Ticket to Ride

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"Ticket to Ride"
Ticket to Ride.jpg
US picture sleeve
Single by the Beatles
from the album Help!
B-side "Yes It Is"
  • 9 April 1965 (UK)
  • 19 April 1965 (US)
Format 7-inch record
Recorded 15 February 1965
Studio EMI, London
Genre Power pop,[1] jangle pop,[2] folk rock[3]
Length 3:10
Label Parlophone (UK), Capitol (US)
Songwriter(s) Lennon–McCartney
Producer(s) George Martin
The Beatles UK singles chronology
"I Feel Fine"
"Ticket to Ride"
The Beatles US singles chronology
"Eight Days a Week"
"Ticket to Ride"
Audio sample

"Ticket to Ride" is a song by the English rock group the Beatles, written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney. Issued as a single in April 1965, it became the Beatles' seventh consecutive number 1 hit in the United Kingdom and their third consecutive number 1 hit in the United States, and similarly topped national charts in Canada, Australia and Ireland. The song was also included on their 1965 studio album Help! Recorded at EMI Studios in London in February that year, the track marked a progression in the Beatles' work through the incorporation of drone and harder-sounding instrumentation relative to their previous releases. Among music critics, Ian MacDonald describes the song as "psychologically deeper than anything the Beatles had recorded before" and "extraordinary for its time".[4]

"Ticket to Ride" appears in a sequence in the Beatles' second feature film, Help!, directed by Richard Lester. Live performances by the band were included in the Beatles at Shea Stadium concert film, on the live album documenting their concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, and on the 1996 Anthology 2 box set. In 1969, "Ticket to Ride" was covered by the brother and sister pop duo the Carpenters, who reached number 19 on the Adult Contemporary chart and peaked at number 54 on the Hot 100 chart with their version.


"Ticket to Ride" was written by John Lennon,[5][6][7][8] although credited to Lennon–McCartney.[9] In his authorised biography, however, Paul McCartney contradicts this,[10] saying: "we sat down and wrote it together … give him 60 percent of it … we sat down together and worked on that for a full three-hour songwriting session."[11] Speaking in 1980, Lennon said that McCartney's contribution was limited to "the way Ringo [Starr] played the drums" on the recording.[12]

The song is written in the key of A major. The structure of the composition is in an expanded variation of the AABA pop song format, with eight bars of verse and eight bars of chorus forming the A section, and a nine-bar primary bridge forming the B section.[13] The song features a coda with a different tempo.[14] In the view of musicologist Walter Everett, the latter section marks a progression on previous Beatles songs that similarly revisit aspects of a composition when ending with a coda. In the case of "Ticket to Ride", the section consists of a repeated refrain similar to the last line of the chorus ("My baby don't care"), played over a constant A major chord and set to the double-time rhythm used in the bridge.[15] Lennon said this closing section was one of his "favourite bits" in the song.[16] He also claimed that "Ticket to Ride" was the first heavy metal record ever made.[13]

While the lyrics describe a girl "riding out of the life of the narrator",[17] the inspiration of the title phrase is unclear.[6] McCartney said it was "a British Railways ticket to the town of Ryde on the Isle of Wight",[11] and Lennon said it described cards indicating a clean bill of health carried by Hamburg prostitutes in the 1960s.[17] The Beatles played in Hamburg early in their musical career, and a "ride" was British slang for having sex.[18] Gaby Whitehill and Andrew Trendall of Gigwise have interpreted the song to be about a woman leaving her boyfriend to become a prostitute.[19]


The Beatles recorded "Ticket to Ride" on 15 February 1965 at EMI's Abbey Road Studios in London.[20] It was the band's first recording session since completing the Beatles for Sale album on 26 October 1964,[21] after which they had toured the UK and played a season of Christmas shows in London through to mid January.[22] The session inaugurated what author Mark Lewisohn describes as "a more serious application in the recording studio" by the group, which included taping rehearsals of each song they worked on and concentrating on backing or rhythm tracks, after which they would overdub more detailed instrumental parts.[5] Everett views the recording as a radical departure for the Beatles, due to the vocals and lead guitar parts being overdubbed for the first time.[23]

