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.

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

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

Paul McCartney's handwritten lyrics for Why Don't We Do It In The Road?

In the studio

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

On 9 October 1968 McCartney 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 saw McCartney alternating between gentle and strident vocals with each verse, can be heard on Anthology 3.

The next day, while John Lennon and George 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.

We were mixing in Studio Two, which was really the dedicated Beatles studio at Abbey Road, and I was getting a bit fed up sitting around. Everyone had gone home, but we were still there at ten o’clock, eleven o’clock, midnight. There was no one else around except for a security sergeant, maybe somebody on the door. So I slipped into Studio Three with Ringo, just him and me. I wanted to do a let-it-all-hang-out song based on little more than a mantra.

Previous song: ‘Don’t Pass Me By’
Next song: ‘I Will’
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