Eleanor Rigby, by The Beatles

In memory of George Martin, who passed away yesterday at the great age of 90, here is one of his crown achievements with the Beatles, Eleanor Ribgy.

McCartney said he came up with the name “Eleanor” from actress Eleanor Bron, who had starred with the Beatles in the film Help!. “Rigby” came from the name of a store in Bristol, “Rigby & Evens Ltd, Wine & Spirit Shippers”, which he noticed while seeing his girlfriend of the time, Jane Asher, act in The Happiest Days of Your Life.

Eleanor Bron Beatles

Eleanor Bron with the Beatles

In the 1980s, a grave of an Eleanor Rigby was discovered in the graveyard of St. Peter’s Parish Church in Woolton, Liverpool, and a few yards away, another tombstone with the last name “McKenzie” scrawled across it. Paul McCartney has conceded he may have been subconsciously influenced by the name on the gravestone. The real Eleanor Rigby lived a lonely life similar to that of the person in the song.

None of the Beatles played instruments on it, though John Lennon and George Harrison did contribute harmony vocals. An octet of studio musicians, comprising 4 violins, 2 cellos, and 2 violas, performed a score composed by George Martin.

Compared to Yesterday which is played legato, “Eleanor Rigby” is played mainly in staccato chords with melodic embellishments. For the most part, the instruments “double up”—that is, they serve as a single string quartet but with two instruments playing each of the four parts.

Martin cited the influence of Bernard Herrmann’s work on his string scoring from the 1960 film Psycho.

Psycho

When Paul wanted the strings to sound “biting” sound engineer Jeoff Emerick began thinking how to accomplish that: “String quartets were traditionally recorded with just one or two microphones, placed high, several feet up in the air so that the sound of the bows scraping couldn’t be heard. I decided to close-mic the instruments, which was a new concept.  The musicians were horrified!”

Simultaneously released on August 5th 1966 on both the album Revolver and on a double A-side single with “Yellow Submarine” on Parlophone in the United Kingdom and Capitol in the United States, “Eleanor Rigby” spent four weeks at number one on the British charts, and reached the eleventh spot in America.

RIP, George.

Ah, look at all the lonely people

Ah, look at all the lonely people

 

Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a

wedding has been

Lives in a dream

Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps

in a jar by the door

Who is it for?

 

All the lonely people

Where do they all come from?

All the lonely people

Where do they all belong?

 

Father McKenzie writing the words of a sermon that

no one will hear

No one comes near

Look at him working, darning his socks in the night

when there’s nobody there

What does he care?

 

All the lonely people

Where do they all come from?

All the lonely people

Where do they all belong?

 

Ah, look at all the lonely people

Ah, look at all the lonely people

 

Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name

Nobody came

Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave

No one was saved

 

All the lonely people (Ah, look at all the lonely people)

Where do they all come from?

All the lonely people (Ah, look at all the lonely people)

Where do they all belong?

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3 replies »

  1. A favorite song of mine. I wonder if G. Martin (RIP) was underpaid for his contribution to that recording.

  2. George Martin made a producer salary on all his contributions to Beatles songs as arranger. He had no composer credit on any of these songs, spare a few instrumentals in the Yellow Submarine album and movie. His main Beatles-related income came from a re-negotiation of his terms in 1965, at which point he was able to negotiate some royalties. He also made up for it in other later projects such as the Anthology, DVDs, etc. He may have not been as wealthy as the fab four, and definitely did not drive a Bentley in 1965, but he lived more than comfortably.

  3. I often think of the song Eleanor Rigby when I am however struck by “all the lonely people” as if we have collectively let this get away from us…this alienation and isolation from one another…”wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door”…all the masks we wear in front of others…I think this human condition has only gotten worse…the song is timeless.

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