The song described real locations in Liverpool. Or at least they were real—the street called Penny Lane is no longer there, although the barber, banker, and “shelter in the middle of the roundabout” still stand. The barber and banker are still a barber and banker; the shelter is now a coffee shop.
A statue of the song’s subject sits on a bench on Stanley Street in Liverpool. It was sculpted by Tommy Steele, a 1950s British rock star, who gave it to the city in 1982. Unlike the song’s Eleanor Rigby, each year several thousand people “come near” the statue, which is dedicated to “all the lonely people.”
John Lennon met Prudence Farrow—actress Mia Farrow’s sister—on a spiritual retreat with the Maharishi in India. She seemed very depressed when she arrived there, so Lennon wrote this song in an attempt to cheer her up. (She later said that she was neither sad nor despondent, just very deeply into meditation.)
Paul McCartney intended it to be a children’s song, and wrote a spoken introduction to go along with it, but the idea of the intro was abandoned—no recording of it exists.
The chord progression is Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” played backward. Lennon got the idea after hearing Yoko Ono play the original piece on the piano. The unique vocal is the result of Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison singing in unison, then overdubbing the parts twice to create nine-part harmony.
Got to Get You Into My Life
In his autobiography, Many Years From Now, McCartney admitted who the song was about: nobody. It was actually about his need to smoke marijuana.
When I’m 64
Paul McCartney wrote this song when he was 15, then recorded it a decade later with the Beatles. It was about his hope that he would have someone to love him in his old age. In 2002 McCartney married former model Heather Mills. They split up in 2006…one month before McCartney’s 64th birthday.
Twist and Shout
The Beatles’ first concert ever held in a stadium was their show at Shea Stadium in August 1965. The first song they played: “Twist and Shout.” The Beatles’ version came from a 1962 recording by the Isley Brothers, but the Isleys didn’t originate it: a Philadelphia R&B group called the Top Notes did.
John Lennon and Paul McCartney controlled the Beatles’ output—George Harrison wrote lots of songs with the group, but this was his only composition with the Beatles that was ever released as a single. It went to #1.
I Want to Hold Your Hand
The crowds of screaming girls during live performances were so loud that neither they nor the band could really hear the lyrics. So, when performing this song, Lennon would sing “I want to hold your gland,” meaning a breast.
Strawberry Fields Forever
When John Lennon was a boy in Liverpool, he liked to play in a garden called Strawberry Field on the grounds of a Salvation Army house. His Aunt Mimi didn’t want him playing there, though, because he was technically trespassing. She often warned him, “It’s nothing to get hung about.”
I Saw Her Standing There
Rights-holders wouldn’t allow Beatles songs to be used on American Idol until the series’ sixth season, but now a “Beatles week” is an annual feature. The first Fab Four song, performed on the 2007 finale, was “I Saw Her Standing There,” sung as a duet by Jordin Sparks and Blake Lewis.
I Am the Walrus
Some of the lyrics to this psychedelic song seem to be nonsensical—who is “the eggman,” for instance? Eric Burdon of the Animals claims that it’s him. Burdon says that Lennon nicknamed him “Eggman” after he told Lennon about an intimate encounter he’d once had that involved an egg.