Penny Lane

"Penny Lane"
US picture sleeve
Single by the Beatles
A-side"Strawberry Fields Forever" (double A-side)
Released13 February 1967 (1967-02-13)
Format7-inch record
Recorded29 December 1966 – 17 January 1967
StudioEMI, London
Producer(s)George Martin
The Beatles singles chronology
"Yellow Submarine" / "Eleanor Rigby"
"Penny Lane" / "Strawberry Fields Forever"
"All You Need Is Love"
Audio sample

"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, but credited to the Lennon–McCartney songwriting partnership. The lyrics refer to Penny Lane, a street in Liverpool, and makes 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 2004, 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".

Background and inspiration

A Liverpool Penny Lane street sign

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.[citation needed] In 2009, McCartney reflected:

"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.[6]

Lennon's original lyrics for "In My Life" included a reference to Penny Lane. After recording for "In My Life" began, McCartney mentioned to an interviewer that he wanted to someday write a song about Penny Lane. McCartney was later spurred to write the song once presented with Lennon's "Strawberry Fields Forever".[7] Lennon co-wrote the lyrics to "Penny Lane" with McCartney. He recalled in a 1970 interview: "The bank was there, and that was where the trams sheds were and people waiting and the inspector stood there, the fire engines were down there. It was reliving childhood."[8]

Beatles biographer Ian MacDonald suggested an LSD influence, and that the lyrical imagery points to McCartney first taking LSD in late 1966. MacDonald concluded that the lyric "she feels as if she's in a play / she is anyway" was one of the more "LSD-redolent phrases" in the Beatles' catalogue.[9] Music critics Roy Carr and Tony Tyler similarly described the subject matter as "essentially 'Liverpool-on-a-sunny-hallucinogenic-afternoon'".[10]

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