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Song History: Doctor Robert

We named our Beatles tribute band, Doctor Robert, after track #11 on the Revolver album. It’s a more obscure song and a lot of people don’t know the history behind the song, if they know the song at all. There’s a funny story behind the idea, as there are with many John Lennon songs. We like to think of our band “Doctor Robert” as medicinal MUSIC, a drug more powerful than all others. Here’s the history, according to a great website

“So, when was the first time that you suspected from listening to their music that The Beatles were using drugs? Most first generation fans would probably point to songs from the year 1967, such as the lyric “I get high with a little help from my friends,” or the imagery used in “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,” not to mention the supposed message hidden in the initials of that song. The year 1968 gave us clues as well, such as the lyrics “I need a fix ‘cause I’m going down” from “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” and “the deeper you go, the higher you fly” from “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey.”

While there are probably many other examples that can be pointed to, the first obvious indication was on the 1966 “Revolver” album (or “Yesterday…And Today” album in the US). Only the naive would have thought that “Dr. Robert” was a song about John’s family ‘ear, nose and throat’ physician. But then again, young fans may have thought just that! John’s longtime friend Pete Shotton remembers, “When John first played me the acetate of ‘Dr. Robert,’ he seemed beside himself with glee over the prospect of millions of record buyers innocently singing along.”

While the group had been drug users for awhile before this time, they had only hinted at this fact in their music up to this point. The lyrics “turns me on” was slyly included in the song “She’s A Woman,” and the description of a woman as being a “Day Tripper” were two notable examples, but they were included in such a way that not many would suspect anything. “The Word” was admittedly written under the influence of marijuana, as was a lot of the “Rubber Soul” album, but that was also veiled in disguise. It wasn’t until 1966 that they threw all caution to the wind and released a song that was blatantly about a drug pusher.

The subject matter may have been clear, but the real curiosity here was with his identity. Who really was “Dr. Robert”?

“It’s all about a queer!” This was John Lennon’s response when asked about the song during an interview. Keep in mind, however, that when he was asked about the inspiration behind “Eleanor Rigby” his response was “two queers.” Also, when a reporter asked what they thought about a Time Magazine article that explained “Day Tripper” as being about a prostitute and “Norwegian Wood” as being about a lesbian, Paul’s response was “We were just trying to write songs about prostitutes and lesbians, you know.” Obviously they were joking at the expense of those who were trying to interpret their music. Therefore, we can easily rule out “Dr. Robert” being about a “queer.”

Another curious quote from John about the song came in 1980. “It was about myself. I was the one that carried all the pills on tour and always have done. Well, in the early days. Later on the roadies did it, and we just kept them in our pockets loose, in case of trouble.”

While this appears to be the final word on the matter, there seems to be more to the story. Referring to a New York doctor that they’d heard about, Paul explains: “We’d hear people say, ‘You can get anything off him, any pills you want.’ It was a big racket. The song was a joke about this fellow who cured everyone of everything with all these pills and tranquilizers. He just kept New York high.”

Pete Shotton attempts to add more details to the story: “John paid sardonic tribute to an actual New York doctor. His real name was Charles Roberts, whose unorthodox prescriptions had made him a great favorite of Andy Warhol’s entourage and, indeed, of The Beatles themselves, whenever they passed through town.”

As for the Beatles actually visiting this doctor, Paul himself puts this to rest, saying, “As far as I know, neither of us ever went to a doctor for those kind of things. But there was a fashion for it and there still is. Change your blood and have a vitamin shot and you’ll feel better.” Since The Beatles have been very candid about their drug use during those years, the above statement appears to have the ring of truth.

One other detail that needs clarification is the name Charles Roberts. Probably because of Pete Shotton’s account, this physicians’ name had been well circulated in Beatles lore for a time. However, in Steve Turner’s book “A Hard Day’s Write,” it is explained that a New York doctor by this name “didn’t exist. It was an alias used by the biographer of Warhol actress Edie Sedgwick, Jean Stein, to conceal the identity of another ‘speed doctor.’”

