“Doctor Robert” is a Beatles’ song which is on their 1966 album, “Revolver”.
Release Date: 5th August, 1966
Recorded: 17th and 19th April, 1966
Studio: EMI Studios, London
Genre: Psychedelic rock
Track Duration: 2:15
Record Label: Parlophone
Producer: George Martin
John Lennon: double-tracked lead vocal, rhythm guitar, also the harmonium
Paul McCartney: bass guitar, as well as harmony vocal
George Harrison: double-tracked lead guitar, also the maracas
Ringo Starr: drums
Written primarily by John Lennon but credited to the Lennon-McCartney partnership, “Doctor Robert” is a song which has lyrics that reference drugs. However, unless you analyse the lyrics, you may not notice. But of course in 1966, they had to be clever with the lyrics.
“Another of mine. Mainly about drugs and pills. It was about myself. I was the one that carried all the pills on tour. Well, in the early days. Later on the roadies did it. We just kept them in our pockets loose. In case of trouble.”
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
Inspiration could have come from talking to Mick Jagger about The Rolling Stones’ 1966 song, “Mother’s Little Helper”. Another track, “Candy Man”, by the singer, Donovan, in 1965 could also have been influential.
Although the exact influence is almost impossible to pinpoint, other theories came forward. For example, one of the most credible is a suggestion that the doctor is not fictitious and was a German-born Manhattan physician, Dr. Robert Freymann. He would dispense vitamin B-12 shots, which included a cocktail of amphetamines, to wealthy clientele.
“John and I thought it was a funny idea: the fantasy doctor who would fix you up by giving you drugs, [Doctor Robert] was a parody on that idea. It’s just a piss-take. As far as I know, neither of us ever went to a doctor for those kinds 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.”
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
The Real Doctor Robert
Apart from the suggestions above, there are also others who may actually qualify for a contender to be the real Doctor Robert.
Robert Fraser – an art gallery owner and a “reliable source of pot and cocaine for London’s hip set”.
Bob Dylan (Robert Zimmerman) – he introduced the Beatles to marijuana in the Summer of 1964.
Dr Robert MacPhail – a fictional character in Aldous Huxley’s 1962 book Island.
John Riley – a dentist and friend of the Lennon and Harrison. While at dinner party in March, 1965, Riley laced their coffee with LSD and this was their first experience of the drug.
The fact is that we may never know who the real Doctor Robert was because John Lennon passed away in 1980.
The Beatles began recording “Doctor Robert” on the 17th April, 1966, in Studio Two of the EMI Studios, London, during the 2.30pm-10.30pm session. They recorded 7 takes that day and it was the last one which was suitable for the master rhythm track and overdubbing. Indeed, the recording went well and it was all a straightforward process.
Two days later, the band added Lennon’s lead vocal together with McCartney’s high harmony. George Harrison also adds a third voice over the bridges. Then the song was available for the “Revolver” album. There it sits after track 3, “For No One” and before, “I Want To Tell You“.