Ticket To Ride

Ticket To Ride single - United KingdomWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 15 February 1965
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 9 April 1965 (UK), 19 April 1965 (US)

John Lennon: double-tracked lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Paul McCartney: harmony vocals, bass, lead guitar
George Harrison: rhythm guitar
Ringo Starr: drums, tambourine, handclaps

Available on:
Anthology 2
Live At The BBC

Ticket To Ride was the first song to be released from Help!, The Beatles' fifth album. The group's performance of the song, filmed on the ski slopes in Austria, was one of the highlights of the Help! film.

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The song was written by Lennon and McCartney, although the precise nature of their contributions has been disputed. In one of his final interviews, Lennon claimed it as mainly his work.

That was one of the earliest heavy-metal records made. Paul's contribution was the way Ringo played the drums.
John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

In his authorised biography, published in 1994, McCartney elaborated on the song's origins, claiming it as more of a collaborative effort.

We wrote the melody together; you can hear on the record, John's taking the melody and I'm singing harmony with it. We'd often work those out as we wrote them. Because John sang it, you might have to give him 60 per cent of it. It was pretty much a work job that turned out quite well...

John just didn't take the time to explain that we sat down together and worked on that song for a full three-hour songwriting session, and at the end of it all we had all the words, we had the harmonies, and we had all the little bits.

Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

McCartney also explained how he was particularly proud of Ticket To Ride's double-time coda:

I think the interesting thing was a crazy ending: instead of ending like the previous verse, we changed the tempo. We picked up one of the lines, 'My baby don't care', but completely altered the melody. We almost invented the idea of a new bit of a song on the fade-out with this song; it was something specially written for the fade-out, which was very effective but it was quite cheeky and we did a fast ending. It was quite radical at the time.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

The first Beatles single to be longer than three minutes, Ticket To Ride was heralded by the music press upon its release as a departure from the group's familiar territory. Certainly its unusual drum patterns and downbeat lyrics were a departure from The Beatles' usual upbeat optimism.

Ticket To Ride was slightly a new sound at the time. It was pretty fucking heavy for then, if you go and look in the charts for what other music people were making. You hear it now and it doesn't sound too bad; but it'd make me cringe. If you give me the A track and I remix it, I'll show you what it is really, but you can hear it there. It's a heavy record and the drums are heavy too. That's why I like it.
John Lennon, 1970

The song's meaning has been subject to a number of interpretations over the years. While ostensibly about a liberated girl choosing her own path in life, a pair of incidents in The Beatles' past may have inspired the song in part.

McCartney's cousin Bett and her husband Mike Robbins owned a pub on Union Street in Ryde, on the north coast of the Isle of Wight. In the early 1960s Lennon and McCartney hitch-hiked to stay with them, and several years later the journey inspired a pun on the phrase 'ticket to Ryde' in the song.

I remember talking about Ryde but it was John's thing.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

Another suggestion is that the title refers to sexually-transmitted diseases, and was inspired by the prostitutes encountered by The Beatles during their time performing in Germany.

The girls who worked the streets in Hamburg had to have a clean bill of health and so the medical authorities would give them a card saying that they didn't have a dose of anything.

I was with The Beatles when they went back to Hamburg in June 1966 and it was then that John told me that he had coined the phrase 'a ticket to ride' to describe these cards. He could have been joking - you always had to be careful with John like that - but I certainly remember him telling me that.

Don Short, journalist
A Hard Day's Write, Steve Turner

Ticket To Ride was the soundtrack to a key scene in the Help! film. Filmed on the ski slopes of Obertauern, Austria on 20 March 1965, it was a forerunner of the music videos which would later become widespread.

It also became part of The Beatles' live repertoire in 1965, particularly on their summer tour of America. They played it during their final appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, and at their Shea Stadium and Hollywood Bowl concerts.

A version of Ticket To Ride, recorded for the British television show Blackpool Night Out, was included on Anthology 2. Another recording, taped for the radio show The Beatles Invite You To Take A Ticket To Ride, was included on the Live At The BBC collection.

In the studio

Recorded in an afternoon session on 15 February 1965, at the first session for what became the Help! album, Ticket To Ride marked a departure from The Beatles' previous method of recording.

Although completed in just two takes, the first of which was a false start, Ticket To Ride was the first Beatles song to be built from the ground up. Whereas in the past they'd rehearsed and recorded what amounted to an 'as-live' performance of their songs, from February 1965 they adopted the practice of recording just the rhythm tracks, and then building from there.

As such, although only two takes of Ticket To Ride were needed, the song underwent a number of overdubs, revisions and experiments during the three hour session. They initially recorded drums and bass on track one of Abbey Road's four track machines, then overdubbed rhythm and lead guitars (the latter played by Paul McCartney), John Lennon's lead vocals, and then finally tambourine, guitars, backing vocals and handclaps onto track four.

