#180: Doctor Robert

In a catalog filled with tracks like “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “Tomorrow Never Knows,” it says a lot that “Doctor Robert” is easily the most blatant song about drugs the Beatles ever recorded. I mean, if you’re naive enough, you probably could buy John Lennon’s explanation that his ode to “the girl with kaleidoscope eyes” was inspired by nothing more than his son’s drawing, or that “turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream” was an instruction on how to survive the then-new Disneyland attraction “It’s a Small World” without being driven to commit murder.

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John Lennon wishes he could come up with something so trippy.

 

“Doctor Robert,” though, introduces us to a physician who does everything he can to help everyone in need. “If you’re down, he’ll pick you up,” John promises. “Take a drink from his special cup.” He doesn’t specify what’s inside said cup, but trust me, it ain’t penicillin. Much like in the White Album dud “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill,” John apparently didn’t subscribe to a “names changed to protect the not-so-innocent” policy, as the purported inspiration for the song was 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,” according to Paul McCartney biographer Barry Miles. Nine years after inspiring my 180th favorite Beatles song of all time, Freymann lost his medical license for malpractice. So…kind of a wash?

The song has little melody to speak of, although Paul of course steps up with some nice harmonies, and the guitar sound sharply blends garage rock and psychedelia. Actually, it starts to sound really cool just as it begins fading out, which is sort of unfortunate. Just like how I never actually comment on the music until the last, like, 20 words of every write-up on this blog.

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#180: Doctor Robert