Help! (song)

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Beatles help2.jpg
US picture sleeve
Single by the Beatles
from the album Help!
B-side"I'm Down"
Released19 July 1965 (US)
23 July 1965 (UK)
Recorded13 April 1965
StudioEMI Studios London
GenreFolk rock[1]
LabelParlophone, Capitol
Producer(s)George Martin
The Beatles UK singles chronology
"Ticket to Ride"
"Day Tripper" / "We Can Work It Out"
The Beatles US singles chronology
"Ticket to Ride"
Alternative cover
1982 UK picture sleeve
1982 UK picture sleeve
Music video
"Help!" on YouTube
Audio sample

"Help!" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles that served as the title song for the 1965 film and its soundtrack album. It was released as a single in July 1965, and was number one for three weeks in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Credited to Lennon–McCartney, "Help!" was written by John Lennon with some assistance from Paul McCartney. During an interview with Playboy in 1980, Lennon recounted: "The whole Beatles thing was just beyond comprehension. I was subconsciously crying out for help".

It was ranked at number 29 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[2]


The documentary series The Beatles Anthology revealed that Lennon wrote the lyrics of the song to express his stress after the Beatles' quick rise to success. "I was fat and depressed and I was crying out for 'Help'", Lennon told Playboy.[3] Writer Ian MacDonald describes the song as the first crack in the protective shell Lennon had built around his emotions during the Beatles' rise to fame, and an important milestone in his songwriting style.[4]

In the 1970 Rolling Stone "Lennon Remembers" interviews, Lennon said that the song was one of his favourites among the Beatles songs he wrote. In these interviews, Lennon said he felt that "Help!" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" were his most honest, genuine Beatles songs and not just songs "written to order". According to Lennon's cousin and boyhood friend Stanley Parkes, "Help!" was written after Lennon "came in from the studio one night. 'God,' he said, 'they've changed the title of the film: it's going to be called 'Help!' now. So I've had to write a new song with the title called 'Help!'."[5]

According to McCartney, he was called in "to complete it", providing the "countermelody" arrangement, on 4 April 1965 at Lennon's house in Weybridge.[6][7][8]


The Beatles recorded "Help!" in 12 takes on 13 April 1965 using four-track equipment. The first nine takes concentrated on the instrumental backing. The descending lead guitar riff that precedes each verse proved to be difficult, so by take 4 it was decided to postpone it for an overdub. To guide the later overdub by George Harrison, Lennon thumped the beat on his acoustic guitar body, which can be heard in the final stereo mix. Lead and backing vocals were recorded twice onto take 9, along with a tambourine. A reduction mix was applied to the two vocal tracks, taking three attempts (takes 10 to 12), freeing up a track for the lead guitar overdub.[9] This was the group's first use of two 4-track machines for "bouncing".[10]

The vocals were re-recorded for the film during a session on 24 May 1965 at CTS Studios, a facility specializing in post-synchronisation.[11] In addition to attempting a better vocal performance, the session might have been done to eliminate the tambourine (which had been on the same track as the vocals) since no tambourine appeared in the film sequence.[12] With the new vocals, a mono mix was created at CTS Studios which was used for the film soundtrack. Mixes for record releases were prepared on 18 June. For the mono version, Martin decided to use a mix of the opening chorus of take 12 edited to the remainder of the CTS film mix.[11] Because all instruments were combined on a single track for the CTS session, it could not be used for a stereo mix, so the stereo mix was made from take 12.[12]

This film version of the song was only heard on the original VHS releases of the movie, later replaced by the stereo mixes. A true release was never issued. New mixes were created for releases of the Help! CD (1987), the Love album (2006), and the Help! DVD (2007).[9]


The Beatles at a press conference in Bloomington, Minnesota in August 1965, shortly after the song's release

"Help!" went to number 1 on both the UK and US singles charts in late summer 1965. It was the fourth of six number 1 singles in a row on the American charts: "I Feel Fine", "Eight Days a Week", "Ticket to Ride", "Help!", "Yesterday" and "We Can Work It Out".[13] At the following year's Ivor Novello Awards, "Help!" was named as the second best-selling single of 1965, behind "We Can Work It Out".[14][15] "Help!" was nominated in four categories at the 1966 Grammy Awards but failed to win in any of them.[16]

The song appears on the Help! LP, the US Help! soundtrack, 1962–1966, the Imagine: John Lennon soundtrack, 1, Love, and The Capitol Albums, Volume 2. The mono version (with different vocals and no tambourine) was included on the Beatles' Rarities LP and in The Beatles in Mono collection. The American soundtrack album included a James Bond-type introduction to the song, followed by a caesura just before the opening lyric. No such introduction appeared on the British soundtrack album, nor was it included in the released single in either country.

