Alan Aldrigde, The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr en George Harrison Alan Aldrigde, The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics (c) Alan Aldrigde, The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics

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Paperback Writer

Composer(s) : Lennon and McCartney
Year : 1967

Chords/Tabs: Paperback Writer

Notes on "Paperback Writer"

INTRODUCTION

- This double-A single marks one of *the* most significant nodal points in the compositional and recording development of the Beatles. After the just-in-time for Xmas release of _Rubber Soul_ the Beatles took a four month break from the studio. They went straight to work on what was to become the _Revolver_ album in early April '66, and the two songs on this single, released in June (two months ahead of the album) were recorded just a couple weeks into the new sessions.

- The subject matter, musical style, and recording technique of both "Paperpack Writer" (PW) and "Rain" (R) make them as qualitatively different from what we heard on the album which preceded them as they pressage the album which was yet to follow. The release of "Penny Lane" b/w "Strawberry Fields Forever" as an antecedent to the _Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band_ LP is the other major single of theirs to have this level of potent prescience in terms of an album in progress.

- The other important angle to a study of this pair of songs is the extreme to which they bear comparison and contrast with each other. Each of these songs reflects so clearly its respective composer, and yet at the same time, there are similarities galore which reflect not only cross-influence, but I suspect, a subtle element of competetive looking over each other's shoulders. We've explored this notion several times before in this series, most notably in connection with "All My Loving/ It Won't Be Long" and "She Said She Said/ Good Day Sunshine."

- So what are the similarities in this case ?

    -Key -- both songs "sound" in the key of G, even though the backing track for R was recorded at a faster tempo and higher key, and slowed down during the mixing phase to playback differently.

    -Post-processed special effects -- As Lewisohn puts it (Recording Sessions, p. 74), "both were chock full of all the _Revolver_ technical advancements: limiters, compressors, jangle boxes, Leslie speakers, ADT." More specifically, PW has the tape echo at the end of the alternate verse sections, and R, in addition to the modified tape speed, includes the much talked about played-backwards vocal in its outro.

    - Wall-of-sound texture -- Even without the special effects, both songs have a noticeably denser, punchier texture than virtually anything else done by the group up until this point, largely the result of the standout drumming, basswork, and heavily over-dubbed vocal harmony on both cuts.

    -Drone-like harmony -- Neither song is literally built on a pedal point, though both of them use very few chords, and contain sustained passages over the I chord that lend a static feeling to the harmony overall. At other times, the Beatles could delightfully take you by surprise with a novel chord progression, but in this case they seem to be transfixed by an aesthetic of stasis.

    - Subject matter -- Neither is a love song. "Nowhere Man" was the only other time, to date, where they had tried anything like this, but from this point forward, this tendency to comment on things social or experiential would become increasingly pronounced.

- And then again, there are those yin-yang/John-versus-Paul points of contrast between the two songs, and what's particularly delicious about some of these is that they are embedded within factors that would otherwise seem at a superficial level to be common denominators rather than points of departure:

    - Tempo -- This pair of songs constitute what might be among the fastest and slowest ever songs done by the Beatles to-date. In the case of PW, listen to how fast the "1-2-3-etc." count-in is on the pair of bootlegs that are in the public domain (I use the latter term loosely :-)), and the fact that take 1 of the backing track breaks down because, as George notes on the tape, it keeps getting faster. In the case of R, John's ultra-slow harmonic rhythm and his scanning of the words (see the bullet on 'Prosody') manage to project an almost catatonically measured pace in spite of all furious activity in the textural foreground.

    -Perspective on the respective subject matter -

    - Paul's essay is a gritty, journalistic slice of life on the sleazy side, starting off in the first person and cleverly shifting 'round to a self- referential third-person focus as the book is described. Indeed, you *must* see the photograph of Paul's manuscript for the lyrics, not only written out literally in the form of a letter (opening == Dear Sir [or Madam]), but *signed* by one "Ian Iachimoe." Talk about vague references or hard trivia questions; who's 'e, eh ?? :-) John, true to his own form, turns in an elliptical tirade in the third person about what "they" do when the metaphorical 'rain' comes; inscrutable on the surface but pregnant with deeply embedded meaning.

    - Modality of the home key -- PW is *quite* Mixolydian. For example, the tune places great emphasis on the melodic flat 7th, and the harmony includes I, ii, and IV but *not* V; if you check the bootleg take 1 you can actually hear them playing V in the intro and refrain sections but in the final mix it's deftly mixed out! "Rain", on the other hand, though it is harmonically much more clearly in the Major mode (check out the I-IV-V chord vocabulary), manages to convey a modal feel by virtue of its pseudo-pentatonic melody (note how the lead vocal contains no 2nd or 7th scale degree -

    - i.e. no 'A's or 'F's), and the open-fifth drone-like harmonies of its refrain sections.

    - Prosody of the verbal delivery -- "Prosody" is a technical term describing the manner in which words are rhythmically declaimed together with accompanying music. In contrast, say, to the almost deadly four-square delivery heard in a song like "Yellow Submarine", PW provides as good an example as you'll ever find of syllables pleasurably ricocheting off an underlying beat.

