Day Tripper

Day Tripper single - United KingdomWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 16 October 1965
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 3 December 1965 (UK), 6 December 1965 (US)

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

Available on:
Past Masters

Written to order when Lennon and McCartney realised they needed a new single at the tail end of 1965, Day Tripper was released as a double a-side with We Can Work It Out.

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Day Tripper was [written] under complete pressure, based on an old folk song I wrote about a month previous. It was very hard going, that, and it sounds it. It wasn't a serious message song. It was a drug song. In a way, it was a day tripper - I just liked the word.
John Lennon

John Lennon had the initial idea for Day Tripper, and collaborated with McCartney to complete the song. Written at Kenwood, Lennon's house in Weybridge, Surrey in October 1965, the song is based on a 12-bar blues in E, switching up a tone (F#) for the chorus.

That was a co-written effort; we were both there making it all up but I would give John the main credit. Probably the idea came from John because he sang the lead, but it was a close thing. We both put a lot of work in on it.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

The song was a knowing reference to the burgeoning drugs-based counterculture of the mid-1960s. 'Day tripper' was a slang term for someone who failed to fully embrace the hippy lifestyle.

That's mine. Including the lick, the guitar break and the whole bit. It's just a rock 'n' roll song. Day trippers are people who go on a day trip, right? Usually on a ferryboat or something. But it was kind of - you know, you're just a weekend hippie. Get it?
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

Lennon and Harrison had both been introduced to LSD by 1965, although their use wouldn't peak until 1967. McCartney later admitted the song was about drugs, though The Beatles' clean-cut image at the time meant that the references were well hidden to all but those in the know.

Day Tripper was to do with tripping. Acid was coming in on the scene, and often we'd do these songs about 'the girl who thought she was it'... But this was just a tongue-in-cheek song about someone who was a day tripper, a Sunday painter, Sunday driver, somebody who was committed only in part to the idea. Whereas we saw ourselves as full-time trippers, fully committed drivers, she was just a day tripper.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

The lyrics employed other double meanings. "She's a big teaser" was originally "She's a prick teaser", though they never seriously considered recording it like that.

I remember with the prick teasers we thought, That'd be fun to put in. That was one of the great things about collaborating, you could nudge-nudge, wink-wink a bit, whereas if you're sitting on your own, you might not put it in.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

Day Tripper was a part of The Beatles' live repertoire from 1965 until they gave up touring. It was the fourth song performed at their final concert at Candlestick Park, San Francisco, on 29 August 1966.

In the studio

Day Tripper was recorded in three takes during the sessions for Rubber Soul. On the afternoon of 16 October 1965 the band spent some hours rehearsing the backing rhythm track, recording three takes, only the final one of which was complete.

That evening they added a number of overdubs; Lennon and McCartney both shared lead vocals, and Lennon played the climactic guitar solo.

The Beatles also recorded the rhythm track for George Harrison's If I Needed Someone during the same session.

Chart success

The Beatles originally intended for Day Tripper to be the a-side of their final single of 1965. However, after the group recorded We Can Work It Out four days later, on 20 October, it was considered the more commercial song.

Lennon's protestations resulted in the single being marketed as the world's first double a-side. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that We Can Work It Out was requested by a greater proportion of record buyers, and was likewise favoured by radio stations.

Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out was released in the UK on 3 December 1965 - the same day as the Rubber Soul album, on which it did not feature. Five days later the single entered the chart at number one, where it remained for five weeks. It sold over a million copies.

It fared less well in the US, where it was released on 6 December. We Can Work It Out was the more successful of the two titles; Day Tripper peaked at number five in the Billboard Hot 100, and stayed in the top 40 for eight weeks.

68 responses on “Day Tripper

    1. Jacob

      He doesn’t sing the lead; he sings the upper harmony in the chorus, ’cause he has the higher voice. But the lead, the main melody, is actually the lower line. The verses are sung in unison, both of them together, but Lennon has that “it took me” pickup for the chorus, which only he does; so it’s quite clear he has the lead.

