Drive My Car

Rubber Soul album artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 13 October 1965
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 3 December 1965 (UK), 20 June 1966 (US)

Paul McCartney: vocals, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass
John Lennon: vocals, piano, tambourine
George Harrison: harmony vocals, guitar
Ringo Starr: drums, cowbell

Available on:
Rubber Soul
Love

The first song on 1965's Rubber Soul album, Drive My Car reversed the traditional boy-girl roles in The Beatles' songs, presenting a tale of a gold digger and wannabe star who wants a man as a chauffeur and for sexual services.

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Paul McCartney's first draft of the song featured a chorus based around the line, "You can buy me golden rings". He and Lennon reworked the song with some difficulty, eventually discarding the clichés and settling upon the idea of a headstrong woman.

The lyrics were disastrous and I knew it... This is one of the songs where John and I came nearest to having a dry session. The lyrics I brought in were something to do with golden rings, which is always fatal. 'Rings' is fatal anyway, 'rings' always rhymes with 'things' and I knew it was a bad idea. I came in and I said, 'These aren't good lyrics but it's a good tune.' The tune was nice, the tune was there, I'd done the melody. Well, we tried, and John couldn't think of anything, and we tried and eventually it was, 'Oh let's leave it, let's get off this one.' 'No, no. We can do it, we can do it.' So we had a break, maybe had a cigarette or a cup of tea, then we came back to it, and somehow it became 'drive my car' instead of 'gold-en rings', and then it was wonderful because this nice tongue-in-cheek idea came and suddenly there was a girl there, the heroine of the story, and the story developed and had a little sting in the tail like Norwegian Wood had, which was 'I actually haven't got a car, but when I get one you'll be a terrific chauffeur.'

Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

The song contained clear sexual overtones, from the first verse's "You can do something in between" to the suggestive promises of "a better time".

'Drive my car' was an old blues euphemism for sex, so in the end all is revealed. Black humour crept in and saved the day. It wrote itself then. I find that very often, once you get the good idea, things write themselves.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now

The song's arrangement was suggested by George Harrison, who had been listening to Otis Redding's Respect, then a minor hit. Harrison suggested that Drive My Car's bass and guitar parts should play similar lines in an approximation of Redding's bass-heavy sound, resulting in one of The Beatles' most effective performances of 1965.

I helped out such a lot in all the arrangements. There were a lot of tracks though where I played bass. Paul played lead guitar on Taxman, and he played guitar - a good part - on Drive My Car.

We laid the track because what Paul would do, if he's written a song, he'd learn all the parts for Paul and then come in the studio and say, 'Do this.' He'd never give you the opportunity to come out with something. But on Drive My Car I just played the line, which is really like a lick off Respect, you know, the Otis Redding version - and I played that line on guitar and Paul laid that with me on bass. We laid the track down like that. We played the lead part later on top of it.

George Harrison, 1977
Crawdaddy

The 2006 album Love mixed Drive My Car with extracts from The Word and What You're Doing, together with Taxman's guitar solo and horns from Savoy Truffle.

In the studio

Drive My Car was recorded on 13 October 1965. The session began at 7pm and ended at 12.15am - The Beatles' first to end after midnight.

The group took some time to perfect Drive My Car's arrangement. Although they recorded four takes of the rhythm track, only the last of these was complete.

The basic arrangement saw McCartney on bass, Harrison playing guitar - contradicting his Anthology recollections - Lennon on tambourine and Starr on drums. The group then overdubbed piano, lead guitar, piano and cowbell parts, along with lead vocals by Lennon and McCartney, and backing vocals by Harrison.

38 responses on “Drive My Car

  1. SD

    There was always some confusion about who played bass, because Harrison said he played the bassline. But you have to know, he never actually spoke of playing bass! His quote from the Anthology has been taken out of context, the whole quote is as followed:
    “I just played the line, which is really like a lick off [Donald “Duck” Dunn’s part for Otis Redding’s ‘Respect’, September 1965] and I played that line on the guitar and Paul laid that with me on bass” (Growing up at 33 1/3: The George Harrison interview, 1977).

    The basic track of the recording appears on the left channel of the final mix:
    drums (Ringo), tambourine (John), bass (Paul), guitar (George)

    Onto this, overdubs were recorded, first the main vocal track with Lennon-McCartney leads and backing from Harrison (center on cd, right channel on vinyl).

    The third track has only Lennon’s double-tracked vocal for “and maybe I’ll love you” and “beep”s (second ending and coda). This track appears on the left channel.

    The fourth track (right channel) features continuous cowbell, McCartney’s guitar (which doubles Harrisons guitar in the intro and takes the solo and coda) plus Lennon on piano. (The record sleeve says “Paul on piano” but that’s wrong. In the coda, you can hear Paul’s guitar and the piano (plus cowbell) playing at the same time and they all were recorded on one track.

    1. Joe Post author

      That is confusing. The quotation from George in Anthology wasn’t taken out of context – it was from the interviews conducted for the television series and the book. Where historical quotations were used (and can be seen most commonly with John Lennon’s sections) small numbers detail the year in which they were said – this is explained in the book’s Editorial Note at the start.