Ticket To Ride was The Beatles' first song to feature Paul McCartney on lead guitar. He played the lines, which can be heard in the fade-out, on an Epiphone Casino semi-acoustic. Lennon played a Fender Stratocaster, and it is likely that George Harrison played a Rickenbacker 360 12-string.

Chart success

Ticket To Ride was released on 9 April 1965 in the UK, and on 19 April in the US. Both editions were coupled with Yes It Is on the b-side.

The single topped the charts in many countries. It spent three weeks at the top of the UK charts, and one in the US.

45 responses on “Ticket To Ride

  1. B,n

    It sounds like there is an organ playing in the song, most audible in the intro, “under” the guitar. Or maybe it’s just guitar.

    PS (for all songs):
    When you write guitar it would be great if you wrote what kind of guitar. Especially if it is acoustic or electric. Same for bass guitar.

      1. S Arehart

        Paul may have played the high riff in the middle of the song, but its sure sounds like George’s 360/12 Rickenbacker during the intro and throughout the song.

    1. Joe Post author

      That’s a very nice site – thanks for mentioning it.

      I’ve thought about giving information on instrumentation where available, but normally it’s a question of whether I have enough time to research it all, and whether the majority of people are likely to care. A feature on the group’s equipment is on the cards at some point. When that’s done I might think about going through each song’s equipment, though I’ve got a ton of other stuff to do first!

      1. Marie

        I would definitely love something like that, but only whenever you get the time. I’ve loved The Beatles since I was a little kid, but it wasn’t until recently (helped by the whole 09.09.09 marketing) that I really got into how their recording sessions were like and what instruments they used for which albums. The extra knowledge really adds another level of appreciation and wonder for all of their accomplishments.

  2. Michael

    This isn’t the first Beatles song longer than 3 minutes; She’s a Woman, the B-side to I Feel Fine, was released in November 1964 and is slightly longer than 3 minutes.

  3. Jacob

    Neither She’s a Woman nor Ticket to Ride were the first over three minutes.
    You Really Got a Hold on Me was the first, at 3’02. And I think TTR is actually 3’10, not 3’13

    1. Joe Post author

      So it was. Thanks for that.

      The length of TTR depends on which mix you’re listening to – stereo or mono, UK or US. Either way it’s well over three minutes, though for the sake of clarity I’ll take out the mention of 3’13.

  4. Dave

    I must’ve listened to this song for twenty years before I realized that the drum pattern changes after the first verse/chorus. Ringo starts out in a syncopated pattern that mirrors the lead riff but subsequent verse/chorus are a more straight forward beat.

  5. Nelson

    Ticket to Ride… the drone maybe derived from Indian music, .the unique rhythm, where the verse seems to go forward, then hesitate, with every measure. The Beatles psychedelic roots might start here especially in it’s relation to “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “Rain.

  6. 2much4mymirror

    I rank this as in the top ten Beatles songs ever. It’s interesting to speculate what, beyond the drumming, Paul contributed. John claims it as mainly his song, Paul cites the amount of time he spent working on it. How many of the words did John have done before Paul came in? Elsewhere in his biography, Paul mentions having had the first verse of a particular song before bringing it to John, and adds “which usually means you have the melody and the tempo.” So with Paul claiming that John wrote the melody and he the harmony, where does that leave his contribution? What else might he have contributed? Did he have a hand in the middle? Maybe suggesting John speed up on “She-oughta-think-twice…”? Maybe he suggested the fadeout? What “little bits” did he contribute??

    1. Albert Cunning

      “Elsewhere in his biography, Paul mentions having had the first verse of a particular song before bringing it to John, and adds “which usually means you have the melody and the tempo.” So with Paul claiming that John wrote the melody and he the harmony…”

      That’s a bit of a leap, isn’t it?

  7. Tom Hartman

    George plays his Rick 12 for the intro guitar while Paul does the bridge and end fills on his Casino, which he used later the same evening to do the same sounding fills in “Another Girl.”

    There are two other guitars in the song, both Fender Stratocasters (John on rhythm, George on via an overdub). The “Help” sessions were the first time Fender Strats showed up on Beatles records.

  8. Bronx Boy Billy

    Is this not the coolest record ever?!
    What I like most about it: Lennon’s dry, sardonic vocal delivery, McCartney chiming in with his beautiful high harmony
    (“…she could never be free…”), Harrison’s tasty jangling guitar, Ringo’s tight drumming, especially the `machine-gun-like bit toward the end (after Lennon sings `she’s got a ticket to ri-iiide…’). So sweeet all the way around!

