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"Penny Lane" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles that was released in February 1967 as a double A-side single with "Strawberry Fields Forever". It was written primarily by Paul McCartney and 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.

The Beatles began recording "Penny Lane" in December 1966, intending it as a song for their album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Instead, after it was issued as a single to satisfy record company demand for a new release, the band adhered to their policy of omitting previously released singles from their albums. The song features numerous key changes that occur mid-verse and between its choruses. Session musician David Mason played a piccolo trumpet solo over its bridge section.

"Penny Lane" was a top-five hit across Europe and topped the US Billboard Hot 100. In Britain, due to chart protocol regarding double A-sides, it was the first Beatles single since "Please Please Me" in 1963 to fail to reach number 1 on the Record Retailer chart. In November 1967, "Penny Lane" was included on the US Magical Mystery Tour album. In 2011, Rolling Stone ranked the track at number 456 on its list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". In 2006, Mojo ranked the song at number 9 of "The 101 Greatest Beatles Songs".

About[]

Penny-Lane

The street sign

The song's title is derived from the name of a street in the band's hometown, Liverpool. The area that surrounds its junction with Smithdown Road is also commonly called Penny Lane. Locally the term "Penny Lane" was the name given to Allerton Road and Smithdown Road and its busy shopping area. Penny Lane is named after James Penny, an 18th century slave trader. McCartney and Lennon grew up in the area, and they would meet at Penny Lane junction in the Mossley Hill area to catch a bus into the centre of the city. The street is an important landmark, sought out by most 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 though some are still stolen.

Beatles producer George Martin has stated he believes the pairing of "Penny Lane" with "Strawberry Fields Forever" resulted in probably the greatest single ever released by the group. Both songs were later released on the US Magical Mystery Tour album in November 1967. In the UK, the pairing famously failed to reach #1 in the singles charts, stalling one place below Engelbert Humperdinck's "Release Me". In the US the song reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for a week before being knocked off by The Turtles song "Happy Together". The song features contrasting verse-chorus form and was credited "Lennon/McCartney", although McCartney was the main contributor to the song.

Following the success of the double A-side "Yellow Submarine"/"Eleanor Rigby", Brian Epstein inquired if they had any new material available. Both songs, though recorded during the sessions for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, were left off the album, a decision Martin regretted, although The Beatles usually did not include songs released as singles on their British albums. 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).

Credits[]

  • Paul McCartney – lead vocal, harmony and background vocal, pianos (1964 Challen Upright and 1905 Steinway Vertegrand), bass guitar (1964 Rickenbacker 4001S), harmonium (Mannborg Harmonium), tambourine, sound effects
  • John Lennon – harmony and backing vocal, piano (Challen Upright), rhythm guitar (1965 Epiphone 230TD Casino), congas, handclaps, sound effects
  • George Harrison – backing vocal, handclaps, rhythm guitar (1961 Fender Sonic Blue Stratocaster), sound effects
  • Ringo Starr – drums (1964 Ludwig Super Classic Black Oyster Pearl), handclaps, cymbals, sound effects, handbell
  • George Martin – piano (Steinway Vertegrand), production, orchestration
  • David Mason – piccolo trumpet solo
  • Ray Swinfield, P. Goody, Manny Winters – flutes, piccolos
  • Leon Calvert, Freddy Clayton, Bert Courtley, Duncan Campbell – trumpets, flugelhorn
  • Dick Morgan, Mike Winfield – oboes, cor anglais
  • Frank Clarke – double-bass

Trivia[]

PennyLane-PromoCopy

A promotional copy of the single

  • Non-commercial versions used on promo copies for radio stations have more of the trumpet solo by David Mason at the end of the song.
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