Penny Lane

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"Penny Lane"
Pennystrawps.jpg
US picture sleeve
Single by the Beatles
A-side "Strawberry Fields Forever" (double A-side)
Released 13 February 1967
Format 7-inch record
Recorded 29 December 1966 –
17 January 1967
Studio EMI Studios, London
Genre
Length 3:03
Label Parlophone (UK)
Capitol (US)
Songwriter(s) Lennon–McCartney
Producer(s) George Martin
The Beatles singles chronology
"Yellow Submarine"/"Eleanor Rigby"
(1966) Yellow SubmarineEleanor Rigby1966
"Strawberry Fields Forever"/"Penny Lane"
(1967) Strawberry Fields ForeverPenny Lane1967
"All You Need Is Love"
(1967) All You Need Is Love1967
Audio sample
Music video
"Penny Lane" on YouTube

"Penny Lane" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles.[6] It was written primarily by Paul McCartney but credited to the Lennon–McCartney songwriting partnership. The lyrics refer to Penny Lane, a street in Liverpool, and make mention of the sights and characters that McCartney recalled from his upbringing in the city.

Recorded during the Sgt. Pepper album sessions, and intended for inclusion, "Penny Lane" was released in February 1967 as one side of a double A-sided single, along with "Strawberry Fields Forever", following pressure from EMI, the Beatles' record company, after several months' absence of new material. Although the song did not top the charts in Britain, it was still a top ten hit across Europe. The song made its LP debut on the US version of the band's Magical Mystery Tour album.

In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked "Penny Lane" at number 456 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[7]

Background and inspiration[edit]

'Penny Lane' was kind of nostalgic, but it was really a place that John and I knew; it was actually a bus terminus. I’d get a bus to his house and I’d have to change at Penny Lane, or the same with him to me, so we often hung out at that terminus, like a roundabout. It was a place that we both knew, and so we both knew the things that turned up in the story.[8]

– Paul McCartney, 2009

During the 1960s Penny Lane was a significant bus terminus for several routes, and buses with "Penny Lane" displayed were common throughout Liverpool. The name Penny Lane is also used for the area that surrounds its junction with Smithdown Road, Smithdown Place (where the terminus was located) and Allerton Road, including a busy shopping area.

A Liverpool Penny Lane street sign

According to Barry Miles, the fireman and fire engine referred to in the lyrics are based upon the fire station at Mather Avenue, which is "about half a mile down the road" from Penny Lane.[9] The mysterious lyrics "Four of fish and finger pies" are British slang. "A four of fish" refers to fourpennyworth of fish and chips, while "finger pie" is sexual slang of the time, apparently referring to intimate fondlings between teenagers in the shelter, which was a familiar meeting place. The combination of "fish and finger" also puns on fish fingers.[10] Ian Macdonald suggests an LSD influence, and that the lyrical imagery points to McCartney first taking LSD in late 1966. However, he also cites a different story, which dates McCartney's first LSD trip to 21 March 1967. Macdonald finishes with the comment: "Despite its seeming innocence, there are few more LSD-redolent phrases in the Beatles' output than the line ... in which the Nurse 'feels as if she's in a play' ... and 'is anyway'."[11]

Recording[edit]

Production began in Studio 2 at Abbey Road on 29 December 1966 with piano as the main instrument.[12] Initially, Paul McCartney recorded keyboard parts onto the individual tracks of the four-track tape: a basic piano rhythm on track one; a second piano, recorded through a Vox guitar amplifier with added reverb, on track two; a prepared piano producing a "honky-tonk" sound on track three; and percussion effects and a harmonium playing high notes fed through the guitar amplifier on track four.[13][14][15] The following day, the four tracks were mixed together to form the first track of a new tape, to which vocals, drums, congas, guitar and bass were added in early January 1967.[13] Brass and woodwind instruments were added on 9-10 January, in a score by George Martin, guided by McCartney's suggested melody lines.[13]

On 17 January 1967, trumpet player David Mason recorded the piccolo trumpet solo.[16] The solo, which was the result of a suggestion from McCartney after seeing a BBC performance of Johann Sebastian Bach's second Brandenburg Concerto,[17] is in a mock-Baroque style for which the piccolo trumpet (a small instrument built about one octave higher than the standard instrument) is particularly suited, having a clean and clear sound which penetrates well through thicker midrange textures.[18] According to lead sound engineer Geoff Emerick, Mason "nailed it" at some point during the recording; McCartney tried to get him to do another take but producer George Martin insisted it wasn't necessary, sensing Mason's fatigue. Emerick also notes in his book that prior to this recording the high "E" was considered unreachable by trumpet players, but has been expected of them since the performance on the record. Mason was paid £27 and 10shillings for his performance on the recording.

