In my post on the last Beatles’ chart-topper, ‘I Feel Fine’, I suggested that it announced the arrival of Beatles MK II. The cool Beatles. The detached Beatles. The stoner Beatles.
Ticket to Ride, by The Beatles (their 7th of seventeen #1s)
3 weeks, from 22nd April – 13th May 1965
This, their seventh chart-topper in two years (!), is definitely mined from the same groove. It could even have been from the same recording session as ‘I Feel Fine’. The intro isn’t as scuzzy – the chiming guitars actually come across like a church bell on a Sunday morning – but that only lasts a second or two. Soon we lurch into a woozy, droney riff, with drums that roll, then thump, then disappear when you least expect. I’m no drummer, but am pretty sure that ‘Ticket to Ride’ should be produced as the first item of evidence when anyone claims Ringo couldn’t drum.
I think I’m gonna be sad, I think it’s today, Yeah…. The girl that’s drivin’ me mad, Is goin’ away, Yeah… Like most of the big Beatles hits, I grew up listening to this and could sing most of the words. But I’d never really noticed how desolate they were… She said that living with me, Was bringing her down… She would never be free, When I was around… Then how threatening they become: Before she gets to sayin’ goodbye, She oughta think twice, She oughta do right by me… We’re a long way from ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’, Toto.
Going by those lines, it seems as if Lennon & McCartney had been taking notes from the Rolling Stone’s book of romance. It’s the same sort of bruised bravado that we’ve heard in ‘The Last Time’ and ‘It’s All Over Now’. And that’s not the only thing they’d noticed – the clanging, ominous guitars here sound very Stonesy. Except… the lead guitar is also very US folk-rock. Very Byrds-y. And the guitar lick that connects the bridge back to the verses is… a mini-metal solo. Like, seriously.
‘Ticket to Ride’ is all about the details. Those drum-fills. That guitar lick. The chiming intro and the falsetto outro – My baby don’t care… – reminiscent of the way that they completely changed track for the last five seconds of ‘A Hard Day’s Night’. The Awww before the final She’s got a ticket to ride… It’s all about the details, because it’s an impossible record to categorise as a whole. It’s a beat-pop song at heart, but it’s also folksy, it’s heavy, it’s got bloody Indian sitar-sounding riffs thrown in…
I’m aware that this is going to be a very short post for a song of this stature. But we are seven songs into The Fab Four’s chart-topping run – there’s no need for an intro. And with ten more #1s to come from them we don’t need much of a postscript. I’ll leave you with a realisation that struck me midway through my sixth listen of ‘Ticket to Ride’… The Beatles were really, really good, weren’t they?
A playlist with all the #1s so far….