April 17, 2015

Penny Lane: Original On The Block, Minus The Fanfare


Like many of the greatest works of art, the Beatles’ hit Penny Lane was at first quite different from the version we now know. 
The archeology of the 1967 hit has been uncovered by a studio recording that does not feature the trumpet solo that made it one of the band’s most memorable singles.

The evidence — an acetate 45 produced for record label EMI — is being sold at auction in the US on Saturday. It reveals that the iconic fanfare was originally performed on an instrument that sounds more like a kazoo.

It is believed that the band was about to release that version until Paul McCartney watched a BBC broadcast of a Bach concert and heard a solo played on a piccolo trumpet. He then enlisted David Mason, the classical trumpet player, for the recording sessions at Abbey Road studios.

McCartney had written the song about a street in Liverpool in response to John Lennon’s track Strawberry Fields Forever, and the two were released as a double A-side. Penny Lane took three weeks to record, compared with their entire first album taking only one day in the studio.


The potentially unique pressing is being sold by a collector in the US. The single-sided recording has a white label with the song title written on it by Geoff Emerick, the recording engineer. Bidding at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas, starts at $US1000 ($1290).

Dean Harmeyer, a music memorabilia specialist, says the Beatles were experimenting with layers of richer, denser sound, having moved into the studio after years of touring. “They now had more time and freedom to craft denser soundscapes, which are quite distinctive from their earlier recordings,” he says. “The sessions for Penny Lane stretched over three weeks, an eternity for a single in those days.

“Over the course of those weeks, the Beatles built layer upon layer of instrumentation which included complex wind and brass arrangements by producer George Martin, and extensive keyboard parts played by Paul McCartney. To our knowledge the complete trumpet-less version has never been heard by the general public. It sounds very similar, yet very different, to the Penny Lane we all know and love.”

The single was released in February 1967. It reached No 2 in Britain, being held off the top spot by Engelbert Humperdinck’s Release Me, but was No 1 in the US, Canada, Germany and Australia.

A version of the song with a longer trumpet solo was sent as an advance release to a small number of American radio stations. It is now worth thousands of dollars.

With many thanks to The Australian


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