Written by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 13, 14 April 1966
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Geoff Emerick
Released: 10 June 1966 (UK), 30 May 1966 (US)
Paperback Writer was a standalone single released in June 1966, written by Paul McCartney and recorded over two consecutive days during the Revolver sessions.
Paperback Writer is son of Day Tripper, but it is Paul’s song. Son of Day Tripper meaning a rock ‘n’ roll song with a guitar lick on a fuzzy, loud guitar.
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
At the start of The Beatles’ career, Brian Epstein and George Martin had drawn up a plan of releasing four singles and two albums each year to sustain interest in the group and satisfy popular demand.
The release of Paperback Writer came 27 weeks after its predecessor, Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out. It marked the end of the release plan, and saw The Beatles entering a phase where they were less motivated by commercial demands and more focused on musical development.
Paperback Writer was an attempt by McCartney to write a song based on a single chord – possibly influenced by Indian music, but most likely a result of their marijuana use; other songs from this period, notably The Word, If I Needed Someone and Tomorrow Never Knows, were similarly modelled.
John and I would like to do songs with just one note like Long Tall Sally. We got near it in The Word.
McCartney wrote Paperback Writer after reading a Daily Mail report about an aspiring author, and composed it on the way to Lennon’s house in Weybridge.
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.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
Paperback Writer reflected the can-do attitude of mid-1960s British society; the lyrics can be seen in the same context as Rubber Soul‘s similarly light-hearted Drive My Car. The backing vocals found The Beatles singing “Frère Jacques”, and the powerful four-part harmonies of the chorus were swathed in tape echo. It showed the band becoming more confident by the minute; musically, lyrically, and willing to exploit their position as the figureheads of popular culture.
Four promotional films for Paperback Writer were shot on 19 and 20 May 1966. Two were in colour, and two were black and white. They was directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg at Abbey Road and in Chiswick in London. One of the films was first broadcast on 9 June on the BBC television show Top Of The Pops, and another was shown on The Ed Sullivan Show in the US.
On 19 May performances of Paperback Writer and Rain were filmed in colour in Abbey Road’s studio one. They were broadcast exclusively by The Ed Sullivan Show on CBS on 5 June. The Beatles also recorded a brief greeting for the host and his viewers, which began with the group holding transparencies of the infamous ‘butcher’ cover in front of their faces.
The idea was that we’d use them in America as well as the UK, because we thought, ‘We can’t go everywhere. We’re stopping touring and we’ll send these films out to promote the record.’ It was too much trouble to go and fight our way through all the screaming hordes of people to mime the latest single on Ready, Steady, Go!. Also, in America, they never saw the footage anyway.
Once we actually went on an Ed Sullivan show with just a clip. I think Ed Sullivan came on and said, ‘The Beatles were here, as you know, and they were wonderful boys, but they can’t be here now so they’ve sent us this clip.’ It was great, because really we conned the Sullivan show into promoting our new single by sending in the film clip. These days obviously everybody does that – it’s part of the promotion for a single – so I suppose in a way we invented MTV.
Two black and white performances of Paperback Writer, and one of Rain, were also filmed on 19 May. These were first broadcast on Goodbye Lucky Stars – the final edition of Thank Your Lucky Stars – and Ready, Steady, Go!.
The next day, 20 May, The Beatles were filmed by Lindsay-Hogg in the grounds of Chiswick House in west London. They mimed to the song in the statue garden, and were shot sitting in a bench by the conservatory. The clip was first shown on 2 June on the BBC music show Top Of The Pops.