Day Tripper

"Day Tripper" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles that was released as a double A-side single with "We Can Work It Out" in December 1965. Written primarily by John Lennon, it was credited to the Lennon–McCartney partnership. Both songs were recorded during the sessions for the band's Rubber Soul album. The single topped charts in Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands and Norway. In the United States, "Day Tripper" peaked at number five on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and "We Can Work It Out" held the top position.

"Day Tripper"
"We Can Work It Out" and "Day Tripper" (Beatles single - cover art).jpg
US picture sleeve
Single by the Beatles
A-side"We Can Work It Out" (double A-side)
Released3 December 1965 (1965-12-03)
Recorded16 October 1965
StudioEMI, London
GenrePop rock[1]
Producer(s)George Martin
The Beatles UK singles chronology
"Day Tripper" / "We Can Work It Out"
"Paperback Writer"
The Beatles US singles chronology
"Day Tripper" / "We Can Work It Out"
"Nowhere Man"

"Day Tripper" is a rock song based around an electric guitar riff and was included in the Beatles' concert set-list for about a year until their retirement from live performances in late August 1966. The single was the first example of a double A-side in Britain.[2][3] Its success popularised the format and, in giving equal treatment to two songs, allowed recording artists to show their versatility.

In the UK, "Day Tripper" / "We Can Work It Out" was the seventh highest selling single of the 1960s.[4] As of December 2018, it was the 54th best-selling single of all time in the UK – one of six Beatles singles included in the top sales rankings published by the Official Charts Company.

Background and inspirationEdit

"Day Tripper" was written early in the Rubber Soul sessions when the Beatles were under pressure to produce a new single for the Christmas market.[5] John Lennon wrote the music and most of the lyrics, while Paul McCartney contributed some of the lyrics.[6] In a 1980 interview, Lennon said of the song: "That's mine. Including the lick, the guitar break and the whole bit."[7] In the 1997 book Many Years from Now, McCartney claims that it was a collaboration but Lennon deserved "the main credit".[8]

Lennon described "Day Tripper" as a "drug song",[9] and in a 2004 interview McCartney said it was "about acid (LSD)".[10] The song title is a play on words referring to both a tourist on a day-trip and a "trip" in the sense of a psychedelic experience.[11] Lennon recalled: "Day trippers are people who go on a day trip, right? Usually on a ferryboat or something. But [the song] was kind of ... you're just a weekend hippie. Get it?"[7] In Many Years from Now, McCartney says that "Day Tripper" was about sex and drugs; he describes it as "a tongue-in-cheek song about someone who was ... committed only in part to the idea. Whereas we saw ourselves as full-time trippers".[12] The line "She's a big teaser" was code for "she's a prick teaser."[12]

During the sessions for Rubber Soul, a rift was growing between McCartney and his bandmates as he continued to abstain from taking LSD.[13][14] After Lennon and George Harrison had first taken the drug in London early in 1965,[13][15] Ringo Starr had joined them in their second experience, during the Beatles' stay in Los Angeles that August.[16] Given McCartney's continued abstinence, author Ian MacDonald says that the song's lyric may well have been partly directed at him,[17] as does music journalist Keith Cameron.[18]

Musicologist Walter Everett highlights the Lennon-composed guitar riff as an example of the Beatles drawing inspiration from other artists and improving on the source material. He sees it as a combination of the ostinatos heard on Motown songs such as the Temptations' "My Girl", Barrett Strong's "Money (That's What I Want)" and Marvin Gaye's "I'll Be Doggone", while also incorporating a rockabilly element that recalls Roy Orbison's "Oh, Pretty Woman".[6] Author Jon Savage writes that in the British pop scene of late 1965, American soul music was "everywhere", and the Beatles readily embraced the genre in both "Day Tripper" and the Rubber Soul track "Drive My Car".[19][nb 1] In an interview with Dennis Elsas on WNEW-FM in 1974, Lennon says that he used the riff from "Watch Your Step" by Bobby Parker.[21]


Main guitar riff

The main instrumental feature of "Day Tripper" is the guitar riff, which continues throughout the verse sections. On the Beatles recording, the riff is played by Harrison and briefly doubled by Lennon's guitar until he switches to strumming a rhythm part. McCartney also plays the riff on bass guitar.[22] According to Everett, the staggered entrance of the various musical instruments, at the start and during breakdowns in the track, helps to create tension and supports the singer's frustration at the protagonist's untrustworthiness.[23]