Although Lennon was proud of "Help!" and the honesty it conveyed, he expressed regret that the Beatles had recorded it at such a fast tempo in the interests of giving the track more commercial appeal.[4] Music critic Dave Marsh refuted this idea, saying: "'Help!' isn't a compromise; it's bursting with vitality … [Lennon] sounds triumphant, because he's found a group of kindred spirits who are offering the very spiritual assistance and emotional support for which he's begging. Paul's echoing harmonies, Ringo's jaunty drums, the boom of George's guitar speak to the heart of Lennon's passion, and though they cannot cure the wound, at least they add a note of reassurance that he's not alone with his pain."[4]

Promotional films[edit]

The Beatles filmed the title performance for the movie Help! on 22 April 1965. The same footage (without the darts and credits seen in the film sequence) was used as a clip to promote the release of the single. It was shown starting in July 1965 on programmes such as Top of the Pops and Thank Your Lucky Stars.[17] They made another promotional clip of "Help!" on 23 November 1965 for inclusion in the year-end recap special of Top of the Pops. Directed by Joseph McGrath, the black-and-white clip shows the group miming to the song while sitting astride a workbench. Starr holds an umbrella overhead throughout the song, which becomes useful as fake snow falls during the final verse.[18] The November 1965 promo was included in the Beatles' 2015 video compilation 1.[19]

Live performances[edit]

The Beatles performed "Help!" live on the 1 August 1965 broadcast of Blackpool Night Out, which was included in the Anthology 2 album and shown during The Beatles Anthology documentary.[20] On 14 August, the group recorded a live performance of "Help!" and five other songs for The Ed Sullivan Show, broadcast the following month;[21] the show is available on the DVD The 4 Complete Ed Sullivan Shows Starring The Beatles.

"Help!" was included in the set list for The Beatles' 1965 US tour. The 15 August performance at Shea Stadium was seen in the 1966 documentary The Beatles at Shea Stadium, although the audio for the song was re-recorded prior to release.[22] The group's 29 August performance at the Hollywood Bowl was chosen for the 1977 album The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl.[23] The final live concert performances of "Help!" took place on The Beatles' 1965 UK tour in December.


Personnel per Ian MacDonald[24]

Charts and certifications[edit]

Cover versions[edit]

Song by Deep Purple
from the album Shades of Deep Purple
ReleasedJuly 1968
Recorded11–13 May 1968
Pye Studios, London
GenrePsychedelic rock, hard rock
LabelParlophone (UK (England))
Tetragrammaton (US)
Producer(s)Derek Lawrence
  • 1968 (1968): Deep Purple's slower tempo cover of "Help!" helped them secure a record contract and appeared on their debut album Shades of Deep Purple along with a promotional video of a rooftop performance. [48][49]
Tina Turner - Help.jpg
Single by Tina Turner
from the album Private Dancer
B-side"Rock 'n' Roll Widow"
Released25 February 1984
Format7", 12" single
Producer(s)Wilton Felder, Ndugu Chancler, Joe Sample
Tina Turner singles chronology
"Let's Stay Together"
"What's Love Got to Do with It"
Banana help.jpg
Single by Bananarama (with Lananeeneenoonoo)
from the album Greatest Hits Collection
Released13 February 1989
Format7" single, 12" single, CD single
RecordedJanuary 1989
LabelLondon Records
Producer(s)Stock Aitken Waterman
Bananarama singles chronology
"Nathan Jones"
"Cruel Summer '89"
  • 1976 (1976): Henry Gross covered "Help!" for the musical documentary All This and World War II.[50]
  • 1980 (1980): John Farnham released the song as a piano-based ballad at a much-slower tempo.[51] His version peaked at No.–8 on the Australian Kent Music Report Singles Chart.[52]
  • 1982 (1982): South African rock group Hotline, featuring PJ Powers, released the song as a single.[53]
  • 1984 (1984): Tina Turner released a ballad version of the song (recorded with The Crusaders) that peaked at number 14 in the Netherlands, number 25 in Belgium and number 40 in the United Kingdom. The song was included on European editions of her album Private Dancer.[54] It was a staple of her live shows for a time, and appears on her double album Tina Live in Europe and the Private Dancer Tour concert film.
  • 12 June 1985 (1985-06-12): Roy Orbison performed a shorter version of the song at much slower tempo for the television documentary Everyman: John Lennon "Journey In The Life".[55]
  • 1989 (1989): The song was recorded by Bananarama (with French & Saunders and Kathy Burke) and released as the Red Nose Day single to raise money for Comic Relief. French, Saunders and Burke were credited as "Lananeeneenoonoo"[56] (a parody of Bananarama, whom they imitated in the French & Saunders television programme). This version is one of Bananarama's best charting singles, and reached #3 in the UK charts. It was Bananarama's last UK Top 10 single. The song was featured on the 1989 Christmas episode ("The Jolly Boys Outing") of Only Fools and Horses. It was included on reissues of the band's The Greatest Hits Collection compilation in 1989.
  • 1997 (1997): dc Talk released a live album called Welcome to the Freak Show which featured a shorter version of this song as the opening track.[57]
  • 2001: The soundtrack to the film I Am Sam, which consisted entirely of Beatles covers, includes Howie Day performing a version of "Help!" at a slower tempo than the original. This tempo change is unique in the soundtrack, which was otherwise produced to mimic the tempos from the Beatles originals that were used in production, but changed to covers at the last minute due to licensing issues.[58]
  • 2003 (2003): Art Paul Schlosser recorded a parody of "Help!" ("Smelt"), which appears on his Words of Cheese and Other Parrot CD.
  • 2009: Silverstein covered "Help!" as a bonus track on their fourth album A Shipwreck in the Sand.
  • 2013: Krokus (band) covered the song on their album Dirty Dynamite.