The speculation about the identity of “Dr. Robert” is convincingly cleared up in Paul McCartney’s book “Many Years From Now.” Co-author Barry Miles, reiterating Paul’s account, explains as follows: “In fact, the name was based on the New York Dr. Feelgood character Dr. Robert Freymann, whose discreet East 78th Street clinic was conveniently located for Jackie Kennedy and other wealthy Upper East Siders from Fifth Avenue and Park to stroll over for their vitamin B-12 shots, which also happened to contain a massive dose of amphetamine. Dr. Robert’s reputation spread and it was not long before visiting Americans told John and Paul about him.”

German born Robert Freymann, sometimes known as Dr. Robert or “The Great White Father” (reportedly because of having a tuft of white hair), continued his practice in New York for many years administering legal amphetamines in larger than needed doses to mostly well-to-do clients. “I have a clientele that is remarkable, from every sphere of life,” he has stated. “I could tell you in ten minutes probably 100 famous names who come here.” He continued his practice until he was expelled from the New York State Medical Society in 1975 for malpractice. His book “What’s So Bad About Feeling Good?” was published in 1983. He passed away in 1987.

About the writing of the song, Paul recalls: “John and I thought it was a funny idea: the fantasy doctor who would fix you up by giving you drugs, it was a parody on that idea. It’s just a piss-take.” As early as 1967, Paul explained the meaning of the song: “That’s what ‘Doctor Robert’ is all about, just a pill doctor who sees you all right. It was a joke between ourselves, but they go in in-jokes and come out out-jokes, because everyone listens and puts their own thing on it, which is great. I mean, when I was young I never knew what ‘gilly gilly otsen feffer casta nell a bogen’ was all about, but I still enjoyed singing it.”

As to who wrote what, John said in his 1972 interview with Hit Parader Magazine that it was mostly written by him, but then stated “I think Paul helped with the middle.” The sentiment expressed by Paul in his statements about the song seems to corroborate this point.

With a remarkable four month rest period from nearly anything Beatles related, stretching from the completion of their last British tour on December 12th, 1965 to their first EMI recording session of the year on April 6th, 1966, the song “Dr. Robert” can easily be estimated to have been written during this time. It was undoubtedly another product of a writing session between the two composers at John’s Kenwood mansion.”

Doctor Robert, The Beatles Tribute

Doctor Robert, The Beatles tribute from Crested Butte, Colorado, has been off for a few weeks due to a family emergency. We look forward to bringing our modern version of Beatles covers to The Ritz Grill in Colorado Springs on Friday, August 24th at 8:30. We appreciate everyone’s support around Colorado over the past two years, and love to see familiar faces. We called ourselves Doctor Robert, which is track #11 on Revolver. Some people call us Dr. Robert, some call us Doctor Roberts, some call us Dr. Roberts, some call us DocRob. We think of it as a tribute band from Crested Butte, CO, but some call us a Beatles cover band. We’re just happy that so many call us any of the above, so keep the nicknames coming.

Here’s a few videos from August 3rd at a private party in Aspen. These songs rarely make an appearance in Doctor Robert’s live performances but are just as fun to perform as the rest.

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Riverside Park, State Highway Theater, Epic Relay

Doctor Robert finished another three-night run through the mountains of Colorado this last weekend, bring more Beatles music to Salida, Buena Vista, and Mt Crested Butte. We started in Salida for Thursdays @ 6, playing Riverside Park’s amazing stage right next to the Arkansas River. A good-size crowd showed up and had a great time. We ended up playing an extra hour since it was so fun. This was the first time Doctor Robert set up the stage in a line, with Ben on drums to our right side instead of the traditional location being behind the band. This allowed us to see each other much better, and the audience was able to watch Ben a little easier as well. Taken from the book of Phish, Doctor Robert will be setting up this way anytime the stage is big enough. Here’s a few audio clips from the show:
A Hard Day’s Night –> Eight Days a Week
You Can’t Do That
Two of Us
I Should Have Known Better
Come Together
From Me To You –> Glass Onion –> Ob La Di Ob La Da
Strawberry Fields Forever –> Hey Bulldog

