The Paul McCartney Project

Penny Lane

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the Penny Lane / Strawberry Fields Forever 7" Single.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1967
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

Other Beatles songs referencing Queen Elizabeth II

Spread the love! If you like what you are seeing, share it on social networks and let others know about The Paul McCartney Project.

Song facts

From Wikipedia:

Penny Lane” is a song by The Beatles. It was written by Paul McCartney but credited to the Lennon–McCartney songwriting partnership. The song was created in response to John Lennon’s “Strawberry Fields Forever“, and its lyrics refer to a real street in Liverpool, England.

Recorded during the Sgt. Pepper sessions, “Penny Lane” was released in February 1967 as one side of a double A-sided single, along with “Strawberry Fields Forever“. The single was the result of the record company wanting a new release after several months of no new Beatles releases. Although the song did not top the charts in Britain, it was still a top ten hit across Europe. The song was later included on the band’s US album, Magical Mystery Tour, despite not appearing on the British double EP of the same name.

In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked “Penny Lane” at number 456 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Background

‘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. – Paul McCartney, discussing “Penny Lane” in a 2009 interview with Clash magazine

The song’s title is derived from the name of a street near Lennon’s childhood home for his first five years (9 Newcastle Road, just off Church Road), in the band’s hometown, Liverpool, England. McCartney and Lennon would meet at Penny Lane junction to catch a bus into the centre of the city. During the 1960s, this 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.

Today the street is an important landmark, sought out by many Beatles fans touring Liverpool. In the past, street signs saying “Penny Lane” were constant targets of tourist theft and had to be continually replaced. Eventually, city officials gave up and simply began painting the street name on the sides of buildings. This practice was stopped in 2007 and more theft-resistant “Penny Lane” street signs have since been installed, although some are still stolen.

Penny Lane is believed to be named after James Penny, an 18th-century slave trader.

Recording

Production began in Studio 2 at Abbey Road on 29 December 1966 with piano as the main instrument. On 17 January 1967, trumpet player David Mason recorded the piccolo trumpet solo. The solo, inspired by a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s second Brandenburg Concerto, 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. According to lead sound engineer Geoff Emerick, David Mason “nailed it” at some point during the recording; Paul McCartney tried to get him to do another take but producer George Martin insisted it wasn’t necessary, sensing Mason’s fatigue. This is known as one of the few times the producer’s decision overruled that of the already superstar Beatles. Emerick also notes in his book that prior to this recording, the high “E” was considered unobtainable by trumpet players and has been expected of them since said performance on the record. Mason was paid 27 pounds and 10 shillings for his performance on the recording. “Penny Lane“‘s production effects include percussion effects and piano through a Vox guitar amplifier with added reverb.

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. A stereo mix of the song with the additional trumpet added back in was included on the US Rarities compilation and the UK album The Beatles Box in 1980, and is included on an alternate take of the song released on Anthology 2 in 1996.

Composition

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. 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 7th (on “barber“) then switches to a Bm chord, singing the flattened 3rd notes (on “know” with a i7 [Bm7] chord) and flattened 7th notes (on “come and go” [with a ♭VImaj7 [Gmaj7] chord] and “say hello” [with a V7sus4 [F#7sus4] chord]). 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. 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 F#7 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.

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.” 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.

The song features contrasting verse-chorus form. 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.“. 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’.

Context

The “shelter in the middle of the roundabout” refers to the old bus shelter, later developed into a cafe/restaurant with a Beatles theme, but now derelict and abandoned, despite its popularity as a tourist attraction. This is also Penny Lane Bus Terminus, where the numbers 46 (Penny Lane to Walton) and 99 (Penny Lane to Old Swan) buses terminated and is officially on Smithdown Place.

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. The lyrics as printed on the compilation album The Beatles: 1967–1970.

Release

When a new Beatles single was requested for 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. 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“. On the national chart compiled by Melody Maker magazine, however, the combination topped the singles list for three weeks. 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. Both songs were later included on the US Magical Mystery Tour album in November 1967.

