song, courtesy of George Martin, succeeds in bringing the contagious melody to the forefront of the experience, all the while allowing the rest of the instruments sufficient clarity.
Ambiguity is also achieved through the song’s lyrics, which describe a...
Bibliography: 1) The Beatles. The Beatles Anthology. San Francisco: Apple Corps, 2000. Print.
2) Pollack, Alan W. "Alan W. Pollack 's Notes on "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)"" ICCE WWW Info Server, University of Groningen. Soundscapes, 1993. Web. 21 Jan. 2011. <http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/DATABASES/AWP/nw.shtml>.
3) Fontenot, Robert. "History and Information on the Beatles Song Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)." Top 40 Music from the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies. About.com. Web. 21 Jan. 2011. <http://oldies.about.com/od/thebeatlessongs/a/norwegianwood.htm>.
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