Open main menu

With a Little Help from My Friends

"With a Little Help from My Friends" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and intended as the album's featured vocal for drummer Ringo Starr. The group recorded the song towards the end of the sessions for Sgt. Pepper, with Starr singing as the character "Billy Shears".

"With a Little Help from My Friends"
Song by the Beatles
from the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Released May 1967 (1967-05)[1]
Recorded 29–30 March 1967
Studio EMI
Genre
Length 2:46
Label
Songwriter(s) Lennon–McCartney
Producer(s) George Martin

A subsequent recording of the track by Joe Cocker became a hit single in 1968 and an anthem for the Woodstock era.[2] In 1978, the Beatles' recording, paired with "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", was reissued as a single, and peaked at number 63 in Britain and number 71 in the United States. Starr has regularly performed the song in concert as a solo artist. "With a Little Help from My Friends" was ranked number 311 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Contents

OriginsEdit

Lennon and McCartney finished writing this song in mid-March 1967,[3] written specifically as Starr's track for the album. McCartney said: "It was pretty much co-written, John and I doing a work song for Ringo, a little craft job." In 1970 Lennon stated: "Paul had the line about 'a little help from my friends.' He had some kind of structure for it, and we wrote it pretty well fifty-fifty from his original idea.", but in 1980 Lennon said: "This is Paul, with a little help from me. 'What do you see when you turn out the light/ I can't tell you, but I know it's mine...' is mine."[4] It was briefly called "Bad Finger Boogie" (later the inspiration for the band name Badfinger),[5] supposedly because Lennon composed the melody on a piano using his middle finger after having hurt his forefinger.

The song begins with the applause from the end of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Lennon and McCartney deliberately wrote a tune with a limited range – except for the last note, which McCartney worked closely with Starr to achieve. Speaking in the Anthology, Starr explained that he insisted on changing the first line — which originally was "What would you think if I sang out of tune? Would you throw ripe tomatoes at me?" — so that fans would not throw tomatoes at him should he perform it live. (In the early days, after George Harrison made a passing comment that he liked jelly babies, the group was showered with them at all of their live performances.)[6]

The song's composition is unusually well documented, as Hunter Davies was present and described the writing process in the Beatles' official biography.

The song is partly in the form of a conversation in which the other two Beatles sing a question — e.g. "Would you believe in a love at first sight?" where Starr answers, "Yes, I'm certain that it happens all the time."

RecordingEdit

The Beatles began recording the song on 29 March 1967, the day before they posed for the Sgt. Pepper album cover. They recorded 10 takes of the song, wrapping up sessions at 5:45 in the morning.[7] The backing track consisted of Starr on drums, McCartney playing piano, Harrison playing lead guitar and Lennon beating a cowbell. At dawn, Starr trudged up the stairs to head home – but the other Beatles cajoled him into doing his lead vocal then and there, standing around the microphone for moral support.[4] The following day they added tambourine, backing vocals, bass and more electric guitar.[7]

PersonnelEdit

According to Ian MacDonald, except where noted:[8]

Live performancesEdit

To date, Starr has closed every concert performed by each version of his All-Starr Band with this song. After he is done singing, Starr tells the audience "Peace and love...peace and love is the only way...and good night", then walks off the stage. Since 2008, the band segued right into "Give Peace a Chance", during which Starr comes back onstage, then walks off again.

Starr performed the song with George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, George Michael, Phil Collins, Elton John, and many others at the 1987 Prince's Trust Concert at Wembley Arena, London.[10]

McCartney and Starr performed this song for the first time together at the David Lynch Foundation Benefit Concert in the Radio City Music Hall, New York on 4 April 2009. McCartney and Starr also performed the song together on "The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to The Beatles", a commemorative show on 27 January 2014, that marked 50 years since the band's first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show,[11] then again in 2015 at Ringo Starr's induction in the Rock'n Roll Hall of Fame.[12]

Cover versionsEdit

There have been at least 50 cover versions of the song[13] and it has achieved the number one position on the British singles charts three times: by Joe Cocker in 1968,[14] Wet Wet Wet in 1988,[15] and by Sam & Mark in 2004.[citation needed]

In March 2017, Broadway and Hollywood artists including Liz Callaway, FORTE, Annie Golden, Telly Leung and Chris Mann performed a gospel-flavored version of the song for a single and video to benefit Americans for the Arts.[16]

Joe Cocker versionEdit

"With a Little Help from My Friends"
 
Single by Joe Cocker
from the album With a Little Help from My Friends
B-side "Something's Coming On"
Released October 1968 (1968-10) (UK)
Format 7-inch record
Recorded 1968
Genre
Length 4:55
Label
Songwriter(s) Lennon–McCartney
Producer(s) Denny Cordell
Joe Cocker UK singles chronology
"Marjorine"
(1968)
"With a Little Help from My Friends"
(1968)
"Delta Lady"
(1969)
Joe Cocker US singles chronology
"Marjorine"
(1968)
"With a Little Help from My Friends"
(1968)
"Feeling Alright"
(1969)
Audio sample

English singer Joe Cocker's version of "With a Little Help from My Friends" was a radical re-arrangement of the original, in a slower, 6
8
meter, using different chords in the middle eight, and a lengthy instrumental introduction (featuring drums by Procol Harum's B.J. Wilson, guitar lines from Jimmy Page, and organ by Tommy Eyre). Cocker performed the song at Woodstock in 1969 and that performance was included in the documentary film, Woodstock. This version gained even more fame when it was used as the opening theme song for the television series The Wonder Years.[17] Cocker's cover was ranked number two in UpVenue's top 10 best music covers of all time in 2009.[18] In 2014, a BBC poll saw it voted the seventh best cover version ever.[19] The version heard in the film Across the Universe segues from the original to Cocker's arrangement at the end of the song. In 2001, Cocker's version of the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[20]

Personnel

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Everett 1999, p. 123. "In the United Kingdom Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band...was rush-released six days ahead of its official date, June 1."
  2. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 247.
  3. ^ Dowlding 1989, p. 165.
  4. ^ a b "100 Greatest Beatles Songs. No. 61 – 'With a Little Help From My Friends'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  5. ^ Matovina 2000.
  6. ^ The Beatles 2000, p. 242.
  7. ^ a b Lewisohn 1988, p. 106.
  8. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 246.
  9. ^ Everett 1999, p. 102.
  10. ^ "With a Little Help From My Friends". Retrieved 11 November 2017
  11. ^ "Paul McCartney and Friends: Change Begins Within". Radio City Music Hall. New York, NY: Madison Square Garden. Archived from the original on 21 January 2010. Retrieved 27 March 2010.
  12. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEGwjAKK5z4
  13. ^ "Song: With a Little Help From My Friends – John Lennon, Paul McCartney". Second Hand Songs. Retrieved 21 August 2011.
  14. ^ "Number 1 Singles of the 1960s". everyHit.com. Retrieved 21 August 2011.
  15. ^ "Number 1 Singles of the 1980s". everyHit.com. Retrieved 21 August 2011.
  16. ^ Kaufman, Gil (March 23, 2017). "Broadway Stars Come Together For All-Star Single 'With a Little Help from My Friends' to Support the Arts". Billboard. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  17. ^ Parrott, Billy (9 August 2013). "The Wonder Years: Music and References from Season One". The New York Public Library. Archived from the original on 2 September 2013.
  18. ^ UpVenue.com 2010.
  19. ^ "Pet Shop Boys' Always On My Mind tops cover version vote". BBC News. 27 October 2014. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  20. ^ "Grammy Hall of Fame Award. Grammy.org Retrieved 21 December 2012

ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit