Dr Robert - The Beatles

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"Dr Robert" - The Beatles (1966)

One version of the inspiration for “Dr Robert” is based on an actual person- one Doctor Robert Freymann, who supplied generous amounts of amphetamines to rock stars. It’s also been speculated that the doctor in question is Dr. Charles Roberts, a physician in New York. Or, that it refers to the first person who turned The Beatles on to LSD- a dentist- named Robert.

Yet another version is that song refers to Robert Zimmerman A.k.a. Bob Dylan, who, as the historical narrative goes, first introduced them to pot for the first time. On one occasion Lennon said that Dr. Robert was actually himself, commenting:

“I was the one who carried all the pills on tour ... in the early days.”

The song contains many drug references, including the fact that drug dealers are often called “doctors.” The Beatles were often accused of putting drug references in their songs though they claimed that they hadn’t intentionally done so; ironically, the drug references in this song went initially largely unnoticed.

While “Doctor Robert” is often identified with drug culture concerns, it could also be another cheeky mock on the upper-middle-class attempts to approximate the hipness of youth. Lennon’s sense of humor was obviously tickled by the idea of a respectable physician eagerly dispensing uppers, but what he finds more amusing is the benefit that the doctor gets out of it, not the patient; you will, after all “pay money just to see yourself with Doctor Robert” not for him to see you.

One of The Beatle’s least known songs, with its trebly guitars and punchy R&B- “Dr Robert” can be classified as a classic main stream rock song as it has a solid tempo and George’s playing is spectacular. As does the harmonization of the three of them singing, “Well, Well, Well.”

Beatle scholar Alan Pollack states:

“Dr Robert is musically of interest for its harmonic/home-key trickery. I am also quite fond of the incongruity of the Christmas-Carol type of arrangement given to the refrain, but I reiterate that the game played here with the home key is one of John’s more daring experiments with harmony this side of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever‘ or ‘I Am The Walrus.’ You might want to think of it as an ‘harmonic hallucination,’ that- intentionally placed here for this reason or not- is ironic in context of the song’s lyrics.”

However Robert Rodriguez writes about “the bouncy guitars, compact structure, and menacing overtones in the bridge- it seems to be a lost opportunity."

He concludes:

“The guitar parts seem overly choppy and far from focused, and Ringo’s beat lacks subtlety and just doesn’t rock hard enough.”

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