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Beatles Song History: Act Naturally

Thanks to everyone that came out to see Doctor Robert, The Colorado Beatles Tribute band in August. We enjoyed playing a variety of venues around Colorado. We started the month playing a private house party in Aspen, with many Aspen locals including Lance Armstrong in the audience. We had the honor of opening the music entertainment for the first annual Big Denver BBQ Block Party at Skyline Park in downtown Denver. What an amazing event this was, with international acts such as The Felice Brothers and Shaniqua Copeland as headliners. Be sure to catch it next summer when it returns to the Mile High City. We headlined the 40th annual Festival of the Arts in downtown Crested Butte, which included some great acts such as Bonnie and The Clydes from Lyons, Colorado and Bruce Hayes from Howard, Colorado. We finshed our August gigs with a return to The Ritz Grill in downtown Colorado Springs for a performance after the USA Pro Cycling Challenge finish just down the block.

September is going to be a great month for Doctor Robert, The Beatles Tribute band from way up in the mountains in Crested Butte, Colorado. Look for us to return to a few small town venues, starting September 13th at Telluride Conference Center in Mountain Village. We’re very excited to play the night before Blues and Brews starts, we’ll play two 90-minute sets starting at 8:00.

Friday, September 14th brings us back to The Depot Saloon in Lake City, show starts at 8:00. This is the night before the Lake City Wine Festival begins, so it should be quite a memorable night of Beatles music for everyone involved. Last time we played here, the entire room was dancing and/or singing along to every song. We had a hard time saying “good night” as people just wanted more.

On Saturday, September 15th, we are excited to play our second show at Wildwood Sounds in Del Norte, with a showtime of 7:30. Stephen and Konnie have put together such an amazing little music venue, with great acoustics and awesome vintage theater seating. This is still one of the best “shows” we’ve played, as the audience is there to listen to every note played, melody sung, and story told. This small town in southern Colorado sure knows how to appreciate music, and we are grateful for the chance to play Wildwood again.

The 21st annual Octoberfest party in Gunnison will be held on Friday, September 28th from 3:30 to 6:30. We’re delighted to be asked to perform for this party, put on by The Gunnison Bank. Over 1000 people are in attendance each year, and the Gunnison Bank gives away free food and beer to anyone that comes. We love playing our home valley, and Gunnison is always a great town for The Doctor.

Meanwhile, back in the studio, Doc Rob has been busy working on a few new songs during our time off from the road. Look for a few heavy hitters to start appearing in the coming months, such as the #1 all-time Beatles composition “A Day in the Life” from the Sergeant Pepper album, and the hauntingly beautiful “Because” from the Abbey Road album. Though we’ve played “Act Naturally” a few times now, it is with great pleasure to announce that the lead vocals will be passed on to our drummer, Ben Wright, for his debut singing in Dr. Robert. Be sure to give Ben some encouragement as he may be more nervous than Ringo was when he first sang it on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1965.

Here’s a quick history of the song, as far as The Beatles is concerned. It was actually written by Johnny Russell and Voni Morrison, but made widely popular by The Beatles on the Help! album. This is all according to an amazing website full of Beatles songwriting facts, http://www.BeatlesEBooks.com:

” Country and Western is not usually the genre of music one thinks of whenever the music of The Beatles comes up in a conversation. Nonetheless, this type of music was always very highly respected by the group. “I heard country-and-western music in Liverpool before I heard rock’n’roll,” recalled John Lennon. “There were established folk, blues and country-and-western clubs in Liverpool before rock’n’roll…I started imitating Hark Williams when I was fifteen, before I could play the guitar.”

One member who especially loved this form of music was Ringo Starr. “I used to love country music and country rock,” Ringo relates. As related in his book “Ticket To Ride,” Larry Kane asked Ringo in 1965: “What were some of the influences on you as a musician?” Unhesitatingly he replied, “Well, been listening to American country songs since I was a kid, y’know. Think all of us loved the sound. Maybe John and Paul put a little of that in their sound, y’know.” In fact, both John and Paul have revealed in interviews that some of their songs were written with country music in mind, these including “I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party,” “I’m A Loser” and even “All My Loving.” Also, of course, The Beatles choice of covering three Carl Perkins songs shows a country leaning as well. “Carl Perkins was really country, just with more backbeat,” Lennon stated in 1973.

When asked to choose a song to sing on their fifth British album, it was only natural for Ringo to pick something from this genre. “I sang ‘Act Naturally’ in ‘Help!,’” Ringo explains. “I found it on a Buck Owens record and I said, ‘This is the one I am going to be doing,’ and they said ‘OK.’” This ended up being the very last cover song the Beatles ever officially released, with the exception of the short ad-libbed “Maggie Mae” that was haphazardly thrown onto the “Let It Be” album in 1970.”

We hope you’ll come and see us at a show nearby, thanks again for all the support!
Ben, Kevin, Karen, Casey

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.”

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