ROCK Sex lit a fire, isn't it good?
Today's pop baton is "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" by The Beatles.
John Lennon's serpentine symbology, meant to hide an affair from his wife, immediately led everyone on a chase parsing out the lyrics. But despite its title, the song had a seismic impact on culture in regards to India instead of Norway.
George Harrison had been impressed by Indian musicians during the filming of the HELP! (1965) film, and during the recordings for this song he spontaneously tried his hand at a recently acquired sitar. George's spiritual faith, his mentor Ravi Shankar, sitar music, and Indian mysticism then rolled through late-'60s culture and into the global mainstream for decades afterward.
THE BEATLES -"Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" (Alternate take, 1965)
Bob Dylan released a song soon afterward that is debated as either an homage or a spoof of "Norwegian Wood". Dylan claims he played the melody to Lennon before The Beatles recorded their song. Whatever the case may be, as usual great songs by great artists earn their own merit.
(The back-and-forth game of inspiration between Dylan and The Beatles extended for years, and I should do a column on it.)
BOB DYLAN -"Fourth Time Around" (1966)
The Beatles' song permeated world consciousness instantly, setting a chain reaction of versions. Here it is in French.
STONE -"Seul (Norwegian Wood)" (1966)
Then the song goes Rock Steady in this Jamaican instrumental rewrite.
JACKIE MITTOO And The Soul Vendors -"Darker Shade Of Black" (1967)
The song begins to abstract out in sonic cousins like this one.
TRAFFIC -"Utterly Simple" (1967)
Once you put an idea out there, it's owned by everyone. Anything can happen and here it does. Wrap you head around this combination of the lyrics of "Norwegian Wood" with the music of Lalo Shifrin's "Mission: Impossible" theme, which won a Grammy Award!
ALAN COPELAND SINGERS -"Mission: Impossible/ Norwegian Wood" Medley (1968)
And another re-interpolation of the source by this Afro-Rock band from (the former) Rhodesia.
WELLS FARGO -"Bwaname" (mid-'70s)
The song by Jackie Mittoo takes an atmospheric trip in this Dub version.
SCIENTIST -"Black a Shade of Dub" (1981)
In 1987, Haruki Murakami wrote a popular novel called "Norwegian Wood"/ "ノルウェイの森"/" Noruwei no Mori", which was the protaganist's favorite song.
The book was in turn made into a film.
NORWEGIAN WOOD film trailer (2010)
Always drifing on a dream, Prince Be opened HipHop's threshold into Psychedelia with his take.
P.M. DAWN -"Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" (1993)
Bringing it all wonderfully full circle is Cornershop.
The band was formed by two British/Indian brothers, Tjinder and Avtar Singh. Here is their terrific version of the song sung entirely in Punjabi.
CORNERSHOP -"Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" (1997)
Evergreen, the wood roots through another sonic cousin from Spain.
LA OREJA DE VAN GOGH -"La Primera Versión" (2008)
The original song has been covered by many artists including Charlie Byrd, Waylon Jennings, Count Basie, Sérgio Mendes y Brasil '66, Hank Williams Jr., Herbie Hancock, The Fiery Furnaces, and Kurt Elling.
Which begs the question: where is a version in Norwegian?
© Tym Stevens
-The Real History of Rock and Soul!: A Music Player Checklist