On June 16th 1966, The Beatles would make a highly anticipated live performance on ‘Top Of The Pops’ which would see the national treasures play their wonderful new release ‘Paperback Writer’ as well as their glorious B-Side ‘Rain’. The gig would also be the band’s penultimate live television appearance as a group.
The Fab Four had, up to that point, always pre-recorded their performances at the BBC studios. If that wasn’t the case, the band would instead send their own promotional clips to be played on the show. However, their performance of ‘Paperback Writer’ and ‘Rain’ would change that. The soon to be British institution was still in its infancy at the point of booking The Beatles, only been running for two years and managing to secure the band proved to be a turning point in the show’s history.
Their appearance was only agreed just two days before the Liverpudlians stepped foot onto the hallowed BBC stage after their manager, Brian Epstein, passed on the proposal received from Top Of The Pops producer Johnnie Stewart and to Stewart’s somewhat surprise on this occasion The Beatles agreed.
‘Paperback Writer‘ would become The Beatles’ tenth number-one single and the inspiration for the track derived from Paul McCartney’s Auntie Lil who, in the years gone by, pleaded with her nephew to give the love songs a rest and to finally write a song about “something interesting” instead.
“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’.
In 2007, McCartney confirmed that the song was inspired when he read the story of a struggling author in The Daily Mail, a paper often found in Lennon’s Weybridge home while the pair were writing. “You knew, the minute you got there, cup of tea and you’d sit and write, so it was always good if you had a theme,” remembered the bassist. “I’d had a thought for a song and somehow it was to do with the Daily Mail so there might have been an article in the Mail that morning about people writing paperbacks. Penguin paperbacks was what I really thought of, the archetypal paperback.”
He added: “I arrived at 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.”
‘Rain’ which features on the other side of the release, is famous for its pioneering use of the backwards vocal technique that came to Lennon when he was stoned out of his mind. He would later claim with Playboy in 1980: “I got home from the studio and I was stoned out of my mind on marijuana and, as I usually do, I listened to what I’d recorded that day. Somehow I got it on backwards and I sat there, transfixed, with the earphones on, with a big hash joint. I ran in the next day and said, ‘I know what to do with it, I know … Listen to this!’ So I made them all play it backwards. The fade is me actually singing backwards with the guitars going backwards. [Singing backwards] Sharethsmnowthsmeaness … [Laughter] That one was the gift of God, of Jah, actually, the god of marijuana, right? So Jah gave me that one”
Enjoy the moment that The Beatles finally made their long-awaited live debut on ‘Top Of The Pops’, below.