      1. Richard Boene

        Jacob is correct about the chorus but not quite about the verses. They’re not necessarily sung in unison all the way through (keep in mind that Lennon and McCartney’s vocals are both double-tracked). McCartney sings the first halves of the verses by himself with Lennon joining him in the second halves unusually singing the higher harmony to McCartney’s lower one.

  1. docweasel

    Unless I’m mistaken, they sing in unison on the first half of every phrase in a verse:
    “She’s a big teaser”

    then Lennon drops to a LOWER harmony (very difficult to pick out, not very many cover bands do it correctly, intuitively you want to go higher on a harmony) on the 2nd phrase:
    “She took me half the way there”

    On the pre-chorus/chorus they sing in nearly co-equal 3 part harmonies with George, so attributing the “lead” on this song is a bit problematic. McCartney sings out a bit more on the unison parts, and his harmony on the 2nd phrase is more prevalent, so it may seem he’s singing lead, but this is near a co-lead vocal song as any in the Beatles’ repertoire.

    1. Albert Cunning

      “Unless I’m mistaken, they sing in unison on the first half of every phrase in a verse”.

      I’ve just watched them mime Day Tripper in the tv-program ‘The Music of Lennon & McCartney’, produced in late 1965, and Paul was the only one moving his lips to the lines ‘Got a good reason’, ‘She’s a big teaser’ and ‘Try to please her’.

  2. Garrett Hawk

    This article seems to indicate that Lennon played the lead solo, but that would have been quite out of character for The Beatles at the time, (not to mention, the timbre and licks of the solo sound very George-ish.)
    Does anyone know for certain that John played lead?

    1. Maegu

      I share your opinion! It sounds very Georg-ish…. I could also imagine that the first part of the solo (like the riff) is played by John, and then the higher notes is George…. you can see this such a version on youtube on their live performance in Japan (1966)!

  3. Barry

    If Paul seems to be singing lead in a song that is mainly a Lennon composition, that was probably due to pitch issues of the vocals… Probably Lennon couldn’t sing the notes, so Paul asked to try the vocals, and they agreed that his worked out better. Same story with A HARD DAYS NIGHT and ANY TIME AT ALL.

    Ultimately, however, DAY TRIPPER is a Lennon/McCartney collaboration.

    1. Day Tripper

      I cant see that Day Tripper is a Lennon/McCartney collaboration. In my ears its a typical Lennon-Song. Paul helped him for sure, but I dont think he earned too much credits.

      Think: Paul and John have agreed, that Babys in Black was the last number, which they written face to face. Later on, John or Paul would show the song only then to other one, if they had a problem to finish up.

      In the end it is not important, if its 80:20, 70:30 or 85:15. They worked togehter, not only for Day Tripper cause nearly each time.

      And you have given the answer: Paul sings the “Got a good reason” and so on line, because John couldnt have reached the higher notes and it sound much better when they alternate the vocals.

      1. AlbertCunning

        In his 1970 interview with Rolling Stone, John used “Day Tripper” as one example of their collaboration, where one partner had the main idea but the other took up the cause and completed it.

        Not exactly ‘From Me To You’, sure, but up until India, this kind of collaboration wasn’t untypical for John and Paul.

        If John hadn’t started it, there would be no song, so I guess it would be fair of people to associate it mostly with John, as I think they do.

      2. JRs Farm

        Great point, Day! (“In the end it is not important…”). Even the smallest contribution can greatly change a song and sometimes even help to point the composition in the proper direction. I firmly believe that Lennon and McCartney helped each other (from beginning to end) more than we can ever know.

    2. SecondWind

      You are mistaken in large part, Barry, but correct in some minor details.

      In “Day Tripper”, Paul sings lead on the first 4 lines of each verse, with John singing backup; then John sings lead on the next 4 lines, with Paul on backup.

      And about “A Hard Day’s Night”, John sings lead on verses, and Paul sings lead on the bridges.

