The Beatles’ 1968 LP, The White Album, marked the beginning of the end. Just three years after its release, the Fab Four would go their separate ways, unable to relate to one another and each set on pursuing something of their own. The tensions between John, Paul, George and Ringo had been simmering well before they boiled over, however, and ‘Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?’ is one of the clearest examples of the rupture that gradually drove The Beatles apart.
By the time The White Album rolled around, The Beatles bore very little resemblance to their former, teen-bopper selves. They’d stopped touring, for one thing, having played their final live concert in 1966. Then, there was their new fashion sense, which saw them ditch the well-cut suits for colourful flares and eccentric jackets. But, perhaps the greatest change The Beatles underwent was an entirely internal one. The White Album saw Lennon, McCartney and the like embrace their individual creative personas like never before; perhaps because of the possibilities available to them in the studio, or perhaps simply because they’d grown weary of being small cogs in the Beatles machine.
Indeed, the individual Beatles members’ hunger for individuality saw them begin to write and record songs separately from one another, occasionally dividing into two factions, with Paul and Ringo on one side and John and George on the other. ‘Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?’, for example, was spontaneously recorded by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr without any input from John or George, a creative decision that Lennon found hurtful.
During an interview following The Beatles’ break up, Lennon described how McCartney’s choice to record the track on his own seemed to reflect the isolation within the group. “That’s Paul,” Lennon began, describing the origins of ‘Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?’. “He even recorded it by himself in another room. 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 – 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.”
But, in McCartney’s view, he was only doing what Lennon had done countless times before with ‘Revolution 9’ and ‘Julia’. “It wasn’t a deliberate thing,” he began. “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.’ 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.”