When was it recorded? Feb. 15, 1965
When was it first released, and on which album? Apr. 9, 1965 as a single (later on “Help!”)
Who wrote it? Lennon (with noteworthy contribution from McCartney)
Have I heard this song before? Yes
What my research dug up:
John was the main writer of “Ticket to Ride;” Paul definitely contributed, but the duo disagree on how much. Paul called the collaboration 60:40 [with John contributing 60% and Paul contributing 40%], but John claimed, “Paul’s contribution was the way Ringo played the drums” (David Sheff, All We Are Saying). (Something they did agree on? Both of them really liked the sped-up coda.)
So what does “ticket to ride” mean? On the surface level, Wikipedia writes, “the song lyrics describe a girl riding out of the life of the narrator.” As always, though, we have options that open other avenues of interpretation.
Paul wanted to take the punny route. According to the Beatles Bible, “McCartney’s cousin Bett and her husband Mike Robbins owned a pub on Union Street in Ryde, on the north coast of the Isle of Wight. In the early 1960s Lennon and McCartney hitchhiked to stay with them, and several years later the journey inspired a pun on the phrase ‘ticket to Ryde’ in the song.” According to Paul’s biography, John wasn’t too keen on the double meaning when Paul suggested explicitly writing it in though.
John took the sexual innuendo route. (Do I need to explain how “ride”/“riding” is slang for having sex here? I think we’ve all received that memo by now.)
“The girls who worked the streets in Hamburg had to have a clean bill of health and so the medical authorities would give them a card saying that they didn’t have a dose of anything. I was with The Beatles when they went back to Hamburg in June 1966 and it was then that John told me that he had coined the phrase ‘a ticket to ride’ to describe these cards. He could have been joking – you always had to be careful with John like that – but I certainly remember him telling me that.” – journalist Don Short (Steve Turner, A Hard Day’s Write)
The Beatles recorded “Ticket to Ride” during the first session for “Help!” on Feb. 15, 1965. According to the Beatles Bible, “Although completed in just two takes, the first of which was a false start, ‘Ticket To Ride’ was the first Beatles song to be built from the ground up. Whereas in the past they’d rehearsed and recorded what amounted to an ‘as-live’ performance of their songs, from February 1965 they adopted the practice of recording just the rhythm tracks, and then building from there.” After recording, the Beatles experimented with overdubs for three hours before settling on the final product.
Quoth Alan Pollack, “After the folksy originals and nostalgic covers of the ‘Beatles For Sale’ album, ‘Ticket To Ride’ brings with it a measure of tight toughness that is most welcome to those wondering whether this erstwhile sharp edge of the group’s attitude and style had fled following the ‘Hard Day’s Night’ album.” Indeed, “Ticket to Ride” was the first song from “Help!” to be released. The single reached #1 in Canada, the Netherlands, the US, and the UK. The RIAA eventually certified the single Gold, and Rolling Stone ranked it #394 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
“Ticket to Ride” appeared in the film “Help!” This scene was filmed Mar. 20, 1965 in Obertauern, Austria.
Quoth the Beatles Bible, “[‘Ticket to Ride’] also became part of The Beatles’ live repertoire in 1965, particularly on their summer tour of America. They played it during their final appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, and at their Shea Stadium and Hollywood Bowl concerts.”
Live versions recorded for the TV show “Blackpool Night Out” and the radio show “The Beatles Invite You To Take A Ticket To Ride” appeared on “Anthology 2” and “Live at the BBC” respectively.
Until tomorrow, I’ll be trying to figure out where this video footage is from.