Beneath the blue suburban skies

Filming “Penny Lane”.

So here it is, the new “Penny Lane” video. This video has been rescued from a positive film with faded colours. And the restoration crew has indeed been able to correct the colours, although they are perhaps more subdued than we remember from the old 2-inch U-matic video tape the previous restoration came from. The skin tones vary a bit throughout but in general, the Beatles look winterly pale and their bright (newly colourised?) red coats make the contrast stand out even more.

New insert.

It also looks like they have inserted a few shots from the trimmings, which look more like a natural colour. Does the shot above of Lennon on horseback look familiar to you? It’s nowhere to be found in the video that was made from the U-matic video tape in 1992, it wasn’t in the original video from 1967, and here in the new version it appears at 1:53.

As for the new stereo mix, renowned remaster engineer Steve Hoffman posted this comment on his own site:

“Penny Lane remix? Sterile, unemotional, everything stands out, nothing blends, all subtlety gone, sounds like 20 overdubs all on separate lines being squeezed together to make one artificial picture. Too much top end EQ on everything, no soul, just clinical sound from a mixer (no idea who it is) that decided that “the Beatles need to be brought into the 21st century”. The original (mono or stereo) at least has heart and sounds like a “whole” of something. The remix sounds like someone broke a china teacup, glued it together and shone a big light on it. “Hear what I did? I “fixed” this song. It’s good now.”

“Horrible thing to do to such a classic song.”

You be the judge.

For comparison with the previous incarnation of “Penny Lane”, here’s that:

You’ll notice that during the line “he likes to keep his fire engine clean…” they inserted individual short shots of the Beatles faces in this order:

Paul, George, Ringo

The new one goes:

John, Paul, George, Ringo

So the quick shot of John here is new, making this a new edit, however unobtrusive.

34 Responses

  1. Sergol999 says:

    Although Steve Hoffman is a pro in his field, I disagree with his opinion regarding the remix. I think that it sounds better than the original mix and fresh, but manages to maintain the spirit of the song.

  2. sunnylew says:

    I've got to say I agree with Hoffman.

    Listen to the piano come in in the original, and then to the remix. In the original it supports the voice. In the remix, though it's crystal clear, it's harsh, and drags attention to itself. There doesn't seem to be any gestalt to the remix.

  3. georgefromhenley says:

    I prefer the skin colours of the old version. Looks more natural.

  4. Unknown says:

    I repeat my comment from Wog Blog of Facebook – while I must praise all that's been restored vision wise, I'm deflated that the Penny Lane audio mix is akin to the Anthology one. Entry points of the piano are out of sync – possibly recorded that way. But if you listen to the original mono and stereo mixes – the piano at this point was buried – possibly to hide that problem. The worse moments for me are the piano's badly timed and overly loud entry at the beginning – and – the clunky re-entry immediately after the line "We see the banker sitting waiting for a trim…"

  5. James Peet says:

    I think that the piano does stumble into the song like a slightly drunken relative at a wake, but overall, I'm happy with the visual element and the sound is ok, could have been better but not awful.

    The fact that we have new mixes probably means they're going to try and get us to stump up for another box set of the catalogue with new stereo mixes.

  6. Mister Mister says:

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  7. Mister Mister says:

    Gotta agree with Steve-O. I was saying mostly the same things about the "A Day in the Life" audio from a few days ago… I've never been a fan of the 62-68 stereo mixes, but the audio on the video was shockingly remixed.

  8. Unknown says:

    Penny Lane was never in true stereo (apart from the horns). They were in a hurry to release it for Xmas 1966 and didn't have time to make a proper stereo mix. On that time mono was the king, not stereo. Other recordings from the same time, like The Fool On The Hill, had a lot better (stereo) quality. I think this new mix is fine…

  9. Unknown says:

    Penny Lane wasn't rushed, they did a bazillion reduction mixes and had all the backing (repeat – all of it!) on one track(!), lead vocal on one track, horns on the other two tracks. There was no other way they could have mixed it to stereo with that track lineup.

  10. Real Quaid says:

    This is a million times better than original mix and a more pronounced bass track make it sound closer to mono mix.

  11. reviloremeor says:

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  12. reviloremeor says:

    I must say, that I'm not to happy with the new mixes either, especially on "A Day In The Life". Why can't they use the mixes, that were made to accompany the original films and just remaster them? In the case of "Penny Lane" I often wondered, why it took so long for the audio to start at the beginning, but then I remembered something which is not quite unimportant. I had seen the original promo film years ago back in 1987 on board of a ferry on my first trip from Germany via Holland over to England. It was shown on a big screen together with other music videos as an entertainment feature and also, around the same time, I saw it again on an early german cable-tv video channel called "Music Box" from Munich in a show called "Yesterday", which I also recorded and still have somewhere on VHS tape. In both cases, these original prints of the film contained the later rejected early remix mono # 11 from January 17th, 1967 including the later trimmed "trumpet ending". (see also the 1980 US Capitol album "Rarities" and 1967 Capitol promo-single # P 5810 for this variation of the song!) If you add these missing trumpet notes to the end of the track, instead of the officially released and trimmed shorter version, then the audio would be filling the complete length of the video from start to finish.