Friday night brought Doctor Robert back to State Highway Theater in Buena Vista, our seventh visit to the old Roadhouse. As always, we love playing this venue and it’s state-of-the-art sound system. Thanks to Dave and Leo for helping us out once again with the sound. We had a great crew of fans at this one, with folks from 8 years old to 78 years old dancing and singing along with music of The Beatles. We’re always amazed at how many regular fans we have in Buena Vista, so cheers to everyone that came out last weekend for another installment of Doctor Robert, The Beatles Tribute from Crested Butte, Colorado. Here are a few video clips from the night:

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Saturday we traveled back to Crested Butte to play the finish of The Epic Relay, which was a running race that started Friday in Colorado Springs and ended Saturday in Mt. Crested Butte. This was the second annual Epic Relay, and what a huge improvement to the finish area and overall layout. Thanks to Laci at CBMR for having us again, and for making all the great changes from last year. Despite some rain, we played three hours on The Red Lady Stage at the base of Crested Butte Mountain Resort. It was fun to watch different people react in different ways to our version of these great Beatles songs. The best reaction we got Saturday (if not ever) was when a bride walked by to load the chairlift on her way to get married. We were already playing “Two of Us,” which is a great love song, then we dedicated “In My Life” to the bride-to-be, and said it was the best wedding song on the planet. As it turns out, the bride cried so much that she had to re-do her makeup before loading the lift. Pretty moving music for sure.

Our next public show is August 4th in Denver. We’ll be kicking off the entertainment for the first annual Big Denver BBQ Block Party, which is in Skyline Park in downtown on August 4th and 5th. Our performance will be Saturday from 1:30 to 2:45 and the entire event is free to enter. Food and drink cost extra, but the entertainment if free. Come see Doctor Robert perform Beatles music for the first time in Denver. Check their website at for more information about this huge event.

You can always check our shows page for a full schedule of our shows.

Thanks again to everyone for coming out to see Doctor Robert this past weekend, we look forward to our next round of shows and hope to see some familiar faces around the state. Until the next one…
Ben, Casey, Kevin, Karen

Weekend Gigs

What a great weekend for The Doctor. Our first trip to Colorado Springs to play The Ritz Grill was as fun as we could have hoped, and we got to see a lot of good friends enjoying the music. Nancy’s surprise party at Rueben’s was a blast too. She had no idea there would be a full house with friends and family, and Doctor Robert ready to play “Birthday
as soon as she walked in. Truly a treat to play for some of our best local fans.

Thanks everyone for coming out this weekend. We’re off until 2/10 at The Tomichi Tavern in Gunnison and 2/11 in Lake City for the Balloon Fest and Beach Party.

Here’s a few live takes from 1/29/12 at Rueben’s.  Please forgive the crowd noise, it’s hard to stop folks from enjoying themselves:

Paper Back Writer

Baby You’re a Rich Man (with “Blue Sky” teases)

I’m Only Sleeping

Love Me Do turns 50

“LOVE ME DO” (Paul McCartney – John Lennon)

The recording of “Love Me Do” truns 50 years old in 2012. We’ll be performing at The Ritz in Downtown Colorado Springs this Saturday, January 28th to celebrate 50 years of this classic Beatles hit. Music starts at 9:30, prizes for best early and best psychelelic Beatles outfits.

Here’s some history of “Love Me Do”

There have been a great deal of songs recorded by the Beatles that can be viewed as “hits” or “classics”, but only a handful that can truly be viewed as “legendary.” “Love Me Do” surely falls into this category. This was the first song professionally recorded and released under the “Beatles” name, which excludes any “Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers” recordings. It was also the first Lennon/McCartney song (or as indicated on the label, McCartney/Lennon) ever to be published and released. And it was the first song released (in Britain) with the complete Beatles line-up as we’ve come to know and love: Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr.

