The Paul McCartney Project

Paperback Writer

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the Paperback Writer / Rain 7" Single.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1966
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

Paperback Writer” is a 1966 song recorded and released by the Beatles. Written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon (credited to Lennon–McCartney), the song was released as the A-side of their eleventh single. The single went to the number one spot in the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, West Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Norway. On the US Billboard Hot 100, the song was at number one 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.

Recording

The track was recorded between 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 far 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.

The harmonies – “Then I had the idea to do the harmonies and we arranged that in the studio,” Paul continues. George Martin went on record to describe the “contrapuntal statements from the backing voices – no one had really done that before” and admitted that The Beach Boys were “a great inspiration” with regard to this song. With “Sloop John B” just entering the British charts and The Beatles being just given a preview of the entire Pet Sounds (1966) album, the trademark Beach Boys harmonies were emulated for “Paperback Writer“. The background vocal harmonies at the beginning of the third chorus are provided by Lennon and George Harrison who sing the title of the French nursery rhyme “Frère Jacques“. These harmonies occur at a little over one minute into the track.

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.

Song lyrics

According to disc jockey Jimmy Savile, McCartney wrote the song 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 book 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.

Promotion

In Britain, the single was promoted with a photograph depicting the Beatles draped with joints of raw meat and decapitated baby dolls. This same photograph was later used, albeit briefly, as the Yesterday and Today album cover in the USA, and in that capacity it became known as the “butcher cover”.

For the American release of the single, the cover depicted the Beatles playing live, but with Lennon and Harrison’s images reflected so that it appeared they were playing left-handedly.

The promotional film for the song, one of the first of its type, was shot on 20 May 1966 amongst ornate garden statuary at Chiswick House. It was directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who went on to direct the Beatles’ final film, the documentary Let It Be (1970).

Personnel

There is some dispute over who played what on “Paperback Writer“. In the July 1990 and the November 2005 issues of Guitar Player magazine, Paul McCartney stated that he played the song’s famous opening riff on his Epiphone Casino guitar, and photos from the song’s session seem to be consistent with this. McCartney is also widely credited for the song’s iconic bass line, but photos from the session show George Harrison playing a Burns Nu-Sonic bass, not an electric guitar.

Release

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. […]

Promotional films

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 Abbey Road 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, another 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 film 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 only live appearance on Top of the Pops to mime to “Paperback Writer” and “Rain“. They were introduced by DJ Pete Murray. This session is famous for being wiped by the BBC when they were cleaning tapes for re-use. The session showed how difficult it was for the Beatles to even mime to their later material – they had difficulty in taking their performance seriously. […]

Paul McCartney in "Many Years From Now", by Barry Miles:

You knew, the minute you got there, cup of tea and you’d sit and write, so it was always good if you had a theme. I’d had a thought for a song and somehow it was to do with the Daily Mail so there might have been an article in the Mail that morning about people writing paperbacks. Penguin paperbacks was what I really thought of, the archetypal paperback.

I arrived at Weybridge and told John I had this idea of trying to write off to a publishers to become a paperback writer, and I said, ‘I think it should be written like a letter.’ I took a bit of paper out and I said it should be something like ‘Dear Sir or Madam, as the case may be…’ and I proceeded to write it just like a letter in front of him, occasionally rhyming it. And John, as I recall, just sat there and said, ‘Oh, that’s it,’ ‘Uhuh,’ ‘Yeah.’ I remember him, his amused smile, saying, ‘Yes, that’s it, that’ll do.’ Quite a nice moment: ‘Hmm, I’ve done right! I’ve done well!’ And then we went upstairs and put the melody to it. John and I sat down and finished it all up, but it was tilted towards me, the original idea was mine. I had no music, but it’s just a little bluesy song, not a lot of melody. Then I had the idea to do the harmonies and we arranged that in the studio.

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

  • [a] mono 14 Apr 1966.
    UK: Parlophone R5452 single 1966, Parlophone PMC 7016 Collection of Oldies 1966. US: Capitol 5651 single 1966.
    CD: EMI single 1989.
  • [b] stereo 31 Oct 1966.
    UK: Parlophone PCS 7016 Collection of Oldies 1966, Apple PCSP 717 The Beatles 1962-1966 1973.
    CD: EMI CDP 7 90044 2 Past Masters 2 1988, EMI CDP 7 97036 2 The Beatles 1962-1966 1993.
  • [c] stereo 31 Oct 1966.
    US: Apple SW-385 Hey Jude 1970, Apple SKBO-3404 The Beatles 1962-1966 1973.