Cultural references[edit]

  • The song is featured in "Cutting It Close", an episode of Full House, when Jesse Katsopolis breaks both of his arms in a motorcycle accident and has to adjust to a life in which he always needs assistance.
  • The lyrics are quoted in the film Yellow Submarine; when Young Fred knocks on the Beatles' door, he says, "Won't you please, please help me?"
  • In the Only Fools and Horses episode "The Jolly Boys' Outing", Mickey Pearce sings "Won't you please, please help me?" to a sleeping Albert, prompting Albert to tell him to "Get off, you noisy little git!" The version playing on the radio as Mickey sings is the Bananarama cover version rather than the original.
  • Several Major League Baseball teams (notably the New York Yankees) play the song when the opposing manager/pitching coach go out for a mound visit.
  • In his popular Carpool Karaoke recurring segment from The Late Late Show with James Corden, James Corden calls an unknown person, who turns out to be Paul McCartney, asking for help from "somebody, not just anybody" recalling lyrics from the song. [59]


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  2. ^ "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone.
  3. ^ Spitz 2005, p. 555.
  4. ^ a b c Sullivan, Steve (2013). Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings. Scarecrow Press. p. 224. ISBN 978-0-8108-8296-6.
  5. ^ 2004, p. 5.
  6. ^ MacDonald 2003, p. 153.
  7. ^ Miles 1998, p. 199.
  8. ^ Beatles Interview Database 1984, p. 2.
  9. ^ a b Winn 2008, pp. 314-316.
  10. ^ Help! stereo remaster 2009 inlay card, "Recording notes".
  11. ^ a b Winn 2008, p. 320.
  12. ^ a b Ryan & Kehew 2006, p. 392.
  13. ^ Wallgren 1982, pp. 38–45.
  14. ^ Miles 2001, p. 236.
  15. ^ KRLA Beat staff (13 August 1966). "Lennon and McCartney Win Three Composer's Awards". KRLA Beat. p. 3.
  16. ^ Miles 2001, p. 226.
  17. ^ Lewisohn 2000, p. 190.
  18. ^ Lewisohn 2000, pp. 206-208.
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  21. ^ Lewisohn 2000, pp. 198-199.
  22. ^ Lewisohn 2000, p. 215.
  23. ^ Winn 2008, p. 354.
  24. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 153.
  25. ^ " – The Beatles – Help" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  26. ^ " – The Beatles – Help" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  27. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 5644." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  28. ^ a b "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Help". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  29. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 32, 1965" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40 Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  30. ^ " – The Beatles – Help!" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  31. ^ Flavour of New Zealand, 16 September 1965
  32. ^ " – The Beatles – Help!". VG-lista. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  33. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Retrieved 1 September 2018.
  34. ^ "Swedish Charts 1962–March 1966/Kvällstoppen – Listresultaten vecka för vecka > Augusti 1965" (PDF) (in Swedish). Retrieved 27 June 2018.
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  37. ^ Hoffmann, Frank (1983). The Cash Box Singles Charts, 1950-1981. Metuchen, NJ & London: The Scarecrow Press, Inc. pp. 32–34.
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  41. ^ "Hits of the World". Billboard. 25 September 1965. p. 34. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  42. ^ "Top 20 Hit Singles of 1965". Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  43. ^
  44. ^ "Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 25, 1965". Archived from the original on 10 May 2017. Retrieved 16 February 2018.
  45. ^ Copsey, Rob (19 September 2017). "The UK's Official Chart 'millionaires' revealed". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  46. ^ "British single certifications – The Beatles – Help". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 5 July 2019. Select singles in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type Help in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  47. ^ "American single certifications – The Beatles – Help". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 14 May 2016. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 
  48. ^ "Deep Purple - Help! by The Beatles Songfacts".
  49. ^ "Deep Purple - Help! (Beatles Cover)".
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  54. ^ "Crusaders - Vocal Album CD". CD Universe. 1996–2012. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  55. ^ "Help!". The Beatles Universe. Archived from the original on 10 November 2012. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
  56. ^ "Comic Relief singles 1986-2001". UK Charts. 24 April 2003. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  57. ^ "dc Talk – Welcome To The Freakshow". Discogs. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  58. ^ Devenish, Colin; Devenish, Colin (7 November 2001). "Vedder, Crowes Meet the Beatles". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  59. ^ "Paul McCartney Carpool Karaoke".


External links[edit]