"Paperback Writer" is a 1966 song recorded and released by the Beatles. Written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon[4] (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, and was the group's only U.S. number one released that year.

Recording[edit source | editbeta]Edit

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 John Lennon demanding to know why the bass on a certain Wilson Pickett record far exceeded the bass on any Beatles records.[5] 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."[5]

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" in several slow incantations. These harmonies occur at a little over one minute into the track.[6]

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.

Promotion[edit source | editbeta]Edit

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 an album cover in the USA, which has become known as the butcher cover.[13]

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. (See the image at the top of the page).

The promotional film for the song, one of the first of its type, shot amongst ornate garden statuary, was directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who went on to direct the Beatles' final film, the documentary Let It Be.[14]

Personnel[edit source | editbeta]Edit

There is some dispute over who played what on "Paperback Writer". In the November 2005 issue of Guitar Player magazine, Paul McCartney claims to have played the song's famous opening riff on his Epiphone Casino guitar,[15] and photos from the song's session seem to verify this claim. 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. Whether or not Harrison recorded a bass line for "Paperback Writer" that was later removed and retracked by McCartney remains unclear. On page 74 of The Beatles Recording Sessions is a photograph of a session note by Phil McDonald.[5] The note shows that Harrison and Lennon were on guitars and McCartney was on bass.

Personnel per Ian MacDonald[17]

An asterisk indicates that it is unknown, for instance, if McCartney played the bass or the lead guitar, or if Harrison played lead guitar or bass.

Release[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Country Title[18]
US "Paperback Writer"

b/w "Rain"

UK "Paperback Writer"

b/w "Rain"

  • Label: Parlophone R 5452
  • Released: 10 June 1966
  • Format: single
UK A Collection of Beatles Oldies... but Goldies
  • Label: Parlophone R 5452
  • Released: 9 December 1966
  • Format: LP
US Hey Jude
  • Label: Apple SW-385
  • Released: 26 February 1970
  • Format: LP

"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.[19]

Promotional films[edit source | editbeta]Edit

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.[20] 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.[citation needed]

Cover versions[edit source | editbeta]Edit

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