    "Rain", in contrast, is performed in style in which the words seem to be intoxicatedly, and/or counter-intuitively fighting against the beat. The 'Master' (if not outright 'inventor') of this technique circa 1966 was Bob Dylan. To the extent that it would become a very Lennonesque trademark as well from this point on is, to me, evidence of a to-date uncharted, overlooked subtle point of Dylan's influence on the Beatles.

- And on that note, let us move on, finally, to our closer look at each of these songs in turn.


Paperback Writer


KEY     G Major

METER   4/4

FORM    Intro -> Verse -> Verse' -> Refrain (intro) ->
		Verse -> Verse' -> Refrain (intro) -> Outro (fadeout)

GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST


Style and Form

- This song is definitely in the top tier of Beatles' hardest rocking cuts. In addition to the fast tempo and gutsy backing track, the melodic flat 7th of the Mixolydian mode and the 12-measure verse lengths add a touch of the Blues.

- The form is made curious by virtue of the acapella opening (see "Nowhere Man" ), the doubling up of the verses, and the recurrence of that unusual intro as a sort of refrain section.

- I've commented elsewhere about how, whenever you have a song that starts off with a vocal pickup, the unedited studio tape *must* have on it some amount of pre-take cueing of the starting pitch for the singers. Take 2 of this song provides a perfect proof of this, where you can here them, just before the actual count-in singing the word 'Paperback ...' in a nervously tentative stage whisper.


Melody and Harmony

- The tune has the bouncing rhythm and limited melodic countour of a patter song, or even "talkin' blues", though just the same, it does manage to fill out the full octave in a rather clever way.

- Harmony is used quite frugally to static effect. To the extent that the V chord is supressed from appearing throughout, the sense of homekey is left to establish itself via the relatively weak plagal cadence of the IV chord, and a kind of drone-like, manifest insistence of the I chord.


Arrangement

- The vocal parts are worked out and varied to an unusual extent. George and John's backing vocals play off of Paul's double-tracked lead vocal, sometimes antiphonally (the intro), sometimes in accompaniment (Frere Jacques), and yet at other times in chorus (the hook line at the end of each verse).

- Alas, the vocal parts don't sound quite as *well rehearsed* as they are ambitious. After repeated close listenings to the recording you can't help notice the often ragged ensemble cutoffs at phrase endings or entrances.

- The fancy vocal parts are just about upstaged by the much discussed Motown-like punchy bass part and the syncopated lead guitar riff. For that matter, you can't overlook Ringo's between-the-sections drum fills here. Though they were an trademark of the Early Beatles sound, they kind of disappear for the most part during _Rubber Soul_, yet make a welcome return on both sides of this single, and on many other _Revolver_ cuts as well.

SECTION-BY-SECTION WALKTHROUGH


Intro

- The intro is eight measures long:

|Acapella vocals----------------||Guitar riff-------------------| |C |G |a |- ||G |- |- |- | G: I V ii I

- The first half is set for pseudo-acapella voices in a pattern of cascading antiphony that is something off the beaten path for these guys. The large number of overdubs makes it sound as though many more than just three people were singing; a modest anticipation of what would surface much later in the likes of "Because."

- In the second half we suddenly are faced with almost the entire instrumental backing ensemble executing a double-barreled iteration of a really knockout ostinato riff for lead guitar and bass drum; one that I'd say is easily way up in there the same class with the one from "Day Tripper" in terms of both its distintive melodic contour and craggy syncopations that extend over one and a half of the ostinato's two-measure length.

- The outtakes reveal two subtle points about this intro:

  1. - The finished recording is mixed to sound as though the intro were performed "ad libitum", but the outtakes prove that it is very much done in tempo. Take 2 contains both a count-in *and* a metronomic tapping out of the beat on what sounds like a cymbal, not only through the entire first half of the intro but in every other 'refrain' where the acapella vocal section is repeated. Darn clever how this tapping track is so neatly mixed out of the final version.

  2. - The harmony of the acapella section sounds on the finished recording as I've diagrammed it above: just I, IV, and ii. In take 1, though, you can clearly hear a skeletal backing track (placed there, I assume, to provide sotto voce support for the singers at the vocal overdub stage) which shows that they originally intended to have a V chord in the fourth measure. Once you know it's there in the outtake, you start noticing how on the final version it's *there* as well, but somehow was mixed way down but not quite out, deftly, every time the phrase is repeated; there must be some pretty fast fingers on those faders.

- The bass/guitar riff strikes with tremendous power when it is heard for the first time. The preceding acapella section, in spite of its being in the same fast tempo as what follows it, conveys, from its four-square and slow rhythmic pattern, a sense of pent-up potential energy that is mercifully unleashed when the riff kicks in.

- The bass drumming that backs the lead guitar riff is so sharp that when the bass guitar finally enters at the tail end of this intro with a pickup to the intro you think for a second that maybe you're hearing an overdubbed second bass part; but it's not so.


