17 January 1967: The Beatles Recording 'Penny Lane' in Studio Two

17th January 2019

17 January 1967

On this day in 1967 The Beatles finished recording Penny Lane in Studio Two at Abbey Road Studios with David Mason’s famous piccolo trumpet solo. The recording began at 7pm and finished at 12.30am the next morning.

Paul McCartney came across David Mason while searching for a special sound to accompany the Penny Lane Project. Mason was playing the piccolo trumpet in Bach’s Second Brandenburg Concerto on BBC2’s television series Masterworks and was summoned the next morning to Abbey Road by Beatles producer, George Martin.

“He saw me playing Bach's Brandenburg Concerto Number 2 in F Major with the English Chamber Orchestra from Guildford Cathedral. The next morning I got a call and a few days later I went along to the studio. I took nine trumpets along and we tried various things, by a process of elimination settling on the B flat piccolo trumpet.” Remembers David Mason.
 
“We spent three hours working it out. Paul sang the parts he wanted, George Martin wrote them out, I tried them. But the actual recording was done quite quickly. They were jolly high notes, quite taxing, but with the tapes rolling we did two takes as overdubs on top of the existing song. I read in books that the trumpet sound was later speeded up but that isn't true because I can still play those notes on the instrument along with the record.”

The piccolo trumpet, the smallest of the trumpet family, is pitched an octave higher than the standard trumpet. The solo goes ‘so high’ that it was suggested that the recording had been sped up, as Mason explained – this was not the case. Penny Lane was one of the first songs to introduce the instrument into pop music as it was historically used by classical music artists. The un-traditional fusion of classical and pop was originally intended for the Sgt. Peppers’ LP, it was instead released as a double A-side with Strawberry Fields Forever and propelled to receive global recognition.

“We started off with Strawberry Fields, and then we recorded When I'm Sixty-Four and Penny Lane. They were all intended for the next album. We didn't know it was Sgt. Pepper then – they were just going to be tracks on The New Album – but it was going to be a record created in the studio, and there were going to be songs that couldn't be performed live.” George Martin, Anthology

David Mason later contributed to several other Beatles’ songs including: A Day in the Life, Magical Mystery Tour and All You Need Is Love. He sadly passed away in 2011, we’re incredibly proud to have been a part of his journey.
 
 
*The Beatles and George Martin during their Penny Lane recording sessions in 1967*
*Penny Lane/ Strawberry Fields Forever single artwork - UK*
 
 

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