Friday, November 13, 2009

Penny Lane

Hearing 'Penny Lane' on the radio just now, I was taken
back to London in 1967 and the release of the single, this
on one side, 'Strawberry Fields Forever' on the other.
Even then, I think, we knew it was the beginning of the
end for the Beatles; both songs had an autumnal quality;
they signalled goodbye to the Liverpool out of which John
Lennon and Paul McCartney had come, while at the same
time attaining a level of maturity and sophistication in
song-making beyond which they could hardly hope to go.
All that came after was, in a sense, pastiche and parody,
right down to 'Let It Be' and 'Octopus's Garden'. In fact,
I'd agree with those who think that Revolver was the
Beatles' apotheosis; but if that album was the signature,
then the 'Penny Lane'/'Strawberry Fields' single was the
paraph, the farewell flourish underneath. What terrific
songs they both are, one so McCartney, the other so
Lennon, both extraordinary evocations of childhood, one
drawing on the music-hall tradition of past years, the
other pointing towards a more complex, layered kind of
music: call that single a 20th-century cultural hinge, as
indeed the Beatles themselves were. For three or four
unforgettable years in the 60s they made the door swing
both ways.

1 comment:

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