"Paperback Writer" is a 1966 song recorded and released by The Beatles. Written by Paul McCartney and 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, West Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Norway. Written in the form of a letter from an aspiring author to a publisher, "Paperback Writer" was the first UK Beatles single that was not a love song (though "Nowhere Man", which was a single in the US, was their first album song released with that distinction). 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 1966 tour.
The track was recorded between 13 April and 14 April 1966.
"Paperback Writer" is marked by the boosted bass guitar sound throughout, partly in response to 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. "To get the loud bass sound, 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."
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.
|UK||A Collection of Beatles Oldies... but Goldies
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 wrote 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 version of a book by a "man named Lear." This is a reference to the Victorian painter Edward Lear, who wrote nonsense poems and songs of which John Lennon was very fond (though Lear never wrote novels).
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. The backing vocals during this section are from the French children's song "Frère Jacques"."
In Britain the single was promoted with the infamous "butcher cover" art, depicting the Beatles with raw meat and decapitated baby dolls tossed about. This photograph was also originally used as the cover for the Capitol US-only album Yesterday and Today. The image was soon replaced with a normal picture of the band as it had caused great controversy in America. For the American release of the "Paperback Writer" single, the cover depicted the Beatles playing live, but with John Lennon and George Harrison's images reflected so that it appears that they are playing left-handed. (See the image at the top of the page).
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, for The Ed Sullivan Show, which was shown on 5 June, and two black and white performance clips for British television. These were shown on Ready Steady Go! and Thank Your Lucky Stars on 3 June 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.
"Strangers in the Night" by Frank Sinatra
|UK number-one single
23–30 June 1966
"Sunny Afternoon" by The Kinks
"Paint It, Black" by The Rolling Stones
|Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
25 June 1966
9 July 1966
"Strangers in the Night" by Frank Sinatra