Today marks the 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles‘ two-sided single featuring “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane.” Both tracks were recorded during the same sessions that yielded the Fab Four’s landmark 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and were examples of the groundbreaking sonic innovations the band was incorporating into its music.
“Penny Lane” went on to become The Beatles’ 13th single to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the U.S., while “Strawberry Fields Forever” reached #8. The double single was issued on February 17 in the U.K. and peaked at #2 on the country’s singles chart, making it the first Beatles single since “Please Please Me” in 1963 not to go to #1.
The decision to put out the songs as a double single came about when Beatles manager Brian Epstein, anxious to give the band a boost in popularity, asked producer George Martin if the group had any excellent songs ready for release. In the 1995 documentary series The Beatles Anthology, Martin explains that he suggested “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever,” which he considered two of the best tracks the Fab Four had ever made.
“Penny Lane” was a bright, upbeat pop song that was augmented by orchestral instruments, and featured a piccolo trumpet solo. “Strawberry Fields Forever” arguably was among The Beatles’ most psychedelic tunes, and featured surrealistic lyrics and such spacy effects as tape loops and reverse-recorded instrumentation. Both songs were partly inspired by Paul McCartney‘s and John Lennon‘s memories of landmarks in their hometown of Liverpool, U.K.
To promote the singles, The Beatles shot a pair of inventive short films.
Neither song was included on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but the tunes were released on the Magical Mystery Tour album later in ’67.
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