The original US promo single mix of "Penny Lane" had an additional flourish of piccolo trumpet notes at the end of the song. This mix was quickly superseded by one without the last trumpet passage, but not before a handful of copies had been pressed and sent to radio stations. These recordings are among the rarest and most valuable Beatles collectibles. "Penny Lane" was mixed in stereo for the first time in 1971, for a West German issue of the Magical Mystery Tour LP, and in 1980 this mix of the song, with the addition of the trumpet ending, was included on the US Rarities compilation and the UK set The Beatles Box.[19] A remix of the song released on Anthology 2 in 1996 also included the trumpet coda.[20] The original promo single mix was made available again in 2017, when it was included on a CD of mono mixes in the six-disc 50th-anniversary edition of Sgt. Pepper.[21] The two- and six-disc anniversary editions also featured a new remix of "Penny Lane" prepared by Giles Martin, designed to allow the keyboard parts to be heard distinctly.[13]

Composition[edit]

The former bus shelter "in the middle of the roundabout"

The song has a double tonic structure of B major verse (in I–vi–ii–V cycles) and A major chorus connected by formal pivoting dominant chords.[22] In the opening bars in B major, after singing "In Penny Lane" (in an F–B–C–D melody note ascent) McCartney sings the major third of the first chord in the progression (on "Lane") and major seventh (on "barber") then switches to a Bm chord, singing the flattened third notes (on "know" with a i7 [Bm7] chord) and flattened seventh notes (on "come and go" [with a VImaj7 [Gmaj7] chord] and "say hello" [with a V7sus4 [F7sus4] chord]).[23] This has been described as a profound and surprising innovation involving abandoning mid-cycle what initially appears to be a standard I–vi–ii–V doo-wop pop chord cycle.[24] To get from the verse "In the pouring rain – very strange" McCartney uses an E chord as a pivot, (it is a IV chord in the preceding B key and a V in the looming A key) to take listeners back into the chorus ("Penny Lane is in my ears ..."). Likewise to get back from the chorus of "There beneath the blue suburban skies I sit, and meanwhile back ... , McCartney uses an F7 pivot chord (which is a VI in the old A key and a V in the new B key). The lyrics "very strange" and "meanwhile back" can be viewed as hinting at these complex tonal changes.[25]

Tony Slavin (the white building on the corner) occupies the location of the original Bioletti's barbershop mentioned in the song as "a barber showing photographs / of every head he's had the pleasure to know".

A feature of the song was the piccolo trumpet solo played by Mason. This is thought to be the first use of this instrument (a distinctive, speciality instrument, pitched an octave higher than the standard B-flat trumpet) in pop music. Martin later wrote, "The result was unique, something which had never been done in rock music before."[26] McCartney was dissatisfied with the initial attempts at the song's instrumental fill (one of which, recorded 12 January and featuring two cors anglais played by Dick Morgan and Mike Winfield, was released on Anthology 2), and was inspired to use the instrument after seeing Mason's performance on a BBC television broadcast of the second Brandenburg Concerto by Johann Sebastian Bach.[27][28]

The song features contrasting verse–chorus form.[29] Lyrically there are several ambiguous and surreal images. The song is seemingly narrated on a fine summer day ("beneath the blue suburban skies"), yet at the same time it is raining ("the fireman rushes in from the pouring rain") and approaching winter ("selling poppies from a tray" implies Remembrance Day, 11 November). Ian MacDonald has stated: "Seemingly naturalistic, the lyric scene is actually kaleidoscopic. As well as raining and shining at the same time, it is simultaneously summer and winter."[30]

Release[edit]

When a new Beatles single was requested by manager Brian Epstein, producer George Martin told him that the band had recorded "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields Forever", which Martin considered to be the band's best songs up to that point.[31] At the suggestion of Epstein, the two songs were released as a double A-side single, in a fashion identical to that of their previous single, "Yellow Submarine" / "Eleanor Rigby". Released in the US on 13 February 1967 and in the United Kingdom on 17 February 1967, the single failed to top the British charts, making it the first time since "Love Me Do" in 1962 for a Beatles single to peak lower than number one. The song stalled at number two, one place below Engelbert Humperdinck's "Release Me".[32] On the national chart compiled by Melody Maker magazine, however, the combination topped the singles list for three weeks.[33] In the United States, the song became the band's 13th single to reach number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, doing so for a week before being knocked off by the Turtles' song "Happy Together".

