The new Penny Lane mix

The record label of the new single release showing a 2017 production year for “Penny Lane”.

One of the questions we had after the re-release of the “Penny Lane”/”Strawberry Fields Forever” single, was why “Penny Lane” was remixed anew? According to the affixed label on the plastic wrap as well as on the record’s label itself, this stereo remix of “Strawberry Fields Forever” is from 2015 (when the song was remixed for the soundtrack to its promotional film on the “1+” dvd and blu-ray release), whereas “Penny Lane” had a production year of 2017. So how come Giles Martin and Sam Okell redid this song and not just used the mix created for “1+” in 2015?

Mojo, June 2017 – available in the UK now.

Tuesday the latest issue of Mojo brought us the answer, In a review of the remix, it is revealed that the new “Penny Lane” mix was made possible thanks to the discovery of “a ‘lost’ 4-track of piano, harmonium and drum components, pre-bouncedown.”

What is it with this song and losing stuff? First the original of the promotional film went missing from Apple’s archives, and now someone had misplaced a tape of the basic take?

We have taken a look under the hood of this four track tape, courtesy of the description Mark Lewisohn provided in his book “Recording Sessions” in 1988. From the description in Mojo, it looks to us that the missing tape is the so-called “take 6” tape made on December 29, 1966 which has now been found again. This is no less than the backbone of “Penny Lane”, the foundation the rest of the song relies on. The four tracks on the tape comprise:

Track 1: Paul’s main piano piece, after five previous attempts of which only take 5 was complete, this track contains take 6, which was the final take.

Track 2: Another piano part, this time recorded through a Vox guitar amp for a different sound.

Track 3: So far, this had been Paul on his own. Here he comes back with a third piano piece, this time recorded at half speed to produce a higher pitch when played back at the correct speed. In addition, a tambourine is heard here and there, probably played by Ringo.

Track 4: An effect track. This track contains several elements throughout the length of the tape. A harmonium (Paul, we guess) providing two-tone high-pitch whistles, again fed through a Vox guitar amplifier, various strange percussion effects, one of them sounding at times like a machine gun, and extremely fast and sometimes drawn-out cymbal notes.

In the finished song you can hear this effect track here: The high pitched sounds from the harmonium is heard a little bit in the instrumental section and a lot more during the song’s final ringing chord.  The machine gun-like percussion effects can be heard in the second chorus and at the conclusion of the third chorus (just after the lyric “meanwhile back”) and the fast drawn-out cymbals are most noticeable in the final seconds of the song.

At this time in the recording history of the song, the tape box label still calls it “Untitled” (but it was probably called “Penny Lane” in Paul’s mind) and is instrumental only. The fact that Mark Lewisohn has described the tape means that it wasn’t “lost” at the time when he was listening through all the Beatles tapes for his book. So between then and a little while back, it must have been misplaced, until it was rediscovered and put to use again by Giles Martin and Sam Okell for this 2017-mix.

The next day, December 30, 1966 these four tracks were all mixed down (bounced down, as the terminology was) to one track on a new four track tape, and called “take 7”. From then on, these basic elements of the song were interlocked forever in all later remixes, until this one. “Take 7” was to become basis for the finished song. On one of the three vacant tracks, Paul and John now laid down the vocals, Paul singing lead, John backing him. These would later be replaced by better attempts, and the two remaining tracks would also be used in the new year.


In other news, one version of the title track of “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (Take 9 and speech) was played on BBC Radio’s Chris Evans Radio Show (BBC Radio 2). British newspaper “The Guardian” provided us with an online version (available here). The track opens “the alternative Sgt Pepper album”, which is LP 2 on the new double vinyl album.

5 Responses

  1. The Butobi Brothers says:

    I was wondering about that….thanks for clearing that up.

  2. James19 says:

    Also, With a little help from my friends can be heard too

  3. Westfield says:

    Excellent post

  4. James Peet says:

    It's been bugging me where I've heard that Free Now bit from Paul before. It's from that Liverpool Sound Collage project.

  5. Stepe says:

    That tape was used in the Anthology 5.1 mix and probably the Anthology 2 cd as well, you can hear the individual pianos in various different parts of the mix. If it was "lost" it must have been after that.

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