Paying tribute to John Lennon's Almerian legacy

How a vegetable patch in southern Spain inspired the Beatle

It's one of The Beatles most celebrated recordings, inspired by John Lennon's memories of playing in the park of the Salvation Army orphanage in Liverpool as a child. But the original spark for the song Strawberry Fields Forever - originally intended to feature on Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band but which ultimately appeared on the group's Magical Mystery Tour album - occurred 2,000 kilometers from Liverpool, in the city of Almería.

In autumn 1966 Lennon was staying in the 19th-century El Cortijo Romero, a house on the outskirts of the Andalusian city, during filming for Richard Lester's How I Won the War and it was the property's surrounding vegetable patches and fruit trees that reminded him of his childhood play spot.

Today the room in which he stayed in El Cortijo Romero is the focal point of the Casa del Cine, a new cultural center that pays tribute to the cinematic splendor that Almería experienced in the 1960s. David Lean, Sam Spiegel, Alec Guinness, Peter O'Toole and Yul Brynner are among the other notable guests to have stayed in the house and on view downstairs are photos, videos and belongings of the many directors, actors and actresses to have filmed in the province, as well as a 3D montage of some of the area's major film locations.

But of all the house's famous former guests, Lennon is the only one to have left such a significant mark of his six-week stay. In 1968 the musician told Rolling Stone magazine that he wrote Strawberry Fields Forever while alone on a beach - Almería's Playa San Miguel, later recording a demo of it in his El Cortijo room.

The John Lennon Almería Forever Association has been investigating the former Beatle's legacy in the province for the last 12 years and claims to have also unearthed another link that changed the course of the band's history. Lennon ended up leaving the house following a disagreement with the landlords about his daily parties. As he prepared for his journey back, Paul McCartney was heading out to Spain to surprise him. But taking a detour to Málaga, he heard his friend had already left for the UK and did a U-turn. Two days later, Lennon met Yoko Ono at an exhibition in London.

If McCartney had met Lennon in Almería, say the association's founders, perhaps he would have taken him on safari to Kenya and the history of The Beatles might have taken a different course - without Yoko Ono.

The John Lennon Room in Almería's new Casa del Cine.
The John Lennon Room in Almería's new Casa del Cine.FRANCISCO BONILLA
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