Saturday, April 4, 2009

Penny Lane

Of all Beatles facts associated with "Penny Lane" is that George Martin thought that the song, along with "Strawberry Fields Forever," should have been included on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band because it had the same feel as the other songs at the beginning of the Beatles' studio years. "Penny Lane" was the B-Side for "Strawberry Fields Forever" and is considered to be a McCartney response to the A-Side, much as "Paperback Writer" was a response to "Day Tripper." Penny Lane is a "bus roundabout" in Liverpool that still exists today. Both songs were about places the Beatles had encountered years earlier, and at one point, before the concept for Sgt. Pepper's emerged, the group considered using these two songs on an album about their childhood.

The song is primarily a McCartney composition, with Lennon having helped with a very few lyrics. It was recorded on December 29, 1966 at Abbey Road, with overdubs added over the following three weeks. The single was released in the UK on February 17, 1967, and in the U.S. on February 13, 1967. Neither "Penny Lane" nor "Strawberry Fields Forever" were issued on Parlophone's Magical Mystery Tour, but Capital included both songs on its release of the LP in the United States.

McCartney sang lead vocal, with Lennon providing harmony. McCartney played bass and flute; Lennon played piano, Harrison conga drum, Starr drums, George Martin piano, David Mason piccolo trumpet, and Philip Jones trumpet. Martin claims that McCartney's idea to use very high trumpet notes came from listening to Bach's Brandenburg concerti. George Martin transcribed McCartney's ideas into correct music notation for Mason and Jones.

McCartney admits to sneaking two obscenities into the lyrics that only the British might notice: "fish and finger pie" and "he keeps his fire engine clean."

As with "Strawberry Fields Forever," a promotional film was made for "Penny Lane." The two promos were shown in the U.S. for the first time on American Bandstand. The teens in the audience had mixed reactions to both the films and the songs, many feeling that they couldn't relate to the altered look and songs of the group, which represented sharp deviations from the standard rock and roll that had made the Beatles famous.

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