      On “Anytime At All”, John sings lead on all parts except the second line of each verse (the higher pitch, which as you correctly pointed out, Paul was more able to sing).

  4. BeatleMark

    One of the coolest guitar songs the Beatles did. The best version is the 2nd stereo mix done for the U.S. album “Yesterday..& Today”. It’s lead guitar is more distorted in the beginning, making it sound rough! All other mixes are like ice cream.

  5. TheOneBeatleManiac

    This is one of my favorites songs.
    McCartney is the lead singer on the verses but on the chorus, the lead switches to Lennon. It’s a Lennon song, but it’s a Lennon-McCartney Writing/Collaboration.
    Something that is not mentioned, is that the lead guitar dissapears on early mixes pre-1 album. After the line ”Try to please her…” Up to Past Masters 1988 version, the lead guitar dissapears briefly.
    On the bootlegs, in early mixes it’s discovered that it’s a tape error when it was recorded, the tape was speeding up and suddenly stopped recording the lead guitar a second or two, and caused a technical glitch, corrected on post-1 albums. But up to 1988 Past Masters the guitar just dissapear to cover the glitch. Only on bootlegs we can find the untouched version with no fade-out and with the technical glitch error.

    1. Joe Post author

      I didn’t know it was a tape glitch – I always thought it was a mistake in the guitar part. It was corrected on Past Masters and Mono Masters too. I think I’d have preferred it if they’d left it in.

      1. TheOneBeatleManiac

        The glitch you can hear it only on a bootleg. Fortunately, i have various bootlegs with the glitch in all of these, the correction they did on post 1-albums was copying and pasting a previous part carefully. Also because the song fades-out, there was a long breakdown that also had two error glitches at the end. Neither in the mono version (that is 10 seconds longer than the Stereo of Past Masters) can’t be heard.

  6. MVP

    It’s the coolest guitar riff ever. I’m curious to know how and when Lennon came up with it.

    If you take away the riff, the bass and drums, you have the folk song Lennon claimed it was based on (i.e. basic chords, melody and the words).

  7. 2much4mymirror

    I seem to remember reading somewhere that Paul said he had his hands full trying to finish “We Can Work It Out” and that this was mainly John’s song. On Wikipedia it says that Paul’s contribution was working on the verses. Which makes sense given that his voice is a bit more prominent there.

  8. brian

    As I understand it, Paul has said in the past that The Beatles at least once intentionally left an entire beat out just to see if anyone would notice much like the “tit-tit-tit” in “Girl”. The dropped out guitar, drums, and tambourine for one beat after “Tried to please her” had always been completely intentional. I was disappointed to see it placed back in on the 2009 remasterings – seems a bit like retouching a work of Michelangelo after 500 years; unnecessarily revisionistic. Then again, Paul must have given his approval to the remasterings so perhaps that little nuance change had his blessing or he didn’t notice it.

      1. pat

        I really don’t think that this drop out was intentional, I think it was a technical error that just went unnoticed and unfixed. It’s one of those things that once you discovered it, you almost wait for it when the song plays. It’s a mistake that becomes a cult moment. I think dropping the tape out intentionally for a song meant to be their new hit single, that would have been too Avantgarde, too Yoko Ono – for that time. I mean in 1965 the Beatles were just starting to get into experimentation – it goes a bit too far for me to believe they did this on purpose. But this could be one of those legends that were distributed by John himself (it sounds like John doesn’t it?). Even if he would have liked to do it, the other three (and especially George Martin, not to mention Brian Epstein) would have never let him his way – I’m sure about that. This would be like manipulating or sabotaging your own song (a song you want to be a hit), why would anybody do that? John said that at times he was just miming on stage (intentionally) and nobody noticed the difference because of the screaming. Maybe these stories got mixed up. If it was in fact intentional why would they now change it (but stick to those often horrible stereo mixes)?

