On this day [23rd May 1966]: the Beatles song “Paperback Writer” was released

I remember the release of nearly all the Beatles singles during the 1960’s. They were Red Letter days for nearly all the kids of my generation. To be honest, I didn’t know anyone my age who didn’t absolutely adore the Fab Four. When you heard a new song for the first time, it was like you always knew it but until that moment, couln’t bring it to mind…

Paperback Writer was one of those. Released when I was eleven years old, it was notable for a couple of things. Firstly is was the first single released by the band that wasn’t a love song and secondly it was the first to have the bass line placed so prominently in the mix. It was upbeat and perfect for jigging about to.

It is possible that Paul had John in mind as he wrote the lyrics, as Lennon had already published two books by this time [In His Own Write and A Spaniard In The Works – collections of short stories and line drawings]. A sideways reference to Lennon’s literary aspirations is clear in the lyric “based on a novel by a man named Lear”. Lennon’s two books contained nonsense stories in a similar style to those of Edward Lear…

Here is what Paul McCartney says about writing Paperback Writer:

“I arrived at [John Lennon’s house in] 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 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, 1994

Me a few months before the release of Paperback Writer

I had no idea about those kind of things when the song was released. For me, it was a lively tune that was good for dancing around the kitchen where my Mother’s transistor radio lived.

Although I was only eleven, I somehow knew that this band was important even though their significance passed completely unnoticed by my parents. I am to have grown up at a time when I was surrounded by such fantastic music. Like everybody else though, we took this Golden Age of songwriting for granted at the time…

Paperback Writer

Paper back writer (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.
The son (The Sun) is working for the Daily Mail,
It’s a steady job but he wants to be a paperback writer,
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 Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQZQXFZpTmQ

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About stevehollier

Steve Hollier is the editor of AZ Magazine, an English language lifestyle magazine based in Baku, Azerbaijan. He began his career working for a firm of stockbrokers in the City of London then went on to attend the University of Essex where he was awarded an MA in Sociology in 1984. After a career in arts and cultural development work, he became a freelance arts consultant, writer and photographer.
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