“What Goes On” is a Beatles’ song from their 1965 “Rubber Soul” album. This is also the only Beatles’ song with credit to Lennon-McCartney-Starkey. So, its a pretty much unique song for that fact alone. However, Ringo Starr jokingly stated that he contributed “About five words, and I haven’t done a thing since”. Be that as it may, “What Goes On” is part of a fantastic album. Not only that but it was the B-side of the US single, “Nowhere Man“.
Recorded: 4th November, 1965
Studio: EMI Studios, London
Track Duration: 2:50
Record Label: Parlophone
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith
What Goes On
Originally written in the days of The Quarrymen, “What Goes On” could have easily been the next single after the “Please Please Me“. Although they submitted the demo in 1963, they didn’t use the song until 1965 for the “Rubber Soul” album. This is because of time restrictions in the studio. In fact, they were completing “From Me to You“, “Thank You Girl“, and attempting “One After 909“.
The original 1963 recording features John Lennon and Paul McCartney but that version has yet to surface. The Beatles Forum and Cavern Club will update this information once it becomes available, if ever!
For the “Rubber Soul” album, Lennon and McCartney gave song-writing credit to Ringo Starr. Therefore, this Lennon-McCartney-Starkey song becomes unique because it is the only one to claim this. In the first record pressing, Ringo’s name didn’t appear, this could be a very rare collectors item for some!
“That was an early Lennon written before The Beatles when we were The Quarrymen, or something like that. And resurrected with a middle eight thrown in, probably with Paul’s help, to give Ringo a song and also to use the bits, because I never like to waste anything.”
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
“When Paul wanted to show Ringo how What Goes On sounded he made up a multi-track tape. Onto this went Paul singing, Paul playing lead guitar, Paul playing bass and Paul playing drums. Then Ringo listened to the finished tape and added his own ideas before the recording session.”
The Beatles Book (aka Beatles Monthly), April, 1966
There was a need to complete the “Rubber Soul” album because the deadline date was looming. So, on the 4th November, 1965 at the EMI Studios in London, they started recording around 11pm. As it happened, the band only needed one take for the rhythm track. Ringo Starr recorded the lead vocal while Lennon and McCartney set about overdubbing their harmony vocals.
During this recording session, The Beatles also recorded the instrumental, “12-Bar Original“. That track was not part of the “Rubber Soul” album, of course. Moreover, we had to wait until 1996 for the “Anthology 2” album before take two of that recording became commercially available.
“What Goes On” has a country & western-flavour to it and the mix certainly is pleasant to the ear. So, what are your thoughts on this song?