John Lennon Explained the Setting of The Beatles’ ‘Penny Lane’

TL;DR:

  • John Lennon said The Beatles’ “Penny Lane” was one of his more personal songs.
  • He explained the setting of “Penny Lane” and his connection to it.
  • He was more connected to the actual Penny Lane than the other Beatles.
A sign for the setting of The Beatles' "Penny Lane"
The setting of The Beatles’ “Penny Lane” | Jim Dyson/Getty Images

John Lennon said The Beatles’ “Penny Lane” reflected his life. In addition, he compared it to a scene from one of The Beatles’ movies. Notably, audiences in the United States and the United Kingdom had different reactions to “Penny Lane.”

John Lennon said a reporter wanted The Beatles’ songs to be more personal

The book All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono includes an interview from 1980. During the interview, John recalled a reporter who wanted him to change his songwriting style.

“Or why don’t you put something about your childhood into the songs?'” John quoted the reporter saying. “Which came out later as ‘Penny Lane’ from Paul — although it was actually me who lived in Penny Lane — and ‘Strawberry Fields [Forever].'”

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John Lennon said he lived in the setting of The Beatles’ ‘Penny Lane’ with his parents when he was a child

Subsequently, John explained what Penny Lane is. “Penny Lane is not only a street but it’s a district,” he said. “It’s like Times Square or Columbus Avenue. When you say Columbus Avenue, you mean the whole area.” 

John discussed his connection to Penny Lane. “Penny Lane is a suburban district where, until age four, I lived with my mother and father, although my father was a sailor, always at sea, and my grandfather,” he said. 

“In one of those row houses like they always picture the early Beatles’ life in Yellow Submarine and other, you know, dreamy versions of the poor, working-class lads,” he added. “But after that I lived in Penny Lane on a street called Newcastle Road. So I was the only Beatle that lived in Penny Lane.”

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How ‘Penny Lane’ and its parent album ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ performed on the charts

“Penny Lane” became a big hit in the United States. For one week, it topped the Billboard Hot 100, staying on the chart for 10 weeks altogether. The Beatles released “Penny Lane” on the soundtrack of Magical Mystery Tour. The album was No. 1 for eight of its 93 weeks on the Billboard 200.

The Official Charts Company reports “Penny Lane” was released as a double A side single in the United Kingdom with “Strawberry Fields Forever.” There, the songs peaked at No. 2 and stayed on the chart for 11 weeks. Meanwhile, Magical Mystery Tour reached No. 31 and stayed on the chart for 10 weeks.

Penny Lane was important to John — and “Penny Lane” was important to the world.

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