Written: Lennon/McCartney Length: 2:05 UK release: Rubber Soul album, December 3, 1965 US release:Rubber Soul album, December 6, 1965
Although John was famous as the married Beatle he was not happily married. Nor was he faithful. He took advantage of backstage groupies, admitted to having been photographed on his hands and knees outside a Dutch brothel, and confessed to Cynthia in 1968 that he had affairs. ‘Norwegain Wood’ was about one such entanglement. In language John later described as ‘gobbledygook’, the song details a seduction scene where again the woman appears to be the one in control.
The lyrics open with a boast about a girl John has ‘had’, but he quickly corrects himself by saying that it was she who ‘had’ him. She takes him back to her apartment and asks him to admire the furnishings that are made out of cheap Norwegian pine. After talking and drinking until two in the morning, she says it’s time for bed. In the song, he makes his excuses and leaves for a night in the bathroom, but in reality the story obviously had a different ending because he said it had been written about an act of unfaithfulness, “without letting my wife know I was writing about an affair”. John’s friend Pete Shotton has said that it was about a female journalist that John was close to.
John began ‘Norwegian Wood’ in February 1965 while on a skiing holiday in St. Moritz, Switzerland, with Cynthia, George Martin and George’s future wife, Judy, but only came up with the basic tune and an opening couplet. He later asked Paul for help and Paul suggested that he should develop a story about a girl who leads a man on and ends with the man setting the apartment on fire as an act of revenge. Pete Shotton thought this could have referred to John’s habit of burning furniture in the fireplace at Gambier Terrace in Liverpool when there was no money for coal. While he was there, John would sometimes ask guests to sleep in the bath, the memory of which may have prompted the line in ‘Norwegian Wood’ about sleeping in the bath.