♫ Penny Lane ♫

This isn’t my favourite Beatles song, but it’s not a bad little song … kind of fun, actually … and the tune is catchy enough to stick in my mind for a day or so.  I have no idea how it got there today, but I woke with this going through my head (only with my own lyrics, of course!), and it has stuck with me all day.  So … what else could I do but share it and exorcise the tune from my own head?

Paul McCartney was sitting at a bus shelter waiting for John Lennon to meet him on Penny Lane, a street near their houses in Liverpool, England. While sitting there Paul jotted down the things he saw, including a barber’s shop with pictures of its clients and a nurse selling poppies for Remembrance Day (November 11th, marking the day World War I officially ended). He later turned these images into the song we now know, which celebrates this time in his life.

Penny Lane evolved to accommodate the many tourists who visit, offering Beatles-themed dining and memorabilia. The barber’s shop mentioned in the song is still there, but most of the other places that show up in the lyric are long gone. The shelter in the middle of the roundabout where the nurse sells the poppies later become a restaurant named Sgt. Pepper’s Bistro, which has since closed. The street sign at the corner of Mossley Hill is the most popular photo op.

The piquant trumpet part was added after the rest of the song was finished. McCartney was watching the BBC when he saw a group called The New Philharmonia perform Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #2. He got the idea to add trumpet, and asked the group’s trumpet player, Dave Mason, to play on this track. Mason brought nine trumpets to the session, eventually deciding to use a B-flat piccolo trumpet.

There is no guitar on “Penny Lane”; John Lennon played piano and George Harrison played the conga drum.  The first time The Beatles appeared with facial hair was in the promotional film for this song. The clip shows the band on horseback, trotting around Angel Lane in London (not Penny Lane). By this time, the group had stopped touring, so the only way many fans could see them perform was on music videos like this one.  Street signs on Penny Lane in Liverpool began disappearing after this song was released. The town painted “Penny Lane” on buildings to avoid theft.

Penny Lane, released in 1967, was a #1 hit in the U.S., but never made it out of the #2 spot in the UK.

It’s been suggested that Liverpool’s Penny Lane was named after James Penny, an 18th century slave ship owner. During the protests following the killing of George Floyd, four signs on Penny Lane were spray-painted, with the word “racist” painted on the wall above one sign. Joe Anderson, the Mayor of Liverpool, said there was no evidence to suggest that the street is named after James Penny, explaining its moniker instead refers to a penny toll bridge that used to exist on the road.

Penny Lane
The Beatles

In Penny Lane, there is a barber showing photographs
Of every head he’s had the pleasure to know
And all the people that come and go
Stop and say, “Hello”

On the corner is a banker with a motorcar
And little children laugh at him behind his back
And the banker never wears a mac
In the pouring rain, very strange

Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies
I sit, and meanwhile back
In Penny Lane there is a fireman with an hourglass
And in his pocket is a portrait of the Queen
He likes to keep his fire engine clean
It’s a clean machine

Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
A four of fish and finger pies
In summer, meanwhile back
Behind the shelter in the middle of the roundabout
The pretty nurse is selling poppies from a tray
And though she feels as if she’s in a play
She is anyway

In Penny Lane, the barber shaves another customer
We see the banker sitting waiting for a trim
And then the fireman rushes in
From the pouring rain, very strange

Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies
I sit, and meanwhile back
Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies
Penny Lane!

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: John Lennon / Paul McCartney
Penny Lane lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

28 thoughts on “♫ Penny Lane ♫

  1. Jill, there is a great documentary on the making of Sgt. Pepper. While Penny Lane and Strawberry Field were not included on that album, they were recorded as part of those recording sessions. The two songs were released as the A/B sides of a 45 record. What I learned was the Sgt. Pepper recording would take awhile, so they needed to release something sooner for the fans.

    I like Penny Lane as that piccolo trumpet sounds cool. The band would experiment a lot in these sessions. Keith


    • Agreed … this one is more just for fun. I was going to play “Eleanor Rigby” for you tomorrow, but I found that I had just played it in January, so I’ll wait a bit. I don’t like to repeat too soon. I don’t think I’ve played the other one you mention, though. I’ll take a look at it, for it isn’t ringing any bells.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this song. Visited Liverpool a few times and did the ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ on one of my visits. Penny Lane was a popular stop on the tour for photographs even though it was essentially just a street…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. At this juncture me and the Beatles were going separate ways. It was Strawberry Fields for me, and then good-bye.
    The incident over asserting the name was linked with slave owners is a salutary lesson. There are two sides of hysteria, it’s not just the preserve of the intolerant and bigoted Right.

    Liked by 2 people

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