How the Beatles Created the ‘First Heavy Metal Record Ever Made’
The Beatles have been called many things – including pioneers, innovators and icons. One thing they have rarely been called, however, is heavy metal.
Still, that’s exactly what John Lennon labeled the group’s 1965 single “Ticket to Ride.”
Like the majority of Beatles compositions, the track was a Lennon-McCartney creation. Paul McCartney reportedly came up with the tune’s distinctive drum parts, as well as his own high harmony vocals.
“‘Ticket To Ride' was slightly a new sound at the time. It was pretty heavy for then, if you go and look in the charts for what other music people were making,” Lennon later argued. “It's a heavy record and the drums are heavy, too. That's why I like it.”
Indeed, the drum part in particular seemed to be Lennon’s favorite ingredient on “Ticket to Ride.” During a 1980 interview with Playboy’s David Sheff, Lennon referred to the track as “one of the earliest heavy-metal records made. Paul’s contribution was the way Ringo played the drums.”
Watch the Beatles Perform 'Ticket to Ride'
McCartney recalled that he and Lennon wrote “Ticket to Ride” during a marathon songwriting session, pointing to a change of pace at the song’s ending as its most “radical” part.
“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,” McCartney explained in the 1998 authorized biography Many Years From Now. “We almost invented the idea of a new bit of a song on the fade-out with this song. It was something specially written for the fade-out, which was very effective but it was quite cheeky and we did a fast ending. It was quite radical at the time.”
Released on April 9, 1965, “Ticket to Ride” spent three weeks at No. 1 in the U.K., before later hitting No. 1 in the U.S., as well. It would later be featured in the Beatles film Help! and also appeared on its soundtrack.
As for Lennon’s “heavy metal” assertion, it’s a hard claim to prove – but also can’t be fully dismissed. The heavy metal genre was only in its gestation at the time of the single’s release, as bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple didn't arrive until later in the decade. “Ticket to Ride” bears much more of a pop melodic structure compared to those band’s works, but Ringo’s drums and the song’s frantic ending certainly sound different than the Beatles’ earlier material.
Could these distinctive characteristics in “Ticket to Ride” have influenced the burgeoning heavy metal scene? With the Beatles, anything is possible.
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