With a Little Help from My Friends
|"With a Little Help from My Friends"|
|Song by the Beatles from the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band|
|Released||1 June 1967|
29–30 March 1967
|Genre||Pop rock, psychedelic pop|
|Label||Parlophone PMC 7027 (mono), PCS 7027 (stereo)|
|Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band track listing|
|"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"/"With a Little Help from My Friends"|
|Single by The Beatles|
|B-side||"A Day in the Life"|
|Released||14 August 1978 (US)
30 September 1978 (UK)
|Label||Capitol 4612 (US)
Parlophone R6022 (UK)
|The Beatles UK singles chronology|
"With a Little Help from My Friends" is a song by the Beatles, written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, from the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band issued worldwide in June 1967. The song was written for and sung by the Beatles' drummer Ringo Starr as the character "Billy Shears". The song, paired with "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and featuring "A Day in the Life" as its B-side, was reissued as a single in the U.S. in August 1978 (#71) and in the U.K. in September 1978 (#63). "With a Little Help from My Friends" was ranked No. 311 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Lennon and McCartney finished writing this song in mid-March 1967, 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." It was briefly called "Bad Finger Boogie" (later the inspiration for the band name Badfinger), supposedly because Lennon composed the melody on a piano using his middle finger after having hurt his forefinger.
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.)
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 — e.g. "Would you believe in a love at first sight?" where Starr answers, "Yes, I'm certain that it happens all the time."
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. 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. The following day they added tambourine, backing vocals, bass and more electric guitar.
- Ringo Starr – lead vocal, drums, tambourine
- Paul McCartney – backing vocal, bass, piano
- John Lennon – backing vocal, cowbell
- George Harrison – lead and rhythm guitars
- George Martin – producer, Hammond organ
- Geoff Emerick – engineer
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.
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.
There have been at least 50 cover versions of the song and it has achieved the number one position on the British singles charts three times: by Joe Cocker in 1968, Wet Wet Wet in 1988, and by Sam & Mark in 2004. The song was also covered by Mumford & Sons and Dawes on the Tour of Two Halves in 2012. Mumford & Sons also covered the song to close out their headline set at the 2013 Glastonbury Festival with Vampire Weekend, The Vaccines, First Aid Kit, and The Staves on 30 June 2013. For the 1981 compilation Rarities, the Beach Boys released their version recorded in 1967, while in 2015, Brian Wilson named it one of his favorite songs, and in that year German rock band Bonfire, with new frontman David Reece, recorded their version for the album Glörious.
Widespread Panic has performed the song twice, both times during their special 3-Set New Year's Eve shows. Widespread debuted "With A Little Help From My Friends" as the second song in their encore on 31 December 2014 at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina with the MegaBlasters on horns. The song was then featured as the second song in the third (after midnight) set on 31 December 2016 at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. It was the first non-instrumental song played after the midnight New Year's celebration. Several special guest musicians were onstage including the MegaBlasters horn section, Randall Bramblett, and the McCrary Sisters on vocals. The McCrary sisters sang the Beatles call and response lines with lead singer John Bell.
|"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 (UK)|
|Genre||Blues rock, hard rock, soul|
|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. This version gained even more fame when it was used as the opening theme song for the television series The Wonder Years. Cocker's cover was ranked number two in UpVenue's top 10 best music covers of all time in 2009. In 2014, a BBC poll saw it voted the seventh best cover version ever. 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.
- Joe Cocker: lead vocals
- Jimmy Page: guitar
- Chris Stainton: bass
- Tommy Eyre: organ
- B.J. Wilson: drums
- Madeline Bell: backing vocals
- Rosetta Hightower: backing vocals
- Patrice Holloway: backing vocals
- Sunny Wheetman: backing vocals
|"With a Little Help from My Friends"|
|Single by Wet Wet Wet|
|from the album Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father|
|A-side||"She's Leaving Home" (performed by Billy Bragg)|
|Released||9 May 1988 (UK)|
|Wet Wet Wet singles chronology|
In popular culture
The Joe Cocker version was used as the title music for the 1988–1993 television series The Wonder Years.
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 (partly owned by the Jackson family).
- Dowlding 1989, p. 165.
- "100 Greatest Beatles Songs. No. 61 – 'With a Little Help From My Friends'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
- Matovina 2000.
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- Lewisohn 1988, p. 106.
- "With A Little Help From My Friends". The Beatles Bible. Retrieved 2016-10-02.
- MacDonald 2005, p. 246.
- "With a Little Help Form My Friends". The Beatles Online. Retrieved 21 December 2012
- "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.
- "Song: With a Little Help From My Friends – John Lennon, Paul McCartney". Second Hand Songs. Retrieved 21 August 2011.
- "Number 1 Singles of the 1960s". everyHit.com. Retrieved 21 August 2011.
- "Number 1 Singles of the 1980s". everyHit.com. Retrieved 21 August 2011.
- "Number 1 Singles of the 2000s". everyHit.com. 16 March 2000. Retrieved 21 August 2011.
- "Mumford & Sons Get a Little Help From Their Friends for Glastonbury Finale". 30 June 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2013.
- bradelliott.com 1983.
- Wilson, Brian (May 8, 2015). "Brian Wilson: The Music That Made Me". Rolling Stone.
- "Everyday Companion".
- 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.
- UpVenue.com 2010.
- "Pet Shop Boys' Always On My Mind tops cover version vote". BBC News. 27 October 2014. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
- "Grammy Hall of Fame Award. Grammy.org Retrieved 21 December 2012
- on YouTube
- Fries 2009.
- 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" (PDF). 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.
- Quotations related to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band at Wikiquote
- How B.J. Wilson Rescued a Classic Joe Cocker Track (page about B.J. Wilson and Joe Cocker's recording of the song)
- Lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics
"Those Were the Days" by Mary Hopkin
|UK number one single
6 November 1968 – 13 November 1968 (Joe Cocker version)
"The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" by Hugo Montenegro & His Orchestra
"Perfect" by Fairground Attraction
|UK number one single
15 May 1988 – 12 June 1988 (Wet Wet Wet version)
"Doctorin' the Tardis" by The Timelords
"Take Me to the Clouds Above" by LMC vs U2
|UK number one single
15 February 2004 – 21 February 2004 (Sam and Mark version)
"Who's David?" by Busted