Friday, August 5, 2016

50 years ago: The Beatles released “Eleanor Rigby”

Eleanor Rigby

The Beatles

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

Released: August 5, 1966

First Charted: August 11, 1966

Peak: 11 US, 12 CB, 16 HR, 1 CL, 14 UK, 11 CN, 18 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

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

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, 55.3 video, 156.0 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

“Eleanor Rigby” and “Yellow Submarine” were released as a double A-side single – “a daring paring” AMG considering that “one was the Beatles’ most somber song to date, the other their wackiest.” AMG Both songs were featured on the Beatles’ 1966 album Revolver. Songwriter Jerry Leiber said, “I don’t think there has ever been a better song written than ‘Eleanor Rigby.’” WK The song won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Pop Vocal Performance – Male.

The song was notable for continuing the Beatles’ move from “a mainly rock and roll- and pop-oriented act to a more experimental, studio-based band.” WK The song “broke sharply with popular music conventions, both musically and lyrically.” WK In regards to the former, producer George Martin arranged a double string quartet consisting of of four violins, two violas, and two cellos. SF Paul came up with the melody while experimenting on his piano. WK None of the Beatles actually play instruments on the song. WK

Regarding the words, the song dealt with the uncommon theme of loneliness and specifically “the neglected concerns and fates of the elderly.” AMG It was also different from most Beatles’ songs in that it was written in third person. AMG While credited to Lennon and McCartney, it is primarily a Paul song. George Harrison suggested the line “ah, look at all the lonely people” and Ringo Starr contributed “writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear.” WK Pete Shotton, a childhood friend of the band members, offered the idea of ending the song by having the two lonely people – the “lonely spinster Eleanor Rigby” AMG and the pastor, Father McKenzie – come together at her funeral. WK

Originally the song was about “Daisy Hawkins.” Paul later came up with Eleanor, named after actress Eleanor Bron, who had been in the Beatles’ film Help! He got Rigby from the store Rigby & Evens Ltd., Wine & Spirit Shippers. WK The minister was “Father McCartney.” Paul changed the latter so people wouldn’t think the song was about his own dad. In the 1980s, it was discovered that there were tombstones for an Eleanor Rigby and McKenzie just a few yards apart at the St. Peter’s Parish Church in Liverpool, a place near where Paul and John first met in 1957. McCartney said it might be that he’d subconsciously remembered the names. WK


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First posted 7/14/2021; last updated 7/13/2023.

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