Penny Lane, the Liverpool street immortalized in the Beatles song of the same name, made headlines last week when it was questioned whether the street was named after 18th-century slave trader James Penny. Historians have now determined the street name is not related to the slave trader.
Rolling Stone reports that after speaking with local Liverpool historian Richard MacDonald, “The earliest mention of the lane was from the 1840s, when it was listed as Pennies Lane. In maps going back to the 1700s, it was merely an unnamed country road. Meanwhile, James Penny died in 1799 — plus, he already had a street named after him: Arrad Street, named for his birthplace in Ulverston, Cumbria.
MacDonald, who along with a team of other historians looking into the slave trade connection for the past ten years, said they were unable to find one.
MacDonald said to Rolling Stone, “Penny Lane about that time would have been a fairly rural country lane, so that struck me. It would be very off that a lane in the middle of the country would be named after somebody in the same way that prestigious streets in the town center would.”
Rolling Stone notes there are a number of streets in Liverpool named after former slave traders, which helped add to the Penny Lane controversy.
There was a lot of media attention on the Penny Lane name origin when Liverpool’s Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham said in a statement following Penny Lane street signs being vandalized, “If it is as a direct consequence of that road being called Penny Lane because of James Penny, then that needs to be investigated. Something needs to happen and I would say that sign and that road may well be in danger of being renamed.”
Beatles: Top 50 Songs Ranked
Upbeat yet revealing, "Getting Better" and its jaunty melody are a unique juxtoposition with its lyrics in which John Lennon admits, "I used to be cruel to my woman/I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved/Man I was mean but I'm changing my scene." It's one of many examples of lyrical and musical differences between Lennon and Paul McCartney and how magical their partnership was.
Obviously, this is one of Ringo Starr's best Beatles moments, and how can it not be? It's a classic tune about friendship whose power only increased when it was covered by Joe Cocker in 1968.
Which is more memorable: John Lennon's vocal performance or the song's use in 'Ferris Bueler's Day Off'? One thing that is for certain is that this song is one of the greatest covers of all time.
Even though the song isn't about drugs, its dreamy melodies certainly do lend themselves to a good trip. Alas, it's just a really catchy, charming tune inspired by a child's drawing.
"Please Please Me" was the first single the Beatles released in the United States where it would eventually peak at no. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Not a bad first outing on the charts or an intro to the band.
Sure, McCartney rhymed "there" with "there" a lot, but "Got to Get You Into My Life" is so joyful it doesn't matter just like it doesn't matter the song is about weed and not love. And that brass section? A pure delight! Of course, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention Earth, Wind & Fire's incredible 1978 cover, which became a Billboard Hot 100 top 10 hit for the R&B icons.
Not subtle but definitely cheeky, "Day Tripper" told the tale of a woman who just wasn't in it for the long haul when it comes to relationships...or it's about drugs, which very much a common theme to some of the Beatles' biggest and best songs.
Any writer hustling to land a job or to get published can surely relate to this one. Add in Paul McCartney's amplified bass, and the Beatles score yet another no.1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.
As I write this entry, it's hard not to send a ton of love to this early Beatles single. P.S.: It will always be a perfect love letter.
"Love Me Do" was The Beatles' first single in the U.K. but it received a proper single release in the U.S. in 1964. Plus, that hooky harmonica intro is "chef's kiss."
The moment John Lennon belts out "Don't Let Me Down," it's hard not to be transported to the concert on the rooftop of Apple Corps headquarters. Simple, straight to the point, it's hard not to feel this one in your heart and gut.
There are multiple interpretations of "Blackbird," with the most notable one being about the civil rights movement in the United States. Whatever you feel the source of inspiration is, it goes without saying that more than anything, "Blackbird" is a song of healing, and like other poignant Beatles songs, it has brought comfort to so many for decades.
"I Saw Her Standing There" is basically the poster-child of the 'American Bandstand' phrase, "It's got a good beat and you can dance to it." Try to listen to it's poppy goodness and not dance or at least tap your foot. If you can resist, you might be a cyborg.
