May 05

THE BEATLES – “Day Tripper”/”We Can Work It Out”

Popular28 comments • 4,059 views

#207, 18th December 1965

As pop gets more explicit, it’s easy to become nostalgic about acts’ creative attempts to smuggle drugs and sex into their songs. But most of the time the references work the way they do in “Day Tripper” – she’s a big teaser, she’s a day tripper, subtle stuff there lads! The song’s a frustrated goodbye, but who’d really blame a girl for having fun with boys whose eagerness to please is so apparent? I had it in my mind that this was a track where the Beatles rocked out, and the riff/backbeat matrix reminds me of the Stones’ recent hits, but there’s a neatness, a pertness about this band on this record. The breakdown could be the chance to nail the riff to our skulls but the band’s ascending, harmonised “aaah”s turn it into a big pop celebration instead. And it’s wonderful, but I’m left wondering who exactly are the teasers here.

The tambourine from “Day Tripper” shows up on “We Can Work It Out”, where everyone sounds more relaxed. Paul McCartney uses precisely banal language to deliver a lesson in reasonable conflict management in the verses, with Lennon’s witty harmonium humming in agreement. From my perspective, grown up in a house which owned a copy of Sergeant Pepper’s and not much else (by anyone!), the waltz-time middle eight is the first time the Beatles really sound “Beatlish”, the storied makers of reassuringly delightful songs.



  1. 1
    Tom on 17 May 2005 #

    (It’s nice to be back. I will try not to make a habit of month-long laziness.)

  2. 2
    Lena on 17 May 2005 #

    I was wondering when you’d return! Welcome back!

    I like both of these songs about equally, and yes, they do seem poised between what had already come and what was to be – I don’t know if this is where Oasis start with their Beatles influence, or whether that comes later. (I think it does.)

    Why two songs though? How did that work as a single? Would radio stations play both songs, back to back, or what?

  3. 3
    Tom on 17 May 2005 #

    Some singles are officially classified as “double A sides” and are listed on the charts as such. In theory this means that radio programmers are free to play both, in actual fact this doesn’t often happen. With some singles the ‘switch’ happened halfway through the record’s life, as the record company asks DJs to play the other side in an attempt to prolong its chart run.

    The double-A side lives on in the era of 2 CDs per single: the last one to top the chart was, I think, “Flap Yr Wings”/”My Place” by Nelly.

    I reserve the right in Popular to be entirely disproportionate in the attention I give to each side of a double-A!

  4. 4
    Lena on 17 May 2005 #


  5. 5
    Anonymous on 18 May 2005 #

    First time I heared “We can..” I thought it was about how the Beatles were really good at solving problems, and how you should employ them rather than trying to solve the problem yourself.

    Check the lyrics, nothing contradicts this…

    (Mark Grout – Anon)

  6. 6
    Alan Connor on 18 May 2005 #

    Hello again!

    Resurrection Watch: “We Can Work It Out”s include Stevie Wonder’s, Chaka Khan’s, Petula Clark’s and King Missile’s. And “Day Tripper”s include Jimi Hendrix’s, Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66’s, Yellow Magic Orchestra’s, Mae West’s, Sham 69’s, Nancy Sinatra’s, Randy California’s, James Taylor’s and (shudder) Ocean Colour Scene’s and Oasis’s.

  7. 7
    Anonymous on 18 May 2005 #

    Huzzah! Tom’s back! One feared that “The Carnival is Over” finished you off for good!

    That being said, I was at first baffled by the 7–then I thought fair enough for a double A-side: 8 for “Day Tripper” and 6 for “We Can . . .” So, then, OK.

    Because I’m working on a book (tentatively titled Britannia Waives the Rules) which examines the effect of the “Permissive Society” legislations on British literature and culture (collapsing the distinctions between “high” and “low” art), I found the comments about “smuggling” sex and drug references into the lyrics interesting. It was so very daring then–and absolutely quaint–charmingly so, I think–by today’s standards.

