The Beatles 40 best songs: at 20 Paperback Writer


Paperback Writer was recorded between 13 and 14 April 1966. It was released 30 May 1966 (US) and 10 June 1966 (UK).

“I think I might have helped with some of the lyrics. Yes, I did. But it was mainly Paul’s tune.”
– John Lennon (Hit Parade in 1972) 

“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.”
– John Lennon (Playboy, 1980)

“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.”
– Paul McCartney (“Many years from now” by Barry Miles)

I love the sound on this single, Paperback Writer/Rain, the bass lines are incredible. The story according to Mark Lewisohn goes that it was John Lennon who demanded to know why the bass on a certain Wilson Pickett record far exceeded the bass on any Beatles records. This single certainly changed that.

“‘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.

These are the probable credits:

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

The Beatles – Paperback Writer (promo):

“Paperback Writer” is a 1966 song recorded and released by the Beatles. Written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon (credited to Lennon–McCartney), the song was released as the A-side of their eleventh single.

“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.’”
– Paul McCartney (“Many years from now” by Barry Miles)

The Beatles – Paperback Writer (second promo, bw):

Made in eleven hours, the track has a widely divided stereo image using, among other novelties, a drum part channelled separately across the spectrum (snare and cymbals left, tom-toms center, bass-drum right). For his prominent high-register bass part, McCartney swapped his Hofner for the long-scale Rickenbacker, a guitar with a solid, cutting treble tone which he modified by miking his amp through a second speaker and rolling off the top with compression to get a smoother sound.2 With a tape-echoed chorus, the vocal arrangement includes passages of four-part polyphony modelled on The Beach Boys, whose ‘Sloop John B’ had just entered the UK charts. That Lennon and Harrison were not entirely serious in performing their falsetto parts can be heard in the gasps of laughter audible on a very ‘dirty’ vocal track (and the fact that, during the second verse/ chorus, they are chanting ‘Frere Jacques’).
~Ian MacDonald (Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties)

Paperback Writer (Lyrics):

Paperback writer

Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?
It took me years to write, will you take a look?
It’s based on a novel by a man named Lear
And I need a job, so I want to be a paperback writer
Paperback writer

It’s the dirty story of a dirty man
And his clinging wife doesn’t understand
His son is working for the Daily Mail
It’s a steady job but he wants to be a paperback writer
Paperback writer

Paperback writer

It’s a thousand pages, give or take a few
I’ll be writing more in a week or two
I can make it longer if you like the style
I can change it round and I want to be a paperback writer
Paperback writer

If you really like it you can have the rights
It could make a million for you overnight
If you must return it, you can send it here
But I need a break and I want to be a paperback writer
Paperback writer

Paperback writer

Paperback writer, paperback writer
Paperback writer, paperback writer
Paperback writer, paperback writer
Paperback writer, paperback writer (fade out)

Check out:

– Hallgeir & Egil

3 thoughts on “The Beatles 40 best songs: at 20 Paperback Writer”

  1. When McCartney plays “Paperback Writer” in concert, he plays the opening riff on guitar and tells audiences that he’s using the guitar on which he originally played the riff in the studio. Which would make him lead guitarist, at least for that section of the recording.

Comments are closed.