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 various other countries (such as Japan). […]

Promotional film

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. 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 on 30 January 1967. The promotional film for “Strawberry Fields Forever” was also shot at the same location, during the same visit. 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 was included – with some scenes of green Liverpool buses and a brief overhead view of the bus shelter – but none of the Beatles attended this part of the filming.

The promo film is included in the Beatles’ 2015 video compilation 1.

Song ownership

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 Beatles songs not owned by Sony/ATV Music Publishing. […]

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

  • [a] mono 17 Jan 1967.
    US: Capitol 5810 single 1967 promo copies only.
  • [b] mono 25 Jan 1967.
    UK: Parlophone R5570 single 1967.
    US: Capitol 5810 single 1967, Capitol MAL 2835 Magical Mystery Tour 1967.
    CD: EMI single 1989.
  • [b1] mock stereo made from [b] 1967, by Capitol.
    US: Capitol SMAL 2835 Magical Mystery Tour 1967
  • [b2] mock stereo made from [b] about 1972, by Capitol.
    US: Apple SKBO-3404 The Beatles 1967-1970 1973.
  • [c] stereo 30 Sep 1971 at AIR.
    Germany: Hor Zu SHZE 327 (later Odeon and Apple 1C 062-04 449) Magical Mystery Tour 1971.
    Australia: Apple TVSS 8 Essential Beatles 1972.
    UK: Apple PCSP 718 1967-1970 1973, Parlophone TC-PCS 3077 (cassette) Magical Mystery Tour 1976.
    US: Capitol SV-12245 20 Greatest Hits 1982.
    CD: EMI CDP 7 48062 2 Magical Mystery Tour 1987, EMI CDP 7 97039 2 The Beatles 1967-1970 1993.
  • [c1] stereo from [c] and [a] 1980, by Capitol.
    US: Capitol SHAL12060 Rarities 1980.
  • [d] stereo 1995. edited.
    CD: Apple CDP 8 34448 2 Anthology 2 1996.

The vocal and main instrumental material seem to have been mixed down to mono by the time the fourth generation (!) tape was created, so variations are limited to the various horns and other effects (bells, bowed bass) on the other tracks of the master… that is, until the Anthology.

The first mix [a], used on the US promo single, has an extra trumpet at the end, deliberately mixed out in later mixes [b] [c]. The stereo mix [c] has a extra trumpet after “clean machine”, not heard in the mono mixes. [c1] is a forgery made by mixing the trumpet sound from [a] onto the stereo mix [c].

The beginning fades up in mono [b], but in stereo [c] [d] it starts suddenly on a couple of bass notes lost in [b]. All mixes seem to lose the first word of the vocal (“In Penny Lane…”) or perhaps it is not there.

Mock [b2] may also be on later issues of Capitol SMAL 2835, and the later UK release of the Magical Mystery Tour LP. It has less extreme bass-treble separation.

The Brazilian LP Beatles For Ever (Apple 31C 066-04 972) has the phrase “in summer” cut out, for reasons unknown.

For the Anthology [d], all the original tracks from 4 generations were synchronized on one multi-track and then remixed with deliberate differences. Paul’s vocal is single tracked, different horn parts are heard, and then from about 2:52 on we have several edits that do not reflect the original recording, and at the end is an out-of-place recording of speech about a “suitable ending”.

Last updated on April 28, 2017

Lyrics

In Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs
Of every head he's had the pleasure to know
And all the people that come and go
Stop and say hello

On the corner is a banker with a motorcar
The little children laugh at him behind his back
And the banker never wears a mack in the pouring rain
Very strange

Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies I sit
And meanwhile back

In Penny Lane there is a fireman with an hourglass
And in his pocket is a portrait of the Queen
He likes to keep his fire engine clean
It's a clean machine

Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
Four of fish and finger pies in summer
Meanwhile back

Behind the shelter in the middle of the roundabout
A pretty nurse is selling poppies from a tray
And though she feels as if she's in a play
She is anyway

Penny Lane, the barber shaves another customer
We see the banker sitting waiting for a trim
And the fireman rushes in from the pouring rain
Very strange

Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies I sit
And meanwhile back

Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies.
Penny Lane!