    Last week, I ended my queer lit course with the novel Breakfast on Pluto (in which, in one scene, the characters sing “We Can Work It Out”) and spent a whole class session showing video clips–including one of the Beatles stoned out of their minds and miming “Day Tripper”–of 60s British acts in order to contextualize the pop culture fantasies of the protagonist. Most of the class loved it. (A few looked puzzled or distressed.) Strange thing is, a extraordinary number of these twenty-year-olds know many of these songs–they were singing along with them. No one can convince me that, since the sixties at least, pop music isn’t the most influential cultural tradition of the postmodern world.

    And yes, this record is an almost paradigmatic example of a certain “Beatleness” that still brings me cheer whenever I hear it.

    Doctor Mod

  8. 8
    Anonymous on 18 May 2005 #

    As to the Resurrection Watch–

    I once saw/heard Annie Lennox (still in Eurythmics then) sing “Day Tripper” live in concert (We Two are One Tour, 1989). I don’t know if she ever recorded it, though.

    Doctor Mod

  9. 9
    Tom on 18 May 2005 #

    Yes, it’s an 8. I was wrong, knew it pretty much as soon as I’d published it but (my own self-imposed) rules are rules.

  10. 10
    Rosie on 18 May 2005 #

    Ooh! Nice to see you back Tom – I missed you!

  11. 11
    Elle Bee on 19 May 2005 #

    Never forget Cheap Trick’s cover of “Day Tripper”. Never do that.

  12. 12
    Anonymous on 19 May 2005 #

    When it comes to re-makes, “Day Tripper” must have accumulated one of the oddest assortment of artists ever. Along with those already mentioned, I find at All Music Guide: Lulu, Anne Murray, Otis Redding, Mongo Santamaria, and Whitesnake.


  13. 13
    Alan Connor on 20 May 2005 #

    Okay, so it’d be better to hear personal responses to these songs, but this is Cover Heaven, so let’s add in, for “Day Tripper”, Booker T & The MGs, Whitesnake and ELO. And for “We Can Work It Out”: Big Youth, Dionne Warwick and Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons.

  14. 14
    Anonymous on 20 May 2005 #

    Was John Lennon secretly gleaning inspiration form travel catalogues and brochures ?

    Spending too much time in ariports and hotels ?

    Ticket to Rhyde ? Then Day Tripper ?

    Not a co-incidence, methinks.

    What’s next ? Drive My Car ?


  15. 15
    Caledonianne on 14 Jul 2007 #

    And then there’s the – ahem – Sacha Distel take on “We can work it out”…

  16. 16
    Lyfsabeech on 7 Aug 2008 #

    I have a demo disc of these two tracks, back to back on an A label disc. Sent to Pete Murray in 1965. Is it worth keeping?

  17. 17
    Lyfsabeech on 7 Aug 2008 #

    I have a demo disc of these two tracks, back to back on an A label disc. Sent to Pete Murray in 1965. Is it worth keeping?

  18. 18
    thefatgit on 25 Mar 2010 #

    And in these 2 songs you have the transition from backbeat driven pop-rock to the beginning of their psychedelic soundscaping period. It feels as though it’s a natural shift, as if they were destined to play around with the limitations of what the traditional four-piece beat group were capable of.

    Day Tripper’s chief attraction is that riff that sucks you in, then the easy humour of the lyrics. Lennon again. (“Are you a Mod or a Rocker?” a plucky journo asks “I’m a mocker” Lennon says, or was that George? It should be Lennon). The Fab 4 are at their most likeable, yet they’re about to challenge everything, including the question: are we really pop?

    We Can Work It Out always seemed to me to come from late-period Beatles rather than at this point. It must be Paul’s lazy or resigned delivery, the way each verse is hurried, almost slurred. Then that dreamy waltz-time carnival comes into view bursting with ideas and possibilities. The “show” is barely beyond the horizon. An escape from the limitations of the 4-piece beat group.

