Cultural Geography of the Beatles: Representing Landscapes As Musical Texts

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31 October 2015

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Beatles song analysis


            Penny Lane is track number fifteen in Beatles’ album. It was released in 1967. It is a song of the rock genres. It was primarily written by Paul McCartney. He credited the song to Lennon-McCartney. The song was recorded during the sessions of Sergeant Pepper. The song was released because the company wanted a new something from Beatles after a long stay without a new release. The song was ranked number 456 in Rolling Stone list out of 500 in 2004 ( Lennon et al, 1993, p.7).

            The title of the song is said to have been derived from the name of a street where Lennon lived in his early childhood life in Liverpool, England. It is significant in that McCartney and Lennon would meet in the street’s bus stop to board a bus to the city center. The street was a famous place that had been chosen by Beatles fans that came to tour Liverpool. This street was apparently named after a famous slave trader in England. It was significant because of the famous stealing of the signs put in place bearing the name of the street (Campbell et al, 1980, p. 12).

            The song “penny lane” has a beautiful coordination of vocals and instrumental sounds. This coordination is even made more attractive by a solo piccolo trumpet that has a clear and clean sound which penetrates amicably throughout a heavy mid-range texture. The song is dominated by well coordinated piano notes, percussion effects and a Vox guitar amplifier sound which has added re-verbs. The resultant effect is awesome. The song beats the time it was produced. Well played and performed by all the personnel involved during its production, the song was completed with a lot of precision. It was the best selling song in the album at the time of its release (Lennon et al, 1993, p.11).

            The song possesses a double-tonic structure and a chorus each with a similar starting statement but different lyrics after the introducing statement. This is a unique feature of the song which brings about an element of repetition. Could it be that the street was so important to the writer of the song? This might be the case or may be it is because the street was one of the significant streets of Liverpool (Lennon et al, 1993, p.13).

            In the opening of the song, after the mention of “in Penny Lane”, the writer uses a three cord interval melody note. It then changes to BM key which involves flat third notes. This is a unique innovation putting the time of its production into consideration. To navigate from the verse “In the pouring rain” to “very strange”, McCartney used an E chord as a pivot and takes the listeners back to the chorus (Robert et al, 2005, p. 15).

            At the middle length of the song, the lyrics stops and there is a bridge where a solo piccolo trumpet is played. The period the trumpet is played perfectly matches the song. It is done with precision to get the listeners fascinated. This period carries the listeners’ emotions to another totally different world. It is keenly done almost to lender the player breathless and having the whole attention of the emotional being of the listener (Campbell et al, 1980, p. 25).

            Though the song is nice, there seems to be some features in it that are contradicting. The song was written and recorded during summer time yet, there is rain. One would wonder about the significance of the contrasting chorus against the verses. May be the purpose of the contrast was to show the difference is different professionals and jobs such as fireworks, banking and hair trimming and nursing. There also seems to be another contradiction that the barber does not wear a mack yet he is waiting to be trimmed. It is very unlikely that a person can be shaved with wet hair. This is also a contradiction present in the song. Its significance is not known. Probably the significance is to show how possible the impossible things are (Campbell et al, 1980, p. 27).

            There is still another unclear verse in the song. The verse points out that the nurse feels to be in play and yet she is playing. How can one feel to be in play and yet he/she is in play? He or she must feel to be in play because they already are in play. The poppies sold by the nurse are a sign of beauty. They are beautiful and very fragile and thus needs to be handled with a lot of care. The significance of the verse is to bring about the element of beauty that dominates Penny Lane Street yet it is very fragile and needs to be taken care of more so from the prevailing condition of theft (Robert et al, 2005, p. 17).

            The verse “four of fish and finger pies” is a British slang. “Finger pie” is a sexual slang of the time whereas “four of fish” denotes fish and chips worth four penny. Putting into consideration that the song was written during a time when Penny Lane was a significant destination of tourists, the slang “finger pie” may denote the highest probability of prostitution in the area. Similarly, the significance of the slang “four of fish” may denote the most popular food enjoyed by the people in Penny Lane during the time (Robert et al, 2005, p. 23).

