Paul McCartney tells the story of writing Eleanor Rigby

By David Pescovitz

From the Beatles 1966 album Revolver, "Eleanor Rigby" embodied a shift for the band from pop rock and rollers to a more mature group eager to experiment and harness the power of studio production and emerging technology. In the New Yorker, Paul McCartney wrote down the story behind all the lonely people. From the New Yorker:

When I started working on the words in earnest, "Eleanor" was always part of the equation, I think, because we had worked with Eleanor Bron on the film "Help!" and we knew her from the Establishment, Peter Cook's club, on Greek Street. I think John might have dated her for a short while, too, and I liked the name very much. Initially, the priest was "Father McCartney," because it had the right number of syllables. I took the song to John at around that point, and I remember playing it to him, and he said, "That's great, Father McCartney." He loved it. But I wasn't really comfortable with it, because it's my dad—my father McCartney—so I literally got out the phone book and went on from "McCartney" to "McKenzie."

The song itself was consciously written to evoke the subject of loneliness, with the hope that we could get listeners to empathize. Those opening lines—"Eleanor Rigby / Picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been / Lives in a dream." It's a little strange to be picking up rice after a wedding. Does that mean she was a cleaner, someone not invited to the wedding, and only viewing the celebrations from afar? Why would she be doing that? I wanted to make it more poignant than her just cleaning up afterward, so it became more about someone who was lonely. Someone not likely to have her own wedding, but only the dream of one.

Allen Ginsberg told me it was a great poem, so I'm going to go with Allen.