The Meaning Behind “Drive My Car” by The Beatles and How John Lennon Helped Bang It into Shape

“Drive My Car” owns a special place in Beatles history because of its status as the opening track to the 1965 album Rubber Soul, one of their greatest triumphs. On its own, it stands out as an early example of the band touching on more adult, even risqué matters, as they left their innocent moptop image behind.

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What is the song about? And how did John Lennon’s criticism help Paul McCartney bang the song into shape? Let’s rev up the engines and find out all about “Drive My Car.” Beep beep, yeah!

Constructive Criticism

The Beatles thrived on the songwriting partnership of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. But rarely was it a case of the two sitting next to each other, trading off musical notes and words until a song was complete. Instead, one would usually come to a session with at least an idea or a title or a melody, anything upon which they could build.

In the case of “Drive My Car,” McCartney provided the impetus with a melody that he really liked. However, his lyrics, which included the refrain You can buy me golden rings, were another story. McCartney knew that he didn’t have it right, and Lennon only confirmed his suspicions (allegedly calling the words “crap”). The two then struggled to find the right lyrics for the melody.

Since they seemed to be getting nowhere, McCartney suggested that they take a little break. During this little break, the phrase drive my car popped into his head. In the book Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now, McCartney explained how this phrase contained a double-meaning that appealed to the band’s salacious side:

“’Drive my car’ was an old blues euphemism for sex, so in the end all is revealed. Black humour crept in and saved the day. It wrote itself then. I find that very often, once you get the good idea, things write themselves.”

Songs like “Drive My Car” and “Day Tripper” (released around the same time) went a long way toward establishing The Beatles in a more adult vein. Although they had snuck sexual subtext into previous songs (take a good gander at the lyrics to “Please Please Me,” for instance), these later songs appealed to the audiences who were, like them, leaving behind childish things.

“Drive My Car” also benefits greatly from George Harrison‘s suggestion to incorporate a bass lick that he borrowed off Otis Redding’s version of “Respect.” That helped give the song a jolt of R&B energy and a sexy musical edge that befits the lyrics. McCartney played lead guitar on the track as well, adding some of his melodic expertise to that portion of the song.

The Meaning of “Drive My Car”

Here’s the thing: You can take the lyrics from “Drive My Car” at face value and still enjoy it. In that case, it’s about an aspiring actress who needs a chauffeur. She promises him great rewards for his services, until she reveals, in a bit of a twist ending, that she has no car.

But if you believe McCartney that the boys had something else in mind, it gives new meaning to the transactional aspect of the song. The girl suggests that having someone who can deliver for her in the bedroom is a necessary step to her goals. When the narrator protests that he has other plans for his life, she rebuts: Working for peanuts is all very fine / But I can show you a better time.

The final verse actually turns a bit tender, revealing the girl to be a bit lonely. But I found a driver and that’s a start, she explains, implying that you can fake it till you make it, as long as you have the right companion. So it was that “Drive My Car” went from golden rings to slick wheels, with a bit of innuendo thrown in for good measure.

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