Blog Archives

Song History: Doctor Robert

We named our Beatles tribute band, Doctor Robert, after track #11 on the Revolver album. It’s a more obscure song and a lot of people don’t know the history behind the song, if they know the song at all. There’s a funny story behind the idea, as there are with many John Lennon songs. We like to think of our band “Doctor Robert” as medicinal MUSIC, a drug more powerful than all others. Here’s the history, according to a great website www.BeatlesEBooks.com:

“So, when was the first time that you suspected from listening to their music that The Beatles were using drugs? Most first generation fans would probably point to songs from the year 1967, such as the lyric “I get high with a little help from my friends,” or the imagery used in “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,” not to mention the supposed message hidden in the initials of that song. The year 1968 gave us clues as well, such as the lyrics “I need a fix ‘cause I’m going down” from “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” and “the deeper you go, the higher you fly” from “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey.”

While there are probably many other examples that can be pointed to, the first obvious indication was on the 1966 “Revolver” album (or “Yesterday…And Today” album in the US). Only the naive would have thought that “Dr. Robert” was a song about John’s family ‘ear, nose and throat’ physician. But then again, young fans may have thought just that! John’s longtime friend Pete Shotton remembers, “When John first played me the acetate of ‘Dr. Robert,’ he seemed beside himself with glee over the prospect of millions of record buyers innocently singing along.”

While the group had been drug users for awhile before this time, they had only hinted at this fact in their music up to this point. The lyrics “turns me on” was slyly included in the song “She’s A Woman,” and the description of a woman as being a “Day Tripper” were two notable examples, but they were included in such a way that not many would suspect anything. “The Word” was admittedly written under the influence of marijuana, as was a lot of the “Rubber Soul” album, but that was also veiled in disguise. It wasn’t until 1966 that they threw all caution to the wind and released a song that was blatantly about a drug pusher.

The subject matter may have been clear, but the real curiosity here was with his identity. Who really was “Dr. Robert”?

“It’s all about a queer!” This was John Lennon’s response when asked about the song during an interview. Keep in mind, however, that when he was asked about the inspiration behind “Eleanor Rigby” his response was “two queers.” Also, when a reporter asked what they thought about a Time Magazine article that explained “Day Tripper” as being about a prostitute and “Norwegian Wood” as being about a lesbian, Paul’s response was “We were just trying to write songs about prostitutes and lesbians, you know.” Obviously they were joking at the expense of those who were trying to interpret their music. Therefore, we can easily rule out “Dr. Robert” being about a “queer.”

Another curious quote from John about the song came in 1980. “It was about myself. I was the one that carried all the pills on tour and always have done. Well, in the early days. Later on the roadies did it, and we just kept them in our pockets loose, in case of trouble.”

While this appears to be the final word on the matter, there seems to be more to the story. Referring to a New York doctor that they’d heard about, Paul explains: “We’d hear people say, ‘You can get anything off him, any pills you want.’ It was a big racket. The song was a joke about this fellow who cured everyone of everything with all these pills and tranquilizers. He just kept New York high.”

Pete Shotton attempts to add more details to the story: “John paid sardonic tribute to an actual New York doctor. His real name was Charles Roberts, whose unorthodox prescriptions had made him a great favorite of Andy Warhol’s entourage and, indeed, of The Beatles themselves, whenever they passed through town.”

As for the Beatles actually visiting this doctor, Paul himself puts this to rest, saying, “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.” Since The Beatles have been very candid about their drug use during those years, the above statement appears to have the ring of truth.

One other detail that needs clarification is the name Charles Roberts. Probably because of Pete Shotton’s account, this physicians’ name had been well circulated in Beatles lore for a time. However, in Steve Turner’s book “A Hard Day’s Write,” it is explained that a New York doctor by this name “didn’t exist. It was an alias used by the biographer of Warhol actress Edie Sedgwick, Jean Stein, to conceal the identity of another ‘speed doctor.’”

The speculation about the identity of “Dr. Robert” is convincingly cleared up in Paul McCartney’s book “Many Years From Now.” Co-author Barry Miles, reiterating Paul’s account, explains as follows: “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.”

German born Robert Freymann, sometimes known as Dr. Robert or “The Great White Father” (reportedly because of having a tuft of white hair), continued his practice in New York for many years administering legal amphetamines in larger than needed doses to mostly well-to-do clients. “I have a clientele that is remarkable, from every sphere of life,” he has stated. “I could tell you in ten minutes probably 100 famous names who come here.” He continued his practice until he was expelled from the New York State Medical Society in 1975 for malpractice. His book “What’s So Bad About Feeling Good?” was published in 1983. He passed away in 1987.

About the writing of the song, Paul recalls: “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 early as 1967, Paul explained the meaning of the song: “That’s what ‘Doctor 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 otsen feffer casta nell a bogen’ was all about, but I still enjoyed singing it.”

As to who wrote what, John said in his 1972 interview with Hit Parader Magazine that it was mostly written by him, but then stated “I think Paul helped with the middle.” The sentiment expressed by Paul in his statements about the song seems to corroborate this point.

With a remarkable four month rest period from nearly anything Beatles related, stretching from the completion of their last British tour on December 12th, 1965 to their first EMI recording session of the year on April 6th, 1966, the song “Dr. Robert” can easily be estimated to have been written during this time. It was undoubtedly another product of a writing session between the two composers at John’s Kenwood mansion.”

