Paul McCartney Experimented With a Tape Recorder to Create This Underrated Beatles Song
By Ross Tanenbaum,2023-01-26
The Beatles often experimented with various instruments and recording techniques. Their songs often sound different, partly due to The Beatles’ innovative tendencies. For example, George Harrison often incorporated the sitar into several tracks to generate a surreal sound. One of The Beatles’ more underrated songs was created by Paul McCartney, who was experimenting with a tape recorder.
The Beatles’ ‘Rain’ featured some experimental recording techniques
“Rain” was released in 1966 as the B-side to their “Paperback Writer” single . Both songs were recorded during their Revolver sessions, but neither made the album. The song was written by John Lennon and is often considered one of The Beatles’ more underappreciated tracks.
The track is notable for its unorthodox recording techniques and the rapid drumming by Ringo Starr, who said “Rain” is the best drum performance of his career. In an interview with Conan O’Brien , Starr said it was the first and last time he played “that busy.”
“I feel that when I played ‘Rain,’” Starr said. “it was the first time I sort of played that busy, and the last time I played that busy. I never sort of played like that again. It’s one of those weird tracks .”
Paul McCartney and The Beatles made the song while playing around with a tape recorder
In an interview with Clash , Paul McCartney recalled experimenting with his tape recorder on many Beatles songs. He would often speed up or slow down tracks to see if they sounded any better, and he said that many unheard recordings using this strategy were lost. While recording “Rain,” McCartney said The Beatles recorded the song faster so that when McCartney slowed it down, it would reach the note they were aiming for.
“We said, ‘Well, look, why don’t we just figure out what key we want ‘Rain’ to end up at and what speed we want it to end up at, and then we’ll just do it faster and then we’ll slow it back down to that key. So we did. If it ended up in G then we recorded it in A, about a tone difference. And we just recorded it like [hums song faster than usual], then slowed it down to that swampy kind of beat.”
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Paul McCartney said The Beatles were happy with “Rain,” but the group and their producer George Martin believed it sounded too “underground.” For radio purposes, “Paperback Writer” had a more mainstream sound that would appeal to a broader audience. Fortunately, their instincts were right because it reached No. 1 on the charts in the U.S. and the U.K.
“I think we in the Beatles had always liked ‘Rain,’ but I think we thought that as a song, as a kind of radio thing, ‘Paperback Writer’ was a bit more immediate,” McCartney explained. “I know we all liked ‘Rain,’ but some of the things we liked were kind of, not ‘underground,’ but underground, if you know what I mean; it was a little bit off the beat, leftfield, and ‘Rain’ was one of them.”
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