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Eleanor Rigby

The history of this classic Beatles song


The original US 45 of

The original US 45 of "Eleanor Rigby"

source: ebay.com

Eleanor Rigby

Working Titles: Ola Na Tungee, Daisy Hawkins
Written by: Paul McCartney (85%), John Lennon (5%), George Harrison (5%), Ringo Starr (5%) (credited as Lennon-McCartney)
Recorded: April 28th, 1966 (Studio 2, Abbey Road Studios, London, England); April 29th, June 6th, 1966 (Studio 3, Abbey Road Studios, London, England)
Mixed: April 29, 1966; June 22, 1966
Length: 2:03
Takes: 15
Musicians: John Lennon: harmony vocals
Paul McCartney: lead vocals
George Harrison: harmony vocals
Tony Gilbert: First violin
Sidney Sax: Violin
John Sharpe: Violin
Jurgen Hess: Violin
Stephen Shingles: Viola
John Underwood: Viola
Derek Simpson: Cello
Norman Jones: Cello
First released: August 5, 1966 (UK: Parlophone R5493), August 8, 1966 (US: Capitol 5715) (double a-side with "Yellow Submarine")
Available on: (CDs in bold)
  • Revolver (UK: Parlophone PMC 7009, US: Capitol (S)T 2576, Parlophone CDP 7 46441 2)
  • Yellow Submarine ("Songtrack": Capitol/Apple CDP 7243 5 21481 2 7)
  • The Beatles 1962-1966 (UK: Apple PCSP 717, US: Apple SKBO 3403, Apple CDP 0777 7 97036 2 3)
  • The Beatles 1 (Apple CDP 7243 5 299702 2)
Highest chart position: US: 11 (August 27, 1966), UK: 1 (four weeks beginning August 18, 1966)
  • Written by Paul (but workshopped with the whole band, and even some outsiders) began life as a nonsense song called "Ola Na Tungee," whose first line went "Ola Na Tungee, blowing his mind in the dark with a pipe full of clay." It was in this form that McCartney played the song for his neighbor, folk singer Donovan; after a few more revisions, it had become a story song about an unknown character named Daisy Hawkins.
  • By the time Paul presented the work-in-progress to the band a few weeks later at John's house in Kenwood, the title character had changed names again, to Eleanor Rigby -- "Eleanor" from actress Eleanor Bron, who had worked with the band in the film Help!, and "Rigby" from Rigby & Evens Ltd., a wine shop located at 22 King Street in Bristol, England. (Paul's girlfriend, actress Jane Asher, was appearing in the play "The Happiest Day Of Our Life" at the Theatre Royal, 35 King Street, and it was while waiting for her that he likely noticed the shop.)
  • Present at John's home that day were the band and John's close childhood friends Pete Shotton. Paul presented the song, which already had two verses written, one about Eleanor picking up rice in a church after a wedding, and one about another lonely person, one "Father McCartney." According to Shotton, whose account is usually favored, he himself suggested the name change from "McCartney" to "McKenzie" (other reports have Paul picking the name from a phone book). George suggested the "Ah, look at all the lonely people" tag line; Ringo suggested the priest darning (that is, repairing) his socks, as well as his "writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear." Someone (possibly Paul) wanted to end the song with the two characters finding romance with each other, which as rejected (possibly by John). It is certain that Shotton suggested the darker ending, which Paul wrote in the studio the day of recording. John, in his final interview, maintained that he wrote most of the lyrics, resulting in one of two Beatles songs whose genesis is in dispute (the other is "In My Life," which Paul claimed he wrote some lyrics for).
  • Paul originally decided that the song should be set to strings only, much as "Yesterday" was, and had an arrangement in mind reminiscent of Vivaldi's classical piece "The Four Seasons." Producer George Martin had a different take, choosing to arrange two string quartets in the manner of Bernard Herrmann, specifically his score for Francois Truffaut's film Fahrenheit 451. As with "Yesterday," the final version is played without vibrato (although a take with vibrato was made and never used); Martin also miked the strings much closer than normal for a more direct, rhythmic, "rock" sound, which caused some consternation among the classically-trained session musicians.
  • Martin also takes credit for arranging the vocals so that the "lonely people" refrain plays contrapuntally over the last chorus.
  • The basic track was cut in one session on April 29, with vocal overdubs laid down the next day, just before overdubs began on "I'm Only Sleeping." Final vocal overdubbing was done on June 6.
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