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2.02-DOCTOR ROBERT (Beatles)

Beatles

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"Ring my friend", I said "you 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 helps 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.
You'll pay money just to see yourself with Doctor Robert.
        [Repeat first reprise]

                [Chorus]

"Ring my friend", I said "you call Doctor Robert."
"Ring my friend", I said "you call Doctor Robert."
Doctor Robert!


Musically, Doctor Robert is an informal shuffle similar to the country and western tunes the Beatles were experimenting with in the year prior to this recording (Act Naturally [recorded June 1965], and What Goes On [recorded November 1965]). But there's an unusual enjambment of the A and B sections into a single verse. This enjambment is further echoed by the lyrics, first of all in the manner in which the pronouns are frequently referenced to the proper name. (Bob Dylan used this kind of pronoun enjambment in some of his psychedelic tunes as well, for example, in Visions of Johanna.) Even more striking are the first and second person pronouns in the first line, which must have struck Lennon as well, as he repeats the first line in the closing fade out. He would use this same technique again, more successfully, in She Said She Said, which was recorded two months later.

There's a coy reference to drugs in the lyrics, the first of such references in the Beatles' recordings, and it is actually for this reason that I include it among the supplemental psychedelic works. It has been speculated in the Beatles' Bible that the referenced drug is that of vitamin B-12 injections containing large doses of amphetamines, which indeed would have been useful to the Beatles on tour. However, the lyrics themselves don't suggest needles but rather drinking from a "special cup", in the manner that Timothy Leary distributed LSD through "Electric Kool-Aid" or punch. Further the lyrics suggest that the drug is psychotropic: "You'll pay money just to see yourself"; and "He helps you to understand." There is coyness as well is in the dropped word of the chorus; according to the rhyme scheme the dropped word would probably be "high".

Yesterday and TodayThe song is written as if advice to an "ailing" friend; the ailment itself is unclear. As this was before there was much general knowledge of LSD (Dylan's motto, Everybody must get stoned, was generally thought of as getting high on alcohol when it was released in April 1966), the song didn't cause much of a fuss upon its release in America in June of the same year. I didn't think much of it either at the time; it seemed to me like Mother's Little Helper by the Rolling Stones (which I don't consider a psychedelic song), recorded in December 1965 and released as a single in July 1966), which also made a case for the use of unspecified drugs by pointing out that kid's parents were using pharmaceuticals to alter their mood.

Dr. Robert, along with And Your Bird Can Sing and I'm Only Sleeping were intended to be on the Revolver album, and were released in the UK as part of that collection. However, these songs were pre-released in the US to fill out what was generally a greatest hits album dating from Yesterday, thus the title of the album was Yesterday and Today. This explains the controversial butchery album cover of Yesterday and Today, which was quickly withdrawn and replaced with more conventional artwork. It was a way by which the Beatles protested the fact that Capitol Records in the U.S. was "butchering" their albums; since Rubber Soul, the group had begun considering albums as complete musical pieces, with songs relating to one another in a particular sequence. When the Beatles re-signed with EMI in January 1967 it was specified in their contract that Capitol Records could no longer change the order of the group’s track listing.

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