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Who's singing the line "... in summer" in Penny Lane?
3 February 2014
3.24am
PeterWeatherby
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And before everyone fires off a from-the-hip answer, WAIT! :)

I'm asking if anyone has come across anything documented on this question. I know what it sounds like to 99% of the population, and what it sounds like is that, for some completely strange and inexplicable reason, John jumps into the lead vocal limelight just long enough to sing "in summer" before handing the rest of the song over the Paul.

But the more I listen to the song, and especially the isolated vocal track, I hear Paul's voice. A slightly coarsened version of Paul's voice, yes, and with a bit of rasp, but I think it's Paul. I can't imagine why it would be John.

So has anyone seen anything in the various books, biblios, and bibles about this? I've done a fair bit of searching around and can't find anything on the subject, but I know I don't own every book on the subject either, so I'm crowd-sourcing.

Thanks in advance for any insights!

Not a bit like Cagney.
3 February 2014
3.41am
IveJustSeenAFaceo
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I actually thought all of Penny Lane was sung by John for a long time. I'll get back to you on that specific line though

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3 February 2014
6.01am
RunForYourLife
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It sounds to my like John sings the "...in summer." and Macca sings "Meanwhile back" (Keep in mind, though they flow together, those two lines are part of two separate ideas). I know that the two can do a good job of mimicking each other, but I've never heard Paul's voice like that. It also seems like an awfully quick, abrupt transition from a raspy voice back into the "normal" one (Not that such a thing is impossible, but listening to the isolated take, it sounds like 2 separate voices to my ears, there is a clear distinction in timbre)

As to why they would do this, I can think of a few reasons.

1) It's an fun little idea, and they liked doing that sort of thing.

2) It gives Paul a break to catch a quick breath before going into the next verse (though he doesn't do it in the others).

3) Perhaps less likely, it's a reference to the vocal play at the end of the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" (a big influence on this song and this period of Beatle songwriting in general)

 

Are there bootlegs of any earlier takes? Now I'm very curious.

 

Interesting thread regardless, as I always took it for granted without actually looking deeper into it.

3 February 2014
6.59am
Billy Rhythm
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While I haven't "come across anything documented on this question", I have a theory for what it's worth.  Straight up, I'm pretty sure that it's John singing "... in summer" when I hear it, and as to why Paul dropped out in that bit?  It's pretty obvious to me (watch the 'Penny Lane' promo film) that Paul had a hard time keeping a straight face after the "Four of Fish and Finger Pies" line that preceeds it.  I'll give you a clue in that "Four of Fish" likely means "Four Young Ladies" and I'll leave you to decipher "Finger Pies" for yourself, very clever wording for there is indeed a Bakery on Penny Lane so the BBC didn't quite catch the drift, a private joke amongst themselves, no?...:-)

3 February 2014
7.58am
4or5Magicians
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I cannot cite very specific documentation on that part, but I have a few clues based on existing documentation and personal observation.

Going with Billy Rhythm's theory, The Beatles Bible entry for Penny Lane states that John came up with the "Four of fish and finger pies" line, and confirms the connotations of the line. Even if Paul had trouble keeping a straight face after that line, I can't see John coming up with something like that and doing anything less than belting it out loudly and enthusiastically.

Also, having listened to the song two or three times (the 2009 remaster, compressed to a higher-than-average quality ogg vorbis file), John's vocals seem to get markedly more prominent before the "meanwhile" line in every verse. It is particularly noticeable on the "in summer" part, whether it's Paul's vocals dropping out, John singing louder, or just the way they decided to mix it. I'm going to go with a combination of RFYL's 1st point and BR's theory.

3 February 2014
10.55am
Atlas
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Well spotted.

It's John.

The inter-play between them works musically and perhaps 'dramatically' performance wise. 

 

I'm always learning something new on here.

3 February 2014
11.02am
meanmistermustard
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John C. Winn in "That Magic Feeling" writes that after the basic tracks were laid down on the 29th December, the next day all four tracks were reduced into one before ". . . Paul and John then sang their main lead vocal track, with the tape running slow, on Track 4 . . . On January 5th redid his vocal on track 3, supported again by John, but at normal speed this time". Paul, George and John added backing vocals and they were all reduced to track 4, instruments on track 1 for further overdubs.

So its Paul with John doing the lead so i presume Paul and John had that arrangement settled on from the off.

It's definitely John.

Outtake-wise we have an overdub session and some early alternate mixes, the latter from Anthology 2 which (from 'That Magic Feeling' once again) "uses the only the normal-speed vocal track for the verses, adding the second vocal for choruses".

overdub session from 9th January.

RM8

RM9

RM10

RM11 (Capitol Promo Mix)

Anthology 

It was also remixed twice, once in 2000 for promoting 1 (the album) and then for the Anthology DVD in 2003.

 

Hold the phones, found this on youtube. The 5.1 mix, front left speaker. Very evidently John - skip to 1:38.

Even more so in the 5.1 mix - centre speaker (@ 1:41)

He told us not to get overwhelmed by grief and whatever thoughts we have... to keep them happy, because any thoughts we have of him will travel to him wherever he is. (John Lennon - 27/8/67)
3 February 2014
12.04pm
ScrambledEggs
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I also haven't come across anything documented. 

