On this day in 1967, The Beatles recorded the single ‘Penny Lane’.
Written mainly by Paul McCartney, but credited Lennon-McCartney, ‘Penny Lane’ was recorded during the Sgt. Pepper sessions at EMI Studios in London, with George Martin as producer.
The title of the song refers to a street name in Liverpool that was close to John Lennon’s childhood home and where McCartney would wait to meet Lennon in their youth.
Since the song does not contain guitar, Lennon played piano and George Harrison played the conga drum. This was also the first single by the Beatles to be sold with a picture sleeve in the UK, an exercise rarely used there at that time, but already common in America.
In the 1960s, buses reading ‘Penny Lane’ were common throughout the city. The signs became a hot item among Beatles fans/thieves and at one point the signs were taken down altogether and the name was painted on the sides of buildings instead. Later, indestructible signs were introduced and the name was posted again.
Penny Lane is believed to be named after an 18th-century slave trader, James Penny. In 2006, Liverpool officials said they would modify the proposal to exclude the name Penny Lane due to the uncomfortable history of James Penny. Nothing has been done to change the name to date.
Before Robert Holmes à Court sold his Beatles catalog to Michael Jackson, he let his 16-year-old daughter Catherine pick any song she liked out of the large selection to “keep in her name”. She chose ‘Penny Lane’.
Catherine Holmes à Court-Mather still owns the ‘Penny Lane’ copyright today. This is one of only five Beatles songs that are not owned by Sony/ATV Music Publishing.