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The Beatles Songs: Why Don't We Do It in the Road?

The history of this classic Beatles song

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The Beatles Songs: Why Don't We Do It in the Road?

The road inside the "Beatles ashram" in Rishikesh, India

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Why Don't We Do It in the Road?

Written by: Paul McCartney (100%)
(credited as Lennon-McCartney)

Recorded: October 9 (Studio 2, Abbey Road Studios, London, England), and 10 (Studio 3, Abbey Road Studios, London, England), 1968
Mixed: October 16-17, 1968
Length: 1:40
Takes: 6

Musicians:

Paul McCartney: lead vocal (double-tracked), rhythm guitar (1965 Epiphone E230TD(V) Casino), piano (1905 Steinway Vertegrand "Mrs. Mills"), bass (1964 Rickenbacker 4001S), percussion, handclaps
Ringo Starr: drums (Ludwig)

Available on: (CDs in bold)

The Beatles (a/k/a "The White Album"; UK: Apple PMC 7067-8; US: Apple SWBO 101; Parlophone CDP 7 46443 2; CDP 7 46444 2)

History:

  • One of the Beatles' shortest, simplest, and raunchiest songs, "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" was a simple 12-bar blues worked up by Paul McCartney, as so many "White Album" songs were, while at the Maharishi Maheshi Yogi's ashram in India in the spring of 1968. Though he was studying spirituality and meditation, Paul had an epiphany of a different kind as he watched monkeys marching through the forest of Rishikesh: a female monkey stopped in the road, whereupon a male monkey suddenly appeared, mounted her, finished, and decoupled from her. Both monkeys were of course entirely unselfconscious of committing such an act in a semi-public place, and McCartney was intrigued that humans would attach so much ritual and secrecy to what was a natural process of biology. He wrote the song on the spot.
  • Lasting just under two minutes and containing only 14 words total, repeated in three identical verses, it was a mini-masterpiece of brevity and direct emotion. (Paul was also excited by the effect of the relatively shocking lyrics.) As recording wound down on the "White Album," band members began to finish older songs and quickly record new ones, and so Paul ventured into Studio 2 with Ringo on October 9th to lay it down, accompanied only by an acoustic guitar (on which he tapped out a percussive lead-in, accompanied by Ringo's handclaps). The next day, he went into the smaller Studio 3, where he'd already laid down similar one-man-band tracks like "Wild Honey Pie," and added his own piano, bass, guitar, and more handclaps, also recutting and overdubbing his lead vocal.

Trivia:
  • The result was very appealing to John Lennon in its immediate impact, so much so that he fancied Paul having written it as a tribute of sorts to his new, bluesier, emotionally direct style (think "Yer Blues" or "Revolution"). But because of the supposed stylistic similarities, it also caused a quiet but pronounced rift between John and Paul, further unraveling the band unity that was already in danger of extinction. John was upset that such a song would be recorded without him, suggesting that Paul had gone off and done it on his own, like "Wild Honey Pie," because he didn't need the rest of the band. That turned out not to be true: October 9, when Paul decided to record the song, was John's birthday, and he and Ringo were the only ones at the studio. (Very late that evening, when he'd finished the basic track, he assisted George with some vocals on "Long, Long, Long.") When he completed the song the next day, he insisted that John and George were busy -- and so they were, adding string sections to "Glass Onion" and "Piggies," respectively. Paul points out that John recorded the tape loop montage of "Revolution 9" without any help at all, and Ringo has added that "The Ballad of John and Yoko" was cut by John and Paul alone while the other two members were on vacation.

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