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"Paperback Writer"

Categories: Beatles songs

Just the channel-panning, multi-layered vocal intro to "Paperback Writer" was a surefire indication of the shapes of Beatlethings to come. Released two months ahead of the Revolver album, their first single of 1966 (not till June!) heralded the LP's distinctive echoey, spacious sound — and the band's expanding musical horizons.

With yet another killer riff and those Fabsetto harmonies being forced further than ever, the mike-boosted bass and generally oomphed-up attack of the other instrumentation are clear signs of how comfortable the group were becoming in the studio: and how receptive, creative and thorough George Martin and his assistants continued to be. The B-Side, "Rain", featured the first backward recordings on record — another trick which would be oft employed by just about everyone in the forthcoming psychedelia era and beyond.

Probably an acknowledgement of John's literary incursions, In His Own Write and A Spaniard In The Works, it was their first non-love song to be released as a single:

A dirty story of a dirty man.

The non-comprehending spouse, clutching at straws, was almost certainly Cynthia Lennon, though Paul has never confirmed this. As for The Daily Mail, both he and John would find themselves "writing more" based on its reports.

It should maybe have also been taken as a clear signal that the band's days as a live-act were becoming numbered. Though it was attempted during their '66 tour, it was always — according to George — 'pretty crummy', the multi-tracked sound being simply impossible to recreate on stage. At the end of August, as sick of the pointlessness of playing to a barrage of screams as of the technical limitations (not to mention more death-threats: this time to John for his 'Bigger Than Jesus' comments), The Beatles played what was to be their final gig, at Candlestick Park, San Francisco.

It's a steady job, BUT...

Also starting to "need a break" from their interminable round of television appearances, promo-films were issued for both sides of the single. Though they had previously produced some little studio mimealongs, mainly for American TV, this time they all got well-wasted and went out on location to the ornamental gardens at Chiswick House. Shot in colour, at arty angles, and meticulously edited, the results later prompted George H to wryly observe that they'd inadvertently invented MTV.

Both were directed by a Maccamate, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who was later responsible for the filming of the Stones' Rock 'n' Roll Circus, as well as some other band's Let It Be movie. Perhaps perceiving that they might be a little too far out for good ol' Uncle Ed, the boys did do a more conservative lip-synch job for The Sullivan Show (albeit appearing out of uniform for one of the first occasions) with a special dedication from Ringo.

With the subsequent evolution of concert technology, Paul has been able to rewrite it into his live shows, and it's also become something of a favourite amongst the remix brigade.
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