Saturday, June 25, 2016

50 years ago: The Beatles hit #1 with “Paperback Writer”

Paperback Writer

The Beatles

Writer(s): John Lennon, Paul McCartney (see lyrics here)

Released: May 30, 1966

First Charted: June 11, 1966

Peak: 12 US, 12 CB, 11 GR, 11 HR, 1 CL, 12 UK, 11 CN, 11 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 1.0 radio, 33.0 video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

At the time that “Paperback Writer” ascended to the pinnacle of the United States’ Billboard Hot 100, that chart was eighteen years old. The song leapt into the pole position from #15. The only song to make a bigger jump was the Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” from #27 to #1. FB This was the Beatles’ first chart topper not about love. SF Paul’s Auntie Lil had been challenging him to “write a song that wasn’t about love.” SF

This “was a throwback to the Beatles’ early work as it is based upon their love of Chuck Berry.” KL However, the storytelling “is very much in the style that Paul McCartney was developing. It is an unusual composition” KL “sung from the perspective of an author soliciting a publisher.” SF While fictional, Paul was thinking of the beat poet Royston Ellis, who taught the Beatles how “to get high on Vick inhalers,” KL and author Martin Amis, “whom he had just developed a passion for.” SF

He was also thinking of some of his friends, including John Dunbar, who’d he’d just help set up the Indica Bookshop. It was housed in the basement of the Indica Gallery, where bandmate John Lennon would meet future wife Yoko Ono. SF Paul may have also been teasing John, who dismissed the song as “son of ‘Day Tripper.’” KL John published his own books of poetry and stories with In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works. KL “Paperback Writer” became the theme song for the BBC series, Read All About It. KL

In the UK, the ad to promote the single was the infamous “butcher cover,” a shot of the Beatles holding parts of dolls covered in blood. It was used initially as the cover for the U.S. album Yesterday…and Today SF The controversial cover “caused a wave of protest and…was quickly withdrawn.” FB However, it became a collectors’ item when Capitol Records simply pasted a replacement photo over some of the original pressings. FB


  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for the Beatles
  • FB Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY.
  • KL Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits: The Stories Behind Every Number One Single Since 1952. London, Great Britain: Omnibus Press. Page 123.
  • SF Songfacts

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First posted 3/27/2022; last updated 7/13/2023.

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