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Recording, mixing, editing: When I’m Sixty-Four, Strawberry Fields Forever, Penny Lane

Studios Two and Three, EMI Studios, Abbey Road
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Geoff Emerick

Work took place on three different songs on 29 December 1966, during three different sessions. The songs were ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and ‘Penny Lane’.

The first session took place in the control room of Studio Three from 2.30-4.45pm. Four mono mixes of ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ were made, numbered 4-7. Mix number six was intended for the US market, and seven for the UK, but neither was used. Instead a new mono mix was made on the following day, rendering all these redundant.

Also for the US market, a tape copy was made of the 22 December mono mix of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. In the second scheduled session, which began immediately after the first at 4.45pm and ended at 5.40pm, stereo mixes of the song were made.

The new mixes again required matching the tempos and keys of the two recorded versions, as George Martin and Geoff Emerick had done in the previous session. The first mix was of take seven, followed by one of take 26, followed by an edit of the two which was labelled remix three.

The results were deemed unsatisfactory, so a fourth mix was made of take 26. This was combined with the beginning of mix one to create a final stereo mix, numbered five.

Penny Lane EP artwork - Denmark, Sweden

Penny Lane

In Studio Two between 7pm and 2.15am the following morning, Paul McCartney recorded the first takes of ‘Penny Lane’. At this stage the song was known as ‘Untitled’, although McCartney had been speaking about writing a song titled ‘Penny Lane’ since at least November 1965.

The recording of ‘Penny Lane’ was almost as complex as for ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. To begin with, McCartney laid down six takes of the piano backing track onto track one of the multitrack tape.

He then overdubbed another similar piano part onto track two, fed through a Vox amplifier with a tremolo effect at a low speed, while Ringo Starr simultaneously added a tambourine part.

McCartney added more piano onto track three, using EMI’s ‘Mrs Mills’ honky-tonk piano. He also recorded some high harmonium notes, fed through a guitar amplifier, onto track four. The instrumental work-in-progress from this time can be heard on the 2017 Special Collector’s Anniversary Edition of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Work on Penny Lane continued on 30 December 1966, and into the following year.

Paul McCartney's handwritten lyrics for Penny Lane

Last updated: 26 June 2023
Mixing, editing: Strawberry Fields Forever
Mixing, recording: When I'm Sixty-Four, Penny Lane
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