John Lennon told 'Rolling Stone' in a 1970 interview, "It's one of the best lyrics I've written. In fact, it could be the best. It's good poetry, or whatever you call it, without chewin' it. See, the ones I like are the ones that stand as words, without melody. They don't have to have any melody, like a poem, you can read them." Of course, the dreamy melody doesn't hurt either.
HEY! You've got to admit that this Bob Dylan-influenced ballad is brilliant, especially the "Feeling two-foot small" line. The original lyric was "Feeling two-foot tall," but after a fateful flub when playing it for McCartney, Lennon changed it. Talk about a happy accident.
The Phil Spector production on "The Long and Winding Road" is very grand in the best way possible. The grandeur paid off, though. "The Long and Winding Road" would be the last song from The Beatles to top the Billboard Hot 100 giving the band an even 20 no. 1's.
"Dear Prudence" and its warm, inviting lyrics appeal to everyone. If you're looking for proof, both the Jerry Garcia Band and Siouxsie and the Banshees have covered the tune, with the latter's cover becoming the band’s most successful single in the U.K. topping out at number three.
The autobiographical song about John and Yoko's wild wedding and honeymoon protest might just be the coolest song about a wedding and honeymoon ever. George Harrison and Ringo Starr are absent on the recording due to being on vacation and filming a movie, respectively, but Lennon just couldn't wait to record the song (that's Paul on the drums, by the way). When you gotta record, you gotta record.
Whether you believe the song is about a woman leaving her boyfriend or about prostitutes who tested negative for STDs, one thing we all can agree on is Ringo Starr's stellar drumming on the track.
The song may not be explicitly about Lennon and McCartney, but the whole opposites/two sides of the same coin message in the lyrics certainly could open itself to that interpretation. Remember the phrase "yin and yang," because it's going to pop up later in this list.
Many Beatles songs feature all sorts of life lessons, but perhaps the most underrated might be, "Life is very short, and there's no time for fussing and fighting, my friend." While the song is about two lovers, "We Can Work It Out" can easily be applied to two friends once proving the universal nature of The Beatles.
It's really hard to break up this 'Abbey Road' medley into individual pieces when they were meant to be together. The closest this eight-song delight gets to being broken up is on the radio when "Golden Slumbers," "Carry That Weight" and "The End" are played together. Frankly, if the only contribution to society this medley yielded was that classic moment on 'Saturday Night Live' between Paul McCartney and Chris Farley, it would be legendary enough.
Is this the Beatles' second no. 1 song in the U.S? Yeah. Was it one of the big steps that birthed "Beatlemania"? Yeah. Does it have one of the greatest hooks in music history? Um...YEAH, YEAH, YEAH!
"Eight days a week is not enough to show I care." Can you say, "Swoon!"? Love is beyond complex and strange, but some of those early Beatles songs make it sound so simple and delightful.
If you went through the madness that was Beatlemania, you'd probably freak out, too, just like John Lennon. Of course, Lennon sure had a way to turn his anxiety into a catchy no. 1 hit song.
"Something" remains one of the most-beloved, best ballads of all time. It has been covered by a number of artists over the years including Smokey Robinson, Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, Tony Bennett and Ike & Tina Turner.
Paul McCartney's ode to suburban life, "Penny Lane" might be the prettiest song about living in the 'burbs ever. Very strange, indeed.
A tribute to the loniness of life, "Eleanor Rigby" becomes even more haunting thanks to the very moody string section.
If LSD had a theme song, it might be this closing track on 'Revolver.' The song would also go on to close the Season 5, Episode 8 episode of 'Mad Men,' which saw Don Draper put the album on his turntable and put the needle on the track at the recomendation of his very young second wife, Megan. Draper is clearly not impressed nor does he want to "float downstream" or "surrender to the void" and turns the song off before it ends. Side note: The price tag to use "Tomorrow Never Knows" on 'Mad Men'? A cool $250k.
