Sunday, August 28, 2011

Paperback Writer

The Beatles were the supergroup of the Sixties. After a certain point in time it hardly seemed to matter what they sang about, they were just that popular. And they did have a such a great sound. Their fame gave them license to experiment and to diehard fans they could do no wrong. If the Beatles did it, it had to be good, even when it was that strange encore-like ending on Strawberry Fields or the use of Indian string instruments with no other members of the group even playing.

And so in 1966 Paperback Writer rolled up the pop charts to number one, the first Beatles single ever released that was not a love song. What was striking about the song was McCartney's fabulous bass line which literally jumped out and grabbed you, as if to say, "Pay attention to this." I loved the song, not knowing that one day I, too, would like to be a paperback writer.

According to Wikipedia, that bass line was the result of John Lennon asking how Wilson Picket got his bass to stand out so strong on a certain record. They proceeded to place a loudspeaker as a mic in front of the speaker where the bass guitar emerged, toying with that configuration to amp it up.

I mention all this because this morning I came across an interesting blog entry about Paperback Writer from the point of view of a literary agency. If you recall, the song's repeated refrain is, "I want to be a paperback writer." Here is the beginning of a rejection letter from the Write Good Read Literary Agency to Mr. McCartney.

Dear Mr. McCartney,
With reference to your recent correspondence seeking representation for yourself and your novel, I regret to inform you that The Write Good Read Literary Agency will not be inviting you to join our client roster.

As someone who harbors ambitions of one day becoming a published author myself, I fully understand your desire to become a ‘paperback writer.’

I share the frustration we authors feel when our work is rejected with little or no explanation as to why it’s deemed unworthy. With that in mind – and please understand this is in no way a request for you to re-submit your work – I’d like to offer some observations about your letter of enquiry, along with some helpful advice which, if heeded, I believe will greatly increase your chances of getting past that all-important first stage of the representation process when you submit your work elsewhere.

You start your letter of enquiry with ‘Dear, sir or madam, will you read my book?’

To use the modern vernacular, I’m afraid you ‘Shot yourself in the foot’, not once, but twice, within your very first sentence. In this modern technological age, a quick call to Directory Enquiries would have gotten you this agency’s telephone number. Had you then telephoned our main office, a member of our secretarial staff would have gladly furnished you with the name of the person to whom you should address your letter of enquiry (in this case, myself).

For a good laugh, or at the very least a big grin, read the rest of the letter here.

As for the record itself, here are the lyrics. Enjoy.

Paperback Writer

Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?
It took me years to write, will you take a look?
It's based on a novel by a man named Lear
And I need a job, so I want to be a paperback writer,
Paperback writer.

It's the dirty story of a dirty man
And his clinging wife doesn't understand.
The son (The Sun) is working for the Daily Mail,
It's a steady job but he wants to be a paperback writer,
Paperback writer.

Paperback writer (paperback writer)

It's a thousand pages, give or take a few,
I'll be writing more in a week or two.
I can make it longer if you like the style,
I can change it round and I want to be a paperback writer,
Paperback writer.

If you really like it you can have the rights,
It could make a million for you overnight.
If you must return it, you can send it here
But I need a break and I want to be a paperback writer,
Paperback writer.

Copyright 1966 Lennon/McCartney

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