  13. The Butobi Brothers says:

    I like the remix because the bass sounds great plus I still have the original mono and stereo mixes and the YS '99 remixes. It doesn't surprise me that some "pro" doesn't like the new mixes and that he thinks the old ones were better. I learned a long time ago to tune those people out. I remember some guy complaining bitterly about the '99 YS remixes so I didn't buy it until a friend told me how great it sounded. Big mistake on that one.

    As for the video, it's not perfect but all of the versions I have of Penny Lane are not perfect.

  14. Huston Piner says:

    I've been thinking a bit on 1) the subtle alterations to the videos as well as 2) the new mixes. On the first count, I suspect that these minor changes to the videos are there to verify source in case of bootlegs, similar to map makers inserting non-existing streets/features to prove ownership.

    Regarding the new mixes, I'm afraid for most devoted listeners it's going to be a mixed bag (no pun, production- or John-and-Yoko-wise intended). For example, I'm not moved one way or the other on the Penny Lane mix, however my jaw dropped when I heard the pristine clarity of the opening of A Day in the Life. The layering of the orchestral build-up was equally a revelation to my ears. In fact, the only thing to disappoint to me in that mix was the centering of the vocals; there's something just magical about the panning of John's voice in the second verse and the way Paul's voice drifts around both channels between the middle eight and John's rejoinder.

    We'll all have to just chalk this project up to the production of more variations to choose between, like whether you prefer the mono or stereo Money (That's What I Want), or whether you like the US configuration of Rubber Soul, or the Dexterized treatment to the American LPs. And in the end, I suspect we'll all just end up following Paul McCartney's sage words anyway.

    "I'm not a great one for that, you know, 'maybe it was too many of them.' Look, what do you mean? It's great; it sold; it's the bloody Beatles…. Shut up."

  15. reviloremeor says:

    Correction: The german video channel was called "TELE 5", also from Munich, but its life as a music channel is defunct now and it has long gone. It used to be called "Musicbox" before that from 1984 until 1988. Somewhere inbetween I've seen and recoded the original 1967 clip of "Penny Lane" with the trumpet ending on a show called "Yesterday". Here's some info about the channel:

  16. wogew says:

    The song always started a bit into the film in the versions I've seen earlier, and I've never heard it with the Rarities trumpet ending. This also wouldn't lengthen the music, because the final cymbal is still under it.

  17. reviloremeor says:

    You may be right there Roger, a friend of mine has just tried to re-create a version with the trumpet ending over the new video and it stll fits perfectly with a silent Lennon at the beginning. Anyway, I know that the version of the film with the trumpet ending exists as I've seen it twice during the 80's, but I was also very suprised by it, because I only knew this version from the US Rarities album release at the time and that was newly re-created by Capitol as a stereo version with the tagged on trumpet ending.

  18. reviloremeor says:

    What puzzles me is the question, why did they make a promo film with the abandonned ending, when it was first shown on british tv on Top Of The Pops the day before its official release (which didn't have the trumpet ending anymore!) on Friday, Febuary 17th 1967?

  19. wogew says:

    We don't have TOTP, but the Norwegian Broadcasting Company still has their tape of the TV show where Penny Lane made it's debut in Norway, March 25, 1967. The programme is on their web TV and you can access it here, in glorious black and white.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Wasn't the revised ending of Penny Lane the occasion for Paul's 'beyond the last minute' intervention in EMI's production process for the single? I can't find the details or remember who came up with them although Wikipedia does mention that the highly collectible US promos (Subsequently the US 'Rarities' version) featured the trumpet flourishes. The initial version of promo film matched this.

    As for the remixes, and the remixes of the entire catalogue to follow, there are certain (mechanical) copyright advantages which should not be underestimated, even though some of the advantages have to be claimed with questionable legality 😛

  21. Anonymous says:

    The Beatles should be heard in mono (until 1968), but new stereo mixes like The Yellow Submarine Songtrack are very welcome. So yes, the mix of 1 is great and made with the mono mix in mind.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Steve Hoffman is clearly playing to his audience, the people who buy 2 sets of everything that Apple or MPL put out and believe that entitles them to a seat on the board.
    The facts of the matter are that The Beatles do not belong to the baby-boomers now on their 27th full set of their entire collection. They belong to the kids just discovering them and (as I've witnessed, personally) thinking there's something wrong with their equipment due to the 'idiosyncratic' ('stupid' is the word I heard used) stereo.

    The remixes may not suit the boomers but they will suit the kids and the radio DJs just fine.

    The important point that everybody agrees on is that the songs could be released in halfmono (don't look it up) and would still stand up and stick out.

    Therefore, on with the show!