The song's main guitar riff was played by George Harrison on his Rickenbacker 12-string guitar[24] and was among the parts taped with the rhythm track.[25] Author Mark Hertsgaard highlights the idea for this riff and for Starr's "jagged, whack-and-jump" drum pattern as examples of McCartney's increasing importance as the Beatles' musical director.[26] According to Harrison, however, the Rickenbacker riff was his own idea, based on the way Lennon strummed the chord when introducing the song to the band. Harrison also said that the "staggered" motion of the riff then inspired the pattern that Starr decided to play.[27][28] In addition to Lennon's lead vocal and McCartney's harmony, the overdubs included further electric guitar parts by Lennon and Harrison (on Rickenbacker 325 and Fender Stratocaster, respectively), over the verses, and by McCartney (on Epiphone Casino), who supplied the fills that close the bridges and the solo over the coda.[29]

Release and reception[edit]

In March 1965, the Beatles and their manager, Brian Epstein, selected "Ticket to Ride" and "Yes It Is" to be the A- and B-sides, respectively, of the group's first single release of the year.[30] The record was issued by EMI's Parlophone label on 9 April 1965 in the United Kingdom, and by Capitol Records on 19 April in the United States.[31] A contemporary news report stated that the Beatles were due to promote the single on television shows such as Top of the Pops and Thank Your Lucky Stars, and that the band were forming an independent production company with their producer, George Martin, which would earn them a more favourable financial return on their recordings.[32]

"Ticket to Ride" topped Britain's official singles chart for three weeks.[33] It went straight in at number 1 on the national listings compiled by Melody Maker, where it also stayed for three weeks,[34] and similarly topped Ireland's singles chart in its first week of release there.[35] In America, the song was number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for one week.[33] According to Billboard's Hits of the World listings for 15 May 1965, "Ticket to Ride" was also the top-selling single in Australia.[36] The US single's face label stated that the A-side was from the forthcoming United Artists release Eight Arms to Hold You, which was the original title of the Beatles' second film,[37] directed by Richard Lester.[38] The title was changed to Help! after the single's release.[33] In the film, the song plays over a sequence during which the Beatles attempt to ski and frequently fall over.[37] The track also appeared on the band's 1965 album Help!,[39] which was issued on 6 August in the UK and on 13 August in the US.[40]

"Ticket to Ride" was the eighth consecutive chart-topping single for the Beatles in the UK[6] and the first Beatles track released with a run-time exceeding three minutes.[41] On the American charts, it was the third of six number 1 singles in a row,[6] a record at the time, along with "I Feel Fine", "Eight Days a Week", "Help!", "Yesterday" and "We Can Work It Out".[42] When the song hit number 1 in the US, the Beatles became the fourth consecutive English group to hold down the top spot, after Freddie and the Dreamers, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, and Herman's Hermits. Thus, the Beatles broke a combined six-week run at the top for Mancunian groups.

Promotional film[edit]

On 23 November 1965,[43] the Beatles filmed promotional clips for "Ticket to Ride" and four other songs, including both sides of their upcoming single at the time, "Day Tripper" / "We Can Work It Out", at Twickenham Film Studios in south-west London.[44][45] The films were directed by Joe McGrath, who had worked on Help! as an assistant to Lester.[46] In the case of "Ticket to Ride", the clip was made for inclusion in Top of the Pops' round-up of the biggest hits of 1965.[47]

Against a backdrop of oversized tickets, the Beatles are shown miming to the song, with Starr standing at his drum kit and the other band members sitting in director's chairs.[48] Part of the clip appeared in the 1995 documentary The Beatles Anthology. In 2015, it was included in full on the Beatles' video compilation 1.[49]

Critical response[edit]