Sure, lyrically speaking "Get Back" doesn't make much sense, but its power lies within its killer groove and the wonder that was Billy Preston's electric piano. No one said a great song had to make sense!
Rife with experimental recording effects, most notably John Lennon's slowed down vocal track, "Strawberry Fields Forever" is a lovely nod to the garden where he played as a child and is easily one of the most unique songs in the Beatles catalouge. Simply put, no other song sounded like "Strawberry Fields Forever" before its release and no other song has sounded like it since.
"Can't Buy Me Love" triggers two memorable images: The Beatles running down a fireescape and froliking in a field and Patrick Dempsey riding off into the sunset on his lawnmower after getting the girl. Both moments have the perfect soundtrack, and that soundtrack was yet another no. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.
Hearing the studio recording of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" now, it's hard not to also hearing the screaming of fans in attendence during that legendary Beatles appearance on 'The Ed Sullivan Show.' The song itself was released a little over a month after the tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and it was the perfect, wholesome pop song to raise the spirits of a mourning nation.
"A Hard Day's Night" has two unique destictions: 1. You can recognize it with just its opening note. 2. By hearing it, you can immediately imagine yourself running while being chased by crazy fans in a train station.
Famously written by Harrison in Eric Clapton's home garden after playing hooky from some meetings at Apple Records, "Here Comes the Sun" is the angelic sound of relief and release from whatever problems life may have thrown at you. Understandably, the song remains a major fan favorite of fans to this day and has been covered by numerous artists from Nina Simone to Booker T. & the M.G.'s and was even covered on an episode of musical dramady 'Glee.'
Third time was the charm for "Revolution." The single version served as the b-side to "Hey Jude" and followed the versions "Revolution 1" and "Revolution 9" on "The White Album." The tempo increased and got a heavy dose of fuzzy guitar and that helped transform a great song into a classic song.
'Rubber Soul' was obviously a major turning point for the Beatles, and the album's standout track is "In My Life." The track hinted at the depth of what was to come from the band and is still one of the most moving songs about love and friendship to ever be written.
"Come Together" and its wacky lyrics kick off 'Abbey Road' in epic fashion. It provided The Beatles with one of their final number one singles topping the Billboard Hot 100 and staying on the chart for 16 weeks. It has one of the coolest, most-recognizable intros in music history. Simply put, it's 4:19 of rock and roll perfection that is unlike anything else in the Beatles catalog.
Welcome to George Harrison's coming out party! When taking in 'The White Album,' there's obviously a lot to absorb track-wise, but it's hard to walk away and not be moved by the tension of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." Add in Eric Clapton's iconic solo, and you don't just have a song; you have a statement.
By now, we all know the story behind "Hey Jude," the 7:11 epic McCartney wrote for Julian Lennon when his parents split up. The song would go on to top the Billboard Hot 100 for nine weeks in 1968 and is the most-successful song in the Beatles' catalouge, which is a stunning statistic when looking at their catalouge. And if you've been fortunate enough to see Sir Paul live since he added it to his setlist, "Hey Jude" is always a highlight live.
It's a pop song, and to some, it could also be a prayer. A beautiful tribute from a son to his late mother, it was the last song released by the Beatles before Paul McCartney left the band. Like many Beatles songs, it topped the Billboard Hot 100. As far as exits, what a way to go.
Remember how at the start of this list in the entry for "Getting Better" we mentioned how magical the Lennon/McCartney partnership was? This might be the greatest example of their yin and yang together. Lennon's chaos and McCartney's calm. Add in a dizzying orchestra, and it provides for an incredible closing track to 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.'
It might be cliche to name "Yesterday" as the best Beatles song, but cliches aren't neccessarily a bad thing when they're this devastdatingly beautiful. It's beauty can be found in its lyrics and its simplicity. On the other hand, the song's pain is universally felt by anyone who's been dumped. It's a 2:03 masterclass in pop excellence, and you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone to disagree with that.