The Beatles: Isolated Bass on “Paperback Writer”

Today’s isolated bass track has some historical significance for the Beatles. According to the Wikipedia page about this song, “‘Paperback Writer’ is marked by the boosted bass guitar sound throughout, partly in response to John Lennon demanding to know why the bass on a certain Wilson Pickett record far exceeded the bass on any Beatles records. This changed with the … single.”

Mark Lewisohn’s book The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions quotes Beatles’ engineer Geoff Emerick as saying the song was “was the first time the bass sound had been heard in all its excitement. Paul McCartney played a different bass, a Rickenbacker. Then we boosted it further by using a loudspeaker as a microphone. We positioned it directly in front of the bass speaker and the moving diaphragm of the second speaker made the electric current.”


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Share your thoughts

  1. Very interesting!!

  2. John Congerton

    Strange. Rain sounds much more like Hofner than Ric

    • David Harvey

      Paul used his Rickenbacker bass on that song and by the time of the sessions for “Revolver”, he had effectively retired the Höfner bass as far as recording was concerned.

      The most pressing issue that Paul had his with his Höfner was that it had some intonation problem that caused the bass to go out of tune if he played too high on the fretboard and what also didn’t help was that it didn’t always stand out in the mixes on the early records, so it must’ve been frustrating for him.

      I have seen photos from the “Revolver” sessions and there is no sign of Paul’s Höfner in any of them.

  3. It’s not only the bass, as you hear at some places. Interesting though. Sounds more the Hofner, than a Rickb.

  4. scbilly

    This was the bass part that got me excited about the instrument 40-odd years ago (Roger Glover on “Pictures of Home” helped too). Thanks!

  5. David Harvey

    I’m glad that Geoff Emerick got something right – Paul did in fact use his Rickenbacker bass on “Paperback Writer”, as photographs taken at the session can confirm its presence.

    “Rubber Soul” was the first Beatles album where Paul used his Rickenbacker bass and he actually used it most of the album, more than I thought he did.