  9. Tom Hartman

    “Lennon played a 12-string Rickenbacker 325, and it is likely that George Harrison played a Rickenbacker 360 12-string.”

    Lennon did not play a 12 string on this record, but instead played one of the two new Sonic blue Fender Stratocasters Mal had gone out and gotten at George and John’s request.

  10. James Henwood

    The drum rolls in ticket to ride sound like a old time ticket printing machine especially the one in the middle of the song @ around 1m 53s and really throughout the song the drums sound like the same ticket printing machine but as if the machine were slowed down. Or is it just me?

  11. Gornton Tulog

    Paul says, ” We almost invented the idea of a new bit of a song on the fade-out with this song; it was something specially written for the fade-out, which was very effective but it was quite cheeky and we did a fast ending. It was quite radical at the time.”
    One prior song comes to mind: “Leader of the Pack” Shangri-las.

    1. Joe Post author

      Interesting comparison, and one I’d not considered before. Interestingly, the Shangri-las song gets slightly slower in the coda, whereas The Beatles played theirs in double time. As McCartney says: “We almost invented the idea”!

      1. S. B. Fields

        For those who are into “compare and contrast” exercises, listen to “Girl Don’t Tell Me” by the Beach Boys. This is one of the best Carl Wilson vocals, my favorite track on their 1966 Summer Days album… and I never could put my finger on “why?”…until the Beatles connection was pointed out to me recently. Check out the similar guitar motifs and drum figures, and also Carl’s “I’m the guy-eye-eye”…very much like “…ticket to ri-eye-eyed”,

        Is it a rip off?…no, I think of it as Brian Wilson’s homage to kindred spirits.

        1. Mr Kite

          Glad you mentioned the Beach Boys’ “Girl Don’t Tell Me”. I’d never heard it before. Just listened to it on YouTube. Nice song. Yes, there are some similarities to “Ticket to Ride”. Seems to have been influenced by it. Like you say, not a rip-off. The Beatles themselves were influenced by others, like Dylan on “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”.

  12. Olof

    Did McCartney’s cousin Bett and her husband Mike Robbins sell their pub in Reading after the Nerk Twin’s performance and in the same period moved to Ryde?

  13. ohad maon

    Hello, The Beatles are a part of my life for the last forty years. All the John vs. Paul discussion is strange to me. The real awesome power of the Beatles is the Lennon-Mccartney combination. As many examples show such as We Can Work It Out, In My Life, She’s Leaving Home, And Your Bird Can Sing, Getting Better and on and on. Then in the studio was the added input of George Harrison to the arrangements and of course. George Martin.

  14. Graham Paterson

    A great Beatles single. I love the scene in the film Help! with The Beatles skiing and skylarking on the Austrian Alps. Whilst it is a collaboration , to me this is more of a Lennon song. He often mentioned it and his songs ,( with the notable exception of Paul’s Yesterday ),tended to deal with themes of loss more often than the more upbeat McCartney. Ticket To Ride has one of my favorite Beatles chorus and I love the guitar/ drums intro.And when I make the comment about theme differences I am talking particularly about the 1964-65 period.

  15. jobrien

    Lennon said, ” We were potty about Dylan at this point.” Couldn’t quite believe it. Never knew they were following anyone too closely, seemed to be leading. Second to none, the sound – track of a generation.

  16. Bob

    With regard to the who-wrote-what questions, I think it’s worth noting that John’s memory has been shown to be quite remarkably faulty. Examples abound – what John thought he contributed to “Eleanor Rigby” being flatly contradicted by Pete Shotton’s book, etc. etc.

    1. Johan cavalli

      Is McCartney´s “memory” better? 1971 McCartney said that “Lennon-McCartney” is only a myth, it´s all mine”, but later on he admited it was wrong. 1990 he said he wrote “Help”, but some years later he admited it´s Lennon´s song. That about Eleanor Rigby is uninteresting. Lennon only commented the lyrics not the melody.
      I never believe a word of what McCartney is saying.

      1. Bob

        I look forward to your exact sources for Paul saying in 1990 that he wrote “Help!” and for saying in 1971 “It’s all mine.” I have no idea what the following means: “Lennon only commented the lyrics not the melody,” perhaps you can clarify.

  17. Jennifer

    Ringo’s off-kilter drumming really stands out on this track, so it’s fascinating to discover that John attributed that sound to Paul. Someone else mentioned Paul’s high harmonies on this, and I couldn’t agree more about how wonderful they are. Other lovely tidbits: the way John sings that self-indulgent and almost world-weary ‘ahhhh’ at about 2:31, leading into ‘she’s got a ticket…’, the way the middle eight speeds up – the headlong rush in the delivery of the vocals there is just delightful, the little guitar licks at 2:15ish… yeah. Pretty much all of it.

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