      As George’s claim to the bass part of Drive My Car doesn’t have a number alongside it, I think it’s safe to say it’s his actual words, in context, from the 1990s. It contradicts the 1977 interview, of course. I guess memory may have been at fault somewhere along the line. But thanks for the track-by-track breakdown – I’ll amend the line-up.

    2. Gustavo

      Hi, SD:

      I’ve been reading your comments on this site, and your facts (or information) seems pretty interesting and pretty accurate, where did you get it?

      At first I thought you were quoting Walter Everett book, but some facts are different (i. e., Everett says Paul plays piano on this one and you claim it is John, actually).

  2. Sebastian

    SD, I think the “maybe i love you line” is sung in unison by paul and john. WHY? Because until revolver they didn’t have the luxury of the adt (artificial double tracking) so if that vocal part was recorded in only one track, i dont see how john could posible sings two vocals parts live.

  3. Matt

    Paul and John both sang almost every line together with George joining in for the chorus. The only line someone sang solo was “maybe I’ll love you” by John. Check the harmony vocals on The Beatles: Rock Band if you don’t believe me. I’m quite sure they had double-tracking in 1965.

  4. Sebastian

    Yes they had double tracking in 1965, but until revolver they hadn’t artificial (automatic) double tracking. So until revolver, if they wanted double tracked vocals (which they used it a lot in the early records) they had to record the vocals twice, and for that they needed two tracks. And “the maybe i love you” vocals were recorded in one track. For better explication go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automatic_double_tracking
    ¿So Paul can’t play piano and lead guitar at same time because are recorded in one track, but john can sing two vocals parts at the same time?
    Now you have to check again drive my car harmony vocals in rock band because the video shows that Paul sings too the “maybe i love you” line.
    In fact the only mistake that the rock band did is show George singing with paul in the drive my car verses and not john.
    check this video from the rock band video game ( especially in the minute 2:11 . paul singing that line)

  5. Day Tripper

    All of you seems to know quite a lot about The Beatles. But I’m not sure that you really feel the music.

    I really can’t understand how you can consider that its Paul who sings “and maybe I love you”. Even wilder is the theory, that its Paul and John. Common! Its George who sings that line. No doubt at all.

  6. Sebastian

    jaaa, well so it’s George, Day tripper . I love the beatles music, we are only discussing here for fun, and I feel the music, that’s why I like to talk about it.
    Returning to the “maybe I love you” discussion, I think I gave a pretty good explanation why ” the maybe I love you” line is sung by paul and john in unison and not john double tracked. It’s not a crazy theory, you know.

  7. Day Tripper

    Again, there is no room for a discussion, no room for a theory. Its George, who sings “and maybe I love you”, no matter what would be possible. Just listen to it, you can hear it.

    1. Yuri Teixeira

      Hi Day Tripper, I grew up listening to Beatles records very attemptively, since I was 6 (and I’m 43 now) and I’m more than willing to back you up on this. For me, it’s clear that the verse “and maybe I’l love you” is sung by John and George. Really no evidence of Paul’s voice on that. Even George’s voice is clearer than John’s. So that would also solve the double-track question as well.

    1. thejonmanning

      Yes, Day Tripper be trippin’ indeed. I hear Paul the most clearly when the song is playing, but any sane person can tell it’s multiple voices. If your computer has the ability to control the balance on your speakers, mute the left side of the audio and you will clearly hear Paul sing this line by himself. If you mute the right side, the vocals aren’t as prominent in the mix but what is clear is that it is Paul singing the same line on a separate track, and it also sounds like someone else (most likely John) is singing the line with him. You can listen to all of Rubber Soul this way for a very rewarding listen. Since the whoever mixed the stereo version panned all instruments and vocals completely to one side or the other. I promise you you will hear things you never noticed before.

  8. SgtPepper1909

    According to Anthology, “you can by me diamond rings” was the original line—but they balked at that. You’ve got to admit, “baby you can drive my car” is more unique than “baby you can buy me diamond rings”.

    1. Joe Post author

      The Anthology book says golden rings, not diamond ones. McCartney says the same in Many Years From Now. I’ve never read an original source where either Lennon or McCartney mention diamond rings.

  9. heam

    Hi everyone

    Does anybody know if the beep beep in the song resembles with the beetle horn?

    I think so. But maybe anyone here knows better, hope so.

    thanks and God bless this place and the band to wich is devoted.

    Love

  10. carlos

    ‘and maybe I love you’ is sung by John & George, I have no doubt. And the harmony along the main melody is sung by Paul & Paul, doubletracking his voice of course, up to “but you can do…” “but I found a driver…”,etc. where John & George add their voices.

  11. Sebastian Mora

    The Drive my Car ” Maybe I love you” line is sung by Paul and John in unision according to this very detailed beatles website of the recording of Drive my Car:
    http://www.beatlesebooks.com/drive-my-car

    The following text about Drive my car is taken of that website:

    “The chorus , which is also eight measures in length, then begins with the entrance of Paul’s piano being the most notable additional element. The piano plays the part of a rhythm instrument in the absence of the usual strummed guitar as in nearly every other Beatles song up to this point. Uniquely, the piano plays a slow triplet pattern in the second and fourth measures as a nice contrast against the uniform 4/4 rhythm that continues underneath it. (The group decides to reprise the use of triplets, per George Harrison’s suggestion, on “We Can Work It Out” which began recording a week later.)

