Writers: John Lennon and Paul McCartney
Producer: George Martin
Recorded: December 29th and 30th, 1966, and January 1967 at EMI Abbey Road Studios in London
Released: February 13th, 1967
|Players:||Paul McCartney — vocals, bass, flute
John Lennon — piano, vocals
George Harrison — conga, firebell
Ringo Starr — drums
George Martin — piano
David Mason — piccolo trumpet
Philip Jones — trumpet
|Album:||Magical Mystery Tour (Capitol)|
Rather than an album track, “Penny Lane” was released as a double-A-sided single between the albums Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Its flip-side was “Strawberry Fields Forever.”
The combined single topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic.
Singer-bassist Paul McCartney drew on the Beatles‘ home town for “Penny Lane’s” lyrics. He said, “Penny Lane is a bus roundabout in Liverpool and there is a barber’s shop… There’s a bank on the corner, so we made up the bit about the banker and his motor car. It’s part fact, part nostalgia for a place which is a great place — blue suburban skies as we remember it, and it’s still there.”
The song’s lyrics also include some Liverpudlian obscenities — “finger pie,” a reference to obese women, and the line about a fireman keeping “his fire engine clean,” which McCartney acknowledged as a phallic reference — “We put in a joke or two: ‘Four of fish and finger pie.’ The women would never dare say that, except to themselves. Most people wouldn’t hear it, but ‘finger pie’ is just a nice little joke for the Liverpool lads who like a bit of smut.”
Producer George Martin said that the piccolo trumpet part was McCartney’s idea, after the Beatle heard it played at a performance of Bach‘s Brandenberg Concerti. As Martin recalled, “We had no music prepared (for the trumpet). We just knew that we wanted little piping interjections… As we came to each little section where we wanted the sound, Paul would think up the notes he wanted, and I would write them down for David (Mason).” However, the trumpet solo at the end of the song was deleted from the original commercial release.
The Beatles filmed a promotional video for “Penny Lane” as well.