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Paperback Writer-1507

US 45 single

Paperback Writer is a 1966 song credited to Lennon/McCartney and was released by The Beatles on the A-side of their eleventh single. It went to the number one spot in the United States, Britain, West Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Norway. This was the first UK Beatles single that was not a love song (though "Nowhere Man", which was a single in the U.S., was their first album song released with that distinction). On the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, "Paperback Writer"'s two-week stay at number one was interrupted by Frank Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night".

"Paperback Writer" was one of the last new songs by The Beatles to be featured in concert, as it was included on their 1966 tour. A film was shot 20 May 1966 at Chiswick House in London to promote the single on BBC-TV's Top of the Pops. Michael Lindsay-Hogg directed it. The film was shown June 9, one day before the UK release of the single. The video was broadcast in the U.S. on The Ed Sullivan Show in the late spring.

Although the song was not included on an original Beatles album, it was included in several compilation albums:


The track was recorded between 13 April and 14 April 1966. The song, written in the form of a letter about an aspiring author to his publisher, was written three months after McCartney helped John Dunbar and others set up the bookshop for Indica Gallery.

It is marked by the boosted bass guitar sound throughout. McCartney boosted the sound of the bass by "using a loudspeaker as a microphone and positioning it in front of the bass speaker." What American musicians like Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett had used heavy bass sound before and now The Beatles were catching on, with tracks like this and "Drive My Car".

The song is one of The Beatles' most distinctive forays into "mod" rock and owes much to the contemporary work of The Who, with its distorted circular guitar hook, high-pitched harmonies, and pounding drums, complete with tambourine touches à la "I Can't Explain". Other noteworthy aspects of the song include its distinctive à cappella intro, which reappears after each verse, and the distorted guitar riff that explodes from it leading into the next verse. A similar melody can be heard in another McCartney number, "Got to Get You into My Life".

Song lyrics

One of McCartney's aunts reportedly requested that he write a song with some other theme than boy–girl relationships.

The song's lyric is 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). The Daily Mail was Lennon's regular newspaper and was often in the studio when The Beatles were writing songs.

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.'"

He also 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".

Top of the Pops recording

On June 16 1966, The Beatles went to a studio to mime to Paperback Writer and Rain for the British television show Top of the Pops. The band were introduced by DJ Pete Murray, and this television was the only "in person" appearance of the Beatles on TotP.

Footage of the performance was unearthed by a collector in 2019, after the BBC wiped the original master tape to free up space for re-use.


"Butcher cover"

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 U.S.-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 "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.

In popular culture

  • The song's title was used by rock writer Mark Shipper as the title of a humorous, semi-biographical novel (Ace Books, 1978) that retold the Beatles' story, distorting the events for comic effect.
  • In the liner notes for The Monkees' box set Listen to the Band, it is revealed that the song "Last Train to Clarksville" was inspired by this song, when the composers (Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart) heard the end of "Paperback Writer" on the radio and misheard the lyrics as "Last train to... something..."
  • Radiohead's song "Paperbag Writer", the B-side on the "There There" single, is meant as a playful allusion to "Paperback Writer". Both songs are dominated by bass.
  • British science fiction writer and humanitarian Douglas Adams was very fond of this song, to the point of having it played at his funeral.
  • Glam-rock band Sweet covered the song, but it stayed unreleased until the 2004 edition of their debut album Funny How Sweet Coco Can Be.
  • Musician Eric Johnson covered the song on his internet-only release, Souvenir.
  • The Gretsch 6120 played by John Lennon on this track was auctioned by on 23 November 2014. Put up for sale by Lennon's cousin David Birch, it had an estimated sale price of £400,000–£600,000. It failed to reach its reserve, bids went up to only £380,000.[1] It is hoped that a private sale can be arranged.