#1001: 1966, The Beatles, Paperback Writer

by Ray_North on March 20, 2015

After the wonderfulness of The Clash’s White Man In Hammersmith Palais, I have the privilege of introducing the other joint ‘number one’ not to have appeared yet song – and perhaps predictably it’s a Beatles song, and perhaps aptly (given my literary alter-ego), it’s Paperback Writer.

Interestingly, just as White Man showed The Clash moving on from their punk roots into a newer post punk sound that eventually triumphed with the peerless London Calling, Paperback Writer seems to have been a similarly important moment in the life of The Beatles – where before, most of their songs were a mixture of rather fey love songs or teenage pop songs, such as Love Me Do or I Wanna Hold Your Hand, and barely disguised teenage boy fantasies such as Day Tripper or Ticket To Ride, Paperback Writer is different, the lyrics are more mature, no longer about love or masturbation, this is a song that tells of a letter from an aspiring writer who wants to have his book published, it references Edward Lear and the Daily Mail (the Lear reference is probably Lennon’s main influence in what was a predominately McCartney track). It sits alone in the Beatles pantheon, it doesn’t come from anywhere, when you listened to what had gone before, you couldn’t see this song coming.

But, it is not just the lyrics and subject, the sound too is different – although the harmonies are still there (and indeed are massively to the forefront of this song), this is the first really rocky Beatles song – Harrison’s lead guitar is overdriven as he plays that fantastic riff, whilst McCartney’s Rickenbacker bass (the coolest bass guitar ever bar none, and if anyone ever wants to buy me a gift) is truly amazing as he hammers it time and again giving the song a fantastic energy; even Ringo’s drums are at another level, far superior to anything he’d ever done before.

A year later and The Beatles would release Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, after which some will tell you life was never the same again – Paperback Writer paved the way, Paperback Writer was the song that, for The Beatles, bridged the gap between teenage pop boy band to something altogether more credible, more influential, something that cemented The Beatles as the most important band that ever was and probably ever will be.

I am glad that The Beatles have our 1001st song, and I’m extra glad that it is a song about someone desperately trying to be a writer. Enjoy that bass.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mike Killingworth March 22, 2015 at 9:45 am

Don’t go back there. To my teenage years. It hurts too much. OK?

Just don’t do it any more…


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