In his contemporary review of the single, Derek Johnson of the NME admired the "depth of sound" and "tremendous drive" of the recording.[50] Music critics Richie Unterberger of AllMusic and Ian MacDonald both describe "Ticket to Ride" as an important milestone in the evolution of the musical style of the Beatles. Unterberger said, "the rhythm parts on 'Ticket to Ride' were harder and heavier than they had been on any previous Beatles outing, particularly in Ringo Starr's stormy stutters and rolls."[51] MacDonald described it as "psychologically deeper than anything the Beatles had recorded before ... extraordinary for its time – massive with chiming electric guitars, weighty rhythm, and rumbling floor tom-toms." He speculated that the song's heavy sound may have been influenced by Lennon's first encounter with LSD, the date of which is not precisely known. MacDonald also notes that the track uses the Indian basis of drone which might have influenced the Kinks' "See My Friends".[52] Writing for Mojo in 2002, musician and journalist Bob Stanley recognised the song as "where moptop Beatlemania ends and [the Beatles]' weightless, ageless legend begins".[53]

"Ticket to Ride" has appeared in many best-song lists compiled by music critics, including top 500 "all-time" lists compiled by Rolling Stone in 2010 (at number 394) and the NME in 2014 (number 311). Dave Marsh ranked it 29th on his 1989 list "The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made".[54] In 2006, Mojo placed "Ticket to Ride" at number 23 out of the magazine's "101 Greatest Beatles Songs". In his commentary on the track, John Harris said it was "the sound of a four-piece group hurtling way beyond the beat-pop being churned out by their peers".[55] In 2014, USA Today named it the best Beatles song, saying: "No single better reflects the ambition, tension and pure pop genius that made the Beatles unique … Ticket to Ride is perfection all the way through."[56]

Live performances[edit]

The Beatles played "Ticket to Ride" throughout their June–July 1965 European tour.[57] A live performance from the 1 August 1965 broadcast of Blackpool Night Out was included on the Anthology 2 compilation and shown during The Beatles Anthology documentary.[58] On 14 August, the group recorded a live performance of the song for The Ed Sullivan Show, broadcast the following month.[59]

"Ticket to Ride" was also included in the set list for the Beatles' 1965 US tour[59] and their UK tour at the end of the year.[44] The 15 August performance at Shea Stadium appears in the 1966 documentary The Beatles at Shea Stadium, although the audio for the song was re-recorded in London prior to release.[60] The group's 29 August performance at the Hollywood Bowl was chosen for the 1977 album The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl.[61]

Cover versions[edit]

The Carpenters[edit]

"Ticket to Ride"
Single by The Carpenters
from the album Offering/Ticket to Ride
B-side "Your Wonderful Parade"
Released 5 November 1969
Format 7-inch single
Recorded 1969
Genre Pop
Length 3:37
Label A&M (1183)
Songwriter(s) Lennon–McCartney
Producer(s) Jack Daugherty
The Carpenters singles chronology
"Looking for Love*"
"Ticket to Ride"
"(They Long to Be) Close to You"

In the summer of 1969 "Ticket to Ride" was covered by the American pop music duo the Carpenters for their debut studio album Offering. Richard Carpenter recalled: "I happened to hear [the song] being played as an oldie one day in early 1969, and upon hearing it this particular time, decided the tune would make a nice ballad."[62] As arranged by Richard Carpenter, the song became the plaint of a castoff lover, with the opening line: "I think I'm gonna be sad", being sung repeatedly as the track fades.

The line-up on the recording was Karen Carpenter (lead and backing vocals, drums), Richard Carpenter (backing vocals, piano, Wurlitzer electric piano, orchestration), Joe Osborn (bass), David Duke (French horn), Herb Alpert (shaker) and uncredited contributors on wind chimes and tubular bells.

Released as a single – without the album track's introductory twelve measures – "Ticket to Ride" became the Carpenters' first charting single, peaking at number 54 on the Billboard Hot 100 in May 1970 and reaching number 19 on the same magazine's Adult Contemporary chart.[63] The single's success led to its parent album being reissued as Ticket to Ride.[64] The first Carpenters' retrospective, The Singles: 1969–1973, issued in 1973, featured an amended version of "Ticket to Ride" with a new lead vocal by Karen Carpenter. Other amendments were a new drum track by Karen to replace her drumming on the original track, and the addition of guitar work by Carpenters regular sideman Tony Peluso (who had not been attached to the group in 1969).

