What Goes On (Beatles song)

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"What Goes On"
What Goes On.jpg
US picture sleeve (reverse)
Single by the Beatles
from the album Yesterday and Today
A-side"Nowhere Man"
  • 3 December 1965 (UK Rubber Soul album)
  • 21 February 1966 (US single)
Recorded4 November 1965,
EMI Studios, London
Producer(s)George Martin
The Beatles US singles chronology
"We Can Work It Out" / "Day Tripper"
"What Goes On"
"Paperback Writer"

"What Goes On" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles, featured as the eighth track on their 1965 album Rubber Soul. The song was later released as the B-side of the US single "Nowhere Man", and then as the tenth track on the North America-only album Yesterday and Today. It is the only song by the band credited to Lennon–McCartneyStarkey. The song reached number 81 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1966.


The original version of the song was written by John Lennon in the Quarrymen days[1] and considered as a follow-up to "Please Please Me" in early 1963.[2] A demo of this version featuring Lennon and Paul McCartney was recorded in 1963, but the song was not used until 1965 as Ringo Starr's vocal piece for Rubber Soul.[3] According to Lennon, "it was resurrected with a middle eight thrown in, probably with Paul's help" for Rubber Soul.[1] Barry Miles also claimed that McCartney and Starr combined for the middle eight.[4] There is no formal middle eight in the song, though one chorus and one verse are extended; Ian MacDonald believes those longer sections were written by McCartney.[5] Starr contributed to the lyrics, his first-ever composing credit on a Beatles song. However, when asked what his contribution was to the song, Starr jokingly stated, "About five words, and I haven't done a thing since."[4] The first pressing of the single accidentally omitted "Starkey" in the song-writing credit.


An early version was considered as a follow-up to "Please Please Me", and the Beatles hoped to record it on 5 March 1963, but there was only time for the other songs recorded that night: "From Me to You", "Thank You Girl", and an early version of "One After 909".[2]

The Rubber Soul version was recorded in one take, with overdubs, on 4 November 1965. In the verse before the lead break after Starr sings "tell me why," Lennon can be heard saying "We already told you why!" in reference to the Beatles' "Tell Me Why" from A Hard Day's Night.[6] During this session the Beatles recorded a long (6:36) instrumental tune called "12-Bar Original" for lack of a better name.[7] "12-Bar Original" was not included on Rubber Soul, and was not commercially available until 1996 when an edited version of take 2 of this song was included on the Anthology 2 album.


Personnel per Ian MacDonald[8]

Reception and reviews[edit]

Richie Unterberger, in AllMusic, says the song is an enjoyable, but lightweight, country & western-flavoured entry in The Beatles catalogue. Unterberger praises George Harrison's guitar work, which "again marks him as the finest disciple of Carl Perkins," and the guitar work is indeed similar to "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby", a Perkins cover version released on Beatles for Sale.[9]


  1. ^ a b Sheff 2000, p. 178.
  2. ^ a b Lewisohn 1988, p. 28.
  3. ^ "Unreleased 1963 Beatles Demo Up for Sale on eBay: Listen to a Snippet" [1]. Steve Marinucci. billboard.com. September 21, 2017.
  4. ^ a b Miles 1997, p. 275.
  5. ^ MacDonald 1994, p. 142.
  6. ^ Everett 1999, p. 330.
  7. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 67.
  8. ^ MacDonald 1994, p. 176.
  9. ^ Unterberger, Richie. ""What Goes On" – The Beatles". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 March 2019.


External links[edit]