Written by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 13 October 1965
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith
Released: 3 December 1965 (UK), 20 June 1966 (US)
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.
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.’
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
‘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.
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.
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.