I have a vested interest here, in terms of thinking this one of the greatest pieces of music recorded in the last hundred years for a number of reasons, but will leave it to Dave Marsh, not a hater on any level, (he sprinkles Beatles songs liberally throughout his countdown), to make his case for ranking it so lowly.
'Given my interest in rock and soul music as creative responses to the project of recording music in the studio, rather than making it before a live audience, it's perhaps surprising that I don't think more highly of the Beatles' greatest aural montage. But while I'd never deny its virtues, Strawberry Fields remains a record whose virtues are somewhat more conceptual than actual. After all, if montage per se is the issue then R.Dean Taylor's Indiana Wants Me means more in the history of Motown than many a Holland-Dozier-Holland dance classic.
In fact, montage matters only after more basic issues - a strong song and a big beat foremost among them - are taken care of. And while Strawberry Fields is one of the most stupendous feats anyone accomplished during the sixties, its virtues are not among my idea of the Verities. There's a beat here, all right, but amidst the cellos and calliopes and English horns, the tapes running backwards and out of phase, the aural gimmickry that astonished every teen with a tape deck, it doesn't seem lost so much as secondary. and while the lyric has enormous resonance if you're interested in Lennon's life (as who ain't?), there's no way it moves from the personal to the universal with anything like the grace of, say 'Help' or for that matter 'Don't Let Me Down'. unless you'd rather work a rebus than dance.
So why exactly does 'Strawberry Fields' have to be here? Because Lennon puts over his pretenses with such powerful singing that, for all its psychedelic obscurantism, the record acquires a pulse of its own. That is, his singing represents a total triumph of content over form, an injection of real life into a scenario that stands on the verge of 'MacArthur Park'.