Cover of the Northern Songs sheet music (licensed to Sonora Musikförlag)
|Song by the Beatles|
|from the album Revolver|
|Released||5 August 1966|
17 and 19 April 1966|
EMI Studios, London
|Genre||Psychedelic rock, power pop|
|Song by the Beatles|
|from the album Yesterday and Today|
|Released||20 June 1966|
17 and 19 April 1966|
EMI Studios, London
"Doctor Robert" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles. It was released in 1966 on their album Revolver, apart from in North America, where it instead appeared on Yesterday and Today. The song was written by John Lennon (and credited to Lennon–McCartney), although Paul McCartney has said that he co-wrote it. The Beatles recorded the track in seven takes on 17 April 1966, with vocals overdubbed on 19 April.
The song is written in the key of A major, although the key center is B, thereby making it in the Mixolydian mode. The musical arrangement has staggered layering, with backing vocals starting in the second verse, the lead guitar just before the bridge while the bridge itself has added harmonium and extra vocals mixed. John's lead is automatically double tracked with each of the two slightly-out-of-phase tracks split onto separate stereo channels; creating a surrealistic effect supporting the lyric about drug use. An interesting feature is the suitably "blissful" modulation (on "well, well well you're feeling fine") to the key of B on the bridge via an F♯7 pivot chord (VI7 in the old key of A and V7 in the new key of B). The extended jam that lasts 43 seconds at the end was recorded, but it was removed and replaced with a fade-out. However, John says, "OK, Herb", in the very last second of the song.
Identity of "Doctor Robert"
Multiple theories, some contradictory, have circulated about the identity of the real "Doctor Robert" and to what drugs he peddled.
In a 1967 interview, Paul McCartney described the meaning of the song as: "There's some fellow in New York, and in the States we'd hear people say: 'You can get everything off him; any pills you want.' It was a big racket, but a joke too about this fellow who cured everyone of everything with all these pills and tranquilizers, injections for this and that; he just kept New York high. That's what Doctor Robert is all about, just a pill doctor who sees you all right." In the 1997 biography Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now, author Barry Miles identified "Dr. Robert" as Dr. Robert Freymann, a New York doctor known for dispensing vitamin B-12 shots laced with amphetamines to wealthy clientele.
Dr. Robert Freymann (c. 1906–1987) was a German-born Manhattan physician known to New York's artists and wealthier citizens for his vitamin B-12 injections, which also featured liberal doses of amphetamine. Freymann bragged that he could rattle off 100 names of his celebrity patients (reportedly including Jackie Kennedy) "in 10 minutes." Freymann, who authored a 1983 autobiography called What's So Bad About Feeling Good?, lost his medical license in 1975. The US government began cracking down on amphetamine distribution in the early 1970s after a series of deaths and an increasing number of addicts. Freymann said he thought speed was "a good drug" that had its reputation ruined by addicts. He died in 1987.
In a 1980 interview, John Lennon said the song was "Mainly about drugs and pills. It was about myself. I was the one that carried all the pills on tour."
In a 2009 article entitled "Twisted Tales: The Beatles' Real-Life Dr. Robert Had the Feel-Good Cure for Celebs" several other people were speculated to be the real-life Dr. Robert. They were:
- Robert Fraser, a gallery owner who was friends with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. He was a bon vivant known as 'Groovy Bob' for his endless supply of mind-altering substances." "Once, when working with Paul," recalled McCartney's Fireman collaborator Youth, "I asked him who the coolest cat he ever met was, expecting him to say Dylan. 'Robert Fraser,' he replied… Fraser turned him on to collecting Magritte in the seventies, but well before that he had turned the band on to cocaine."
- Bob Dylan, who had introduced the Beatles to the joys of smoking pot in the summer of 1964.
- Dr. Robert MacPhail, a fictional character in Island (1962), the last book by noted LSD advocate Aldous Huxley.
- John Riley, a dentist and acquaintance of John and Cynthia Lennon, George Harrison, and George's girlfriend Pattie Boyd, who "slipped their first hits of LSD in cups of coffee".
- John Lennon – double-tracked lead vocal, rhythm guitar, harmonium
- Paul McCartney – bass guitar, harmony vocal
- George Harrison – double-tracked lead guitar, maracas
- Ringo Starr – drums
- Fontenot, Robert. "The Beatles Songs: 'Doctor Robert' – The history of this classic Beatles song". oldies.about.com. Archived from the original on 4 April 2015. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
- Miles 1997, p. 290.
- Lewisohn 1988, p. 75.
- "Alan W. Pollack's Notes on "Doctor Robert"". Icce.rug.nl. Retrieved 2014-06-29.
- Gilliland 1969, show 39, track 5.
- Walter Everett. The Beatles as Musicians: Revolver Through the Anthology. Oxford University Press. NY. 1999. p46
- Aldridge, Alan (14 January 1968). "Paul McCartney's Guide to the Beatles' Songbook". Los Angeles Times. p. B19.
- Miles, Barry. Paul McCartney: Many Years form Now (1997): 289–290
- Sheff 2000, p. 180.
- James Sullivan (September 4, 2009). "Twisted Tales: The Beatles' Real-Life Dr. Robert Had the Feel-Good Cure for Celebs". Spinner. Archived from the original on June 16, 2013.
- Glover, Martin (October 2014). "The greatest trip of them all". Classic Rock #202. p. 36.
- "Revolver Reloaded - Track Listing | Mojo Cover CDs – The Definitive List". Mojo Cover CDs. Archived from the original on 10 February 2011. Retrieved 29 June 2014.
- MacDonald 2005, p. 198.
- Gilliland, John (1969). "The Rubberization of Soul: The great pop music renaissance" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries.
- Lewisohn, Mark (1988). The Beatles Recording Sessions. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 0-517-57066-1.
- MacDonald, Ian (2005). Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties (Second Revised ed.). London: Pimlico (Rand). ISBN 1-84413-828-3.
- Miles, Barry (1997). Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now. New York: Henry Holt & Company. ISBN 0-8050-5249-6.
- Sheff, David (2000). All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-25464-4.
- Robert Freymann (June 1983). What's So Bad About Feeling Good? (Paperback ed.). Jove Publications. ISBN 0-87216-997-9.
- Alan W. Pollack's Notes on "Doctor Robert" (Notes about the music, production, and lyrics)