MacDonald describes the song: "'Day Tripper' starts as a twelve-bar blues in E, which makes a feint at turning into a twelve-bar in the relative minor [C# minor] (i.e., the chorus) before doubling back to the expected B – another joke from a group which had clearly decided that wit was to be their new gimmick."[17] Musicologist Dominic Pedler takes a different view, commenting that the chorus section begins on an F#7, which he terms a "non-functioning secondary dominant".[24] After four bars, it cycles through one bar each of A7 – G#7 – C#7 – B7, before returning to the riff in E.[24] He adds that the C#7 is a major, rather than a minor chord.[24]

In the instrumental break following the second verse and chorus, Harrison plays a pedal-effect rising scale (heard on the left in the stereo mix) while he and Lennon alternate the solos (heard on the right), which start with the riff played on the V chord and end with a blues-inflected fill.[6] In Everett's description, the intensity of this break – the bass pedal, rising scale, guitar solos, cymbal playing, and increased attack on the vocalised "aah"s – conveys the realisation that the singer is being used by the female day-tripper and "express a gradually-arising, yet sudden sensation of, enlightenment".[23]


The song was recorded on 16 October 1965.[25] The Beatles recorded the basic rhythm track for "If I Needed Someone" after completing "Day Tripper".[5]

In 1966, the original stereo mix of "Day Tripper" was included on the US album Yesterday and Today, and in November of that year the song was remixed, for the stereo version of the British A Collection of Beatles Oldies compilation.[26] "Day Tripper" was later featured on the band's 1962–1966 compilation, released in 1973, with CD versions of that album replacing the original stereo mix with the November 1966 remix. The remix also appears on the Past Masters compilation, first released in 1988.[26]

Both stereo mixes contain some noticeable engineering errors. MacDonald highlights a "bad punch-in edit", at the 1:50 mark, on the track containing the vocals.[17] For a second or so just after the solo, the track containing guitar and tambourine drops out – a result of the parts being momentarily erased by mistake.[26] Bootleg releases of an early mix feature a technical glitch on the session tape itself. The drop-out was fixed for the release of the 2000 compilation 1, by copying the required sounds from another point in the song.[26]

Promotional clipsEdit

"Day Tripper" had been conceived as the A-side of the Beatles' next single but the band came to favour "We Can Work It Out", which was predominately written by McCartney and recorded later in the Rubber Soul sessions.[27] Lennon continued to argue for "Day Tripper".[28][29] On 15 November, EMI announced that the A-side would be "We Can Work It Out", only for Lennon to publicly contradict this two days later.[30] As a result, the single was marketed as the first-ever double A-side in the UK.[31][32] Lennon's championing of "Day Tripper" was based on his belief that the Beatles' rock sound should be favoured over the softer style of "We Can Work It Out".[33]

The Beatles filmed three promotional clips for each of the songs at Twickenham Film Studios in south-west London on 23 November.[34][35] The clips were designed to be sent to various television music and variety shows around the world, to air on those programs in lieu of personal studio appearances.[31][36] Directed by Joe McGrath and later known collectively as the "Intertel Promos",[37] the filming also included mimed performances of "I Feel Fine", "Ticket to Ride" and "Help!" for inclusion in Top of the Pops' round-up of the biggest hits of 1965.[38] The Beatles' decision to send out independently produced films to promote their music on television anticipated the modern music video and the rise of MTV in the 1980s.[39] According to music journalist Robert Fontenot, "Since these performances [of 'Day Tripper' and 'We Can Work It Out'] were not filmed in front of an audience, they can be considered the world's first music videos as we understand the format today."[40]

One of the November 1965 promotional clips was included in the Beatles' 2015 video compilation 1, and two were included in the three-disc versions of the compilation, titled 1+.[41] Another mimed performance of the song, from the Granada TV special The Music of Lennon & McCartney, was also included on 1+.[41][42] This performance features the band accompanied by a group of go-go dancers and was filmed in Manchester on 1–2 November.[43]

Release and commercial performanceEdit

The single was released on EMI's Parlophone label in Britain (as Parlophone R 5389) on 3 December 1965,[44] the same day as Rubber Soul.[45] On the front page of its issue published the previous day, Melody Maker confirmed the release dates and the dates for the promos' airing on British TV and for the band's UK tour; the editors called the week ahead "National Beatles Week".[46] The Beatles included "Day Tripper" in the set list for the tour,[35][47] which took place on 3–12 December,[48] and continued to perform the song live the following year.[49]