  9. Tom Wotus

    The so-called “glitch” (guitar dropout) on DT was a tech. slip. It’s on the mono version, too-but not as audible, but it’s there. Same thing happened on “Rock & Roll Music”. Probably ten yrs. from now, EMI will correct that, too..and thank the miraculous digital technology. It’s nothing they couldn’t fix in ’64-just drop in a couple measures of piano from an earlier verse-problem solved!..worked on IF I FELL!

  10. brian

    In his revealing Rolling Stone interview in 1970, John Lennon was asked about the “Paul is dead” rumor. He responded in a typically forthright fashion:

    “I don’t know where that started, that was barmy. I don’t know, you know as much about it as me… No, that was bullshit, the whole thing was made up. We never went for anything like that. We put tit-tit-tit in Girl. It would be things like a beat missing or something like that, see if anyone noticed – I know we used to have a few things, but nothing that could be interpreted like that.”

    That alone doesn’t prove the guitar, drum, and tambourine drop out in Day Tripper was intentional but it’s enough for me to lean toward that belief. It could have very easily been fixed at the time back in 10/65 so I think you can only conclude it was there because The Beatles with George Martin’s consent wanted it there. Don’t forget that Martin in the past had been the producer of comedy records so I could see him getting a small laugh from allowing something like that to pass on to an issued recording.

  11. TomMo

    John always took credit for creating the guitar riff, but I think George played it on the track and in concert. Paul sings lead every other line in the verses, joined by John on the alternating lines. Let me throw this in: I saw the Beatles in concert in 1966. I need not tell you I couldn’t hear them, but I COULD see them. Based on where John and Paul stood and moved in relation to their mics during “Day Tripper”, I would have guessed that John sang lead during the verses. He’d be at his mic for “Got a good reason”; then Paul would move up to his mic at “For taking the easy way out.” Anybody got a bootleg from the 66 US tour?

    1. RikBarry

      “John always took credit for creating the guitar riff, but I think George played it on the track and in concert.”
      Yes, George plays the riff, but he never refuted the fact that John created it. Though John was known as the guy on rhythm guitar, I remember being impressed watching him play guitar on some Beatles videos, because he sometimes picked and plucked with great skill. By the way, remember, Paul also plays the Day Tripper riff on his bass in perfect sync with George. Damned excellent musicians.

  12. TomMo

    More info: In the U.K., in 1966, the Beatles made at least two TV appearances to promote “Day Tripper”. Although they were lip syncing, Paul sang solo on the first half of each line in the verses, joined by John on the second half of each line. On the chorus, George joined in with Paul and John. In the concert in Munich (live) it was the same way. But in Japan (both shows) John and Paul sang in unison during the verses. I’ve heard the audio from their last concert in San Francisco and it was back to the pre-Japan arrangement. As for the time I saw them in D.C., I’m guessing that it was the Japan arrangement, with Paul stepping up to the mic just a bit late.

  13. John King

    I wonder if the guitar riff was inspired by Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman. It sounds somewhat similar although I like the Day Tripper riff better. They were pretty good friends with Roy I believe.

      1. Culture Vulture

        There’s a song by a Canadian rock band April Wine (I Like To Rock) where at the end, they play both the Day Tripper Riff and the Satisfaction Riff simultaneously over their own song’s chord progression. Pretty cool.

    1. BeatleBug

      I have read that it was. When I first heard “Day Tripper” I thought, Oh, that’s the Beatles (a.k.a. better) version of “Pretty Woman”.
      Has anybody tried to play the riff and sing at the same time? I’ve tried, but I inevitably flub the beat on one or the other. @$%&#*!!!! How did they do it?!?!!

      1. John

        Yes I have tried to play and sing it and it’s impossible!
        There are lots of riffs like that eg roadrunner, dizzy miss lizzy – the trick is to come up with a new one. DT is more complex than those. And later Paperback writer.
        Also on Shea stadium they do the riff of roadrunner on Dizzy mids Lizzy and lapse into sort of pretty woman. And again PW on Hollywood Bowl.