There are varied opinions about the song, even by the composers, but the one thing that is beyond debate is the vibrancy and originality of the track. Upon first hearing the song on the radio in the United States in May 1964, being that we were already acquainted with the Beatles’ unique sound, we just viewed this as another great new contribution from the band. It was quite another picture in the UK. This was the first song heard of this new band by British radio listeners as a whole. Imagine what your impression would have been if this was the first song you ever heard by the Beatles. It might have been the same impression that Lennon’s Aunt Mimi had when she first heard a demonstration disc of the song. She told John, “If you think you’re going to make a fortune with that, you’ve got another thing coming!”

Nonetheless, the identifiable Beatle harmonies and simple-but-catchy lyrics make “Love Me Do” an irresistible favorite for lovers of oldies music. Hardly anyone at any age can keep themselves from singing along. And that is something that any aspiring songwriter only dreams to be able to create.

New Recordings from The Trough

Thanks to everyone who came out during last nights dump. We had a great time at The Trough, here’s a few recordings from the evening.

1. Our first live “It Won’t Be Long”

It Won’t Be Long (1 21 12)

2. Our first live “I Want You”

I Want You (1 21 12)

3. And our third time playing “Nowhere Man”

Nowhere Man (1 21 12)

4. And a regular in our rotation, with extended jam to finish the night, “Come Together”

Come Together (1 21 12)

Thanks for a really fun show and come see us again!

Upcoming Shows

Come out to The Trough in Gunnison tonight from 8-11 to celebrate birthdays and abundant snowfall with the good Doctor.

Colorado Springs fans can see us for our first visit to the area at The Ritz Grill on 1/28 starting at 9:30. Costume contest night, with prizes for best psychedelic and best early Beatles outfits. 15 S. Tejon in Colorado Springs, music is free.

Check our shows page for more upcoming events.

“It Won’t Be Long” songwriting history

Here’s a bit of interesting facts about our newest Beatles cover, “It Won’t Be Long,” the first track off their second album “With The Beatles.” Check out for some great Beatles songwriting history.

In July of 1963, shortly after the song “She Loves You” was recorded, John Lennon’s wheels were turning as to what would be the follow up single. He came up with the chorus of a new song that utilized the repeating of the word “yeah” as “She Loves You” had done, figuring that their fans would latch on to that gimmick once that fourth British single was released. His ‘sixth sense’ was correct, as the phrase “yeah, yeah, yeah” became the catchword phrase in the autumn of 1963.

Contained in the chorus of this new song was a ‘play on words’ that both Lennon and McCartney liked to throw in to their lyrics to make things interesting. The song “Please Please Me” contained the double use of the word “please,” using it as a request and then an action. In this case, Lennon used the phrase “be long” specifying an amount of time, with “belong” as to ownership. McCartney explained this interest in word play, “I was doing literature at school, so I was interested in plays on words and onomatopoeia. John didn’t do literature but he was quite well read, so he was interested in that kind of thing.” Concerning this song, Paul relates “we both liked to try and get a bit of double meaning in, so that was the high spot of writing that particular song.”

New Songs

While Karen is in Hawaii hanging out on the beach under coconut trees, Casey, Ben, and Kevin have been working on some new material. “It Won’t Be Long” from With The Beatles, “Mother Nature’s Son” from The White Album, and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy) from Abbey Road are making their way into our songlist which is now at 95. We’ll be at 100 before long.

New gigs

Doctor Robert returns to Tomichi Tavern on 2/10, starting at 9:30. It’s been one of our best venues so far, spread the word and hopefully we’ll see you there. We confirmed our first few weddings of the year, first one is at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science on 6/30, then another at Uley’s Cabin on CBMR 7/7. Wedding receptions and Beatles music are a great combination.