Penny Lane

"Penny Lane"
US picture sleeve
Single by the Beatles
A-side"Strawberry Fields Forever" (double A-side)
Released13 February 1967
Format7-inch record
Recorded29 December 1966 –
17 January 1967
StudioEMI Studios, London
LabelParlophone (UK)
Capitol (US)
Producer(s)George Martin
The Beatles singles chronology
"Yellow Submarine"/"Eleanor Rigby"
(1966) Yellow SubmarineEleanor Rigby1966
"Penny Lane"/"Strawberry Fields Forever"
(1967) Penny LaneStrawberry Fields Forever1967
"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

'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]

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