"I'm Down" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles written by Paul McCartney (credited to Lennon–McCartney) and first released as the B-side to the single "Help!" in 1965. According to critic Richie Unterberger of AllMusic, "I'm Down" is "one of the most frantic rockers in the entire Beatles' catalog." McCartney told writer Barry Miles that the song and his vocal style on it were influenced by Little Richard, "I used to sing his stuff but there came a point when I wanted one of my own, so I wrote 'I'm Down.'"
US picture sleeve (reverse)
|Single by the Beatles|
|Released||19 July 1965 (US)|
23 July 1965 (UK)
|Recorded||14 June 1965|
|Studio||EMI Studios, London|
|Genre||Rock and roll|
|The Beatles UK singles chronology|
|The Beatles US singles chronology|
The Beatles recorded the backing track in seven takes. The first of these takes can be heard on Anthology 2, with a quiet organ track and no backing vocals. At the beginning of the Anthology version, McCartney says, "Let's hope this one turns out pretty darn good, huh?" in a faux American accent. During the session, particularly between takes one and two, McCartney can be heard repeating the phrase "Plastic soul, man, plastic soul". He later said that the phrase, which the Beatles later adapted for the title of their album Rubber Soul, was used by black musicians to describe Mick Jagger.
The official release date for the "Help"/"I'm Down" single was 19 July 1965 on Capitol Records in the United States and 23 July on Parlophone in the United Kingdom. "I'm Down" was never released on an official Beatle studio album, and was only available in the US in mono as the B-side of the "Help!" single until the summer of 1976. That year, it appeared in stereo on Rock 'n' Roll Music, a compilation LP released in the US by Capitol featuring up-tempo Beatles' tracks. The first CD release was in 1988 on the compilation Past Masters, Volume One, where it appeared in true stereo.
During their performance at Shea Stadium in August 1965 (the largest audience the Beatles ever drew during their career as a live touring band), the band played a memorably frenzied version of the song, with John Lennon playing a Vox Continental combo organ with his elbows at times. Lennon's antics caused both Lennon and George Harrison to laugh during the performance as they sing backing vocals from the same microphone. Footage of this performance may be seen on The Beatles Anthology video. Paul McCartney won praise for his soulful singing when they performed it at the Hollywood Bowl.
The band also played this song during their 12 September 1965 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, which was recorded 14 August 1965, the day before the Shea concert. Lennon played the keyboard with his elbow for this performance as well. However, Lennon played guitar, rather than organ, for a version recorded in Tokyo on their 1966 tour, even though a Vox organ was set up on stage.
The Beatles also played "I'm Down" to close their brief live concert at the Circus Krone-Bau in Munich, West-Germany, on June 24, 1966. A recording of the show was aired on German television some time later and can be accessed through several sites. In this show, just prior to playing "I'm Down", an interlude occurred providing a glimpse of the relationships between the band members:
After the Beatles finished the next-to-last song on the playlist ("Nowhere Man") Paul McCartney announces in halting German that they will now play their final song and he thanks the audience. But rather than starting to play, McCartney and George Harrison exchange a few words, and it appears McCartney is saying that he forgot the first line ("You telling lies thinking I can't see") of the song. Then, John Lennon turns to McCartney and laughingly recites a line in the same rhythm. Some commentators believe that Lennon was helping McCartney to remember, but in fact, he was playing a little joke on his bandmate, scanning "You feel down and you're not gonna sing". McCartney then starts the song with the second verse ("Man buys ring woman throws it away"). After the chorus, he tries his hand one more time on the first verse but never gets it right. The whole thing seems to take place in a spirit of camaraderie and fun.
McCartney played the song to open his set at The Concert for New York City following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. The concert was held at Madison Square Garden in support of firefighters, policemen, and other public workers who suffered from the aftermath of the attacks. He also reintroduced "I'm Down" into his set list for his three concerts at Citi Field (which replaced Shea Stadium) in July 2009.
- Paul McCartney – lead vocal, bass
- John Lennon – backing vocal, rhythm guitar, Vox Continental organ
- George Harrison – backing vocal, lead guitar
- Ringo Starr – drums, bongos
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- Heart covered this song as a medley with "Long Tall Sally" on their 1980 album Greatest Hits Live. It was on the live side of the album.
- In 1983, Adrian Belew released his second solo record, Twang Bar King, which began with a version of this song.
- In 1982, Jay Ferguson recorded it for his album White Noise.
- Aerosmith recorded a cover version of this song for the band's 1987 album Permanent Vacation.
- Deacon Blue released a live cover version of this song as a B-side on their 1991 single, "Twist and Shout" (which is a different song than the Beatles' recording of the same name).
- The Kentucky Headhunters included a cover version on their 2006 album Big Boss Man.
- A live cover of this song recorded in 1976 appears on the YesYears box set by Yes. The band also did the song live during the 9012Live tour, with a performance in Dortmund, Germany featuring Jimmy Page playing with them on the song.
- New Grass Revival included a cover of this song on their 1989 album Friday Night in America.
- The Punkles recorded a punk version of this song for their second album, Punk!.
- The Beastie Boys recorded a version of this song to be featured on their debut album, Licensed to Ill, The lyrics, tempo and melody were substantially different but on the chorus portion "How can you laugh" used a sample of the original Beatles recording without securing permission to do so. The song was deleted from the final track list at the last minute due to licensing restraints but can be found on some Beastie Boys bootlegs.
- The Mummies recorded a cover on their (You Must Fight To Live) On The Planet Of The Apes EP.
- The Reatards released a version on their cassette-only album Fuck Elvis Here's The Reatards Cassette.
- The Bawdies recorded a cover version.
- The Warriors used to perform the song live along with "She's a Woman". Both songs can be found on Bolton Club 65 released in 2003.
- Victory released a version of this song on their 1985 debut album, Victory.
- Unterberger 2007.
- Barry Miles, Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now, 1998
- Lewisohn 1988, p. 59.
- The Beatles Bible 2008.
- Lewisohn 1988, pp. 59–60, 62, 200–201.
- Apple Records 1996.
- Cross 2005, p. 378.
- Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 28 - The British Are Coming! The British Are Coming!: The U.S.A. is invaded by a wave of long-haired English rockers. [Part 2]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries. Track 2.
- MacDonald 2005, p. 156.
- Cross, Craig (2005). The Beatles: Day-by-Day, Song-by-Song, Record-by-Record. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, Inc. ISBN 978-0-595-34663-9.
- "I'm Down". The Beatles Bible. 2008. Retrieved 25 November 2008.
- Lewisohn, Mark (1988). The Beatles Recording Sessions. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 978-0-517-57066-1.
- Lewisohn, Mark (1996). Anthology 2 (booklet). The Beatles. London: Apple Records. 34448.
- MacDonald, Ian (2005). Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties (Second Revised ed.). London: Pimlico (Rand). ISBN 978-1-84413-828-9.
- "Past Masters, Vol. 1". Amazon.com. 2007. Retrieved 4 March 2007.
- Unterberger, Richie (2007). "Review of "I'm Down"". Allmusic. Retrieved 4 March 2007.