Penny Lane (Lennon/McCartney)

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Penny Lane (Lennon/McCartney)

Much like it’s A-side counterpart Strawberry Fields Forever, Penny Lane is a song about nostalgia and childhood. Penny Lane is a street in Liverpool where John and Paul grew up, described in real life as “dull”.

Guest musicians

The piccolo trumpet part was played by classically-trained trumpeter David Mason and scored by George Martin after hearing Paul McCartney hum the tune he wanted. Other guest musicians include flautists Ray Swinfield, P. Goody, Manny Winters, and Dennis Walton and trumpeters Leon Calvert and Freddy Clayton.

Promotional version

Remix 11 was used to create a small number of promotional discs for radio stations. This remix featured a seven-note trumpet coda at the end of the song which was subsequently mixed out for all future releases. This can be heard, albeit in edited form, on Anthology 2.

Copyright ownership

Like most Lennon/McCartney songs, Penny Lane was published by Northern Songs, which was famously purchased by Michael Jackson in 1985. As part of the purchase agreement, Jackson agreed to exclude Penny Lane from the deal so that the rights could be given to Catherine Holmes à Court-Mather, the daughter of Robert Holmes à Court, who ran Associated Television (ATV), the company selling Northern Songs to Jackson. Before the sale, Robert had offered one song to his daughter of her choosing. Robert implored her to choose Yesterday as it was by far the most profitable song in the catalog in terms of royalties, but she chose Penny Lane as it was her favorite. It is one of only five Lennon/McCartney songs not published by Northern Songs, which is now defunct and part of Sony Music Publishing.

Quotes

“It’s part fact; it’s part nostalgia.” – Paul McCartney, discussing the characters mentioned in the song

“The reason that Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane didn’t appear on the album [Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band] is that Brian Epstein, their manager, was worried. He said to me, ‘The boys need a lift – they need a great sequel and what have you got.’ Well, I said, ‘We’ve got two wonderful songs – let’s issue them both.’ In those days we didn’t include single releases in albums as we thought we were conning the public. One of the biggest errors I ever made.” – George Martin on why the song was not included on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

“‘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, Clash magazine, 2009

Personnel

  • Paul McCartney – vocal, pianos, bass, harmonium, tambourine, effects
  • John Lennon – backing vocal, piano, guitar, congas, handclaps
  • George Harrison – backing vocal, lead guitar, handclaps
  • Ringo Starr – drums, handbell
  • George Martin – piano
  • Ray Swinfield, P. Goody, Manny Winters – flutes, piccolos
  • David Mason – piccolo trumpet solo
  • Leon Calvert, Freddy Clayton, Bert Courtley, Duncan Campbell – trumpets, flugelhorn
  • Dick Morgan, Mike Winfield – oboes, cor anglais
  • Frank Clarke – double bass

Release history

Chart performance

  • #1, March 18, 1967 (1 week), Billboard (US)

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