        1. DarrenS

          It took me a long time to get it, but I learned to both play the riff and sing it at the same time. The trick, for me, was to master the riff until I could play it without thinking about it. Then, adding the lyrics didn’t screw up the riff. Same with Twist and Shout (for me, anyway). If I could do it, anyone can. Keep trying.

          1. Silly Girl

            (I was formerly known as BeatleBug. I changed my name.)
            After having had many bashes at it, I am now sort of able to play and sing at the same time. I haven’t quite figured it all out yet, but “It’s getting better all the time”. There’s a queer trick to it: the best way I can describe it is I have to separate my head into two channels, like stereo mixing. 🙂

  14. David Rosenak

    The interpretation of Day Tripper as being a drug song is not entirely convincing. To my mind the clearest lyric is “She’s a big (prick) teaser/She took me half the way there”. She fools around but leaves the singer frustrated. Keying on that, a day tripper and Sunday driver might be one who drives (has sex) with no intended destination (orgasm). This also suggests that “taking the easy way out” might be a witty euphemism for masturbation. Granted, I can’t quite fit “one way ticket” and “she only plays one night stands” into this interpretation but at the same time I can’t quite read those as drug references either.

    This is not to say that song isn’t also about drugs. It may be ambiguous or not carefully worked out. And it may be that McCartney and Lennon had differing ideas about the song and/or that neither had a clear idea of what it was about. After all, why should they have been concerned about any of that? It’s a great track however you slice it.

    1. amoral2

      McCartney said that “Day Tripper” was about drugs, and “a tongue-in-cheek song about someone who was … committed only in part to the idea.” (from Wikipedia, quoting from Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now.)

      “Day trippers are people who go on a day trip, right? Usually on a ferryboat or something. But [the song] was kind of … you’re just a weekend hippie. Get it?” Lennon said: (from Sheff, David (2000). All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono)

  15. jan edvinsson

    Whatever reason made the so called glitch I read that Emerick said that they would leave some mistakes of one or other reason into a song if it sounded good, sometimes; the record came out like this so maybe they thought ..something is wrong there… but what the was a good take and if it was arranged like that …well rather tricky indeed..let´s keep it. Me guessing. Greet. Janne

  16. Bill

    “World’s first double-A side”?? Not even close. I believe that honor is reserved for Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog”/”Don’t Be Cruel” from 1956. On the original US picture sleeve, half of the sleeves are printed w/”Hound Dog” as the top side, & the other half are printed w/”Don’t Be Cruel” as the top side.
    On my WLS “Silver Dollar Survey” from Christmas 1965, “Day Tripper”/”We Can Work It Out” are both listed in the #1 spot.
    I seem to recall other early double-A sides… “Bad To Me”/”Little Children” comes to mind, & a few early Beach Boys singles too…

    1. Oliver

      I believe Hound Dog/Don’t be cruel have been named a double-A-side retrospectively, to reflect the unusual (at that time) strength of both the A side and the B side. If half the sleeves credit it one way and the other half the other way, that would reflect confusion as to which side WAS better while also showing that, despite that conclusion, one was still named A side and the other B side.

      1. robert

        I think the difference here is that while Ricky had both sides played as much as each other, still one side was designated as the A side. In the case of Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out – both sides were actually designated as the A-sides. No need to respond.

  17. Craig

    Actually, the solo sounds more like Paul to me. Paul is known to have played lead on a few other songs in ’65 and ’66, including “Another Girl”, “Ticket to Ride”, and “Taxman”, and the solo on “Day Tripper” sounds a lot like the “Ticket to Ride” lead fills to me.

    1. robert

      Actually what I found interesting was Lennon’s chagrin at We Can Work It Out being selected (at first) as the A-side and having to fight to create the Double A-Side concept – and then WCWIO selling better anyway. I recall that John mentioned in one of his post-Beatles interviews that the battle for A-sides was an early tension between he and Paul.

