- Paul McCartney – vocal, bass
- John Lennon – backing vocal, rhythm guitar
- George Harrison – backing vocal, lead guitar
- Ringo Starr – drums, tambourine
Paperback Writer was written by Paul McCartney with some collaboration from John Lennon. It was the a-side of their 11th single release, on May 30, 1966 (US) and June 10, 1966 (UK). Rain was on the b-side. This song was a very popular rock and roll song, going to number one in most countries of the English-speaking world, plus Germany and Norway.
Paul was on his way to John's house to write songs when he saw a piece in the Daily Mail about someone whose ambition it was to become an author of paperback books. When he arrived at Lennon's home, the idea of a letter to the publishing house had emerged, and the two completed the lyrics quickly.
They then worked on the melody. Paul was trying to write a song around a single chord. It was bluesy, and perhaps influenced a bit by Indian music or perhaps marijuana, and it had the same flat structure as some of his other efforts of the period, most notably The Word and If I Needed Someone.
Curiously, Frère Jacques can be heard in the backing vocals. The chorus is strong, with solid, four-part close harmony and echo effects. The execution of the song shows how much the group had evolved since their EMI audition almost four years before.
Paperback Writer was the first Beatles single that was not a love song. (Nowhere Man was the first album song in that category, and it was released in the US as a single.) It was also the last "new" Beatles original to be part of the performance set in their (final) tour in 1966. It was the next to last song played at their last live concert, in San Francisco.
Paperback Writer was recorded at Abbey Road Studios on April 13 and 14, 1966 (during the Revolver recording sessions). Lennon had listened to a Wilson Pickett record and noticed that the bass had been boosted much more than on Beatles' records. The maintenance crew at EMI came up with a means of boosting the bass on Beatles' recordings at Abbey Road, and Paperback Writer was the first to have the enhancement. A loudspeaker was used as a microphone in front of the bass amp and the signal reprocessed.
Engineer Geoff Emerick said Paperback Writer and Rain were also "cut louder" than previous tracks, thanks to another maintenance department innovation that they called an "Automatic Transient Overload Control."
In addition to the single release, Paperback Writer is on the Past Masters disc and on The Beatles 1. In addition, four promos were filmed in May of 1966 to hype the release of the single. The black and white performances came out on Goodbye Lucky Stars (the last installment of Thank Your Lucky Stars) and one on Ready, Steady, Go!. Color videos shot the next day appeared on the BBC (Top of the Pops) on June 2, and on the Ed Sullivan Show. These were designed in lieu of having the Beatles go on tour, just to promote record sales.