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Friday, May 26, 2017

Drive My Car

In his 1988 book Tell Me Why, Tim Riley writes: "Drive My Car has the smooth bravado of a Jack Nicholson performance, grinning on the surface with wheels spinning like mad underneath."  I have used the first half of this quote before in my 2011 look at side one of Rubber Soul.  I repeat it here because it remains for me one of the most accurate and concise descriptions of any song in the entire Beatles catalog.

The smoothness of this track is due in great part to the slick line played in tandem by George on guitar and Paul on bass.  George had been listening to Donald "Duck" Dunn's bass line on the Otis Redding version of Respect and suggested a slight variation on it for Paul's consideration.  The two of them worked it out and, with Ringo on drums, attempted four takes - only the final one was complete.

Overdubs then began with John and Paul sharing the lead vocal and Ringo on tambourine and cowbell.  Paul also added a subtly dragging piano part on each chorus and played slide guitar for the solo.  The final touch had John, Paul and George providing the "beep beep"s.  All of this was accomplished on October 13th, 1965, which was only the second day of sessions for the new album.

McCartney had begun writing the tune when he arrived at Lennon's house some days before the band was scheduled to begin recordings.  He had some basic lyrics along the lines of "I can give you diamond rings," which Lennon rejected.  Once they replaced that with the line "baby, you can drive my car," they had the breakthrough they needed to tell a witty tale of unrequited love and the longing for fame and fortune.

The song was chosen to open the UK version of Rubber Soul, but Capitol Records kept it off of the American version.  Six months later, it finally did open an album in the US - the compilation "Yesterday"...and Today. 

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