The Beatles' videos with info

“Doctor Robert”

  • Published on 1966
  • Author: Lennon/McCartney
  • Track 11 on “Revolver”

What the Beatles said about “Doctor Robert”

JOHN 1972: “Me. I think Paul helped with the middle.”

JOHN 1980: “Another of mine. Mainly about drugs and pills. It was about myself. I was the one that carried all the pills on tour… later on the roadies did it. We just kept them in our pockets, loose, in case of trouble.”

PAUL circa-1994: “John and I thought that was a funny idea– the fantasy doctor who would fix you up by giving you drugs. It was a parody on that idea.”

Info about “Doctor Robert”

“Doctor Robert” was released in 1966 on album Revolver, apart from in North America, where it instead appeared on their Yesterday and Today album. 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.

According to musicologist Walter Everett, the lyrics to “Doctor Robert” “contained the most overt drug references of any published Beatles song” up to 1966, and he adds that in their recording of the song, the band “found musical ways to portray the doctor as a saint”. The character is in keeping with the idea of a “Dr Feelgood”, a physician who prescribed drugs such as amphetamines under the guise of legitimate medical practice. Lennon recalled that McCartney might have helped him write the “Well, well, well” bridge; despite this, according to music journalist Robert Fontenot, “most agree the song is almost all John’s brainchild.”

In his book Beatles ’66, author Steve Turner says that Lennon was possibly encouraged to write about a drug supplier after discussing “Mother’s Little Helper” – a song from the Rolling Stones’ just-released Aftermath album – with Mick Jagger, when Jagger had attended a recent session for Revolver. Turner cites Donovan’s 1965 track “Candy Man” as another song that might have served as an example for Lennon. According to his friend Pete Shotton, when Lennon played him the acetate of “Doctor Robert”, “he seemed beside himself with glee over the prospect of millions of record buyers innocently singing along.”

Multiple theories have circulated about the identity of the real Dr Robert. Author Barry Miles identified him as Dr Robert Freymann, a New York doctor known for dispensing vitamin B-12 shots laced with amphetamines to wealthy clientele. Aged around 60 in 1966, Freymann 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”.

Turner, who also identifies Dr Robert as Freymann , writes that “some in the Beatles’ circle thought Dr Robert was a reference to Robert Fraser” – an art gallery owner, “reliable source of pot and cocaine for London’s hip set”, and friend of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. In a 1980 interview that Fontenot says “muddied the issue further”, Lennon said the song was “mainly about drugs and pills” but: “It was about myself. I was the one that carried all the pills on tour.”

In a 2009 article for the Spinner website, James Sullivan listed three other people who were speculated to be the real-life Dr Robert:

  • Bob Dylan, who had introduced the Beatles to marijuana in the summer of 1964.
  • Dr Robert MacPhail, a fictional character in Aldous Huxley’s 1962 book Island.
  • John Riley, a dentist acquaintance of John and Cynthia Lennon, George Harrison and his wife, Pattie Boyd. At a dinner party attended by Lennon and Harrison and their partners in March 1965, Riley had laced their coffee with LSD, providing the two Beatles with their first experience of the drug.

Personnel

  • John Lennon – double-tracked lead vocal, rhythm guitar, harmonium
  • Paul McCartney – harmony vocal, bass guitar
  • George Harrison – backing vocal, double-tracked lead guitar, maracas
  • Ringo Starr – drum

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