Doctor Robert, The Beatles Tribute

Doctor Robert, The Beatles tribute from Crested Butte, Colorado, has been off for a few weeks due to a family emergency. We look forward to bringing our modern version of Beatles covers to The Ritz Grill in Colorado Springs on Friday, August 24th at 8:30. We appreciate everyone’s support around Colorado over the past two years, and love to see familiar faces. We called ourselves Doctor Robert, which is track #11 on Revolver. Some people call us Dr. Robert, some call us Doctor Roberts, some call us Dr. Roberts, some call us DocRob. We think of it as a tribute band from Crested Butte, CO, but some call us a Beatles cover band. We’re just happy that so many call us any of the above, so keep the nicknames coming.

Here’s a few videos from August 3rd at a private party in Aspen. These songs rarely make an appearance in Doctor Robert’s live performances but are just as fun to perform as the rest.

Error
This video doesn’t exist

Error
This video doesn’t exist

Error
This video doesn’t exist

Here, There, and Everywhere

What a great month it has been for Doctor Robert, The Beatles Tribute from Crested Butte. We’ve had some amazing shows at a few regular stops, a few new places, and two great private parties since Memorial Day Weekend.

We started on June 8th at Aspen Glen Golf Club in Carbondale, playing Valley View Hospital’s “Longevity” Party. Thanks to Al for the connection, and Cindi and her amazing crew of party planners. These hard-working party planners went all-out, creating a back-in-time atmosphere. There was a giant yellow submaring photo cutout, tie-dyes everywhere, great photos of The Beatles themselves, British flags, Lennon glasses, just to name a few fun things. We had a blast and can’t wait for another one like this.

June 10th brought us back to Gunnison’s Legion Park for The Sunday’s @ 6 series. Last year we got rained on, so this year’s sunny weather was very welcome. Hundreds of people in the park enjoyed the evening with Doctor Robert and our version of a Beatles Tribute. Folks in Gunnison have been great supporters of The Doctor, so thanks for another great performance.

June 16th found us back in Buena Vista for our fifth show at State Highway Theater. This is the first venue out of the Gunnison Valley where we really felt like people enjoyed our music. Folks here have a good time and aren’t afraid to get out on the dance floor. They have one of the finest venues anywhere, with state-of-the-art sound, lighting, and video equipment. They’ve slowly been remodeling and making the room bigger and better, so don’t miss a show here if you have the chance.

June 29th brought us back to Evergreen, but this time to the Wood Cellar on the north end of town hear Bergen Park. We had a lot of people come out specifically to see Doctor Robert play The Beatles, and plenty of folks stayed all night once we got started. One woman even convinced her group of 10 to stay after she saw us in our suits before the show (she even admitted later that they had planned to go to Little Bear, and when we were setting up in our “civilian” clothes, tie-dyes, etc. that she wasn’t impressed). We had a great time at Wood Cellar, thanks to Tabor for having us and thanks to everyone who came out for a Beatles fix.

We’d like to send a special congratulation and a huge “THANK YOU” to Laurie and Colin, who got married June 30th and had us play their cocktail hour and reception at Denver Museum of Nature and Science. What an amazing couple, with great friends and family in town from all over to celebrate in Denver. It started with Kevin playing some acoustic guitar during the ceremony in City Park. After the beautiful ceremony, we all made our way to the Sky Terrace on the roof of the museum for cocktail hour. Doctor Robert entertained the party with mostly non-Beatles acoustic music, from David Grisman to Bob Marley to Grateful Dead to Miles Davis. What a great view from the rooftop, looking west across City Park at the Denver skyline and beyond to the mountains. After dinner and some great toasts from friends and family, we got started with the Beatles set inside the second floor atrium. “Love Me Do” was a great first dance for Laurie and Colin, and “In My Life” may have been the perfect song for dances with their parents. Once we all got through the first dances, it was time for the entire room to dance and sing along with just about every song we played. The last song of the night was “Hey Jude,” and what a way to end it. The entire room formed a circle around the bride and groom, then their was the circle of “high-fives,” then the room started to do the “blossom” around Laurie and Colin. Hard to put into words, we were very honored to be part of one of the coolest weddings ever.

July 4th is one of the finest holidays to be in Crested Butte. We pride ourselves in a unique, small-town celebration and parade that brings thousands of visitors to our little downtown every year. This was our second straight year of playing the main stage at 3rd and Elk Avenue, and what a great show it was. Despite rain in the middle of our set, people stayed out in the street getting soaked just to watch, sing, and dance to Doctor Robert’s Beatles Tribute. This was our first true downpour during an outdoor show, and it was a lot of fun (after we buttoned up the stage and gear a little). We are always amazed at the young fans’ enthusiasm. Several kids were singing every word of every song, and one boy even knew all the answers to our trivia questions. That’s one of many reasons we love to play this music, it really has an impact on people of all ages.

Thanks again to everyone that has enjoyed Doctor Robert this past month! We have a lot of great shows coming up this summer and fall, and we’ll be adding more as we book them, so keep an eye on our events page at http://doctorroberttribute.com/shows/. We’ll see you at the next one…

Kevin, Karen, Ben, Casey
Doctor Robert, The Beatles Tribute

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.