Hackskeptic’s 500 Greatest Songs: The Beatles – Penny Lane


257 – The Beatles – Penny Lane(1967)
Written by Lennon & McCartney
Produced by George Martin
Label – Parlophone

The sense of creative rivalry between Paul McCartney and John Lennon would never be more vivid than on the double A single which featured “Strawberry Fields Forever”. Whilst Lennon’s view of his youth and hometown was veiled in a thick gloss of kaleidoscopic surrealism, McCartney’s portrayal highlighted the everyday mundanity of barber’s shops and firemen’s engines. The music combines one of his best pop melodies with a multi-faceted arrangement, and vitally, that inspired David Mason piccolo trumpet solo.

25 responses to “Hackskeptic’s 500 Greatest Songs: The Beatles – Penny Lane

    • For me, picking favourite Beatles songs is a tormenting experience, but you’re right, this would probably be in my top ten…(this week)

      • It would be interesting for our little community to do our top 10 Beatles tunes…10 points for first, 1 point for 10th and count ’em down over the next 10 weeks.

      • Let’s remind ourselves of the joy, the memories and the legend that these selections will expose. These are not simply rankings. We are compiling a unique tribute to the band we owe it ALL to. Everyone who ever dreamed of picking up a guitar or drum did it because of the fab 4. Or because of someone who did that themselves. Enjoy!

      • Couldn’t agree more Kenny. They are the beginning, the middle, the future and the end of popular music as far as I’m concerned. One way or another all roads lead from them.

      • Let’s go for it Geoff! My good friend Kenny has picked “Come Together” as his number 10. I’m picking “I Feel Fine” at number 10…Lennon props his guitar against the amp and the first commercial single to incorporate feedback is born. It’s these simple nuances that make The Beatles the most inventive band of their time, but tricks alone don’t make great records. “I Feel Fine” is all built around Lennon’s memorable riff, with Ringo’s crisp rhythm and Harrison’s ever improving lead. For some reason it feels like it’s just thrown together in an instant, knocked out with the carefree bravado of a band who just knew they were the best.

      • At 10: COME TOGETHER.

        Could be played as a five piece in a working men’s club or as an earth wind and fire sized ensemble in Los Angeles so simultaneously pub AND stadium rock.


      • Fine choices gents, I’ll go with Back in the USSR as my #10. A great album opener (much like come together), couldn’t think of a better one to open my list!

      • Awesome…3 great songs. I’ll have a think about next week’s pick, but that’s 3 strong songs to start with.

  1. Penny Lane contains the distilled essence of my childhood memories of being a small child in the 1960’s.
    So it has particular significance amongst the Beatles canon perhaps more than any other single tune.
    It’s a perfect pop song from an era unlike any other where pop was POSITIVE AND COOL.

    Paul McCartney has never sounded better as a writer and the warmth of the performance was captured wonderfully by Mr Martin and how poignant to write this today as we mourn the passing of truly the fifth Beatle.

    Just writing about it makes me happy. I’ll play it now.

    Penny Lane……..

    Kenny Badham.

    • It’s ironic that I posted this just before I found out about his passing. His contribution to this, and many other songs was incredible. I’m glad it fills you with as much joy as it does me.

      It reminds me of an England that is sadly, long gone.

  2. At nine.

    such a strong melody, wonderful atmosphere, an English folk song oozing with Dylan and yet completely Beatlesque.

    The fab four shedding a skin. Unafraid to be what they wanted to be and again ENCOURAGED by Mr Martin to sound anything like a beat group.

    Sad,funny, just superb; over in the blink of an eye. More imagination in a couple of minutes than many bands entire careers – yes that means you,Johnny Hates Jazz!

    Roll on number 8

  3. Thanks Kenny…
    My number 9 is “In My Life”
    John Lennon would consider “In My Life” to be his first major piece of work. In his words everything up until that point had been “glib and throwaway”, so he drew upon life experiences in an original poem that was filled with poignant and heartfelt memories. McCartney’s sweet harmonies and the classical middle eight section add weight to the singer’s reminiscence of life of and love. From this point on, Lennon would mainly write subjectively rather than objectively and this song remains one of the finest examples of his new found confidence.

    • Wow what a great choice of song.
      I don’t know about you but every song you pick leaves out so many other fantastic ones. I don’t know if I will have a definitive 10 but isn’t this fun?
      See you next week with number eight

  4. Hello Goodbye.
    Melodic overload. Massive childhood memories of this on the wireless, naively not knowing who or what it was but just loving it all. Especially the coda. I’ve always loved a cool coda, like Good Vibrations, or We Are Glass by the Mighty Numan, but this just illustrates how much music the Beatles poured into a 45; my number eight is awash with the joy of tunesmithery. And those wonderful uniforms on the video? I don’t think the Beatles EVER looked better in any media.

  5. Number 8 – Paperback Writer
    For me this is the foundation for power pop. All the wonderful melodies and vocal harmonies are present as ever, but the delivery is harder, edgier and definitely louder. John Lennon had suggested to Geoff Emerick that the bass had been too low on previous singles, so the engineer enhanced McCartney’s bass lead and set Ringo Starr’s recording microphone one inch from the bass drum. The sound is richer for it, and McCartney’s pleading lyric which some consider a comical jab at Lennon’s writing escapades fits perfectly, as The Beatles continued to explore techniques in recording new sonic dynamics.

    • I’m glad you voted for this one. More music should be influenced by it. PowerPop indeed.. A sadly declining genre.

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