The Paul McCartney Project

Doctor Robert

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the Yesterday and Today (Mono) Official album.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1966
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

Doctor Robert” is a song by the Beatles released on the album Revolver in the United Kingdom and on Yesterday and Today in the United States. The song was written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and recorded in seven takes on 17 April 1966 with vocals overdubbed 19 April.

Musical characteristics

The song is written in the key of A major, though 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“, at 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 Dr. 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.

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.
  • 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“. […]

Paul McCartney in "Many Years From Now", by Barry Miles:

John and I thought it was a funny idea: the fantasy doctor who would fix you up by giving you drugs, [the song] was a parody on that idea. It’s just a piss-take. As far as I know, neither of us ever went to a doctor for those kinds of things. But there was a fashion for it and there still is. Change your blood and have a vitamin shot and you’ll feel better.

FromĀ The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

  • [a] mono 12 May 1966. edited.
    US: Capitol T 2553 Yesterday & Today 1966.
  • [a1] mock stereo made from [a] 1966, by Capitol.
    US: Capitol ST 2553 Yesterday & Today 1966 first issue.
  • [b] stereo 20 May 1966. edited.
    UK: Parlophone PCS 7009 Revolver 1966.
    CD: EMI CDP 7 46441 2 Revolver 1987.
  • [c] stereo 20 May 1966. edited.
    US: Capitol ST 2553 Yesterday & Today some later issues, c.1973.
  • [d] mono 21 Jun 1966. edited.
    UK: Parlophone PMC 7009 Revolver 1966.

The editing removed 43 seconds of the song in all four cases.

At the very end of the fade, US mono [a] seems to reach the true end of the song, and then has John (?) saying “OK Herb” (?), which is not even on the mock stereo made from it [a1]. The “well well well” parts are also mixed differently here than on the other mixes.

The UK mono [d] seems to have the vocal mixed louder than [a], but perhaps it is better to say the guitar backing is quieter during the verses, while the vocal and rhtyhm section is more powerful.

The “some later issues” of Yesterday & Today that have the US stereo mix are (1) all tape format copies since 1966 [reel-to-reel YT-2553, eight-track 8X2T-2648 and later 8XT-2553, cassette 4XT-2553, and even the four-track 4CL-2553!], (2) Capitol record club LP copies beginning in 1968, (3) many general release LPs pressed at the Winchester plant [indicated by -<| the sideways wine glass] since 1973, the date I use for the LP reissue. The use of old LP stampers with fake stereo, however, continued as late as 1988, the end of LPs.

Last updated on March 28, 2016

Lyrics

Ring, my friend I said you'd call
Doctor Robert
Day or night he'll be there any time at all
Doctor Robert

Doctor Robert
You're a new and better man
He help you to understand
He does everything he can
Doctor Robert

If you're down he'll pick you up
Doctor Robert
Take a drink from his special cup
Doctor Robert

Doctor Robert
He's a man you must believe
Helping anyone in need
No one can succeed like
Doctor Robert

Well, well, well, you're feeling fine
Well, well, well, he'll make you
Doctor Robert

My friend works for the National Health
Doctor Robert
Don't pay money just to see yourself
Doctor Robert

Doctor Robert
You're a new and better man
He help you to understand
He does everything he can
Doctor Robert

Well, well, well, you're feeling fine
Well, well, well, he'll make you
Doctor Robert

Ring, my friend I said you'd call
Doctor Robert
Doctor Robert

Officially appears on


Revolver (UK Mono)

Official album • Released in 1966

2:14 • Studio versionD • Mono

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Harmonium, Rhythm guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Lead guitar, Maracas
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Apr 17, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Apr 19, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jun 21, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road


Yesterday and Today (Mono)

Official album • Released in 1966

2:17 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Harmonium, Rhythm guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Lead guitar, Maracas
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Apr 17, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Apr 19, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
May 12, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road


Yesterday and Today (Stereo)

Official album • Released in 1966

2:16 • Studio versionA1 • Mock stereo made from [A]

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Harmonium, Rhythm guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Lead guitar, Maracas
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Apr 17, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Apr 19, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
May 12, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road


Revolver (UK Stereo)

Official album • Released in 1966

2:14 • Studio versionB • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Harmonium, Rhythm guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Lead guitar, Maracas
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Apr 17, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Apr 19, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
May 20, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio One, Abbey Road

Bootlegs


Complete Acetate Collection 1961-1970

Unofficial album

2:17 • Studio version


Revolver Sessions

Unofficial album

2:18 • Alternate take • RM4 From Take 7


Revolver Sessions

Unofficial album

2:16 • Alternate take • RS From Take 7 V1 fake stereo


Revolver Sessions

Unofficial album

2:32 • Alternate take • RS1 From Take 7


The Complete Roger Scott Tapes

Unofficial album • Released in 2015

2:15 • Outtake

Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.


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