The single's release coincided with speculation in the UK press that the Beatles' superiority in the pop world since 1963 might be coming to an end, given the customary two or three years that most acts could expect to remain at the peak of their popularity.[50] In addition, after receiving their MBEs for services to the national economy in October, the group were temporarily perceived as being part of the establishment.[51] "Day Tripper" / "We Can Work It Out" entered the UK Singles Chart (at the time, the Record Retailer chart)[52] on 15 December, at number 2, before holding the top position for five consecutive weeks.[53] The single also failed to top the national chart published by Melody Maker in its first week – marking the first occasion since December 1963 that a new Beatles single had not immediately entered at number 1.[54] Although it was an immediate number 1 on the NME's chart, the Daily Mirror and Daily Express newspapers both published articles highlighting the apparent decline.[55][nb 2]

The record was the Beatles' ninth consecutive chart-topping single in Record Retailer and their tenth on the country's other charts,[56] and for the third year in succession they had the Christmas number 1 hit[57][58] as well as the top-selling album.[59] "Day Tripper" / "We Can Work It Out" was also the band's fastest-selling single in the UK since "Can't Buy Me Love" in 1964.[60][61] Alan Smith, the reporter assigned to cover the Beatles' UK tour for the NME,[62] commented: "Anyone who says they're finished – particularly with 'Day Tripper'/'We Can Work It Out' at No. 1 in the NME Chart in its first week – must be out of his head!"[63][nb 3]

In the United States, where the single was issued by Capitol Records on 6 December (as Capitol 5555),[65] both songs entered the Billboard Hot 100 on the week ending 18 December.[66] In early 1966, "We Can Work It Out" spent three non-consecutive weeks at number 1, while "Day Tripper" peaked at number 5.[67] The single was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America, for sales of 1 million or over, on 6 January.[68][nb 4]

Critical reception and legacyEdit

Cash Box's reviewer predicted that the Beatles would "quickly trip the charts fantastic for the umpteenth time" with "We Can Work It Out" and described "Day Tripper" as a "hard-pounding, raunchy ode all about a gal who is somewhat of a tease".[70] Derek Johnson of the NME said the song "generates plenty of excitement" but it was "not one of the boys' strongest melodically",[71] and "the other side is much more startling in conception."[72] In his role as guest singles reviewer for Melody Maker, the Animals' Eric Burdon said he preferred "Day Tripper" and especially admired Harrison's guitar contributions, saying that rather than musical prowess, "It's what he does and when he does it." Burdon also wrote: "It's fantastic that every Beatles record that comes out gets knocked, then two or three days after everybody likes it. But I like this immediately."[73]

According to author and musician John Kruth, the guitar riff on "Day Tripper" was a part that every young guitarist in the UK and the US "had to learn".[74] Lenny Kaye, an aspiring musician in 1965, later described it as one of the era's "great riffs" and highlighted the song as an example of how the Beatles' music was always harder to master than that of contemporaries such as the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds.[75] The song's use of an octave-doubled guitar riff anticipated a characteristic of Cream and Led Zeppelin later in the 1960s, particularly in their respective songs "Sunshine of Your Love" and "Good Times Bad Times" and "Heartbreaker".[76][nb 5] The success of "Day Tripper" / "We Can Work It Out" popularised the double A-side format and, in giving equal treatment to two songs, allowed recording artists to show their versatility.[3]

By November 2012, the single had sold 1.39 million copies in the UK, making it the group's fifth million-seller in that country.[77] As of December 2018, the double A-side was the 54th best-selling single of all time in the UK – one of six Beatles entries in the top sales rankings published by the Official Charts Company.[78] In 2010, Rolling Stone ranked "Day Tripper" 39th in the magazine's list of "The 100 Greatest Beatles Songs".[49] In a similar list compiled by Mojo in 2006, the track appeared at number 74, a ranking that Keith Cameron bemoaned in his commentary for the magazine. He said it was the most riff-oriented of all the Beatles' songs and praised the group's performance, highlighting Lennon and McCartney's "finest tag vocal melodrama", Starr's effective drum rolls, and Harrison's ascending sequence over the middle eight for "lur[ing] us to the verge of hysteria".[18][nb 6]

Cover versions and musical referencesEdit

Otis Redding recorded the song for Stax Records in 1966.

