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Song Of The Week - Paperback Writer

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Time for a new one folks  :)

I always thought this song was influenced by The Beach Boys stuff (later confirmed by george Martin), with all the harmonies going on, it tells a little story of a guy who wants to write for a living.......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. 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."
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.

British disc jockey Jimmy Savile claims that he was present when, backstage after a show, the inspiration hit for writing the song.  According to Steve Turner’s book “A Hard Day’s Write,” “John had been principal writer of the Beatles’ last five singles and so it was generally agreed that it was Paul’s turn to come up with something.  Savile recalled John asking Paul what he was going to do because there were only a few days left before they were due to record.  ‘Paul told him that one of his aunts had just asked if he could ever write a single that wasn’t about love,’ remembers Savile.  ‘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.’”

“We always try to do something different,” related McCartney back in 1966.  “The idea’s a bit different.  Years ago, my Auntie Lil said to me, ‘Why do you always write songs about love all the time?  Can’t you ever write about a horse or the summit conference or something interesting?’  So, I thought, ‘All right, Auntie Lil.’  And recently, we’ve not been writing all our songs about love.”

With these ideas implanted in his mind, Paul travelled out to John’s Kenwood home for a songwriting session.  “You knew, the minute you got there,” Paul relates, “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.  Penquin paperbacks was what I really thought of, the archetypal paperback.”  Since the “Daily Mail” was a regular feature in John Lennon’s home (being the inspiration for “A Day In The Life” the following year), McCartney revealed in a 2007 interview that he had, previous to this writing session, read an article about an aspiring author in the magazine (possibly British novelist Martin Amis) which may have gotten him going in that direction.  However, Paul insisted years ago that “there’s no story behind it and it wasn’t inspired by any real-life characters.”  Not specifically nor consciously anyway.

“I would often start thinking away and writing on my way out, and I developed the whole idea in the car,” McCartney remembered, “I came in, had my bowl of cornflakes and said, ‘How’s about if we write a letter:  ‘Dear Sir or Madam,’ next line, next paragraph, etc?”  In his book “Many Years From Now,” he explains further:  “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.”

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” album, the trademark Beach Boys harmonies were emulated for “Paperback Writer.”

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, 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.

Paul McCartney – lead vocal, bass guitar
John Lennon – backing vocal, rhythm guitar
George Harrison – backing vocal, lead guitar
Ringo Starr – drums, tambourine

one of my all-timers, love the backing vocals as an instrument in the own way.  Never knew the history of the louder bass, thanks for digging that up.  Interesting.

It sounds much better in mono to me.  The bass is centered and powerful instead of way over in the right channel in stereo.

I love this song. The lyrics were not very special, but musically was one of their best of their whole career. I remember how impressed I was with the multiple vocals the first time I heard the song.

About the bass, when I listen to Byrds albums from 1965 and compare them to Beatles recordings from that year there's a clear difference in the prominence of the instrument. Maybe the Fab Four noted that, because I know they listened to the Byrds at least that year.

One of my favorites. If its not a top 5 song for me, its a top 10 for sure by the Beatles. The drums are what really gets it for me. Ringo ends his roundhouse fills on the rim and that just blows me away. At first I thought it might be a mistake by him as we all hit the rim once in awhile, but he does it again later in the song. I've said it before, but how do these guys think of these things sometimes? This song pops. Love the harmonies, bass, and guitar too. Great tune.


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