16 NORWEGIAN WOOD
Rubber Soul album track, December 1965
DEREK HATTON: My favourite album was Rubber Soul, “The Word” is brilliant, “Michelle” is brilliant…and “Norwegian Wood” just hits me. I felt that Rubber Soul was almost like, “You’ve had the last five albums, here’s the sixth, and it’s goodbye- we’re going into the next era”.
RENNIE SPARKS: This song has the same structure as a Raymond Carver story. The most bitter sweet song about furniture ever written. When I was younger, I didn’t like it because I didn’t like songs about foreigners.
ASTRID KIRCHHERR: It was such a new, fresh thing for a rock’n’roll band to use a waltz to write a song. I like the words as well. They were really starting to experiment a lot at that time. I knew they had a lot of potential, each one of them, but I never, ever expected them to rule the world of music. I definitely knew Paul was going to be a musician and John would be a writer or a cartoonist and a musician, and Stuart a painter and a writer and maybe an actor, and George… George was 17. And now I’m very, very proud of, particularly George, the way he ruled his life, and he’s happy and he’s found so many interesting things to do, like gardening. He calls himself a gardener, which I think is wonderful.
15 PENNY LANE
Double A-side single, February 1967
HOLLY JOHNSON: As a child, “Penny Lane”/”Strawberry Fields” was my first lesson in Pop Music. The fact that the actual locations were just around the corner from where I lived gave me the perspective that I was living in the Emerald City of Pop Music right next door to the Wizard of Oz, and one day I would be wearing the Ruby Slippers as the Toppermost of the Poppermost.
ROD DAVIS: This song makes Penny Lane sound more romantic than it was in real life, but the words bring back my childhood. Penny Lane was so much more exciting than our little village of Woolton, which was at the end of the tram track. There was the Plaza Cinema and the Abbey, W.H Smith’s, Bioletti’s the barbers, where the more daring among us went to get a hair cut, and my grandma lived near the roundabout. When I was at school at Quarry Bank, we used to jump over the wall at the bottom of the school grounds, walk past the fire station and stroll along Allerton Road to Penny Lane and maybe buy a bag of chips.
MARK COLWILL: I’ve two sisters. The one who was six years older than me was a teenager in the Sixties, so I used to listen to her records. “Penny Lane”, when I was six or seven, was my favourite. It’s just the classic pop song. It makes me smile. I always see the images is presents as not quite the Sixties- I always feel it’s more the Fifties. It evokes slightly a just-after-the-war sort of feel.
AIMEE MANN: He (McCartney) has this lightness of touch that’s really beautiful. There’s nostalgia in the music and that’s reflected in the arrangement, also, which is part of the brilliance- the piccolo trumpet and the bassline. It’s a classic McCartney melody, and classic George Martin. It’s also my favourite kind of lyric writing, which is real specific-people and details and descriptions. He does this screenwriting thing of showing instead of telling.
Single B-side to ‘Hey Jude’. August, 1968
JIM REID: When I think of something like “Revolution”, I don’t remember when I hadn’t heard that song. It’s a part of your life. It’s like musical Prozac. You put it on and it makes you feel good. Sonically, a brilliant record- pure noise before anybody else was doing it.
TJINDER SINGH: It’s a corker, and it’s totally rocking. It’s pretty out there as a B-side, as well. Lyrically, it’s a bit vague, and in the different versions, he changes it from “you can count me out” to “you can count me in”, but at least it focuses on the issues.
CLIFF JONES: It gave birth to the Seventies. Instead of the “we” generation, it became the “everybody for themselves” generation, the way Lennon dismissed agit-pop in one fell swoop. Above all, I love the guitar. Ever since I was a child, I’ve listened to that track. It’s like sulphuric acid. It’s brilliantly aggressive, but without ever hurting you. Perfect synchronicity of music and content.
DAVE BIELANKO: It’s brilliantly lyrically and so very John Lennon. Everything that happened from Chuck Berry and Little Richard built into what became violent rock’n’roll. It’s a super influential tune. You hear it come on the jukebox in a bar- it’s “Wow!” That’s the sign of a band that’s operating on a different plane, but still playing the same game. The rock version captured how angry it was. It’s a punk rock song any way you cut it, well before the fact.