US picture sleeve
|Single by the Beatles|
|Released||30 May 1966|
|Recorded||13-14 April 1966 |
EMI Studios, London
|Length||2:18 (stereo version)|
2:26 (mono single version)
|The Beatles UK singles chronology|
|The Beatles US singles chronology|
"Paperback Writer" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles. Written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon (credited to Lennon-McCartney), the song was released as the A-side of their 11th single in May 1966. It topped singles charts in Britain, the United States, Ireland, West Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Norway. On the US Billboard Hot 100, the song was at No. 1 for two non-consecutive weeks, being interrupted by Frank Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night".
"Paperback Writer" was the last new song by the Beatles to be featured on their final tour in 1966.
According to disc jockey Jimmy Savile, McCartney wrote "Paperback Writer" in response to a request from an aunt who asked if he could "write a single that wasn't about love". Savile said, "With that thought obviously still in his mind, he walked around the room and noticed that Ringo was reading a book. He took one look and announced that he would write a song about a book." In a 2007 interview, McCartney recalled that he started writing the song after reading in the Daily Mail about an aspiring author, possibly Martin Amis. The Daily Mail was Lennon's regular newspaper and copies were in Lennon's Weybridge home when Lennon and McCartney were writing songs.
The song's lyrics are in the form of a letter from an aspiring author addressed to a publisher. The author badly needs a job and has written a paperback book "based on a novel by a man named Lear".
Aside from deviating from the subject of love, McCartney had it in mind to write a song with a melody backed by a single, static chord. "John and I would like to do songs with just one note like 'Long Tall Sally.' We got near it in 'The Word.'" McCartney claimed to have barely failed to achieve this goal with "Paperback Writer", as the verse remains on G until the end, at which point it pauses on C.
Lennon told Hit Parader in 1972 that "Paperback Writer" was primarily written by McCartney: "I think I might have helped with some of the lyrics. Yes, I did. But it was mainly Paul's tune." Lennon also told Playboy in 1980: " 'Paperback Writer' is son of 'Day Tripper', but it is Paul's song."
The Beatles recorded the track at EMI Studios in London on 13 and 14 April 1966. "Paperback Writer" is marked by the boosted bass guitar sound throughout, partly in response to John Lennon demanding to know why the bass on a certain Wilson Pickett record exceeded the bass on any Beatles records. This changed with the "Paperback Writer" single.
"'Paperback Writer' was the first time the bass sound had been heard in all its excitement," said Beatles' engineer Geoff Emerick in Mark Lewisohn's book The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions. "Paul played a different bass, a Rickenbacker. Then we boosted it further by using a loudspeaker as a microphone. We positioned it directly in front of the bass speaker and the moving diaphragm of the second speaker made the electric current." Further, McCartney's playing was more melodic and busy than on previous tracks.
According to McCartney, the harmony vocals on the track were arranged during the recording session.George Martin, the Beatles' producer, later commented: "The way the song itself is shaped and the slow, contrapuntal statements from the backing voices - no one had really done that before." In their backing vocals over the third verse, Lennon and George Harrison sing the title of the French nursery rhyme "Frère Jacques".
Emerick stated that the "Paperback Writer" / "Rain" single was cut louder than any other Beatles record up to that time, due to a new piece of equipment used in the mastering process, referred to as "Automatic Transient Overload Control", which was devised by the EMI maintenance department.
In Britain, the single was promoted with a photograph depicting the Beatles draped with joints of raw meat and decapitated baby dolls. This photograph was later used, albeit briefly, as the Yesterday and Today album cover in the US, and in that capacity it became known as the "butcher cover". For the American release of the single, the picture sleeve depicted the Beatles playing live, but with Lennon and Harrison's images reflected so that it appeared they were playing left-handedly.
Michael Lindsay-Hogg directed four promotional films for the song shot on 19 and 20 May 1966. On the first day they recorded a colour performance at EMI Studios, for The Ed Sullivan Show, which was shown on 5 June, and two black-and-white performance clips for British television. The latter were shown on Ready Steady Go! and Thank Your Lucky Stars on 3 and 25 June, respectively.
On 20 May, a second colour film was made at Chiswick House in west London. The Beatles mimed to the song, and they were shown in and around the conservatory in the grounds of the house. The clip was first broadcast in black and white on BBC-TV's Top of the Pops on 2 June. The 20 May promo clip was included in the Beatles' 2015 video compilation 1, and both the 19 May colour film and the 20 May film were included in the three-disc versions of the compilation, titled 1+.
The Beatles made their one and only live appearance on Top of the Pops to mime to "Paperback Writer" and "Rain" on 16 June 1966. The band was introduced by DJ Pete Murray. This television appearance, despite it being the Beatles' only 'in person' appearance on the BBC's flagship popular music show, is now infamous due to the master recording having subsequently been wiped by the BBC to free up expensive video tape for re-use, but 11 seconds of this performance was found in 2019 by a collector . This television appearance also showed how difficult it was for the Beatles to even mime to their later material - they had difficulty in taking their performance seriously.
There is some dispute over who played what on "Paperback Writer". In the July 1990 and the November 2005 issues of Guitar Player magazine, McCartney stated that he played the song's opening riff on his Epiphone Casino guitar, and photos from the recording session seem to be consistent with this. In the 2005 edition of his book Revolution in the Head, Ian MacDonald gives Harrison as the sole lead guitarist, and Kenneth Womack similarly lists McCartney only on bass and lead vocal. Robert Rodriguez and Walter Everett each credit McCartney as the player of the song's main guitar riff, and state that Harrison added lead guitar "fills" over his initial rhythm part.
The following line-up is per Rodriguez:
|UK||A Collection of Beatles Oldies ... but Goldies
"Paperback Writer" appears on subsequent re-releases including 1962-1966 (1973), a re-released single (1976), Past Masters, Volume Two (1988), and 1 (2000). The single was later released part of a Record Store Day reissue in 2010.