Story Behind the Song: Mac McAnally, ‘Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)’
Singer-songwriter, ace musician and producer Mac McAnally's 2020 album Once in a Lifetime features a number of brand-new songs, but also, a cover of a Beatles classic: "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)." Originally, the song appeared on the Fab Four's seminal album Rubber Soul.
An avid Beatles fan, McAnally was inspired to cover the John Lennon-penned track by a new mandolin he'd recently acquired. From there, though, it was fans' requests that led the artist to put together a studio version of the track.
Below, McAnally shares the story behind his "Norwegian Wood" cover, in his own words.
I bought a new instrument: an octave mandolin made by Fletcher Brock. I was in the “honeymoon” period, where I couldn’t put it down, and happened upon this little arrangement idea of this classic Beatles song. I am such a fan and generally don’t like covers, but it is such a joy to play and sing, [so] I made an exception.
This song is full of good lines, but none better than the first: “I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me.” From there, we’re hooked, and the story can go almost anywhere.
As a storyteller, it’s important to open with something to get our attention. Supposedly, John Lennon during this period was a big fan of Bob Dylan. It’s easy to perceive the influence.
I grew up playing and singing in church and out of range for most radio, and didn’t really get to hear the Beatles music until they broke up. I started with their last release and worked backwards. While I love all their music, I am by nature an acoustic musician and singer-songwriter, so the songs of theirs I could possibly learn and play a reasonable version, I was naturally drawn to.
I always tried to play it exactly as they did (I failed miserably, by the way). After I came up with the mandolin arrangement, I played it at a few of my shows, and people began to ask for a recorded version.
I love playing it, and as any picker knows, we all want to justify the new instrument we just bought. So ... this lets me sing a Beatles song and carry my awesome new toy on the road and pretend I am cooler than I could ever actually be.