Thursday, February 22, 2007

A historic ROCKIN' song . . . The Beatles "Drive My Car"


"Drive My Car" was written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon and was first released, as performed by the Beatles, on the UK version of the December, 1965 album Rubber Soul (it also appeared in the US on the June, 1966 Yesterday . . . and Today LP. It was the opening track for both albums.
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The plot ot the song is: a male narrator is told by a woman she's going to be a famous movie star and she offers him the chance to be her chauffeur, adding "and maybe I'll love you." After a bit of back-and-forth, he finally agrees to her proposal, but then she admits she doesn't have a car, "but I found a driver and that's a start." A bit reminiscent, in spirit and intent, of the classic "Me and My Chauffeur Blues," sung by Memphis Minnie (see ROCKIN' page 29).
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According to historians, the song began when McCartney arrived at Abbey Road Studios on October 13, 1965 with a rough draft. However, Lennon dismissed the initial lyrics as "crap," because of what he perceived as previously relied-upon cliches. McCartney agreed and together they rewrote the lyrics. It's actually Lennon who came up with the "drive my car" orientation.
McCartney later would perform the song live during halftime at Super Bowl XXXIX, and samples from the song are featured on the "Drive My Car" medley on the Beatles' Love album, released in November, 2006.
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Beatles fans have always enjoyed the song because it's fun--in fact also more than a little bit risque (the term "drive my car" may be an old blues euphemism for sex)--and has a solid rock straightforwardness thanks to Ringo's drumming. While the Beatles largely stuck to love songs on Rubber Soul, the lyrics represented a quantum leap in terms of maturity and--what would serve them well over the next albums--ambiguity. Many fans feel Rubber Soul (the UK version) and the LP that followed, Revolver, were pivot points in their growing infatuation with the full recording studio (editing and inserting, in particular). The feel and complexity of their new work is noticeably different from A Hard Day's Night, released barely a year before.
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McCartney's inspiration for the song could have been Alf Bicknell, chauffeur to the Beatles at the height of their fame. Bicknell began working for the Fab Four in 1964 during the filming of the movie Help. Bicknell once told the story that Lennon stole his chauffeur's hat, pitched it out the window, saying, "Alf, you don't need that anymore--you're one of us now."
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Bicknell first drove the band around in an Austin Princess with blacked-out windows, and later in Lennon's Rolls Royce Phantom V. He stayed in their employ until they decided to end touring in 1966. Bicknell officially retired as a chauffeur in 1980 and died in 2004. In an interview he said, "the qualities of a chauffeur are to be a good driver, to be discreet, to be honest, and not to get carried away with the people in the back, It can be summed up in one word: loyalty."
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A couple of things to check out: the CD Fried Glass Onions, where Memphis musicians take on Beatles songs--and are particularly effective with "Drive My Car." Also, the erudite UK review of Rubber Soul at www.albumvote.co.uk and "Notes on "Drive My Car"" written by Alan W. Pollack at www.icce.rug.nl which at one point cites the song's 'home key' as having a "perilously high, and therefore inherently unstable, center of gravity."
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Beep beep mmm beep beep, yeah!

1 comment:

Dave Lifton said...

I think this was also the song that Paul referred to as a "swimming pool" song, as in, "I'd like a swimming pool. Let's write a song that will pay for one!"