Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Doctor Robert

AUTHORSHIP Lennon (.75) and McCartney (.25)
On the release of the album there was considerable speculation about the identity of "Dr. Robert," with many of the London cognoscenti taking it as a reference to Robert Fraser, who was always a walking pharmacy. In fact, the name was based on the New York Dr. Feelgood character Dr. Robert Freymann, whose discreet East 78th Street clinic was conveniently located for Jackie Kennedy and other wealthy Upper East Siders from Fifth Avenue and Park to stroll over for their vitamin B-12 shots, which also happened to contain a massive dose of amphetamine. Dr. Robert's reputation spread and it was not long before visiting Americans told John and Paul about him.

McCARTNEY: "John and I thought it was a funny idea: the fantasy doctor who would fix you up by giving you drugs, it 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 kind 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." Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now

LENNON: "Me [I wrote it]. I think Paul helped with the middle." Hit Parader (April 1972)

LENNON: "It was about myself. I was the one that carried all the pills on tour and always [dispensed] them . . . in the early days. Later on, the roadies did it." September 1980, All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono

McCARTNEY: "Well, he's like a joke. 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 tranquillisers, 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. It was a joke between ourselves, but they go in in-jokes and come out out-jokes because everyone listens and puts their own thing on it, which is great. I mean, when I was young I never knew what 'gilly gilly elsa feffer cats . . .' was all about, but I still enjoyed singing it. You put your own meaning at your own level to our songs and that's what's great about them." Beatles in Their Own Words

April 17, 1966, at Abbey Road, with vocals overdubbed April 19

McCARTNEY: bass, harmony vocal
LENNON: harmonium, maracas, lead vocal (double-tracked)
HARRISON: lead guitar
STARR: drums

PETE SHOTTON: "When John first played me the acetate of 'Doctor Robert,' he seemed beside himself with glee over the prospect of millions of record buyers innocently singing along." John Lennon: In My Life

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