    While the cowbell and accented tambourine enter the picture again in the chorus, a second tambourine also comes in to shake a steady rock beat with the drums. John and Paul continue to harmonize throughout this section except for the final phrase “and baby I love you” which is sung in unison, Paul on the right channel and John as overdubbed afterward on the left channel. The piano plays its final chord of the chorus on the one-beat of the eighth measure, leaving behind the guitar and bass unison Otis Redding-like riff to fill out the rest of the final measure.

  12. Gotagoodreason

    I’ll definitely agree with Day Tripper, no matter what such and such good book says, we can clearly hear George singing ‘and maybe I’ll love you’, along with Paul who has no logical reason to stop singing at this point !
    The verses are sung by Paul & John (sorry Carlos, can’t be double-tracked Paul, the tones of the voices are obviously different). One listen at the one not-so-synchronized line ‘and she said listen babe I got something to say’ should be enough to silence ANY theory against it, brothers !
    As for the piano, sounds more like Paul’s style than John’s (especially those bluesy triplets).

    1. paulsbass

      The “and maybe I love you” is sung by Paul and JOHN. You can hear his nasal voice very well if you turn up only your left channel.
      I really can’t figure out who’s doing the second vocal in the verse. But it’s definitely not impossible that it’s both Paul.

  13. BeatleJWOL

    Just in case anybody comes across this page’s comments and is hopelessly confused, let’s get one thing straight. The “and maybe I’ll love you” lines in “Drive My Car” are John and Paul. Dig out the ORIGINAL stereo mix, with the majority of the vocals present on the right channel. On the left, John’s voice sings the only solo vocal line present. On the right, that same line is most definitely sung by Paul. (If anything, PAUL on the right sounds more like George, even though it’s not.)

    If you can’t hear that, go and listen to the “ah” section of A Day In The Life and try to figure that one out. :p

  14. Pablo Castro

    Well, much confusion on this one ! First of all, Paul and John sing all the song together, including “and maybe I´ll love you”, as George just does the harmony parts in the last sentence of each verse and in the refrain, with the exception of “maybe I´ll love you ” .
    And I don´t know why would someone put a wrong information on the album : it´s Paul who plays the piano ! George plays both the basic riff guitar and the solo , in my opinion. Let´s remember that the details contained in both Help and Rubber Soul album sleeves have the same logic : just to point out what is different of the original Beatles’ line-up : Paul on bass, George on lead, John on rhythm and Ringo on drums. For example, in Another Girl, it´s stated that Paul is playing lead guitar, like in Ticket to Ride, so we shouldn´t doubt it. If Paul palyed the solo on Drive My Car, most probably it would be written on Rubber Soul´s sleeve. I think that the basic track was as it was mentioned above : Paul on bass, George on guitar, John on tambotine. For the overdubs, Paul played piano, George played the lead guitar, John played cowbell and Ringo, maracas. That is the most probable line-up for this track !

  15. Alessandro

    I definitely agree with you, Pablo Castro. Besides for the guitar solo there are too,many bended notes and bending is not what I’d range among Paul’s guitar skills. And that’s quite natural for him anyway, ’cause basically he’s a bass player

  16. James Ferrell

    When I listen to either the isolated vocals or the full track, I hear Paul’s voice being the high part in the 2-part verse, in the 3-part end-of-verse, and the chorus (just as everyone else seems to). I hear the low voice on the verse (singing C’s and B’s) going on to be the low voice in the 3-part end of verse (on a C) and on the chorus (a monotone pedal B). And I hear a new voice joining as the middle part at the end of the verse (an F) and on the chorus, paralleling Paul’s part a third down.

    It seems like most of you hear the middle part as being George and the lower part as being John but to me it sounds more like the middle one is John, especially on the 3-part end-of-verse (e.g. “But you can do something in between”). But that would make it Paul + George on the 2-part sections. Anyone else hear it like that?

  17. Peter

    Is it only me, or is anybody else trying to find the version of “drive my car” which has the addition of a horn section during the chorus? I can’t find a mention of it anywhere but I know it exists as I’ve heard the version played on the Radio!

  18. Luke

    George played the “bassline” on his Fender strat utilizing the neck pickup. Maybe split between the neck and middle pickup. That tone from the strat really brings out clean bass tones.

    1. Richard Boene

      Your assessment sounds fair enough, but if you are relying on Harrison’s claims to playing the bass-line during the Anthology project (which of course have been called into question), how exactly does it prove that the claim is true? Do you have another source besides that and your (admittedly reasonable) speculation?

  19. PM_No1Fan

    I agree, Luke, George’s strat on the track sounds wonderful. Paul was a master on the bass, no doubt, but do a search on Youtube of the bass isolated. He seems to struggle on this one, trying to echo what George is playing on the guitar. You can’t hear it on the record but It’s true – listen for yourself.

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