The Beatles

Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)

Song Review by

"Norwegian Wood," in addition to having a lovely melody and folk-based arrangement, was one of the first Lennon-McCartney songs to excite as much comment for the words as it did for the music. As with much of Rubber Soul, the mood was very much a folk-rock one, with the subtle ghost of Bob Dylan hovering over principal lyricist John Lennon's wordplay. Dylan, in fact, recorded a semi-parody of "Norwegian Wood," "Fourth Time Around," on Blonde on Blonde, which was okay but not as good as the tune it was gently mocking, and not as funny as it might have been intended to be. "Norwegian Wood" was the story of an illicit affair, enigmatically worded out of necessity, as Lennon was married at the time. The hazy but evocative approach to the lyrics, however, probably worked better than a much more direct sketch would have. "Norwegian Wood" has a sting because, in spite of the rather bemused air with which Lennon delivers the vocals, it's unclear who (if anyone) is taking advantage of whom in this secret tryst. He had a girl once, the narrator sings; or, perhaps, did she have him? Why wasn't there a chair to use after she told him to sit down? And why did he sleep in the bath when the scene was apparently set for consummation of their relationship? Resignation is tinged with lonely despair when the narrator wakes to find that the "bird" (British slang for woman) has flown the coop. It was speculated that the fire the singer lit with Norwegian wood was a marijuana joint, or, more mean-spiritedly, that he'd burned the house down. In all, there was more than enough ambiguity and ingenious innuendo to satisfy even a Dylan fan. For listeners who were more Beatles fans than Dylan ones, the group had sure come a long way since "She Loves You" just two years back. The power of the track is greatly enhanced by McCartney's sympathetic high harmonies on the bridge, and its exoticism confirmed by George Harrison's twanging sitar riffs, the first use of that Indian instrument on a rock record.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Rubber Soul 1965 Apple Records / Capitol 2:04
1962-1966 1973 Capitol / Parlophone 2:05
No Image 1977 Capitol 2:06
Documents, Vol. 2 1989 Oh Boy 2:31
Not Guilty 1989 Barclay 0:00
No Image 1993 Big Music 2:02
No Image 1994 Big Music 2:28
The Ultimate Box Set 1995 Capitol 2:05
Anthology 2 1996 Capitol / EMI Records / Apple 1:59
No Image 199? VigoTone
The Beatles: Stereo Box Set 2009 Capitol 2:04
The Beatles USB 2009 Capitol / EMI 2:04
1962-1970 2010 EMI / Parlophone 2:05
The U.S. Albums 2014 Capitol / Universal 2:06