ON THIS DATE (45 YEARS AGO)
May 27, 1966 – The Beatles: Paperback Writer b/w Rain is released.
VALUE (Original US 45 with Picture Sleeve in mint condition) $125
“Paperback Writer” is a 1966 song recorded and released by The Beatles. Written by Paul McCartney and 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, West Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Norway. Written in the form of a letter from an aspiring author to a publisher, “Paperback Writer” was the first UK Beatles single that was not a love song (though “Nowhere Man”, which was a single in the US, was their first album song released with that distinction). 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 1966 tour.
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 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 second chorus are provided by Lennon and George Harrison who sing the title of the French nursery rhyme “Frère Jacques” in several incantations. These harmonies occur at a little over one minute into the track.
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.
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 songs 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.
According to disc jockey Jimmy Savile, McCartney wrote the song in response to a request from an aunt who asked if he could “write a single that wasn’t about love.” Savile said, “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.”In a 2007 interview, McCartney recalled that he wrote the song after reading in the Daily Mail about an aspiring author, possibly Martin Amis. The Daily Mail was Lennon’s regular newspaper and copies were in Lennon’s Weybridge home when Lennon and McCartney were writing songs.
The song’s lyrics are 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).
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.'” McCartney 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”.”
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 US-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 the “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. (See the image at the top of the page).
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.
“Rain” is a song by the English rock band The Beatles, credited to Lennon/McCartney. It was first released in June 1966 as the B-side of the “Paperback Writer” single. Both songs were recorded during the sessions for Revolver but neither appears on that album.
Written primarily by John Lennon, “Rain” has been called The Beatles’ finest B-side, especially notable for its heavy sonic presence and backwards vocals, both of which were a hint of things to come on Revolver, released two months later.
Three promotional films were made for the song “Rain”. These videos, along with other Beatles videos at the time, sparked George Harrison to say during the Beatles Anthology, “So I suppose, in a way, we invented MTV.”
The inspiration for “Rain” is agreed on by Neil Aspinall, The Beatles’ roadie, and John Lennon. They both described the band’s arrival in Melbourne, Australia, marked by rain and poor weather. Lennon said, “I’ve never seen rain as hard as that, except in Tahiti”, and later explained that “Rain” was “about people moaning about the weather all the time”.
Recording began on 14 April 1966, in the same session as “Paperback Writer”, and concluded on 16 April, with a series of overdubs before mixing on the same day. At that time, The Beatles were enthused about experimenting in the studio to achieve new sounds and effects. These experiments were showcased in their influential seventh album, Revolver. Geoff Emerick, who was the engineer for both sessions, described one technique he used to alter the sonic texture of the track by recording the backing track “faster than normal.” After playing the tape normally, “the music had a radically different tonal quality. A similar technique was used to alter the tone of Lennon’s lead vocal. It was recorded with the tape machine being slowed down, so making Lennon’s voice sound higher when played back at normal speed. The last verse of “Rain” includes backwards vocals, which was one of the first uses of this technique on a record. The backwards vocals are Lennon singing the lyrics of the song: “When the sun shines,” “Rain,” and “If the rain comes, they run and hide their heads.”
Both Lennon and producer George Martin have claimed credit for the idea; Lennon said:
“After we’d done the session on that particular song—it ended at about four or five in the morning—I went home with a tape to see what else you could do with it. And I was sort of very tired, you know, not knowing what I was doing, and I just happened to put it on my own tape recorder and it came out backwards. And I liked it better. So that’s how it happened.”
Emerick confirms Lennon’s creative accident, but Martin remembers it differently:
“I was always playing around with tapes and I thought it might be fun to do something extra with John’s voice. So I lifted a bit of his main vocal off the four-track, put it on another spool, turned it around and then slid it back and forth until it fitted. John was out at the time but when he came back he was amazed. ”
The “Paperback Writer”/”Rain” single was the first release to use a new device invented by the maintenance department at Abbey Road called “ATOC” for “Automatic Transient Overload Control”. The new device allowed the record to be cut at a louder volume, louder than any other single up to that time. On the final mix of the single, Lennon was on lead vocal and rhythm guitar (1965 Epiphone Casino). Paul McCartney was on backing vocal as well as bass guitar (1964 Rickenbacker 4001S). George Harrison was on backing vocal and lead guitar (1962 Gibson Les Paul (SG) Standard). Finally, Ringo Starr played drums (Ludwig) and tambourine.
It was released as a B-side to “Paperback Writer” in the United States (Capitol 5651) on 30 May 1966 and in the UK on 10 June 1966 (Parlophone R5452). It later appeared on the compilations Hey Jude in the US and Rarities in the UK. It also appeared on the Past Masters CD (Parlophone CDP 7 90044 2).
The Beatles created three promotional films for “Rain” which are considered among the early precursors of music videos. The films were directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg who worked with them earlier on the pop 1960 television programme Ready Steady Go! One features The Beatles walking and singing in a garden and a greenhouse (filmed 20 May 1966 filmed at Chiswick House in London). The other two feature the band performing on a soundstage (filmed 19 May 1966, one in colour for Ed Sullivan and the other in black and white for the UK). McCartney was injured in a moped accident on 26 December 1965, six months prior to the filming of “Rain” and closeups in the film reveal a scarred lip and a chipped tooth. McCartney’s appearance in the film played a role in the “Paul is dead” rumors from 1969.
The Beatles’ Anthology documentary video includes a re-edit of two of these three clips, full of rhythmic fast cuts and several shots that went unused in the original videos. This creates an impression that the videos were more technically complex, fast-paced, and innovative than was the case. For example, the backwards film effects shown here are 1990s creations. Such effects were actually first deployed in the “Strawberry Fields Forever” promotional film of January 1967.
The song’s highest chart position in the US was number twenty three (11 June 1966). The “Paperback Writer” single reached number one in the UK (for two weeks starting on 23 June 1966). “Rain” is one of The Beatles’ most critically acclaimed songs, appearing on best-of lists, including Rolling Stone magazine’s The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (#463). AcclaimedMusic.net, ranks “Rain” at #557 on the Top 3000 Songs, the 22nd highest-rated Beatle song on the site.
Notable in “Rain” is Ringo Starr’s drumming which Starr rates as his best recorded performance. Critics agreed: both Ian MacDonald and Rolling Stone said his drumming was “superb” and Richie Unterberger of Allmusic praised his “creative drum breaks”. Paul McCartney also plays a complex bassline throughout the recorded performance.