♫ 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

26 thoughts on “♫ Penny Lane ♫

  1. Two aspects to note:
    1. The Name incident in Penny Lane indicates how easy hysteria spreads- Not just a MAGA feature.
    2. I’m guessing it’s because ‘clean’ and ‘machine’ rhyme so well. The thing is UK fire service personnel never called them ‘fire engines’, they either called them ‘appliances’ or ‘machines’. I wonder if Paul knew how accurate that line was for firemen.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I always figured this song was cousin to A Day in the Life. The Beatles could sing about absolutely anything, and make a hit out of it. Including having sex in the middle of the road…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Not their best, maybe, but still way above everyone else at that time. It was released as a double A-side with Strawberry Fields, and the rules on chart placings here at that time were that only sales of the more popular side counted. Adding sales of both sides together it sold way more than the dreadful dirge that was officially #1 – Please Release Me by Engelbert Humperdinck. There was much criticism of the charts for that, and I still think they were robbed!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Water under London Bridge now, Clive. In the early days of the British Invasion our local charts was equally influenced between record sales, radio plays, and song requests. Some songs that were never released as singles hit #1 in my home town, Winnipeg. If fans liked them, they overloaded the phone lines. We did things our own way. And many romances started by girls shouting their phone numbers between the beeps of the busy signals.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Strawberry Fields … now there’s one I haven’t thought about in ages! For once, I must agree with you (did you see Keith’s comment that I was showing my “inner-Clive”?) about “Please Release Me” … I hated that song!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Jill, you are revealing your inner-Clive with Badfinger and The Beatles. Watching a documentary about Sgt. Pepper, while Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields were not on the larger album, The Beatles recorded them in the Sgt. Pepper sessions first to release them on a 45 record so the fans did not have to wait. The Sgt. Pepper creativity of both is in evidence. Penny Lane uses a special kind of horn that McCartney fell in love with. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: ♫ Penny Lane ♫ | Ned Hamson's Second Line View of the News

Comments are closed.