      And that the ballads were beginning to define the Beatles more than the rockers.

      Since Brian was still alive at this time (“after Brian died I knew we were in trouble”), this may be a very early shadow of the musical chasm that would grow in years to come as Paul’s music became more dominant in defining the band (at least in John’s mind). And John slipped into a more drug induced passive position.

  18. Baggio

    Most of this song has John doing the melody and Paul the harmony.

    It’s something like this:

    Got a good reason (Paul solo)
    For taking the easy way out (John on melody, Paul on lower harmony – very unusual)

    She was a day tripper, one way ticket yes…

    The same pattern is kept through all the song (search for vocal only edits of this song and you may confirm it).
    Paul has a few solos, John does most of the melody… I consider this a co-lead.

    1. JFrench

      If I Fell, definately a Lennon lead throughout even though the verses sound like either one is singing lead. John sings harmony lead vocal ..If I give my heart to you…while Paul singing actual melody doesn’t sound like the lead….Lennon was the master at singing lead harmony vocals..another example; drive my car. John’s vocals so strong they could be lead. I think this is what made their vocals so unique, they could flip flop vocals on chorus and verses equally.

  19. Tom Morrow

    Paul plays a different bass line for chorus 2 then goes back to the original line for chorus 3, just to screw with your head. Either that or he got confused. I don’t think he after-dubbed the bass part on this track and the track was one take so it’s hard to tell why he’d change the bass part for chorus 2. (That’s a good question: when did he start redoing bass parts at the end of all the overdubs anyway?)

  20. Graham Paterson

    Great song, maybe more of a Lennon composition, but McCartney is lead vocalist in parts. This is similar to “a Hard Days Night” in that regard. This is one half of a great double A side.

  21. manteau

    Clearly, John had been messing around with riffs inspired by Bobby Parker ‘s “Watch your step”, listen to “Ifeel fine” intro and also “surprise surprise” on Walls and bridges. All great!

  22. Dan L

    Absolutely love this song – can never hear it too often. The hypnotic guitar riff, the shrewd lower harmony from John, the outrageous chord progression in the course (From “She was a day tripper…” to “…and I found out.”). And then there’s the way Ringo’s drums come in ever-so-slightly late at 2:29, adding to the teasing edge of the recording.

  23. embrasure

    John should have sung lead on this throughout on the record. It would have sounded better. Check out Beatles in Japan doing Day Tripper (on to see who owns this song – John dominates. Why did he let Paul sing co-lead on the record, especially the opening line (as a result in the mimed videos the camera lingers on Paul)? He might have been trying to give Paul a piece of the A-side action as a ploy to keep him at bay, but it backfired when whoever – powers that be – wanted ‘We Can Work It Out’ to be the single. And John found it hard to get back on the A-side thereafter.
    Alas, the mimed videos are the ones that’ll be released on official DVD releases (probably the current one too) whereas the live in Japan version is far superior in my book. Tougher, rougher and more exciting than the single which I always thought was too clean. That opening riff needed more meat.

  24. Graham Paterson

    I love the lead guitar solo in this.Lennon’s song mainly but it is also a great example of Lennon and McCartney brilliant collaboration, especially with the vocals.

  25. George

    Strange because I hear Paul singing the first line to all the verses them John joins him on the second part of the verse. Not sure what actually constitutes the lead in that scenario. Either it’s a great song.

  26. Candlestick Parker

    Wasn’t Day Tripper on the playlist at the last Candlestick Park concert? I believe it was. I vaguely remember my older brother talking about it after being at that show. Wish I could’ve gone but I was only 11 at the time.

  27. Kees Oosterwijk

    Kees Oosterwijk
    Sunday 3 July 2016,

    I don’t think the riff of Day tripper was inspried by the riff of Pretty Woman
    John Lennon was very much influenced by Smokey Robinson and had the record My girl in his personal juke-box
    The start of the riff of Day tripper is almost exactly like the start of the riff of My girl

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