Let me take you down cause I’m going to … Penny Lane?
Since I’ve been obsessing over The Beatles 1967 recordings for the past couple of weeks or so I thought it might be fun to take a look at the three singles, all number one hits on both sides of the Atlantic, that The Beatles released in that fateful year.
“Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane”, “All You Need is Love/”Baby You’re a Rich Man” and “Hello Goodbye/I Am the Walrus” capture, each in their own way, The Beatles at the height of their fame and musical power and represent the pinnacle of popular music in 1967 (and beyond!).
The photos that accompany this blog post (see above) feature three promotional CD singles that were released in 1997 to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of these three classic and iconic Beatles singles.
These promo CD singles are a bit tough to find these days but are really lovely reproductions of the original Capitol 45s and picture sleeves. Too bad they were only released as promo CDs as a reissue of the original vinyl 45s along with the CDs would have been really nice.
Anyway, here’s my take on these three Beatles 45s from 1967:
“Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever” – released February 1967
Ahhh, two of my absolute stone-cold favorite Beatles tunes. Actually two of my all-time favorite tunes by anybody!
The recent broadcast (and expanded version which aired last week) of Paul McCartney’s Carpool Karaoke appearance on James Corden’s “The Late, Late Show” has reawakened my love for the song “Penny Lane”.
Not only do McCartney and Corden sing “Penny Lane” while driving around Liverpool but they also visit the actual Penny Lane district while reminiscing about McCartney’s childhood which of course was the fuel and inspiration for the song “Penny Lane”.
I have to say that for me The Beatles 1966/1967 output marks the zenith of The Beatles creative powers both as writers and as recording artists. In fact, the three singles they released in 1967 have always seemed to stand out of time for me.
“Strawberry Fields Forever” in particular felt like it came from Mars the first time I heard it. Part dream, part nightmare and part Alice Through the Looking Glass; this song doesn’t scream any particular decade to me. It feels like a disembodied sound painting that glows brighter and more colorful with each passing year.
Likewise “Penny Lane”, it’s flip-side, with its signature use of the classical sounding piccolo trumpet also seems to elude the ravages of time and remains as fresh and lovely sounding as the first time it graced the airwaves in early 1967.
For me, pretty much most of The Beatles work from 1967 seems to hold some sort of magic pixie dust as it comes across as one long carnival ride through the past and the present and beyond.
I push came to shove I’d have to vote this 45 as the best one that The Beatles ever released – it’s that amazing.
“All You Need is Love/Baby You’re a Rich Man” – released July 1967
Released at the beginning of the so-called ‘Summer of Love’, “All You Need is Love” was The Beatles and Britain’s contribution to a special television broadcast called Our World.
The Our World program was the first time a television show was broadcast via satellite simultaneously to the entire world at the same time. An amazing feat for 1967 and naturally The Beatles were the perfect choice for one of the artists appearing on the program as they were the most popular and influential group of the era.
Lennon was mainly responsible for writing “All You Need is Love” and even though it’s a simple anthem for love its very simplicity helps the song endear itself to multiple generations and the production of course is typical 1967 Beatles, full of swirling orchestration and lovely vocals which made the song stand out then as well as now.
Granted of the three singles The Beatles released in 1967 this one is probably the one could be considered a bit dated. It’s not the music or production that sounds dated but it’s the association the song shares with the Summer of Love and the trappings of hippies and the counter culture which are dated.
I would argue that both songs really don’t sound that dated as The Beatles rarely used the slang of the era in their lyrics which leads them to be less topical and more timeless.
“All You Need is Love” especially still comes across as an eternal anthem that while seen as naive by some is nevertheless still refreshing and most of all hopeful which accounts for a lot – never underestimate a bit of hopefulness in this erratic world!
“Baby You’re a Rich Man”, the b-side of “All You Need is Love” has always been one of my favorite Beatles tracks that while not as mysterious and intriguing as “I Am the Walrus” or “Strawberry Fields Forever” is still beguiling and wondrous in its own way with its thick bass and swirling psychedelic instrumentation which seems to call out to the listener like a siren in the night.
At least that’s the way the song has always struck me!
“Hello Goodbye/ I Am the Walrus” – released November 1967
“Hello Goodbye”, the last of the 1967 singles, is typical McCartney pop – well crafted, fun, full of melody and catchy as hell.
As a song it’s not nearly as psychedelic as Lennon’s songs on the b-sides of the 1967 singles but it’s sure damn fine to listen to and a lovely pop confection that’s a welcome breeze on the airways anytime it’s played.
“I Am the Walrus”, the flip side of “Hello Goodbye” is another matter entirely. Yellow matter (custard) as a matter of fact!
“Walrus” is another magical, mysterious (sorry, couldn’t resist) Lennon creation that takes the whimsy and madness from the two earlier 1967 singles and amps them up a few notches. A totally unique Lennon composition, “I Am the Walrus” is other worldly and ethereal while being accessible at the same time.
I remember the very first time I heard “I Am the Walrus” I was completely mesmerized by its originality and sheer weirdness.
The slurpy cellos, as Beatles producer George Martin once referred to them, really give this song its character and a bit of spook factor which is topped off by dialogue at the end of the song which was taken from a BBC radio broadcast of Shakespeare’s King Lear” – chilling and brilliant.
This song along with “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “A Day in the Life” from the “Sgt. Pepper” album (also from 1967) form an amazing trilogy of Lennon (and McCartney) weirdness and brilliance which to this day seem fresh, stark, puzzling and achingly beautiful with just a side of menacing that are unlike any popular music before or since.
Luckily Capitol Records compiled all of these 1967 singles onto the U.S. only “Magical Mystery Tour” Lp which along with the other songs on the album form the perfect companion to The Beatles other 1967 album (Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”) which for me personally is one of my most played Beatles records.
Whew! Well that’s my take on The Beatles singles form 1967.
Take a gander at the three promo CD singles above and until next time peace and I’m going to …