This day in music history, the Beatles went into Abbey Roads recording studio in London, where they began recording their single, “Day Tripper”. The song was finished in three takes, with vocals and overdubs seeing it completed by the end of the day.
So far this week, we’ve looked at both classic and contemporary songs. On Monday, we listened to David Bowie’s “Heroes” from 1977, and discussed its social, political, and cultural value. Yesterday, we looked at the recent single released for Nina Kraviz’s remix of St. Vincent’s “Masseduction”.
For our last classic song of the week, we’re going back a little further with yet another Beatles song.
“Day Tripper” was mainly written by John Lennon during the recording sessions for “Rubber Soul”. At the time, the Beatles were being pressured to quickly release a single for the upcoming Christmas season. After finishing up “Day Tripper” in one day of recording, the song was released as the first double a-side single along with “We Can Work It Out”.
John Lennon later expressed his views on the nature of the song, as well as the circumstances under which it was written. “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.”
The song’s title was a slang reference to people who didn’t fully embrace the drug-based counterculture of the ’60s. Though, due to the band’s straight edge reputation at the time, its meaning was hidden in the lyrics.
A Transition to Rubber Soul
The increased appearance of drug-related songs had in large part to do with the members of the Beatles beginning to experiment themselves with drugs. Most notably, LSD. The album they were recording at the same time as “Day Tripper”, “Rubber Soul”, has largely been considered to be one of the main turning points for the Beatles. It was their ‘acid’ album.
Though their drug use didn’t peak until some years later, it seems that one of the main points of “Day Tripper” was to separate themselves from more casual ‘hippies’.
In a 1980 interview with David Sheff, John Lennon reiterated this interpretation.
“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?”
Paul McCartney also had some words to say about the drug-based references found in “Day Tripper” in his biography written by Barry Miles.
“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.”
“Day Tripper” has never been one of my favorite Beatles songs. It’s solid, of course. But I had always lumped it in with their earlier material, and considered it among their less interesting , earlier songs. But after learning a little more about it today, it turns out that “Day Tripper” belongs smack dab in the middle between their earlier love songs and the drug-influenced ones that led to more musical growth. If “Rubber Soul” was their transition album, then “Day Tripper” was the their pivot song.
That about does it for our discussion today. I hope you enjoyed listening to and learning a bit about the Beatles’ “Day Tripper”. We’ll be back tomorrow with another song to help get you through the rest of the week.