Verse

- The twelve measure length of this verse is phrased (AAB) like a blues frame even though the harmony doesn't fit the classic pattern:

--------------

- 2X -------------- |G |C |G |- | G: I IV6/4 I |C |- |G |- | IV I

- The C chord in measures 2 and 6 is elusive, indeed. For starters, the bassline gives a pedal tone-like stress to the note G throughout the first eight measures, placing the C chord in the extremely weak 6/4 (aka 'second') inversion. Secondarily, the melody stresses the note D during measures 2 and 6, creating a sense of the C and G chords being superimposed over one another.

- The second verse of each pair ends with that startling and unprecedented tape echo effect in measure 12. You'd think that the singers held their notes all the way through the end of the measure, and that the special effect consists of distortion being applied to what they had sung in real time. Surprisingly, take 2 demonstrates that the vocalists actually had cut off sharply at the end of measure 11; meaning that the measure's worth of echo was deftly spliced on as an extension of the original vocal.

- George and John have a bit of fun in the second pair of verses, sneaking in a counter-melody backing part based on the nursery tune "Frere Jacques". In the second of the two verses, they step their vocals up a notch in pitch, thereby creating a subtle feeling at that point of intensification.


Refrain

- This is, in each case, virtually a note-for-note reprise of the intro. The recurring sudden change of pace between this section and the frantic bustle of the surrounding lends to the song an overall a wrenching subtext.


Outro

- The outro is based on a variation of the antiphonal vocal of the intro. In the intro the 'answerer' had rhythmically imitated the "caller." Here, the answering part is modified to a more rejoinder- like snappy double time. This new pattern is repeated completely four times into a fadeout with all sound failing just after the start of the fifth iteration.

- During the guitar riff half of the refrain that precedes this outro we find an example of the small rough edges they obviously thought weren't worth sanding off because no one would ever notice them. In this case, we hear a throat being cleared and someone (I believe it's George) making sure he has the right pitch he'll need to sing at the start of the outro; in falsetto, no less! Regards, Alan (awp@world.std.com) --- "When you're not thumping them pagan skins, you're tormenting your eyes with that rubbish." 122293#91 --- Copyright (c) 1993 by Alan W. Pollack All Rights Reserved This article may be reproduced, retransmitted, redistributed and otherwise propagated at will, provided that this notice remains intact and in place.



Ook op Past Masters, Vols. 2:

ChordsNotes On
Day Tripper Day Tripper
We Can Work It Out We Can Work It Out
Across the Universe Across the Universe
Paperback Writer Paperback Writer
Rain Rain
Lady Madonna Lady Madonna
Let It Be Let It Be
The Inner Light The Inner Light
Hey Jude Hey Jude
Revolution Revolution
Get Back Get Back
Don't Let Me Down Don't Let Me Down
The Ballad of John and Yoko The Ballad of John and Yoko
Old Brown Shoe Old Brown Shoe
You Know My Name (Look Up the Number) You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)

Ook op 1962-1966:

ChordsNotes On
Love Me Do Love Me Do
Please Please Me Please Please Me
From Me to You From Me to You
She Loves You She Loves You
I Want to Hold Your Hand I Want to Hold Your Hand
All My Loving All My Loving
Can't Buy Me Love Can't Buy Me Love
A Hard Day's Night A Hard Day's Night
And I Love Her And I Love Her
Eight Days a Week Eight Days a Week
I Feel Fine I Feel Fine
Ticket to Ride Ticket to Ride
Yesterday Yesterday
Help! Help!
You've Got to Hide Your Love Away You've Got to Hide Your Love Away
We Can Work It Out We Can Work It Out
Day Tripper Day Tripper
Drive My Car Drive My Car
Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
Nowhere Man Nowhere Man
Michelle Michelle
In My Life In My Life
Girl Girl
Paperback Writer Paperback Writer
Eleanor Rigby Eleanor Rigby
Yellow Submarine Yellow Submarine

Ook op 1:

ChordsNotes On
Love Me Do Love Me Do
From Me to You From Me to You
She Loves You She Loves You
I Want to Hold Your Hand I Want to Hold Your Hand
Can't Buy Me Love Can't Buy Me Love
A Hard Day's Night A Hard Day's Night
I Feel Fine I Feel Fine
Eight Days a Week Eight Days a Week
Ticket to Ride Ticket to Ride
Help! Help!
Yesterday Yesterday
Day Tripper Day Tripper
We Can Work It Out We Can Work It Out
Paperback Writer Paperback Writer
Yellow Submarine Yellow Submarine
Eleanor Rigby Eleanor Rigby
Penny Lane Penny Lane
All You Need Is Love All You Need Is Love
Hello Goodbye Hello Goodbye
Lady Madonna Lady Madonna
Hey Jude Hey Jude
Get Back Get Back
The Ballad of John and Yoko The Ballad of John and Yoko
Something Something
Come Together Come Together
Let It Be Let It Be
The Long and Winding Road The Long and Winding Road

(c) 2021 Serge Girard