Officially appears on


Magical Mystery Tour (Stereo)

Official album

3:01 • Studio versionB1 • Mono • Mock stereo made from [B]

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Harmonium, Percussion, Piano, Tambourine, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Handbell
John Lennon:
Backing vocals, Congas, Guitar, Handclaps, Piano
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Guitar
George Martin:
Piano, Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer
David Mason:
Flugelhorn, Trumpets
Ray Swinfield:
Flutes, Piccolos
P Goody:
Flutes, Piccolos
Manny Winters:
Flutes, Piccolos
Dennis Walton:
Flutes, Piccolos
Leon Calvert:
Flugelhorn, Trumpets
Freddy Clayton:
Flugelhorn, Trumpets
Bert Courtley:
Flugelhorn, Trumpets
Duncan Campbell:
Flugelhorn, Trumpets
Dick Morgan:
Cor anglais, Oboes
Mike Winfield:
Cor anglais, Oboes
Frank Clarke:
Double bass

Session Recording:
Dec 29, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
30 Dec 1966 and 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12 Jan 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jan 25, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio One, Abbey Road


Magical Mystery Tour (Mono)

Official album • Released in 1967

3:01 • Studio versionB • Mono

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Harmonium, Percussion, Piano, Tambourine, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Handbell
John Lennon:
Backing vocals, Congas, Guitar, Handclaps, Piano
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Guitar
George Martin:
Piano, Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer
David Mason:
Flugelhorn, Trumpets
Ray Swinfield:
Flutes, Piccolos
P Goody:
Flutes, Piccolos
Manny Winters:
Flutes, Piccolos
Dennis Walton:
Flutes, Piccolos
Leon Calvert:
Flugelhorn, Trumpets
Freddy Clayton:
Flugelhorn, Trumpets
Bert Courtley:
Flugelhorn, Trumpets
Duncan Campbell:
Flugelhorn, Trumpets
Dick Morgan:
Cor anglais, Oboes
Mike Winfield:
Cor anglais, Oboes
Frank Clarke:
Double bass

Session Recording:
Dec 29, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
30 Dec 1966 and 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12 Jan 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jan 25, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio One, Abbey Road


Penny Lane / Strawberry Fields Forever

7" Single • Released in 1967

2:58 • Studio versionB • Mono

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Harmonium, Percussion, Piano, Tambourine, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Handbell
John Lennon:
Backing vocals, Congas, Guitar, Handclaps, Piano
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Guitar
George Martin:
Piano, Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer
David Mason:
Flugelhorn, Trumpets
Ray Swinfield:
Flutes, Piccolos
P Goody:
Flutes, Piccolos
Manny Winters:
Flutes, Piccolos
Dennis Walton:
Flutes, Piccolos
Leon Calvert:
Flugelhorn, Trumpets
Freddy Clayton:
Flugelhorn, Trumpets
Bert Courtley:
Flugelhorn, Trumpets
Duncan Campbell:
Flugelhorn, Trumpets
Dick Morgan:
Cor anglais, Oboes
Mike Winfield:
Cor anglais, Oboes
Frank Clarke:
Double bass

Session Recording:
Dec 29, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
30 Dec 1966 and 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12 Jan 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jan 25, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio One, Abbey Road


Paul Is Live

Official live • Released in 1993

3:03 • LiveL1

Performed by:
Paul McCartneyLinda McCartneyRobbie McIntoshHamish StuartPaul WickensBlair Cunningham
Paul McCartney:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineering, Mixing
Julian Mendelsohn:
Recording
Bob Kraushaar:
Recording

Concert From the concert in Boulder, USA on May 26, 1993


Anthology 2

Official album • Released in 1996

3:13 • OuttakeD • The version presented here is a unique combination of the many different takes and sounds that comprised that original master, broken down - in some cases instrument by instrument - and remixed anew from a 24-track tape. In this way one can hear a certain parts quite differently: Paul's vocal is only single-tracked, the bridge section highlights the overdubs of cor anglais and trumpets effected on 12 January, and the piccolo trumpet overdub featured near to the conclusion of the master is heard here in extended form. And then there is "a suitable ending"...