Since the Beatles usually did not include songs released as singles on their British albums, both songs were left off the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album, a decision Martin later regretted.[34] Both songs were later included on the aforementioned US Magical Mystery Tour album in November 1967. In 2017, both songs were included on the two-disc and six-disc 50th-anniversary editions of Sgt. Pepper.

This was also the first single by the Beatles to be sold with a picture sleeve in the UK, a practice rarely used there at that time but common in the US and other countries.

Promotional film[edit]

The promotional film for "Penny Lane" was, together with the video for "Strawberry Fields Forever", one of the first examples of what later became known as a music video.[35] The music video for the song was not filmed at Penny Lane, as the Beatles were reluctant to travel to Liverpool. Street scenes were filmed in and around Angel Lane in London's East End. The broken sequence of Lennon walking alone was filmed on the King's Road (at Markham Square) in Chelsea. The outdoor scenes were filmed at Knole Park in Sevenoaks[36] on 30 January 1967. The promotional film for "Strawberry Fields Forever" was also shot at the same location, during the same visit.[37]

Both films – directed by the Swede Peter Goldmann – were selected by New York's MoMA to be among the most influential promotional music films of the late 1960s. Film of "Penny Lane" and the nearby road Elm Hall Drive runs St.Banabas with some scenes of Liverpool buses.[38]

The promo film is included in the Beatles' 2015 video compilation 1.[39]

Song ownership[edit]

Northern Songs, the publishing company that owned all but four of the Beatles songs, was acquired by ATV – a media company owned by Lew Grade in 1969. By 1985 the company was being run by Australian entrepreneur Robert Holmes à Court, who decided to sell the catalogue to Michael Jackson.

Before the sale, Holmes à Court offered his 16-year-old daughter Catherine the chance to keep any song "in her name" from the catalogue. She chose "Penny Lane" as it was her favourite – despite her father's urging to choose "Yesterday", which was by far the biggest royalty-earning song on the books (and is in the top four global royalty earning songs of all time).

Catherine Holmes à Court-Mather is still the copyright owner of "Penny Lane" today, one of only five Lennon-McCartney Beatles songs not owned by Sony/ATV Music Publishing.[40]

Personnel[edit]

According to Ian MacDonald:[41]

The Beatles
Additional musicians

In August 1987, the piccolo trumpet Mason played on "Penny Lane" and two other Beatles tracks ("All You Need Is Love" and "Magical Mystery Tour") was sold in an auction at Sotheby's for $10,846.[42]

Charts and certifications[edit]

Cover versions[edit]

  • Paul Mauriat recorded an instrumental version of "Penny Lane" on his Album nº 5 (1967).
  • Al Di Meola included an instrumental version of the song on his CD All Your Life (2013).
  • The Rutles' song "Doubleback Alley" is a pastiche of this song.
  • Count Basie recorded a swing version on his album Basie on the Beatles (1969), which also includes other Lennon–McCartney songs such as "Hey Jude" and "Get Back".
  • Elvis Costello - whose mother grew up less than a mile from Penny Lane - performed the song at the White House on 2 June 2010, accompanied by McCartney's band and a trumpeter from the United States Marine Band, when McCartney was given the Gershwin Award.[57]

References[edit]

