I Can Help

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"I Can Help"
Single by Billy Swan
from the album I Can Help
B-side "Ways of a Woman in Love"[1]
Released July 1974[2]
Format 7"
Recorded 1974
Genre Pop, country
Length 2:58 (single edit)
4:01 (album version)
Label Monument
Writer(s) Billy Swan
Producer(s) Chip Young and Billy Swan
Certification Gold (RIAA)
Billy Swan singles chronology
"I Can Help"
(1974)
"I'm Her Fool"
(1975)

"I Can Help" is a song written[3] and performed by Billy Swan. Released in July 1974,[2] the song was a big crossover smash, reaching No. 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Country Singles charts late that fall. Although Swan had other charting singles on both the Hot 100 and country charts, the song is generally recognized as being Swan's only major hit single release. However, Swan had continued success as a songwriter for other artists and as a session musician.

Production[edit]

Billy Swan secured his own recording deal with Monument Records, after his return to Nashville in August 1963. From the time he secured the deal, Swan began composition of 'I Can Help' in a music room that his wife, Marlu, had converted from a closet inside the small duplex that they shared close to his city's Centennial Park.[2] Swan has revealed that he used a 'Rock' preset, from his Rhythm Master drum machine, when writing the song;[2] "It played 16ths and sounded like a sock cymbal, so I just started playing these chords along with it, and the song came in about 20 minutes. I didn't always write that quickly, but from my experience the ones that come quickly are the good ones. 'Lover Please' was like that, and so was 'Everything's the Same'. With 'I Can Help' I actually wrote the three verses first, and since I needed something to put between the second and third verse I then came up with the bridge. The whole thing just came out of the air, including the words."[2]

'I Can Help' was written during March 1974, and also during that time Billy Swan recorded it with producer and engineer Chip Young at the Young'un Sound studio. The distinctive keyboard were played by Swann on a portable Farfisa belonging to Memphis session musician Bobby Emmons.[2] The vocals were recorded with a Neumann U47, while Swan's Farfisa, Mike Leech's bass and Reggie Young's guitar, were all recorded direct. Dennis Linde and Johnny Christopher, who performed for the song on acoustic guitars, were each miked with Sony ECM lapel mics, while the setup for Hayword Bishop's drums comprised another pair of ECMs overhead on the cymbals, an Electrovoice RE15 on the toms, an RE20 on the kick and a Shure SM58 on the snare.[2] Keyboardist Bobby Wood was also booked for the session, but after hearing the track and realising he wasn't needed he joined Emmons and Young in the control room. Emmons and Young suggested overdubbing handclaps at the end to convey an in-studio party atmosphere, as well as adding some bridge-section backing vocals by Lea Jane Berinati and the Holliday Sisters.[2] Swan recalls, "Chip was excited after he recorded that part, but I went out there and listened to it, and I said, 'Boy, I don't know.' I listened to it over and over, until finally I said, 'Hey, man, nothing else will work.' It was actually a great solo, so that just shows you where my head is at. That part was so perfect, and today a lot of people remember the song because of that solo."[2]

In the album version, there is a false ending with the clapping, and a long extended cadenza on the organ, which is followed by an instrumental repeat of the ending, which is followed by a brief organ cadenza, which is then followed by another instrumental repeat of the ending before the song's fade.

Release[edit]

Swan's version of 'I Can Help' was released toward the end of July 1974. To make more money additionally from the song's commercial success, the co-producers returned to Young'un Sound to record more material for an I Can Help album. This included covers of 'Don't Be Cruel', 'Shake, Rattle & Roll' and Swan's own 'Lover Please', which topped the 1975 Billboard country charts.[2]

However, the success of the song would lead the record company arguing for which would be the first single on the album; "Everyone at the record company had actually wanted 'The Ways of a Woman in Love' to be the first single," Chip Young recalls. "I said, 'No, wait a minute. That's not the hit. The hit is 'I Can Help'.' However, [Monument Records president] Fred Foster then hired a guy who was supposed to know the ins and outs of the business, and he said, 'There aren't any hits here. We've gotta re-cut a bunch of stuff.' I said, 'No, we don't have to re-cut a bunch of stuff.' It was a battle from then on."[2]

Chart performance[edit]

In addition to being a No. 1 country and pop hit, "I Can Help" reached No. 6 on Billboard's Hot Adult Contemporary Singles chart and No. 6 on the United Kingdom's Record Retailer chart. In addition, the song was a hit throughout most of Europe and also reached No. 1 in Australia. "I Can Help" was so successful in Norway that it charted for 37 weeks on the Norwegian charts (VG-lista Top 10), making it the 4th best-performing single of all time in that country.[4]

"I Can Help" is certified gold for sales of 1,000,000 units by the Recording Industry Association of America. [1] In U.K., it has "Silver" certification, and in France, it has sales about 700,000.

Chart (1974–5) Peak
position
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 1
U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks 6
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 1
Canadian RPM Top Singles 2
Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary Tracks 4
Euro Hit 50 1
Norwegian Singles Chart 1
Austrian Top 40 1
Swiss Singles Chart 1
Belgian VRT Top 30 1
Dutch Top 40 1
German Singles Chart 1
Australian Kent Music Report 1
New Zealand Singles Chart 1
Swedish Singles Chart 1
Danish Singles Chart 1
French Singles Chart 1
South African Singles Chart 3
Spanish Singles Chart 4
U.K. Singles Chart 6
Irish Singles Chart 11
Italian Singles Chart 42

Year-End Chart[edit]

Chart (1974) Peak
position
Canadian RPM Top Singles 16
Chart (1975) Peak
position
Belgian VRT Top 30 4
Swiss Music Charts 5
Austrian Top 40 6
German Media Control Charts 10
Dutch Top 40 16
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 43

Cover versions[edit]

Elvis Presley recorded a version of the song on his 1975 album Today.

The song was recorded by Ringo Starr at Chips Moman's Three Alarm Studios in Memphis, in February 1987, but the recording was never released.[5][6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. p. 412. ISBN 0-89820-177-2. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Buskin, Richard. Classic Tracks: Billy Swan 'I Can Help'. Sound on Sound. November 2007. Accessed from December 21, 2012.
  3. ^ "The Billboard Book of Number One Hits" by Fred Bronson, 4th ed.
  4. ^ "BEST OF ALL TIME – SINGLES". VG-lista. Hung Medien. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Reference Library - The Lost Ringo Album - Internet Beatles Album". Retrieved September 28, 2014. 
  6. ^ "I Can Help - Ringo Starr". YouTube. Retrieved September 28, 2014. 
Preceded by
"Whatever Gets You thru the Night" by John Lennon
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
November 23, 1974 (two weeks)
Succeeded by
"Kung Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas
Preceded by
"She Called Me Baby" by Charlie Rich
Billboard Hot Country Singles number-one single
December 14, 1974 (two weeks)
Succeeded by
"What a Man My Man Is" by Lynn Anderson
Preceded by
"Country Is" by Tom T. Hall
RPM Country Tracks number-one single
December 14, 1974 (one week)
Succeeded by
"Back Home Again by John Denver

External links[edit]