With a Little Help from My Friends

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French TV, 23.10.1968

Retrieved from Wikipedia:
With a Little Help from My Friends on Wikipedia
"With a Little Help from My Friends"
Song by the Beatles from the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Released1 June 1967
RecordedEMI Studios
29–30 March 1967
GenrePop rock, psychedelic pop
Length2:44
LabelParlophone
WriterLennon–McCartney
ProducerGeorge Martin
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band track listing

"With a Little Help from My Friends" (originally titled "A Little Help from My Friends") is a song written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, released on the Beatles album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967. The song was written for and sung by the Beatles' drummer Ringo Starr as the character "Billy Shears". It was ranked No. 311 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Origins

Lennon and McCartney finished writing this song in mid-March 1967,[1] written specifically as Starr's track for the album. It was briefly called "Bad Finger Boogie" (later the inspiration for the band name Badfinger),[2] supposedly because Lennon composed the melody on a piano using his middle finger after having hurt his forefinger; but in his 1980 Playboy interview 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." Lennon also attributed most of the song to McCartney in his 1972 Hit Parader interview: "Paul. It was Paul's idea. I think I helped with some of the words. In fact, I did. Hunter Davies was there when we did it and mentioned it in the book. 'What do you see when you turn out the light, I can't tell you but I know it's mine.' That was mine." McCartney, though, claims at least partial credit for the line, stating: "I remember giggling with John when we wrote the lines 'What do you see when you turn out the light? I can't tell you, but I know it's mine.' It could have been him playing with his willy under the covers, or it could have been taken on a deeper level."[3]

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 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?" He changed the lyric 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.)[4]

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 three Beatles sing a question and Starr answers, for example: "Would you believe in a love at first sight? / Yes, I'm certain that it happens all the time."

The band started recording the song the day before they posed for the Sgt. Pepper album cover (29 March 1967), wrapping up the session at 5:45 in the morning.[5] 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.[3]

Personnel

  • Ringo Starr – lead vocal, drums, tambourine
  • Paul McCartney – backing vocal, bass, piano
  • John Lennon – backing vocal, cowbell
  • George Harrison – backing vocal, lead guitar
  • George Martin – producer, Hammond organ
  • Geoff Emerick – engineer
Personnel per Ian MacDonald[6]

Cover versions

There have been at least 50 cover versions of the song[7] and it has achieved the number one position on the British singles charts three times: by Joe Cocker in 1968,[8] Wet Wet Wet in 1988[9] and by Sam & Mark in 2004. The song was also covered by Mumford & Sons and Dawes on the Tour of Two Halves in 2012.[10]

"With a Little Help from My Friends"
Single by Joe Cocker
from the album With a Little Help from My Friends
ReleasedOctober 1968
Format7"
Recorded1968
GenreBlues rock, hard rock
Length5:11
LabelRegal Zonophone
Joe Cocker singles chronology

Joe Cocker version

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. His cover was ranked number two in UpVenue's top 10 best music covers of all time in 2009.[11] 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.[12]

Personnel

  • Joe Cocker: vocals
  • Jimmy Page: guitar
  • Chris Stainton: bass
  • Tommy Eyre: organ
  • B.J. Wilson: drums
  • Rosetta Hightower: backing vocals
  • Sunny Wheetman: backing vocals
"With a Little Help from My Friends"
Single by Wet Wet Wet
B-side"She's Leaving Home"
Released9 May 1988
Format7"
Recorded1988
GenrePop
LabelPolyGram
Wet Wet Wet singles chronology
"With a Little Help from My Friends"
Single by Sam & Mark
Released9 February 2004
FormatCD
GenrePop
LabelS
Sam & Mark singles chronology

Cultural references

The Joe Cocker version was used as the title music for the 1988–1993 television series The Wonder Years. "With a Little Help from My Friends" was played as wake-up music on Space Shuttle Mission STS-61.[13]

On Saturday Night Live, Season-1 Ep.3: John Belushi performed a full-length impression of Cocker singing this song.

To date, Starr has closed every concert with 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 and Elton John at the 1987 Prince's Trust Concert at Wembley Arena, London.[14] 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.[15]

The cult PBS film The Lathe of Heaven (from 1980) uses the original recording of the song. The main character (George Orr), who can manipulate reality with his dreams, comes upon a 45 of the song at a novelty shop run by an alien. The alien hands George the 45 saying "Help is available." The song plays in the soundtrack and morphs into a synthesizer version. The film was out of circulation for over 20 years. When it was finally re-aired on PBS and released on DVD in 2001, many fans were upset that the original Beatles recording was replaced by a singer with an acoustic guitar. This was due to changes in publishing rights that have occurred since 1980 involving the dissolution of The Beatles' original Northern Songs and the acquisition by Sony/ATV (party owned by the Jackson family).[citation needed]

Notes

  1. ^ Dowlding 1989, p. 165.
  2. ^ Matovina 2000.
  3. ^ a b "100 Greatest Beatles Songs. No. 61 – 'With a Little Help From My Friends'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 18 June 2012. 
  4. ^ The Beatles 2000, p. 242.
  5. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 106.
  6. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 246.
  7. ^ "Song: With a Little Help From My Friends – John Lennon, Paul McCartney". Second Hand Songs. Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  8. ^ "Number 1 Singles of the 1960s". everyHit.com. Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  9. ^ "Number 1 Singles of the 1980s". everyHit.com. Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  10. ^ "Number 1 Singles of the 2000s". everyHit.com. 16 March 2000. Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  11. ^ UpVenue.com 2010.
  12. ^ "Grammy Hall of Fame Award. Grammy.org Retrieved 21 December 2012
  13. ^ Fries 2009.
  14. ^ "With A Little Help Form My Friends". The Beatles Online. Retrieved 21 December 2012
  15. ^ "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. 

References

  • The Beatles (2000). The Beatles Anthology. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. ISBN 0-8118-2684-8. 
  • Chianello, Joanne (2 October 2009). "Harper gets on stage with a little help from his wife". Ottawa Citizen. Archived from the original on 6 October 2009. Retrieved 2 October 2009. 
  • Dowlding, William J. (1989). Beatlesongs. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-68229-6. 
  • Fries, Colin, ed. (30 November 2009). "Chronology of Wakeup Calls". National Aeronautics and Space Administration. 
  • Lewisohn, Mark (1988). The Beatles Recording Sessions. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 0-517-57066-1. 
  • MacDonald, Ian (2005). Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties (Second Revised ed.). London: Pimlico (Rand). ISBN 1-84413-828-3. 
  • Matovina, Dan (2000). Without You: The Tragic Story of Badfinger. Frances Glover Books. ISBN 0-9657122-2-2. "Apple's Neil Aspinall remembers, "(...) Badfinger just popped in my head. It was from an old Lennon thing. He was playing the piano and he had a bad finger so he called the piece he was playing 'Bad Finger Boogie' (which evolved into 'With A Little Help From My Friends')" 
  • "Original liner notes for Capitol’s Beach Boys Rarities album". bradelliott.com. 1983. 
  • "Ringo Starr – With a Little Help from My Friends". The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. 13 January 2010. 
  • Kilpatrick, Sean (4 October 2009). "Stephen Harper rocks out". thestar.com (Toronto). Retrieved 22 October 2009. 
  • "UpVenue Top 10 Best Music Covers". UpVenue.com. 2010. 

External links

  • How B.J. Wilson Rescued a Classic Joe Cocker Track (page about B.J. Wilson and Joe Cocker's recording of the song)
   

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