  19. 19
    pink champale on 6 May 2010 #

    oh no tom, you fell (several years ago) for paul’s trick! i’m always mazed that no one ever picks up that his verses in ‘we can work it out’ are the precise opposite of reasonable conflict management. what he’s actually saying, in the most maddening tone possible, is that it is unreasonable for the other person to disagree with him and that the only way they are going to get any peace is if they jolly well sort themselves out and admit that he was right all along (or he’ll dump them). i do have a lot of time for macca but listening to this you can totally see the character traits that drove the other beatles mad in the end.

  20. 20
    crag on 14 Apr 2011 #


    Howard Goodall, musician, composer(2008).

  21. 21
    Lena on 9 Aug 2011 #

    Christmas cheer? http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.com/2011/08/far-from-mechanical-cliff-richard-wind.html Thanks for reading, everyone, hugs to all!

  22. 22
    lonepilgrim on 14 May 2012 #

    meanwhile over in the USA, right at the end of the year, another British act hit number 1 – as noted here:


  23. 23
    lonepilgrim on 29 May 2012 #

    while the Beatles stuck around into 1966 the USA got another number 1 – the rest is silence:


  24. 24
    lonepilgrim on 5 Jun 2012 #

    In early January, this Beatles record hit Number One in the USA as well, as noted here


  25. 25
    hectorthebat on 19 Apr 2014 #

    Critic watch (DT):

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Dave Marsh & Kevin Stein (USA) – The 40 Best of the Top 40 Singles by Year (1981) 17
    Dave Marsh (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made (1989) 382
    Greil Marcus (USA) – STRANDED: “Treasure Island” Singles (1979)
    Paul Williams (USA) – Rock and Roll: The 100 Best Singles of All Time (1993)
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 100 Greatest Beatles Songs (2010) 39
    Stephen Spignesi and Michael Lewis (USA) – The 100 Best Beatles Songs (2004) 32
    Mojo (UK) – The 100 Greatest Singles of All Time (1997) 62
    Mojo (UK) – The 101 Greatest Tracks by The Beatles (2006) 74
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 100 Singles of All Time (1976) 25
    Now & Then (Sweden) – The Beatles’ 50 Best Songs (1992) 41
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Hervé Bourhis (France) – Le Petit Livre Rock: The Juke Box Singles 1950-2009
    Toby Creswell (Australia) – 1001 Songs (2005)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)


    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Dave Marsh & Kevin Stein (USA) – The 40 Best of the Top 40 Singles by Year (1981) 17
    Dave Marsh (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made (1989) 689
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 100 Greatest Beatles Songs (2010) 30
    Stephen Spignesi and Michael Lewis (USA) – The 100 Best Beatles Songs (2004) 38
    Mojo (UK) – The 101 Greatest Tracks by The Beatles (2006) 72
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 100 Singles of All Time (1976) 25
    Q (UK) – The Ultimate Music Collection (2005)
    Uncut (UK) – The 50 Greatest Beatles Tracks (2001) 33
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  26. 26
    phil6875 on 12 Apr 2015 #

    The Beatles are one of only six artists to have simultaneously held the top spot in the U.S. and U.K. singles and albums charts and this is the single they did it with. ‘Rubber Soul’ being the album.

  27. 27
    lonepilgrim on 26 Jul 2015 #

    the year began with a variety of expressions of male angst at broken relationships directed to the woman in question. Here ,in contrast, Lennon talks to US about her, putting her down with a sense of irritation that might sound bitter if it were not for the energy of the song itself. He doesn’t sound heartbroken just pissed off for having his time wasted. WCWIO initially sounds more positive, and musically it feels quite open and welcoming but there’s a return of the circus motif in the verses (alongside the ‘fussing and fighting’ lines) similar to the one that we heard in ‘I got you babe’ only here it serves to highlight a slightly pious and lecturing tone from McCartney.

  28. 28
    Gareth Parker on 30 Apr 2021 #

    I think Tom’s original mark of 7 is spot on. Both are solid Fab Four tracks.

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)

If this was number 1 when you were born paste [stork-boy] or [stork-girl] into the start of your comment :)


Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page