Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?

The Beatles (White Album) artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 9, 10 October 1968
Producer: Paul McCartney
Engineer: Ken Townsend

Released: 22 November 1968 (UK), 25 November 1968 (US)

Paul McCartney: vocals, acoustic guitar, lead guitar, piano, bass, handclaps
Ringo Starr: drums, handclaps

Available on:
The Beatles (White Album)
Anthology 3

Recorded during the late stages of work on the White Album, Why Don’t We Do It In The Road? was a spontaneous recording by Paul McCartney with assistance from Ringo Starr.

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The song was recorded while John Lennon and George Harrison were working on other songs. Lennon later described McCartney’s decision as hurtful, explaining that it represented the fragmented way in which the group’s members had taken to recording songs in 1968.

That’s Paul. He even recorded it by himself in another room. That’s how it was getting in those days. We came in and he’d made the whole record. Him drumming. Him playing the piano. Him singing. But he couldn’t – he couldn’t – maybe he couldn’t make the break from the Beatles. I don’t know what it was, you know. I enjoyed the track. Still, I can’t speak for George, but I was always hurt when Paul would knock something off without involving us. But that’s just the way it was then.
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

McCartney later defended himself, pointing out that Lennon had worked alone on Revolution 9 and Julia either side of Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?.

It wasn’t a deliberate thing. John and George were tied up finishing something and me and Ringo were free, just hanging around, so I said to Ringo, ‘Let’s go and do this’…

Anyway, he did the same with Revolution 9. He went off and made that without me. No one ever says that. John is the nice guy and I’m the bastard. It gets repeated all the time.

Paul McCartney
The Beatles: The Illustrated And Updated Edition, Hunter Davies

Ringo Starr later pointed out that The Ballad Of John And Yoko was recorded without him and Harrison.

Why Don’t We Do It In The Road? was just Paul and me, and it went out as a Beatle track too. We had no problems with that.
Ringo Starr
Anthology

The song was inspired by an incident observed by McCartney in Rishikesh, India.

I was up on the flat roof meditating and I’d seen a troupe of monkeys walking along in the jungle and a male just hopped on to the back of this female and gave her one, as they say in the vernacular. Within two or three seconds he hopped off again, and looked around as if to say, ‘It wasn’t me,’ and she looked around as if there had been some mild disturbance but thought, Huh, I must have imagined it, and she wandered off. And I thought, bloody hell, that puts it all into a cocked hat, that’s how simple the act of procreation is, this bloody monkey just hopping on and hopping off. There is an urge, they do it, and it’s done with. And it’s that simple. We have horrendous problems with it, and yet animals don’t. So that was basically it. Why Don’t We Do It In The Road? could have applied to either fucking or shitting, to put it roughly. Why don’t we do either of them in the road? Well, the answer is we’re civilised and we don’t. But the song was just to pose that question. Why Don’t We Do It In The Road? was a primitive statement to do with sex or to do with freedom really. I like it, it’d just so outrageous that I like it.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

In the studio

Why Don’t We Do It In The Road? was recorded over two days, on the first of which McCartney worked alone apart from tape operator Ken Townsend.

On 9 October 1968 he recorded five takes of the song, which began with just acoustic guitar and lead vocals. Onto the fifth take – the first to feature raucous vocals throughout – he then overdubbed a piano part.

Take four, which sees McCartney alternating between gentle and strident vocals with each verse, can be heard on Anthology 3.

The next day, while Lennon and Harrison were supervising the string overdubs for Piggies and Glass Onion, McCartney added more vocals, handclaps, lead guitar and bass to the song. Ringo Starr also recorded a drum part and handclaps.

25 responses on “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?

  1. B.H.Z.

    This song is so damn awesome. “Raunchy Paul” at his best. Simplistic, rockin’ genius.

    The origin story also enhances it. One of my White Album favourites, but then I’m weird like that.

    1. Vonbontee

      I guarantee it took longer to record than to write! Nice vocal but I really don’t think is very good at all. Still, I guess you could make a claim that it looked ahead to those Lennon exercises in minimalism “I Want You” (She’s So Heavy)” and “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number”).

              1. Joe Post author

                Fair point. The YKMN article was written before I’d fully researched the recording sessions. I’ve amended it now. But can we please keep this page for discussions abut Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?

  2. SgtPepper1909

    This has got to be one of Paul’s edgiest numbers, along with “Big Boys Bickering”. Paul stereotype is laid-back ballads, styirring love songs, and relaying happy-go-lucky stories of beautiful everyday people—a la “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da”, “Lovely Rita”, “Paperback Writer” . John once complained about this writing technique of his; and yet the “White Album” showcased “Helter Skelter”, “Wild Honey Pie”, and this number, not-so-innocent tracks. I was entranced by the song’s raunchy style and composition with its array simple instrumentation. However, it was soon inquired if I knew what the song’s incantation meant.

    1. JP

      Agreed. This and Oh Darling were McCartney songs John felt he could have done better. It would have been great if they had done that more – allowing the other to take the lead vocal even if it wasn’t the lead singer’s song. Still, would John have let Paul take lead on one of his songs had Paul made such a request?

      1. James

        The thing that’s the coolest to me about Paul McCartney the musician is that he could do just about anything, which is opposed to John who could still do an awful lot, but he had more of a “wheelhouse” than Paul did, meaning that he was really good at doing specific things. Oh Darling and maybe this song (although I really think Paul is quite good on this one) could have been times where John would just rip an incredible take like Twist and Shout or Instant Karma or something like that. But they were different musicians, John was more in the moment and Paul liked to assemble the parts much more methodically, which is generally why Paul’s stuff has less emotion than John’s.

  3. Tweeze

    It’s just a blues format retread. There’s nothing wrong with that but it’s certainly not a genius piece of work. Paul’s vocal is what makes this work – therein lies the genius.

  4. Mean_Mr_Mustard

    Funny how the word `genius’ gets tossed around so carelessly. I really like this track — it’s a lot of fun — but `genius’? Let’s not get carried away. How about if we reserve that term for his numerous other songs which truly deserve that title.

  5. Jacob Gorensteyn

    There is an awesome cover of this track by Lowell Fulson. He expanded it somewhat; adding other locations for doin’ it (the car; the house – “once the door is closed nobody knows what it’s all about” priceless!). I couldn’t believe this track got covered when I heard it :) But then again so did rocky raccoon, which is even more ridiculous.

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