            The repetition of “Penny Lane is in my ears” is a significant feature in the song. It is meant to emphasis on how important the place is to the writer. It seems that the place is the best ever the writer had lived in during his life time. The place meant a lot to the writer. It is like he holds a nostalgic feeling of his childhood with the area. In deed the area was nice due to its attractive nature and a known destination of many tourists. This would have been another reason for writing a song dominated with the name Penny Lane. Similarly, the singers of the song “The Beatles” were very famous in Penny Lane. They had great performances in the area which had a lot of fans. This could also be another reason why the name is mentioned a number of times. Although the mention is significant, the writer tends to overdo it by making more unnecessary mentions even in the verses (Campbell et al, 1980, p. 16).

            The lyrics are lucid for the listener to understand but to know the real motivation of the song or the meaning and the intention of the writer is very hard. The writer creates a significant imagery using the appearance of a one day activities on the street. But the actual meaning of the song is only known to the writer of the song. Not unless the writer is interviewed and he frankly opens up and air his motivation, it would be totally different from what it seems to be (Campbell et al, 1980, p. 19).

            McCartney seems to appreciate all the people in the street who contributes to the economy of the country. He also seems to appreciate what they will give him in return after attending the show and buying albums. At the same time, the listeners are entertained. A mention of different kind of people who are all over the area is also significant. Nurses selling poppies, a banker, a fireman, and a barber are all significant (Campbell et al, 1980, p. 26).

            When they are mentioned, they all will feel appreciated and will in turn buy the album and attend more shows facilitated by The Beatles. This is of advantage to the writer, the singers and the producer because the album will sell more. It also seems that Penny Lane was a place for all people. Different persons from different professions meet in the barber shop for a shave (Lennon et al, 1993, p.26).

            The song is accompanied by a nice slide show of the lyrics. This makes it easier for the recipient to internalize the lyrics. If the recipient can understand the lyrics, they definitely will love the song. It is expected that if the lyrics are lucid for the recipient consumption, then the goal of the song is achieved. Apart from selling more, any given song should have an emotional response from the recipients. If it doesn’t, then the goal is not achieved (Campbell et al, 1980, p. 29).

            At the end of the song, the pitch note changes and the chorus is repeated two times. This is may be intended to get the attention of the listeners and to emphasis on the importance of the information in the chorus. The raising of the song note makes it excellent to the listeners. It elevates the emotional level of the listeners. This keeps them at their top most affinity of the song. At this time, their souls are more into the song than ever in the lyrics. This part could be the most attractive point of the song (Lennon et al, 1993, p. 25).

            Although the song is generally written and performed to precision, with instruments perfectly fitting the lyrics, there are several instances that if changed, the song would be more attractive. First, the voice of the singer is not so clear from the instrumentals. This is to mean, the instrumentals are overwhelming the voice of the singer. It could have been better if the instrumental sound intensity had been reduced during the singing of the lyrics (Lennon et al, 1993, p.31).

            By so doing, the lyrics would have been clearer and it would have not been overwhelmed by the instrumental sound. The overall musical combination would intertwine perfectly with the singer’s voice. This would have a deeper emotional feeling to the listener than it did. It should have also facilitated the understanding of the overall message of the song (Lennon et al, 1993, p.34).

            In conclusion, the song was a hit during the time. It was allegedly the first song of the pop type to have a piccolo trumpet played in the song. With different remedies to be done, the song can be a legend of the time and of today. The remedies are needed on the areas pointed above.


Campbell, Colin, Allan Murphy, John Lennon, John Lennon, John Lennon, John Lennon, John Lennon, John Lennon, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Paul McCartney, and Paul McCartney. Things We Said Today: The Complete Lyrics and a Concordance to the Beatles’ Songs, 1962-1970. Ann Arbor, MI: Pierian Press, 1980. Print.

Kruse, Robert J. A Cultural Geography of the Beatles: Representing Landscapes As Musical Texts (strawberry Fields, Abbey Road, and Penny Lane). Lewiston, N.Y: E. Mellen Press, 2005. Print.

Lennon, John, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, George Martin, Paul McCartney, and John Lennon. The Beatles, 1967-1970. New York: Apple, 1993. Sound recording.

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"Cultural Geography of the Beatles: Representing Landscapes As Musical Texts" StudyScroll, 31-Oct-2015. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 3-Oct-2022]

StudyScroll. (2015). Cultural Geography of the Beatles: Representing Landscapes As Musical Texts. [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 3-Oct-2022]

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