  23. James Percival says:

    My thing is the history of the Beatles, but my opinion on the mixes is pretty much in line with Internotional Times and Senangproducties. I will certainly reserve judgement until my discs arrive, (having pre-ordered belt and braces cd, dvd and double blue ray), but my first Beatles recordings were 1970s stereo pressings (plus some singles and eps) and I was blown away when I first heard the early mono mixes. I hated the extreme left and right separation and could never understand why the stereo albums predominated at that time. When the Cds finally came out (at least 3 years too late) I was broadly supportive of the decision to release the first 4 albums as mono. I would have preferred mono options for all the albums until Abbey Road, and so it is no surprise that I now proudly own the mono cd box set (vinyl one day too I hope!). For me the 2009 remasters were also too late and should have involved remixes. I know some classic band remixes (Doors spring to mind) have not gone down well, but compared with the Stones, the Who (remixed Tommy is simply magnificent) and Pink Floyd the Beatles have been very badly served imo. OK, the dedicated fans get 'conned' into buying the same album again and again, but no one forces us to buy the products. When Yellow Sub remix was released I was truly amazed; when the bass boomed out of Hey Bullfrog, or the much cleaner lines to It's All Too Much, or just about anything else on that album, I was desperate for similar things to happen for all their albums. I'm still waiting. I think the decision to return to the original mixes in 2009 (especially the pre 1969 stereo) was a big mistake. Think of Lennon's album remixes which for Mind Games and Walls and Bridges led to a massive sonic improvement. So for me this is once again too little and too late and I hope IT is right when he suggests eventually for copyright and financial reasons new mixes for all the albums will occur. For those of you who dislike the new 1 project, you are of course entitled to your view, but you still have your original albums don't you?

  24. Anonymous says:

    Thanks James for your interesting thoughts on remastering. I go for the sonic improvement. In my opinion it is not too late 😉 1 will open the door for a new remastering by the team of Giles Martin. When they use the mono masters as a reference, the new stereomix will be something to look forward too (just like Yellow Submarins Songtrack, Let it be naked, Love).

    Yes I like the new Penny Lane stereo mix.

  25. James Percival says:

    I should clarify: I meant too late for the Beatles in terms of album sales, for the fans I suppose it can never be too late and the anticipation is part of the appeal. I mean, everyone of us would buy Let it be as a dvd or blue ray in a heartbeat and yet we've been waiting 30+ years since the brief vhs release (which I don't own)!

  26. Anonymous says:

    And thanks to Roger for bringing it all online together: WogBlog is one of my all time favorite Beatles sites.

  27. James Percival says:

    Mine too – I now visit it every day. Thanks Roger!

  28. Dave Halbert says:

    There's a slight error in your article. UMatic was a three-quarter-inch helically-scanned VT format in cassettes. The 2", quadrilaterally-scanned, open-reel format you're talking about was called Quadruplex, or Quad for short.

  29. Dave Halbert says:

    The reason there's usually a second or so of silence at the start of film clips is because the optical soundtrack on a film print is physically spaced a few inches behind the picture. The picture will always appear before the sound, and will always disappear before.

  30. LanceHall says:

    Just a theory, but, I think any perceived lack of synchronicity or cohesiveness in remixes maybe due to the application of individual reverbs on individual elements. When you go back to the original "stems" you have to replicate all those little reverbs, EQs, and compressions that were built into the reduction mixes. The difference in reverbs changes the perceived attack and decay of an element and therefore it's timing compared with what you've been hearing for the past 50 years. Some people pick up on these tiny differences and some people do not.

  31. LanceHall says:

    I think the remixes sound good on their own as nice alternates. I think in general the tonality and balances are fine. The only issue I have is the different reverbs (too much or too little) and the little missing details here and there. Also the vocals are often kinda thin and less warm. I realize they were replicating the mono mixes though. The vintage mixes had very specific narrow EQ bumps to bring "presence" to those mixes and those bumps literally defined the sound of the vintage mixes.

  32. Anonymous says:

    On the new 1 remixes, still there is a strange difference between the left and right speaker. On Hello Goodby, George's leadguitar and backingvocal is on the right. Even Lady Madonna sounds strange. Did anyone noticed that?
    Overall very happy with the nexe mixes. The audio for Free as a bird and Real love are improved. Great.

  33. corduroytunes says:

    Oh boy, everyone is a critic. If you prefer the "oldies but moldies" mono mixes (like I do), great. If you like the 2009 remastered stereo versions, fantastic. If you enjoy the new experience of clean, bright, balanced, & slightly compressed remixes, awesome. But as an huge beatle fan and audio engineer it makes me cringe when obsessed fans try to deconstruct the new remixes to show how different they are from their predecessors. THAT'S THE WHOLE POINT! If a Beatle fan is turned off because the EQ on the vocals are +3 decibels too loud than his/her favorite mix then I think that person needs to just sit back and put on his/her preferred mix and let the rest of the fans enjoy something new from the Beatles in peace.

  34. Unknown says:

    Ask him about the Picks and Buddy Holly tapes

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