In 1966, the song was covered by Otis Redding,[79] whose version peaked at number 43 on the Record Retailer chart in 1967.[80] According to MacDonald, Redding was delighted by the Beatles' imitation of his sound in "Drive My Car" and responded by recording "his own, madly up-tempo" arrangement of "Day Tripper".[81] Jon Savage cites Redding's covers of "Day Tripper" and the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" as part of a trend by Stax Records artists and other African-American soul musicians that acknowledged the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan but was "also an assertion of pop equality – 'We're just as good as you.'"[82][nb 7]

Kruth highlights Mae West's interpretation, from her 1966 album Way Out West, for its sexual suggestiveness, with lyrics such as "I'm a big teaser / I took him half the way there" and a musical backing that provides a "sizzling striptease groove".[83] Jimi Hendrix recorded what Kruth describes as a "red-hot 'Day Tripper'" for BBC Radio in 1967,[83] a performance subsequently issued on the 1998 Hendrix album BBC Sessions.[84]

Other artists who have covered "Day Tripper" include Nancy Sinatra, Herbie Mann, Lulu, Spirit, Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66, Jose Feliciano, Anne Murray, James Taylor, Type O Negative, Sham 69, Whitesnake, Mongo Santamaría, Ian Hunter, Brinsley Schwartz, Cheap Trick, Booker T. & the M.G.'s, Ramsey Lewis, ELO, Bad Brains, the Flamin' Groovies, Julian Lennon, Domingo Quiñones, Ricky Martin and Ocean Colour Scene.[40] McCartney included the song in his tour set list from 2009 to 2012. A live version appears on his 2009 album Good Evening New York City.[85]

Eric Clapton plays the riff during the song "What'd I Say" on the 1966 album Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton.[86] That same year, Buffalo Springfield included the riff in "Baby Don't Scold Me", a track available on the original pressing of the band's debut album, Buffalo Springfield.[87] Yes used it in the introduction to their 1969 cover of the Beatles' "Every Little Thing".[88] April Wine used the riff, along with that of the Stones' "Satisfaction", at the end of their song "I Like to Rock" in 1979.[89]

"Day Tripper" was the lead track on the Irish band Beethoven's 1989 Him Goolie Goolie Man, Dem EP.[90] Steven Wells named the record "Single of the Week" in the NME writing that "The centrestone of this jewel of a record is the kidnapping, tarring and feathering, mugging, shagging and destruction of "Day Tripper".[91]


According to Ian MacDonald:[92]


Weekly charts

Chart (1965–66) Peak
Belgian Walloon Singles[93] 12
Dutch MegaChart Singles[94] 1
Irish Singles Chart[95] 1
New Zealand Listener Chart[96] 8
Norwegian VG-lista Singles[97] 1
Swedish Kvällstoppen Chart[98] 1
UK Record Retailer Chart[99] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[100] 5
US Cash Box Top 100[101] 10


  1. ^ In a 1966 press conference, Starr said they called the album Rubber Soul to acknowledge that, in comparison to American soul artists, "we are white and haven't got what they've got". He added that this was true of all the British acts who attempted to play soul music.[20]
  2. ^ When asked by the Express whether this marked a "change in Beatlemania", Harrison attributed it to the unusual practice of marketing two songs instead of one.[32]
  3. ^ In his appreciation of the Beatles for Melody Maker before the single's release, Mike Hennessey wrote: "Their success is so completely without parallel that it always amuses me to see such and such a group rated as 'second only to the Beatles'. It's like saying brass is second only to gold. Even more fanciful are the popular press references to the Beatles being 'knocked off the No. 1 spot'. Nobody has ever knocked the Beatles off the No. 1 spot – they're way out of reach."[64]
  4. ^ In West Germany, the song's airplay was restricted due to concerns that "tripper" sounded like the German word for gonorrhea.[69]
  5. ^ Everett also views the rising scale and sustained harmony vocals in "Day Tripper"'s middle eight as a precedent for the organ passage heard in the Animals' 1966 single "Don't Bring Me Down".[76]
  6. ^ Cameron also commented on the significance of McCartney's "throaty gusto" when singing the verses, saying that despite the probability that Lennon's lyric was aimed at him, the musical empathy within the band in 1965 ensured "uniformly formidable" contributions from all four members.[18]
  7. ^ Another example, according to Savage, was J.J. Barnes's "stomping version" of "Day Tripper", released on Motown-owned Ric-Tic Records.[82]


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