Song of the Day #429: ‘Norwegian Wood’ – The Beatles

norwegianBecause the box set is a little too rich for my blood, I’ve decided to pick up the remastered Beatles CDs a few at a time. So on the day of release I drove over to Best Buy on my lunch break and bought my three favorite Beatles albums: A Hard Day’s Night, Rubber Soul and Revolver.

I listened to Revolver first and I must admit I wasn’t completely blown away. I didn’t have my old CD handy for a side-by-side comparison, but I basically felt like I was listening to the same album I’ve known for two decades. I expected to feel as if I was hearing these albums for the first time. Fortunately, Rubber Soul came closer to giving me that experience and A Hard Day’s Night definitely had the wow factor.

I’ve also found that listening to the albums on headphones really highlights the differences, while my car stereo isn’t quite up to the task.

Rubber Soul, The Beatles sixth album, was the one that took them to another level artistically. The music was more complicated, the production more adventurous, the lyrics more introspective. They experimented with new styles and instruments.

Today’s song, ‘Norwegian Wood,’ is a perfect example, featuring the first use of a sitar by The Beatles (and, it is said, by any rock band). It’s a twisted folk song about an affair John Lennon had, though presumably the real-life encounter didn’t end with him setting fire to the place.

The Beatles and Bob Dylan were sort of circling each other’s orbits around this time and Dylan wound up writing Blonde on Blonde‘s ‘Fourth Time Around’ as an homage to ‘Norwegian Wood.’ The songs are quite similar in sound in subject matter. That’s a fantastic song as well… it’s a nice thought that the finest songwriters of our time were able to draw inspiration from one another.

I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me…
She showed me her room, isn’t it good, norwegian wood?

She asked me to stay and she told me to sit anywhere,
So I looked around and I noticed there wasn’t a chair.

I sat on a rug, biding my time, drinking her wine,
We talked until two and then she said, “It’s time for bed”

She told me she worked in the morning and started to laugh.
I told her I didn’t and crawled off to sleep in the bath

And when I awoke, I was alone, this bird had flown
So I lit a fire, isn’t it good, norwegian wood

3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #429: ‘Norwegian Wood’ – The Beatles

  1. Dana says:

    Why do you interpret the last line to mean he set fire to the place? I have always assume that he just lit a fire in the fireplace.

    Fascinating fact about the Dylan song. These kind of tidbits are exactly why I continue to pay to subscribe to this blog:)

  2. Clay says:

    The Norwegian wood he mentions setting fire to is the same Norwegian wood making up the apartment she shows him in the first verse.

    I won’t take credit for that interpretation, though… the band has explained it in interviews.

  3. Amy says:

    I’ve never really devoted any time to truly listening to these lyrics to interpret them. He sets fire to her house? Holy SMOKE!! What a lovely tune to be expressing such a spiteful act. Couldn’t agree with Dana more – this blog never ceases to offer new insights I should have already had or never would have had without a nudge in the right direction. (of course, it also sort of just ruined this song for me 🙂

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