We are dipping into the Far Out Magazine vault to look back at one of The Beatles most beloved hits and listening to it in a brand new way. We’re revisiting ‘Paperback Writer’ through the isolated vocal track of Paul McCartney from this 1966 classic.
By 1966, The Beatles had well and truly asserted themselves on the musical landscape. In fact, to all intents and purposes, they were the entire musical landscape. Other pop groups were sharpening their claws but the truth of the matter is, in the mid-sixties, there was nobody bigger and more established than the Fab Four.
That was largely thanks to John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s fruitful songwriting partnership and, in ’66, their new sound and progression. The duo forged the band’s career with a series of chart-topping songs about teenage love and dancefloor debauchery — it had seen Beatlemania sweep the world with the band already charting nine number-one singles in Britain.
It seemed the subject of love was cannon fodder for the quartet’s fans but not for McCartney’s Auntie Lil who begged the singer to write a song about “something interesting” instead. That song wouldn’t just be their tenth number one but perhaps one of the most beloved songs from their entire back catalogue—’Paperback Writer’.
Credited to the Lennon-McCartney partnership, Lennon would later admit that, bar a few words and some inspiration, the song was entirely McCartney’s idea. “I think I might have helped with some of the lyrics. Yes, I did. But it was mainly Paul’s tune,” Lennon told Hit Parade in 1972, later confirming with Playboy that “‘Paperback Writer’ is son of ‘Day Tripper’, but it is Paul’s song.”
While that is certainly true, we’d say a fair chunk of credit should also go to Macca’s Auntie Lil. With four years of a tried and tested method of love songs and pop success working to perfection, many people were confused as to why The Beatles would deviate from their subject matter of chart-topping tales of love and lust.
Aside from any artistic aspirations to change up the M.O., McCartney suggested it was the familial nudge in the back from his Aunt that pushed him. “The idea’s a bit different,” McCartney recalled. “Years ago, my Auntie Lil said to me, ‘Why do you always write songs about love all the time? Can’t you ever write about a horse or the summit conference or something interesting?’ So, I thought, ‘All right, Auntie Lil.’ And recently, we’ve not been writing all our songs about love.” One such song was ‘Paperback Writer’.
Written in the style of a letter, as if sent to a publisher, Lennon and McCartney worked on the song together at Lennon’s Weybridge home and crafted one of their most adored songs. While conceptually the track is airtight it is in the vocals that we think the song stands tallest.
McCartney isn’t always famed for his vocal power, his songwriting usual takes precedent, but on this performance, he really shines. Whether it is the added reverb or the trippy sounds of Revolver finding their way onto the single, vocally Macca is nearing his peak here.
The song also works as a handy bridge between The Beatles three-part harmony past and their psychedelic future. It sees the band champion their old sounds and affectations but with a trippy new spin. When you isolated the vocals you can hear this all the more clearer.
Below, listen to Paul McCartney’s isolated vocals on The Beatles song ‘Paperback Writer’.