As for my opinion backed with a bit of musical knowledge, here it goes:

It is very clear that it is John who is singing that line. The obvious reason for it is because in the line "A four of fish and finger pies" (just before '..in summer' ), they spread into a harmony. John sings the lead vocal on that line and part of the harmony, as it is lower, and Paul takes up the higher tones as per usual. The transition from the third vocal harmony (which Paul is singing) to the lead is slightly difficult, singing-wise, so John keeps on singing the lead until has gotten back in tune. For the same reason, it is John singing not only '..in summer', but also '..I sit and' (both times) until Paul carries on with 'meanwhile' after both the phrases. 

The following people thank ScrambledEggs for this post:

jezebeljack
3 February 2014
5.12pm
PeterWeatherby
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Thanks, meanmistermustard, for the Winn documentation and the research on the various outtakes and alternate versions.

The issue of vocal overdubs is what makes some of the theories proposed here seem less than convincing to me. However much Paul may have been amused by the "finger pies" line, I'm not convinced that he was so giddy that he couldn't manage a straight take of the lyric at least once. Same thing goes for the suggestion that he was singing harmony and couldn't switch back to the melody in time to sing the lead line; the harmonies were overdubbed, so it makes more sense that he would have just done the lead vocals on one of the takes (including the "in summer" line), and done the harmonies with John and George on a different take.

In fact, if you listen to that one track posted above, the "vocals only" track, it does sound very much like there's a clean edit between "in summer" and "meanwhile back," and I wouldn't be at all surprised if those two lines came from two different takes.

I'm in agreement that the "in summer" line sounds very much like John, but the same part on "I sit and ..." sounds like Paul, albeit with some added rasp in his voice. I think of songs like "A Hard Day's Night," when John gave up an entire bridge to be sung by Paul, and he had a definite reason for the sudden switch in lead vocalists - he said he (John) couldn't hit the notes. It just seems like there would have been a comment in an interview, or a note in one of the studio books, or something on the record somewhere to explain why John suddenly took over the lead vocal in "Penny Lane," but only for two words.

I don't have Lewisohn's books. I wonder if he mentions it at all?

Not a bit like Cagney.
3 February 2014
5.15pm
Funny Paper
America
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Some here may be developing flop sweat and a Herbert-Lom-in-The-Pink-Panther twitch of the eye at this nightmarish topic resembling the "ahh-ahh-ahhhs" dilemma in A Day In The Life, but I like this question.

I spent 72 feverish hours like the Gene Hackman character going mad in The Conversation listening to that minuscule portion of the audio,blue-meanie with no definitive explanation, but with a tentative conviction that it is John for "in summer".

All seriousness aside, I like Scrambled Eggseses (I hate names that end in "s" and trying to figure out how to add the possessive apostrophe to the ending) theory the best, and by Jove, I think he or she is right -- John is also singing "I sit and" -- passing the baton with breathless aplomb back to Paul; which would fit lyric-wise, dramatic-wise, and most importantly, for the reason "Run For Your Life" gave:

1) It's an fun little idea, and they liked doing that sort of thing.

 

P.S.:  meanmistermustard's 5.1 clip helped me appreciate the subtle vocal contributions of John in the form of dominance during harmony singing in various places of the song -- particularly new for me is in the first time of the "There beneath the blue suburban skies" leading in to Paul's "I sit and meanwhile back".  However, speaking of that, I just noticed that Paul fails to adequately enunciate the "and" in that last connecting line back to the main part of the song "I sit and meanwhile back".  This failure is only noticeable in mmm's 5.1 track, to my ears.

 

Faded flowers, wait in a jar, till the evening is complete... complete... complete... complete...
3 February 2014
5.20pm
Funny Paper
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On a related note, all these years I thought the line was "wet beneath the blue suburban skies", not "there beneath the blue suburban skies", as it is rendered in various places on the Internet.  If it is the former, it would be one of those little clever Lennonisms contributed to an otherwise Pauline song.

Faded flowers, wait in a jar, till the evening is complete... complete... complete... complete...
3 February 2014
5.54pm
fabfouremily
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Billy Rhythm said
While I haven't "come across anything documented on this question", I have a theory for what it's worth.  Straight up, I'm pretty sure that it's John singing "... in summer" when I hear it, and as to why Paul dropped out in that bit?  It's pretty obvious to me (watch the 'Penny Lane' promo film) that Paul had a hard time keeping a straight face after the "Four of Fish and Finger Pies" line that preceeds it.  I'll give you a clue in that "Four of Fish" likely means "Four Young Ladies" and I'll leave you to decipher "Finger Pies" for yourself, very clever wording for there is indeed a Bakery on Penny Lane so the BBC didn't quite catch the drift, a private joke amongst themselves, no?...:-)

I've always wondered what that was all about... This seems a likely explanation, actually... :)

My first thought upon seeing this thread was 'nooooo, not another one', but actaully I think it's a good question. It seems there may be little documented, but, as you say, the majority of listener's can't be wrong. It definitely sounds like him. What mmm posted seems to confirm it.

