500 Greatest Songs of All Time

Rolling Stone's definitive list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.

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The Beatles, 'Eleanor Rigby'

138. The Beatles, 'Eleanor Rigby'

Writers: John Lennon, Paul McCartney
Producer: George Martin
Released: Aug. '66, Capitol
8 weeks; No. 11 

When McCartney first played the song for neighbor Donovan, the words were "Ola Na Tungee/Blowing his mind in the dark/With a pipe full of clay." McCartney fumbled around with the lyrics until he landed on the line "Picks up the rice in a church where a wedding has been." It was only then that he realized he was writing about the loneliness of old age. "Father McKenzie" was originally "Father McCartney"; Ringo chipped in the line "darning his socks in the night." The character sketch was fleshed out by the Beatles' vocals, but the backing music was the sole product of an eight-man string section, working from a George Martin score.

Appears on: Revolver (Capitol)


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