This post is being written in 2016 in California, where it’s Thanksgiving, though many of us are not feeling quite as thankful as we could be. In 1966 London, though, Thursday was a work day. The Beatles reported to the EMI/Abbey Road studios for their first recording session since the completion of Revolver in June.

I imagine George Martin, dressed in his customary shirt and tie, cocking an eyebrow as The Beatles arrive one by one, looking scruffier than ever before and scruffier still by the minute. They have a cup of tea and George asks, “Right then, who’s got a new song?”

John does:

Bob Spitz describes George Martin’s reaction thusly:

Martin listened – sitting erect, arms folded across his chest, legs crossed – as impassively as possible, but his ears burned with excitement. “It was absolutely lovely,” he raved, convinced that the song was a masterpiece. “I was spellbound. I was in love.” There was a poignancy, an intimacy that he hadn’t expected to hear. “He had broken through into different territory, to a place I did not recognize from his past songs…. It was dreamlike without being fey, weird without being pretentious.” The gently eloquent delivery, accented in acid-tinged shades of surreal, fragmentary imagery, produced a stunning accomplishment.

After taking some time to discuss their approach to the song, The Beatles laid down a single take in today’s session. You can (and should) hear it on The Beatles Anthology 2. It’s pretty spare compared to what the song would become, structured differently, and in a different key — but the basic feel is already in place.

Unlike the finished version, which starts with an instrumental intro and then goes into the “Let me take you down” refrain, the first take kicks straight off with “Living is easy with eyes closed.” I must say that I think I prefer the latter, which builds the drama before offering the release of the chorus, but that was not the direction they decided to take. So it goes.

There will be more to say on this topic, but for now, let’s just give thanks for “Strawberry Fields” and move on.