Song of the Week: “Paperback Writer” (The Beatles)

November is National Novel Writing Month, so I thought I’d use the first weekend of the month to share a classic song about writing. Perhaps the classic song about writing, if I’m being honest. If you follow our Facebook page or our little logs tag, you probably already saw the news that I’m participating in NaNoWriMo this year, so this song holds a special significance, I guess.

You’d be amazed how difficult it is to find Beatles material outside of official media outlets, so I’m really hoping that this video works and continues to work. It includes the video footage for “Rain,” as well, which is the b-side to “Paperback Writer.” It’s not really a classic Beatles track, but it’s worth a listen. Of course, I say this as someone who thinks almost every Beatles song is worth listening to (“Revolution 9” can go hide in a corner). Do with that what you will.

The song was released between Rubber Soul and Revolver, and can be seen as a transitional phase between the two. Rolling Stone explains it well, though they don’t make note of the fact that the vocal harmonies so important to this song and their earlier work seem to become less common beyond this point. It might just be me, but I feel a noticeable shift towards single-voice songs in their later work. A lot of their very late work may as well be solo tracks — “Let it Be” and “Here Comes the Sun” come to mind as being devoid of backing vocals and harmonies, for example, and are sung only by Paul and George, respectively.

The song is a letter to a publisher asking for consideration, although the line “It’s based on a novel by a man named Lear” makes me think that this writer won’t get very far in his endeavors. After all, if it’s already been written, why does it need to be written again? The guitar work — and really all of the music — is stellar, with a sharp, crunchy riff that sticks in your head and gets the song going. This is very clearly a rock song, especially in contrast to their earlier material, which is technically pop by ’60’s standards. And I suppose, in the long run, despite the author’s flawed ideas, this is more or less the anthem of writers everywhere. We want to be paperback writers. Or better yet, hardcover writers, that means we’ve really made it big.

Happy NaNoWriMo, everyone!

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