George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Dec 29, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
30 Dec 1966 and 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12, 17 Jan 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


1

Official album • Released in 2000

3:00 • Studio versionB

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Harmonium, Percussion, Piano, Tambourine, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Handbell
John Lennon:
Backing vocals, Congas, Guitar, Handclaps, Piano
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Guitar
George Martin:
Piano, Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer
David Mason:
Flugelhorn, Trumpets
Ray Swinfield:
Flutes, Piccolos
P Goody:
Flutes, Piccolos
Manny Winters:
Flutes, Piccolos
Dennis Walton:
Flutes, Piccolos
Leon Calvert:
Flugelhorn, Trumpets
Freddy Clayton:
Flugelhorn, Trumpets
Bert Courtley:
Flugelhorn, Trumpets
Duncan Campbell:
Flugelhorn, Trumpets
Dick Morgan:
Cor anglais, Oboes
Mike Winfield:
Cor anglais, Oboes
Frank Clarke:
Double bass

Session Recording:
Dec 29, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
30 Dec 1966 and 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12 Jan 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jan 25, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio One, Abbey Road


Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017)

Official album • Released in 2017

Studio version • Take 6 – Instrumental. One of the highlights of this new Deluxe set not available before. Paul starts the count-in and the familiar piano notes, but from the second 41 the song adds a different rhythm buried on the final take (and also buried on the Anthology CD2 version that uses part of this take). This is like hearing a new Penny Lane version with instruments and elements not present on the final or the other known takes.


Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017)

Official album • Released in 2017

Studio version • Vocal Overdubs And Speech


Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017)

Official album • Released in 2017

Studio version • Stereo Mix – 2017


Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017)

Official album • Released in 2017

3:02 • Studio versionB • Original mono mix

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Harmonium, Percussion, Piano, Tambourine, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Handbell
John Lennon:
Backing vocals, Congas, Guitar, Handclaps, Piano
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Guitar
George Martin:
Piano, Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer
David Mason:
Flugelhorn, Trumpets
Ray Swinfield:
Flutes, Piccolos
P Goody:
Flutes, Piccolos
Manny Winters:
Flutes, Piccolos
Dennis Walton:
Flutes, Piccolos
Leon Calvert:
Flugelhorn, Trumpets
Freddy Clayton:
Flugelhorn, Trumpets
Bert Courtley:
Flugelhorn, Trumpets
Duncan Campbell:
Flugelhorn, Trumpets
Dick Morgan:
Cor anglais, Oboes
Mike Winfield:
Cor anglais, Oboes
Frank Clarke:
Double bass

Session Recording:
Dec 29, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
30 Dec 1966 and 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12 Jan 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jan 25, 1967
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio One, Abbey Road


Live performances

“Penny Lane” has been played in 127 concerts and 19 soundchecks.

Latest concerts where “Penny Lane” has been played


Carpool Karaoke

Jun 21, 2018 • United Kingdom • Liverpool • TV show



400e Anniversaire De Quebec

Jul 20, 2008 • Canada • Quebec City • Plains Of Abraham


Independence Concert

Jun 14, 2008 • Ukraine • Kiev • Independence Square


Liverpool Sound

Jun 01, 2008 • United Kingdom • Liverpool • Anfield Stadium



Contribute!

Have you spotted an error on the page? Do you want to suggest new content? Or do you simply want to leave a comment ? Please use the form below!

Your comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.