Other artists[edit]

The song was covered by former Motown artist Mary Wells,[8] a favourite of the Beatles, who had invited her to open their concerts during a 1964 UK tour.[65] Wells' recording appeared on her 1965 album Love Songs to the Beatles.[65] Later that year, George Martin included "Ticket to Ride" on his album of orchestral instrumentals titled Help!, producing a version that Billboard's reviewer admired as being "worth the price of the album".[66]

Mezzo-soprano singer Cathy Berberian opened her 1967 album Beatles Arias with a baroque interpretation of "Ticket to Ride" arranged by Luciano Berio.[67] Late the previous year, Berberian had surprised her Carnegie Hall concert audience by performing this and two other well-known Beatles songs – a gesture that musicologist Kate Meehan cites as reflecting the band's elevated status among many classical musicians and composers from mid 1965 onwards.[68]

English singer Alma Cogan, with whom Lennon had an extramarital affair,[69][70] covered "Ticket to Ride" in the style of Dionne Warwick for her final album, Alma,[71] released a year after her death in 1966.[72] Vanilla Fudge recorded what Paul Collins of AllMusic describes as a "stoned-out, slowed-down" version of the track for their 1967 self-titled debut album.[73] The 5th Dimension included "Ticket to Ride" on The Magic Garden,[74] an album that, according to Ken Shane of Popdose, "tells the story of a love affair from its rapturous beginning, through trials and tribulations to its end, and beyond".[75] While Unterberger dismisses it as "a misfired cover",[76] Shane describes the song as "a terrific version" that complements the Jimmy Webb-written song cycle that fills the rest of the album.[75]

"Ticket to Ride" was also covered by the Bee Gees,[8] whose version appeared on their limited-release rarities compilation Inception/Nostalgia (1970),[77] and by the New Seekers, who combined it in a medley with "Georgy Girl" for their 1972 UK album We'd Like to Teach the World to Sing.[78] Punk band Hüsker Dü contributed a cover of "Ticket to Ride" to NME's Big Four, an EP distributed free with the 1 February 1986 issue of NME magazine.[79] Writing for Blender in 2006, Johnny Black paired this version with the Carpenters' hit recording as examples of how the Lennon–McCartney song continues to endure.[18] Echo & the Bunnymen recorded "Ticket to Ride" in 2001, creating a version that Vulture.com later included among its ten best Beatles covers.[80] That same year, Beatallica parodied the song on their A Garage Dayz Nite track "Everybody's Got a Ticket to Ride Except for Me and My Lightning".[37]


According to Ian MacDonald, the line-up on the Beatles' recording was as follows:[4]

Chart performance[edit]

The Beatles version[edit]

Chart (1965) Peak
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[81] 8
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[82] 10
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[83] 1
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[84] 1
Ireland (IRMA)[35] 1
Norway (VG-lista)[85] 1
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[41] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[86] 1
US Cash Box Top 100 Singles[87] 1
West German Media Control Singles Chart[88] 2

The Carpenters version[edit]

Chart (1969) Peak
US Billboard Hot 100[89] 54
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[90] 19


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  2. ^ Andrew Grant Jackson (3 February 2015). 1965: The Most Revolutionary Year in Music. Thomas Dunne Books. p. 16. ISBN 9781250059628. 
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  4. ^ a b MacDonald 2005, p. 142.
  5. ^ a b Lewisohn 2005, p. 54.
  6. ^ a b c d Womack 2014, p. 909.
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  20. ^ Miles 2001, p. 189.
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Preceded by
"The Minute You're Gone" by Cliff Richard
UK number-one single
22 April 1965 (three weeks)
Succeeded by
"King of the Road" by Roger Miller
Preceded by
"Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter" by Herman's Hermits
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
22 May 1965
(one week)
Succeeded by
"Help Me, Rhonda" by The Beach Boys

External links[edit]