 

''We're just knocked out. We heard about the sell out. You gotta get an album out, you owe it to the people. We're so happy we can hardly count.''

3 February 2014
8.12pm
PeterWeatherby
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Haha, yeah, I came across the dreaded "Day in the Life" thread while researching this site for answers to my own question about "Penny Lane." I realized I was stepping into similar territory here, and that's part of the reason I specifically asked for recommendations on documented accounts, and not just opinions as to "who do you think sang this line?" :)

I know we all have opinions and what-not, but I figured we could avoid a flare-up by focusing on the question of what's been said on the written record on the subject. I'd still love to know if Lewisohn has anything on the subject.

Not a bit like Cagney.
3 February 2014
8.33pm
Mincer Ray
Gainesville, Florida
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Lewisohn says nothing clear about it in Recording Sessions. He simply mentions Paul and John doing vocals, with George. He does not mention the "in summer" line specifically.   I am not sure if he commented on it somewhere else. 

Short of some comment from a first person (Macca, Martin, etc), I think the 5.1 mix is evidence of roughly a 90% likelihood that John sang that line.  (And, of course, this forum is apt to doubt first-person accounts too... look at afore-mentioned "ahh" from A Day In The Life.  Emerick--whose book is, granted, like 30% fiction--clearly states it is John.  But, oh the arguments on here.)  

It is pretty conclusive to my ears from the 5.1 mix. But I was not there at the session.  :) 

J

"I believe that, as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil."  - Bobby Kennedy

3 February 2014
8.42pm
fabfouremily
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PeterWeatherby said
Haha, yeah, I came across the dreaded "Day in the Life" thread while researching this site for answers to my own question about "Penny Lane." I realized I was stepping into similar territory here, and that's part of the reason I specifically asked for recommendations on documented accounts, and not just opinions as to "who do you think sang this line?" :)

I know we all have opinions and what-not, but I figured we could avoid a flare-up by focusing on the question of what's been said on the written record on the subject. I'd still love to know if Lewisohn has anything on the subject.

Yeah, you're right. The reason such arguments flare up is because of the lack of info re 'A Day...' and who sang who. People tend to think they know, though.

 

''We're just knocked out. We heard about the sell out. You gotta get an album out, you owe it to the people. We're so happy we can hardly count.''

3 February 2014
8.50pm
Mincer Ray
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fabfouremily said
Yeah, you're right. The reason such arguments flare up is because of the lack of info re 'A Day...' and who sang who. People tend to think they know, though.

 

 

Of course, even when people who were *there* comment, Beatles fans argue:  We *have* first-hand info on the "ahh" in "A Day ..."  Similarly, GH stated he played bass on Old Brown Shoe:  Yet see the debate on that. We Beatles fans--myself included--are an obsessive lot.  

 

"I believe that, as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil."  - Bobby Kennedy

3 February 2014
9.12pm
meanmistermustard
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Mincer Ray said

fabfouremily said
Yeah, you're right. The reason such arguments flare up is because of the lack of info re 'A Day...' and who sang who. People tend to think they know, though.

Of course, even when people who were *there* comment, Beatles fans argue:  We *have* first-hand info on the "ahh" in "A Day ..."  Similarly, GH stated he played bass on Old Brown Shoe:  Yet see the debate on that. We Beatles fans--myself included--are an obsessive lot.  

Obsessive!? Us? Never. We love letting things go and not getting bugged by little trivialities or errors or Apple tweaking things here, there and everywhere.a-hard-days-night-john-7

 

He told us not to get overwhelmed by grief and whatever thoughts we have... to keep them happy, because any thoughts we have of him will travel to him wherever he is. (John Lennon - 27/8/67)
3 February 2014
9.14pm
IveJustSeenAFaceo
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This is interesting, because just the title of this thread shattered one of my misheard lyrics. I always thought the line was "I said a... meanwhile back"

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3 February 2014
9.28pm
Ahhh Girl
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meanmistermustard said

Obsessive!? Us? Never. We love letting things go and not getting bugged by little trivialities or errors or Apple tweaking things here, there and everywhere.a-hard-days-night-john-7

 

paul-mccartney Speaking of cream of the crap, I just read your post as "...or errors or Apple twerking..." paul-mccartney Gotta slow down reading this stuff.

 

3 February 2014
9.39pm
Bungalow Bob
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Ahhh Girl said

meanmistermustard said

Obsessive!? Us? Never. We love letting things go and not getting bugged by little trivialities or errors or Apple tweaking things here, there and everywhere.a-hard-days-night-john-7

 

paul-mccartney Speaking of cream of the crap, I just read your post as "...or errors or Apple twerking..." paul-mccartney Gotta slow down reading this stuff.

 

I see this dreaded Miley-Cyrus-inspired fad has reared its ugly… uh, head again. Well, its time we quit this now, like the song says… Cold Twerkey!

Back to the topic at hand! I always thought it was John's voice, but I never once thought about why it was John. Now I wonder why I never thought about it….

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