This week’s BROW is now available as a podcast. I’ve seen a lot of discussion on various websites about The Beatles being “first” to do a lot of things: lyrics coming with the album packaging (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), the first feedback sound in a rock/pop song (“I Feel Fine”), the first classical instrumentation in a pop song (“Yesterday”), the first rock band to wear their hair longer than anyone was used to seeing on males, the first metal song (“Helter Skelter”), the first band to put backwards secret messages in their music or other hidden meanings on the album jackets, etc., etc. etc. Yeah, well, whether or not you agree with all of these, you should at least agree that The Beatles were innovative.
This week’s BROW was one of the first pop/rock songs to be completely about drugs. The fact that it was about a pill pusher actually went unnoticed for awhile. The Beatles were always stretching the boundaries of what was “acceptable” and in this case got away with it without any bans. Soon afterward, the Rolling Stones followed suit with “Mother’s Little Helper” which was also about pill popping. Most of us also know the story about how “A Day In The Life” was banned on the BBC due to the I’d love to turn you on lyric. And, of course, there are countless other “druggie songs” that followed.
Specifically a composition of John’s (with a little collaboration with Paul), aboutthebeatles.com says this about who “Dr. Robert” actually was:
[A song] written about a New York doctor named Doctor Robert Freymann, a 60 year old, German physician who was famous for prescribing generous amounts of amphetamines to famous people. Freymann once boasted that he could name 100 famous names in 10 minutes of people who used his services. Some books credit Dr. Robert as being Dr. Charles Roberts, but that name was only used as an alias for one of Andy Warhol’s actresses to protect another doctor who practiced the same type of medicine. The real Dr. Robert died in 1987 after losing his license in 1968 and removed from the NY State Medical Society in 1975.
And why am I posting this as a rarity?
“Dr. Robert,” the song, was first released in the U.S. on the Yesterday… And Today album (yes, the one with the famous “butcher cover,” but that’s another story) on June 20, 1966. It was later released on the U.K. Revolver album on August 5th, 1966, but some mixing changes were made after the U.S. version was released that only appear on the U.K. albums. Since the masters from the U.K. stereo album was what was eventually used for the Revolver CD, the U.S. (fake stereo and mono) versions were destined to obscurity. The version I’ve posted here is the U.S. mono version from Yesterday… And Today which unlike the U.K. Revolver CD version has the fade reaching the true ending of the song where John is saying ‘OK Herb’ (?) or something like that (you have to turn the volume up loud to hear this as it is at the end of the fade). The middle-eight section (which starts with ‘well, well, well you’re feeling fine’) are also mixed differently here than on the common version we hear on the Revolver CD.The Beatles - Dr. Robert