During the recording of The Beatles’ 1968 self-titled album, better known as The White Album, the band members often found themselves working in different studios at different times. Working relationships were hitting an all-time low, and with the band’s return from India finding them fractured and jaded, it wasn’t uncommon to see only one or two on a track at any given time.
The biggest offender was Paul McCartney, who recorded ‘Martha My Dear’, ‘Mother Nature’s Son’, ‘Wild Honey Pie’, and ‘Blackbird’ completely by himself during the sessions. McCartney was working so efficiently on his own that he would simply make up songs in the moment and record them, regardless if any of his bandmates were around. For one particularly tossed-off track, McCartney remembered a nature scene that took place during the band’s trip to India.
“I was up on the flat roof meditating and I’d seen a troupe of monkeys walking along in the jungle and a male just hopped on to the back of this female and gave her one, as they say in the vernacular,” McCartney recalled in the book Many Years From Now. “Within two or three seconds he hopped off again, and looked around as if to say, ‘It wasn’t me,’ and she looked around as if there had been some mild disturbance but thought, ‘Huh, I must have imagined it,’ and she wandered off.”
Adding: “And I thought, ‘Bloody hell, that puts it all into a cocked hat, that’s how simple the act of procreation is, this bloody monkey just hopping on and hopping off.’ There is an urge, they do it, and it’s done with. And it’s that simple. We have horrendous problems with it, and yet animals don’t. So that was basically it.”
“‘Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?’ could have applied to either fucking or shitting, to put it roughly. Why don’t we do either of them in the road? Well, the answer is we’re civilised and we don’t. But the song was just to pose that question. ‘Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?’ was a primitive statement to do with sex or to do with freedom really. I like it, it’s just so outrageous that I like it,” McCartney concluded.
One person who was not as fond of the song was John Lennon. “That’s Paul. He even recorded it by himself in another room,” Lennon groused to David Sheff in 1980. “That’s how it was getting in those days. We came in and he’d made the whole record. Him drumming. Him playing the piano. Him singing. But he couldn’t – maybe he couldn’t make the break from The Beatles. I don’t know what it was, you know. I enjoyed the track. Still, I can’t speak for George, but I was always hurt when Paul would knock something off without involving us. But that’s just the way it was then.”
Lennon was only partly right: McCartney provides almost all of the instrumentation on the record, but Ringo Starr was the drummer of the track. “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?’ was just Paul and me, and it went out as a Beatle track too,” Starr clarifies in Anthology. “We had no problems with that.” It seemed as though Starr wasn’t too concerned with not recording songs as a full band the way Lennon was.
McCartney later defended his isolate to author Hunter Davies. “It wasn’t a deliberate thing. John and George were tied up finishing something and me and Ringo were free, just hanging around, so I said to Ringo, ‘Let’s go and do this,'” McCartney explained. “Anyway, he did the same with ‘Revolution 9’. He went off and made that without me. No one ever says that. John is the nice guy and I’m the bastard. It gets repeated all the time.”