365 Days of Songs (1966)

The Beatles, “Paperback Writer”


1/5/20231 min read

This song makes no sense, structurally or lyrically. It starts off with the title/hook. I'm not sure you can even call it a chorus. You could, but what's perverse about it is that every occurrence of it is a stop where the music totally drops out.

The verses are basically one chord, G, feeding into a C chord for the chorus before going back to the G. G and C, like Tomorrow Never Knows, another McCartney two chord song.

What's crazier is that the song opens with that classic acapella “Paperback writer, writer, writer…” and then stops three more times to do it again throughout the song. He's what kind of writer? I don't think I caught that bit. Tell me again…

But it works. We could debate the semantics of what to call the acapella section or the “Paperback Writer” refrain coming out of each verse, but does it matter which one you call the chorus or if you decide neither is, and there just isn't a chorus?

As for the lyrics, this is a classic case of the words being a vehicle for the melody. They don't need to do anything else. They just need to sound good with the melody. The whole lyric is circular. “I want to be a paperback writer and so does the son I'm writing about.” It’s nonsense, but it’s perfect nonsense.

Also, an absolute killer riff by Paul (it turns out George overdubbed the excellent bass line—nice role reversal, lads). The riff, the melody, the hook, the stops, the fade. Everything is absolute genius. It's why I love songs. This one shouldn't work. And yes, I know it's Paul McCartney we're talking about here, but it still shouldn't work. Was it the drugs, Paul? Say it was the drugs. Agh, it was you. Goddamnit.