What Goes On

Album: Rubber Soul (1965)
Charted: 81

Songfacts®:

  • Left off the US version of Rubber Soul, this was released as the B-side to "Nowhere Man" in America. The song dates back to 1957, when the group was known as The Quarrymen. The Quarrymen were a Skiffle group, Skiffle being a king of music reminiscent of Country & Western with roots in Jazz, involving banjos and various improvised instruments such as a washboard and a washtub. John Lennon was tremendously influenced by Lonnie Donegan, and The Quarrymen in fact covered several Donegan songs. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • Ringo helped Lennon and McCartney write this and received his first songwriting credit for it - the composition credit on most Beatles songs is Lennon/McCartney, but this is credited to Lennon/McCartney/Starkey. Ringo also sang lead.

    Incidentally, this song being partially credited to "Starkey" is a good time to point out that Ringo Starr's actual name is "Richard Starkey," a fact even some Beatles fans seem to be in the dark about.

    What was Ringo's comment on having received his first song-writing credit? At a 1966 press conference for the album, Ringo jested in his typical self-deprecating style that he'd written "About five words, and I haven't done a thing since!"
  • John Lennon can be heard answering Ringo's vocal "Tell me why," with "I already told you why," A reference to their earlier song "Tell Me Why."
  • "What Goes On" is considered a follow-up to "Please Please Me." Both songs have lyrics revolving around pining for a lover who doesn't love them back, and asking why it has to be that way.

Comments: 18

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn March 6th 1966, "What Goes On" by the Beatles entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #89; the following week it was at #81 and that was also its last week on the Top 100...
    But this wasn't the Beatle record with the shortest stay on the Top 100; they had five records that had spent only one week in the chart; "There's A Place" {at #74}, "Why"* {at #88}, "Sie Liebt Dich (She Loves You)" {at 97}, "I Just Happy to Dance with You" [at #95}, and "Inner Light" {at #96}...
    R.I.P. John and George...
    * On “Why” Tony Sheridan was the lead singer.
  • Carl from Apg, MdReplying to Stefanie magura, Rock Hill, SC:
    Right, this song was on the British (but not U.S.) version of Rubber Soul. In the U.S., it first came out as flip side of "Nowhere Man" single, and later it was on the "Yesterday and Today" LP. The CD's you refer to were indeed made from the British albums.
  • Susan from Toronto, CanadaJohn Lennon said, "A very early song of mine. Ringo and Paul wrote a new middle-eight together when we recorded it." From the book BEATLESONGS by William J. Dowlding.
  • Matthew from Lexingt, VaI think the reason people hear country & western sounds in this song is that contemporary country has incorporated elements of the Beatles sound--not the other way around. The country & western elements in this song don't sound to me like the honky tonk and ballad-style country music popular in the fifties and sixties.
  • Faith from Liverpool, --It's great how Ringo has a continuous drum beat going and he is also singing lead vocal. What an amazing musician.
  • Rosario from Naples, FlI like this song, it was the B-side to "Nowhere Man" when it was released in the US. It's sometimes listed as "What Goes On?"
  • Forrest from Rochester, MnInteresting you mention the guitar sound, Vincent, because I was thinking that it sounds like they recorded the guitar track, took the tape and cut it into pieces and taped it back together, like they did later on "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"
  • Doc Jerry from Buffalo, NyThis tune shows Ringo's mastery at keeping a solid groove throughout the entire track. His control and ease amaze ALL pro drummers even today, more notable, Christopher Parker ( works with Steely Dan and Donald Fagen ). This was recorded in a time before "digital" and analog and 4 tracks were all they were using. In other words, it was played live. Of course the vocals were over-dubbed, but if a drummer or someone who knows a good groove when they hear it listens to RIngo's sound in this tune, he will be totally floored at his bass drum accumen. ANd this was in the day when Ludwig was the big name in drums. Plus he played his drums nearly in a standing position and with boots on. My God, he was talented! Never forget how much that man did for the groove.
  • Dave from Bronx, NyThe song is very country.
  • Warrinder from A Town, CanadaThe UK versions arn't released in North America. Yellow Submarine is supposed to be on Real Love, which wasn't released in North America. They just put it on the North American Revovler.
  • Mike from Germantown, MdYou're Right, Stefanie. The UK versions of Beatles albums are released on CD. The only way to own the US versions is to own them on record.
  • George from Itaberaba, BrazilRingo and Paul changed Lennon's verses. Ringo said that he changed "five words".
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScThe song may not be on the U.S. album version of rubber soul, but it's on the cd version. I think that' because all of the cd's are the UK versions of the albums. Am I right on that?
  • Vincent from Austin, Txthis might be a commen element in country western music, im not sure, but in the verses, epesically th first, the guitar is this incrediably complex gurgelling of choked chord fragments, with an occasional note left to ring. its crazy.
  • Jordan from Wimette, Ilringo said he only wrote 5 words
  • Kristen from Aurora, IlI think George does a good job on guitar on this song if it's him playing. It sounds like him though.
  • Alexandre from São Paulo, BrazilJohn wrote this song. Ringo only change some words.
  • Paulo from New York, NyThey could alter a credit to include Starr, but they didn't bother to specify which Beatle wrote which song in the later albums? Odd.
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