With a Little Help from My Friends

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"With a Little Help from My Friends"
Sgtpepperslonelyheartsclubbandsinglecover.jpg
US reissue picture sleeve (1976)
Song by the Beatles
from the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Released26 May 1967 (1967-05-26)[1]
Recorded29–30 March 1967
StudioEMI, London
Length2:46
Label
Songwriter(s)Lennon–McCartney
Producer(s)George Martin

"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 sung by drummer Ringo Starr, his lead vocal for the album. As the second track on the album, it segues from the applause of the title track.

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.

Background and composition[edit]

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.

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]

After it was released in the United States, Maryland Governor and future Vice President Spiro T. Agnew lobbied to have the song banned because he believed it was about drug use.[7]

Recording[edit]

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.[8] 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.[8]

Personnel[edit]

According to Ian MacDonald, except where noted:[9]

Live performances[edit]

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.[11]

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,[12] then again in 2015 at Ringo Starr's induction in the Rock'n Roll Hall of Fame.[13]

Cover versions[edit]

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,[14] by Wet Wet Wet in 1988,[15] and by Sam & Mark in 2004.[16]

Joe Cocker version[edit]

"With a Little Help from My Friends"
With a Little Help from My Friends by Joe Cocker UK vinyl single Side-A.png
Single by Joe Cocker
from the album With a Little Help from My Friends
B-side"Something's Coming On"
ReleasedOctober 1968 (1968-10) (UK)
Recorded1968
Genre
Length5:12
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
instead of the 4
4
beat in the original Beatles version, 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). After recording the song, Cocker and record producer Denny Cordell brought it to Paul McCartney, who later said of the recording, "it was just mind blowing, totally turned the song into a soul anthem and I was forever grateful for him for doing that."[17]

Cocker's version of the song reached number one on the UK Singles Chart on the week of 6–12 November 1968.[14] The version also peaked number 68 on the Billboard Hot 100 (US) on the week of 14 December,[18] number two on the Dutch Top 40 (Netherlands) on the week of 9 November,[19] and number one on Swiss Hitparade's top 100 singles chart on the week of 3 December.[20] In Belgium's Ultratop 50 singles charts, it also peaked number one on the Wallonia chart on the weeks of 14[21] and 21 December[22] and number eight on the Flanders chart on the week of 7 December.[23]

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.[24] In 2014, a BBC poll saw it voted the seventh best cover song ever.[25] The version heard in the film Across the Universe segues from the original to Cocker's arrangement at the end of the song.[citation needed] In 2001, Cocker's version of the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[26]

Personnel

Chart (1968) Peak
position
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[27] 1
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[28] 8
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[29] 2
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[30] 1
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[31] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[32] 68

Notes[edit]

  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. ^ Kurlansky, Mark. (2004). 1968 : the year that rocked the world (1st ed.). New York: Ballantine. p. 189. ISBN 0-345-45581-9. OCLC 53929433.
  8. ^ a b Lewisohn 1988, p. 106.
  9. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 246.
  10. ^ Everett 1999, p. 102.
  11. ^ Prince's Trust – "With a Little Help From My Friends" – Ringo Starr. Retrieved 11 November 2017
  12. ^ "Paul McCartney and Friends: Change Begins Within". Radio City Music Hall. New York City. Archived from the original on 21 January 2010. Retrieved 27 March 2010.
  13. ^ "Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney & Friends 2015 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame". YouTube.
  14. ^ a b "Official Singles Chart Top 50: 06 November 1968 – 12 November 1968". Official Charts. United Kingdom. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  15. ^ "with a little help from my friends/she's leaving home | full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company". www.officialcharts.com. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
  16. ^ "Sam and Mark - With a Little Help from My Friends/Measure of a Man". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  17. ^ Brandle, Lars. "Paul McCartney Pays Respects to 'Good Mate' Joe Cocker". Billboard. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  18. ^ "The Hot 100 – The week of December 14, 1968". Billboard. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  19. ^ "Top 40 – week 45 (9 november 1968)". Top 40. The Netherlands. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  20. ^ "Schweizer Hitparade – Singles Top 100 (03.12.1968)". hitparade.ch. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  21. ^ "Ultratop Singles (14/12/1968)". Ultratop (Belgique (Wallonie) ed.). Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  22. ^ "Ultratop Singles (21/12/1968)". Ultratop (Belgique (Wallonie) ed.). Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  23. ^ "Ultratop Singles (07/12/1968)" (Belgique (Vlaanderen) ed.). Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ "Pet Shop Boys' Always On My Mind tops cover version vote". BBC News. 27 October 2014. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  26. ^ "Grammy Hall of Fame Award. Grammy.org Retrieved 21 December 2012
  27. ^ "Ultratop.be – Joe Cocker – With a Little Help from My Friends" (in French). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  28. ^ "Ultratop.be – Joe Cocker – With a Little Help from My Friends" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  29. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 45, 1968" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40 Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  30. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Joe Cocker – With a Little Help from My Friends". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  31. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  32. ^ "Joe Cocker Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 8 August 2019.

References[edit]

External links[edit]