The real ‘Penny Lane’

When the Beatles came out with a new song, it was a happening. When “Penny Lane” came out, it was a revelation. This little story song was an amazing piece of music, from the way they launched right into the vocal without introduction to the lilting piccolo trumpet wafting over the feedback after the final chord.

But something, um, very strange happened after a couple of weeks. Someone edited out the lilting piccolo trumpet wafting over the feedback after the final chord. It was like giving the Mona Lisa a haircut.

When the song came over the radio, instead of those perfect final seven notes, the song ended with a piano crash and the inevitable feedback, but the trumpet player no longer chimed in. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. When I bought the single, some of the labels said 2:57 and some of them said 3:00. I bought one that said 3:00 figuring the trumpet conclusion must run three seconds. But it was the wrong version. No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

So powerful was the original ending that I took to humming the trumpet part when the song ended. Thirteen long years I heard those phantom notes in my mind when I heard the song.

Then, in 1980, they came out with an album called “Beatles Rarities,” and the long nightmare ended. The real “Penny Lane” was available again.

I’ve never understood why they decided to truncate the original version. Maybe they thought the feedback was cool and they wanted to emphasize it. But for darn near a half-century now, this is the only version of “Penny Lane” I can tolerate.


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Wordsmith, journalist and podcaster, Warren is a reporter, editor and storyteller who lives near the shores of Green Bay with his wife, two golden retrievers, and a couple of cats.