Two teenagers meet at a drab bus terminus. Not the most promising song premise.
Just memories really…pulled together and given a slightly poetic treatment Paul McCartney
Lennon and McCartney approach the physical world of their past from different angles. For John ‘the places I remember’ are seen as part of his world, while Paul is at one remove. Penny Lane is a backdrop (‘in my ear and in my eyes’) to a story he is telling.
Penny Lane was nobody’s idea of a glamorous location. This bus terminus, where Paul and John would meet when they were teenagers (they lived in different areas of Liverpool, not far from each other but not a short walking distance either).
The song conjures up images of a narrow, crowded, market like street teeming with ‘people that come and go’. This is because Paul is setting a scene rather than documenting accurate detail.
That story is not particularly convincing — why would a banker be there? Does he mean a bank manager? And who even in the 1950s would still say ‘motorcar’? Where it is more effective is where he takes camera and swoops in on particular details — the description of the barber shop etc.
Listening to Paul describe (for the thousandth time, no doubt) how he constructed the lyric is instructive. He is more animated describing the physical locations — less so about the ‘poetic treatment’ which comes across as justification for English homework on one of those buses.
The parts don’t quite add up but the whole is magnificent —the ‘blue suburban skies’ are planted in our collective imagination.