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The Story Behind the Song: The Beatles first heavy metal track 'Ticket to Ride'


Many regard Rubber Soul as The Beatles record that changed not only the way the Fab Four did things in the studio but would also have a profound impact on the way other bands did things from then on. However, one could argue that it was Help! that marked a shift in The Beatles’ attitude towards the art of recording. 

The first song that The Beatles tracked for their 1965 record, Help! was ‘Ticket to Ride’Up to that point, traditionally the lads from Liverpool would rehearse a number and then record it live. ‘Ticket to Ride’, however, was built from bottom to top; the rhythm tracks were recorded and then overdubs were done later, with some new experimentation leading them into new recording territory. 

The Beatles started their sessions for the iconic ‘Ticket to Ride’ on the 15th of February in 1965. It wasn’t only this method of recording that made the song revolutionary. 

“Ticket To Ride’ was slightly a new sound at the time. It was pretty fucking heavy for then, if you go and look in the charts for what other music people were making,” Lennon remarked. He even went so far as to say that it was “one of the earliest heavy-metal records made.” Many would regard their 1968 song, ‘Helter Skelter as the first heavy-metal track — Lennon said otherwise.

It is important to realise when considering this bold claim, that heavy metal as a genre didn’t exist in 1965, and what Lennon was getting at was the way the song was structured, the instrumentation on it was so remarkably different from the rest of the rock scene. Lennon’s point is that it was the heaviest thing at the time. 

Another exciting and innovative element of the song is that it also pioneered the idea that a song can have a completely different ending to it, in other words: an outro. Paul McCartney, who claims to have written a significant portion of the song, had stated: “I think the interesting thing is the crazy ending instead of ending like the previous verse, we changed the tempo. We picked up one of the lines, ‘My baby don’t care,’ but completely altered the melody.”

Whether or not Lennon wrote the whole thing has been a debate that’s been around for quite a while. The phrase, ‘ticket to ride’, came from when Lennon and McCartney hitchhiked to the north end of the Isle of Wight, to a place called ‘Ryde’. “I remember talking about Ryde but it was John’s thing,” Macca admitted. The original form of the phrase was ‘ticket to Ryde’ and it stuck with Lennon for a few years, eventually becoming ‘ride’.

The journalist, Don Short, who went to Hamburg with The Beatles in 1966, speculated that the title refers to medical cards that were handed to prostitutes who worked the streets if they were ‘clean’ and contained no STDs. Hence, she has a ‘ticket to ride’.

Whether it was the ultimate heavy metal number or a cheeky reference to free-loving, the song is an absolute classic and deserves another listen