Citations

  1. ^ Philo 2014, p. 119.
  2. ^ Willis 2014, p. 220.
  3. ^ Courrier, Kevin (2009). Artificial paradise: the dark side of the Beatles' utopian dream. Michigan: Praeger. p. 157. ISBN 0-313-34586-4. 
  4. ^ Heylin, C (2007). The Act You've Known For All These Years: the Life, and Afterlife, of Sgt. Pepper. London: Canongate Books. p. 153. ISBN 1-84195-955-3. 
  5. ^ Working Class Heroes: Rock Music and British Society in the 1960s and 1970s by David Simonelli, page 106
  6. ^ Unterberger 2009.
  7. ^ "500 Greatest Songs of All Time: 456 - The Beatles, 'Penny Lane'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 8 July 2015. 
  8. ^ Harper, Simon. "Paul McCartney Interview: The story behind the classics". Clash. Retrieved 8 July 2015. 
  9. ^ Miles, Barry. Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now. 
  10. ^ Mann, Brent (2005). Blinded By the Lyrics: Behind the Lines of Rock & Roll's Most Baffling Songs, p. 171. New York, NY: Kensington Publishing Corp. (Accessed 18 June 2010).
  11. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 223.
  12. ^ Babiuk et al. 2002, p. 195.
  13. ^ a b c d Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Super Deluxe Edition (booklet). The Beatles. London: Apple Records. 2017. p. 91. 
  14. ^ Morin 1998.
  15. ^ Winn 2009, pp. 80-81.
  16. ^ Ingham 2003, p. 245.
  17. ^ Miles & Charlesworth 1998, p. 228.
  18. ^ Steele-Perkins 2001, p. 120.
  19. ^ Winn 2009, pp. 82, 83.
  20. ^ Winn 2009, p. 82.
  21. ^ Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Super Deluxe Edition (CD sleeve). The Beatles. London: Apple Records. 2017. 
  22. ^ Pedler 2003, p. 658.
  23. ^ Pedler 2003, pp. 658-659.
  24. ^ Pedler 2003, p. 659.
  25. ^ Pedler 2003, pp. 348–349.
  26. ^ Martin & Hornsby 1994, p. 202.
  27. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 93.
  28. ^ Young 2007.
  29. ^ Beatles Interview Database 2009.
  30. ^ Macdonald, Ian (1994). Revolution in the Head. p. 179. 
  31. ^ Spitz 2005, p. 656.
  32. ^ Lynskey 2004.
  33. ^ Castleman & Podrazik 1976, p. 338.
  34. ^ The Beatles 2000, p. 239.
  35. ^ Austerlitz, Saul (2007). Money for Nothing: A History of the Music Video from the Beatles to the White Stripes. Continuum. 
  36. ^ "The Beatles – Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane (1967)". Kent Film Office. 
  37. ^ Turner, Steve (1994). A Hard Day's Write. HarperCollins. 
  38. ^ "'There Are Places I Remember'". beatlesliverpoollocations.blogspot.com. Retrieved 17 March 2018. 
  39. ^ Rowe, Matt (18 September 2015). "The Beatles 1 To Be Reissued With New Audio Remixes... And Videos". The Morton Report. Retrieved 9 January 2016. 
  40. ^ "Beatles copyrights in McCartney's (distant) sights". Reuters. 10 August 2009. Retrieved 4 January 2014. 
  41. ^ MacDonald 2005, pp. 221–223.
  42. ^ Kozinn, Allan. "Auctions". NY Times. Retrieved 25 April 2015. 
  43. ^ "Go-Set Australian Charts – 19 April 1967". poparchives.com.au. Retrieved 21 March 2015. 
  44. ^ "Austriancharts.at – The Beatles – Penny Lane" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  45. ^ "Ultratop.be – The Beatles – Penny Lane" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  46. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 10048." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  47. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Penny Lane". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  48. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – The Beatles – Strawberry Fields Forever / Penny Lane" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  49. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  50. ^ "The Beatles Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  51. ^ CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending March 25, 1967 at the Wayback Machine (archive index). Cash Box magazine. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  52. ^ "Offizielle Deutsche Charts" (Enter "Beatles" in the search box) (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 16 May 2016. 
  53. ^ "RPM 100 Top Singles of 1967". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Archived from the original on 12 August 2016. Retrieved 18 June 2016. 
  54. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1967/Top 100 Songs of 1967". musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved 18 June 2016. 
  55. ^ "The Cash Box Year-End Charts: 1967". Cashbox Archives. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 18 June 2016. 
  56. ^ "American single certifications – The Beatles – Penny Lane". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 14 May 2016.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
  57. ^ Martin Urionaguena (2 January 2011). "McCartney @ The White House 2010 - Elvis Costello: PENNY LANE - Part 4 of 7". Retrieved 17 March 2018 – via YouTube. 

Sources

External links[edit]