Song of the Day #485: ‘Penny Lane’ – The Beatles

pennylaneThis weekend I’m highlighting one of the best one-two punches in music history, a pair of songs released on a “double-A-sided” single that are among the best The Beatles ever recorded.

Today’s track comes courtesy of Paul McCartney. ‘Penny Lane’ is his remembrance of a street in Liverpool, where he and John grew up. I don’t know if the fireman, banker, barber and nurse were actual people Paul encountered as a lad or inventions for this song, but he certainly paints a lovely picture.

For a seemingly innocent song, ‘Penny Lane’ contains a few off-color references (well, at least one, with room for interpretation on the others). “Finger pie” is British slang for teenage sexual fumbling, and you have to wonder about the fireman’s “clean machine” and the banker who never wears a mac in the pouring rain. Maybe I’m just over analyzing the latter two.

On 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
The 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
Four of fish and finger pies in summer
Meanwhile back

Behind the shelter in the middle of the roundabout
A 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
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

4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #485: ‘Penny Lane’ – The Beatles

  1. Amy says:

    Here would be a more worthy example of the lyrics one can find in a Beatles’ song ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks for the eye-opening; I, for one, will never listen to this song is quite the same way again. “Four of fish?” I keep repeating in my mind. And, yes, I do think you’re over analyzing a bit, but that doesn’t mean your over interpretation doesn’t have merit. Still, the QUEEN!? Sheesh.

    All that aside, I love this song. One of those great marriages of words and music you were referring to in yesterday’s post on lyrics. My favorite line is perhaps the most simple (and innocent? though I’m questioning every last lyric now): “Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes.” What a lovely way to describe the way we remember a person or place. This song makes the ability to be nostalgic seem like a super power. One we all possess. Very cool.

  2. Clay says:

    Four of fish means four shillings (or is it pence?) worth of fried fish.

  3. Amy says:

    Well, sure, but what else might it mean?! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. Dana says:

    A wonderful song indeed. How wonderful it is to have both this song and “In My Life” serve as John and Paul’s nostalgia songs.

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