Pencil Full of Lead

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"Pencil Full of Lead"
Single by Paolo Nutini
from the album Sunny Side Up
Released 2 November 2009[1]
Format CD, digital download
Recorded 2009
Genre Swing, pop
Length 2:26
Label Atlantic
Writer(s) Paolo Nutini
Producer(s) Paolo Nutini, Ethan Johns
Paolo Nutini singles chronology
"Coming Up Easy"
"Pencil Full of Lead"
Sunny Side Up track listing
"Tricks of the Trade"
"Pencil Full of Lead"
"No Other Way"

"Pencil Full of Lead" is the third single from Paolo Nutini's second studio album, Sunny Side Up. The song was released in the United Kingdom as a single on 2 November 2009,[1][2] a music video of the song having been released on 20 October 2009. The song peaked at #17 on the UK Singles Charts and #33 on the Irish Singles Chart.


Nutini performed the song on various UK TV shows including The Graham Norton Show and, with his band The Vipers, performed the song with other album tracks at Willton Music Hall before the album was released. Nutini also performed the song live at the Royal Albert Hall in November 2009 for Children in Need.

The song was chosen as one of the Desert Island Discs of Len Goodman.[3]

Critical reception[edit] said:

The fact Paolo Nutini's second album Sunny Side Up still resides in the UK top 10 five months after it was first released in June, speaks volumes. It's songs like new single 'Pencil Full Of Lead' that have elevated the Scottish star from unknown singer-songwriter to a surprise household name and hit-maker in the three years since debut These Streets landed.

Continuing his love of classic sounds like rock-n-roll, folk, soul and jazz, this time Nutini lends his bluesy vocals (which appear to sound more weathered, and far beyond his years every time a new song arrives), to an uptempo ragtime pop track, littered with harmonicas, trumpets and jaunty percussion. Without fear of sounding overly cheesy, it's a timeless hit-in-the-making that'll still sound as feel-good in 30 years time.[4]

Fraser McAlpine on the BBC Radio 1 Chart Blog wrote:

This is a sentence everyone should carry round with them at all times. It would solve a lot of tedious chat using words like "vintage" and "seminal" and "authentic", or "cutting-edge" and "innovative" and (absolutely the very very worst worst of all) "zeitgeist".

There are things which are good, and there are things which are not good, and that (as Girls Aloud, who are good) once said, is that.

There are no guest rappers, no modern production effects on his voice, no lyrics about current TV shows, nothing about sleazy sex in hotel rooms, nothing about alienation, nothing about the state of modern urban youth and no disco stick.

He does, however, mention having a pencil full of lead, and if I'm not mistaken, that's a saucy metaphor. Either that or he's been sold a lot of lead-less pencils in his time, and after all, what is a pencil without lead but a stick?[5]

Track listing[edit]

UK CD Single[edit]

UK CD Single
No. Title Length
1. "Pencil Full of Lead" (Album Version) 2:26

Music video[edit]

The music video for the song was added to YouTube on 20 October 2009. It shows a clay model of Nutini playing with an all female band. He starts to grope the band leading to one of the dancers slapping him across the face. His head is then squashed with bits of clay falling off. He runs away as the girls chase him, hitting a camera and tripping over a wire that the girls set up. The video ends with the women playing with parts of Nutini, finishing off with one of the girls making a mini-model of him in her hand, with the model trying to hide his naked body from view.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (2009) Peak
European Hot 100 Singles[6] 56
Ireland (IRMA)[7] 33
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[8] 10
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[9] 17

End-of-year charts[edit]

Chart (2009) Position
UK Singles Chart[10] 159


External links[edit]