The mono mix [a] is more powerful, with louder drums and a compressed dynamic range. Ringo’s drum tapping during the a capella “paperback writer” can be heard a little in mono [a], fading up a few taps before the guitars come back in. The backup vocal track is unusually “dirty”, and in stereo [b] [c] unintended sound can be heard at a few points– particularly, before the last “paperback writer” (about 1:45), a hrrmph and then very quiet tries at the right note (earlier in the song, a miscue starting the second group of “Frere Jacques” is noticeable even in mono). Mono [a] has more echo, notably a long “write write write” after the last verse. Lastly, the mono mix fades later, after the 6th “paperback writer” instead of near the start of the 5th one.[b] and [c] are probably two of three stereo mixes made the same day. The obvious difference is that left-right is reversed, and the only other difference noted is that [c] has the backing vocals a little louder. It could be they are the same mix with both stereo reversal and a slight change in balance that makes the side with the backup vocals louder.

Last updated on May 22, 2016

Lyrics

Paperback writer

Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?
It took me years to write, will you take a look?
It's based on a novel by a man named Lear
And I need a job so I want to be a paperback writer
Paperback writer!

It's a dirty story of a dirty man
And his clinging wife doesn't understand
His son is working for the Daily Mail
It's a steady job but he wants to be a paperback writer
Paperback writer!

Paperback writer

It's a thousand pages, give or take a few
I'll be writing more in a week or two
I can make it longer if you like the style
I can change it 'round and I want to be a paperback writer
Paperback writer!

If you really like it you can have the rights
It could make a million for you overnight
If you must return it you can send it here
But I need a break and I want to be a paperback writer
Paperback writer!

Paperback writer
Paperback writer
Paperback writer

Officially appears on


Paperback Writer / Rain

7" Single • Released in 1966

2:28 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Lead guitar, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Backing vocals, Tambourine
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Rhythm guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Apr 13, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Apr 14, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road


A Collection of Beatles Oldies (Mono)

Official album • Released in 1966

2:15 • Studio versionA • Mono

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Lead guitar, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Backing vocals, Tambourine
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Rhythm guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Apr 13, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Apr 14, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road


A Collection of Beatles Oldies (Stereo)

Official album • Released in 1966

2:15 • Studio versionB • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Lead guitar, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Backing vocals, Tambourine
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Rhythm guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Apr 13, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 31, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio One, Abbey Road


Hey Jude

Official album • Released in 1970

2:21 • Studio version


Past Masters

Official album • Released in 1988

2:19 • Studio versionB

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Lead guitar, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Backing vocals, Tambourine
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Rhythm guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Apr 13, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 31, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio One, Abbey Road


Paul Is Live

Official live • Released in 1993

2:37 • LiveL1

Performed by:
Paul McCartneyLinda McCartneyRobbie McIntoshHamish StuartPaul WickensBlair Cunningham
Paul McCartney:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineering, Mixing
Julian Mendelsohn:
Recording
Bob Kraushaar:
Recording

Concert From the concert in Charlotte, USA on Jun 15, 1993


1

Official album • Released in 2000

2:16 • Studio version


Good Evening New York City

Official live • Released in 2009

3:25 • LiveL2 • Could have been record on 17, 18 or 21 July 2009

Paul McCartney:
Executive producer
Performed by:
Paul McCartneyRusty AndersonAbe Laboriel Jr.Paul WickensBrian Ray
Geoff Emerick:
Audio mixing
Paul Hicks:
Audio mixing
Jonas Westling:
Additional engineering
Richard Lancaster:
Additional engineering
John Henry:
Recording

Concert From the concert in New York, USA on Jul 17, 2009

Live performances

“Paperback Writer” has been played in 295 concerts and 2 soundchecks.

Latest concerts where “Paperback Writer” has been played



Detroit • Joe Louis Arena

Oct 21, 2015 • Part of Out There Tour


2015 ATA Management Conference & Exhibition (private show)

Oct 19, 2015 • USA • Philadelphia • Pennsylvania Convention Center





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