Who Played the Trumpet on The Beatles’ Song “Penny Lane”?

by Madonna

In late 1966, The Beatles ventured into new musical territory, recording two tracks that would herald an era of sophisticated pop, later termed “progressive.” One of these tracks was Paul McCartney’s “Penny Lane.”

The song pays homage to the street McCartney frequented with his bandmates during their teenage years. It features references to various characters and activities, including a risque act practiced by local adolescents when they could get away with it.


Notably, “Penny Lane” includes an element that Beatles producer George Martin later claimed in his book All You Need Is Ears “had never been done in rock music before.” A piccolo trumpet, usually found in compositions by baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach, takes over the song’s melody midway through. The trumpet plays a technically intricate solo, highlighting the growing influence of classical music on the evolution of pop music.


This solo stands out as one of the most prominent uses of a classical instrument in The Beatles’ discography. It required a musician proficient in playing the piccolo trumpet, a smaller and higher-pitched instrument than standard trumpets, and knowledgeable in the baroque style that defined its use.


So, who performed this iconic solo?
Enter seasoned orchestral soloist David Mason, who had recently been the soloist for the English Chamber Orchestra during their performance of Bach’s 2nd Brandenburg Concerto for the BBC. McCartney, searching for a classical instrument for the solo in “Penny Lane,” saw the BBC concert on television by chance and decided on a piccolo trumpet for the song.

Mason was soon summoned to Studio 2 on Abbey Road, where he recorded the solo with all four Beatles present. He was paid 27 pounds and ten shillings for his work, equivalent to around £500 today, which was quite generous for an orchestral session musician at the time.

Following his work with The Beatles, Mason gained widespread recognition and later taught trumpet as a professor at the Royal College of Music, which now awards a prize in his honor. In classical circles, he is renowned for performing the flugelhorn solo in Ralph Vaughan Williams’s “Symphony No. 9,” a pioneering use of the instrument in classical music.

Nonetheless, for any musician in the 1960s, performing with The Beatles was the pinnacle. Despite his numerous achievements in classical music, Mason’s eight-bar solo in “Penny Lane” remains his most enduring legacy.


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