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
GenrePop rock[2]
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 (as Sgt. Pepper singer, Billy Shears), 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 success in 1968—topping the UK Singles Chart—and an anthem for the Woodstock era.[3] 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. The song 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 the song in mid-March 1967,[4] 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."[citation needed] 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."[5] It was briefly called "Bad Finger Boogie" (later the inspiration for the band name Badfinger),[6] 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. In The Beatles 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).[7]

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.[8]

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.[9] 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.[5] The following day they added tambourine, backing vocals, bass and more electric guitar.[9] American TeenSet editor Judith Sims interviewed each Beatle separately on the 29th as they became available. Others in the studio at various times included roadies Mal Evans and Neil Aspinall, publicists Tony Barrow and Terry Doran, photographers Leslie Bryce and Frank Herrmann, and Cynthia Lennon.[10]

Personnel[edit]

According to Ian MacDonald:[11]

The Beatles

Additional musician

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.[13]

The September 3 and 4, 1989 performances at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles appeared on the CD version of the charity album Nobody's Child: Romanian Angel Appeal.[citation needed]

McCartney and Starr performed this song together for the first time since 1967 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,[14] then again in 2015 at Ringo Starr's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[15]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[16] Silver 200,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

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,[17] by Wet Wet Wet in 1988,[18] and by Sam & Mark in 2004.[19]

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, inspired by Cocker's influences of Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles.[20] Recorded by Denny Cordell and Tony Visconti, it used a slower tempo than the original and deployed different chords in the middle eight while adding a lengthy instrumental introduction.[20] The recording featured drums by Procol Harum's B.J. Wilson, guitar lines from Jimmy Page, and organ by Tommy Eyre as well as prominent backing vocals.[20] 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."[21]

Cocker's version of the song reached number one on the UK Singles Chart on the week of 6–12 November 1968.[17] The version also peaked at number 68 on the Billboard Hot 100 (US) on the week of 14 December,[22] number two on the Dutch Top 40 (Netherlands) on the week of 9 November,[23] and number one on Swiss Hitparade's top 100 singles chart on the week of 3 December.[24] In Belgium's Ultratop 50 singles charts, it also peaked at number one on the Wallonia chart on the weeks of 14[25] and 21 December[26] and number eight on the Flanders chart on the week of 7 December.[27]

Cocker performed the song at Woodstock in 1969 and that performance was included in the documentary film, Woodstock. Two weeks later he performed it at the Isle of Wight Festival 1969.[20] This version gained even more fame when it was used as the opening theme song for the television series The Wonder Years.[28] In 2002 he would perform the song at the Party at the Palace held at Buckingham Palace Garden in commemoration of the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.[29] In 2014, a BBC poll saw it voted the seventh best cover song ever.[30] In 2001, Cocker's version of the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[31]

Personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]

Chart (1968) Peak
position
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[32] 1
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[33] 8
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[34] 36
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[35] 2
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[36] 1
UK Singles (OCC)[37] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[38] 68
US Cashbox Top 100[39] 54

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[40] Silver 200,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Wet Wet Wet version[edit]

"With a Little Help from My Friends"
Wet Wet Wet cover.jpg
Single by Wet Wet Wet
from the album Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father
B-side"She's Leaving Home" (performed by Billy Bragg and Cara Tivey)
Released9 May 1988
StudioPark Lane Studios, Scotland
GenrePop rock
Length2:34
LabelThe Precious Organization
Songwriter(s)Lennon-McCartney
Producer(s)Wet Wet Wet
Wet Wet Wet singles chronology
"Temptation"
(1988)
"With a Little Help from My Friends"
(1988)
"Sweet Surrender"
(1989)

In 1988, Scottish soft rock band Wet Wet Wet covered the song for the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band tribute album Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father. The song was released as a single in May 1988 double-A-sided with another cover from the album, "She's Leaving Home" by Billy Bragg and Cara Tivey. Wet Wet Wet's version debuted at Number 5 on the UK Singles Chart on 14 May 1988.

Charts[edit]

Chart (1988) Peak
position
United Kingdom 1[41]

Certifications[edit]

Certifications for "With a Little Help from My Friends"
Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[42] Silver 250,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

Sam & Mark version[edit]

"With a Little Help from My Friends"
With-a-Little-from-My-Friends-by-Sam-and-Mark.jpg
Single by Sam & Mark
B-side"Measure of a Man"
Released21 February 2004 (2004-02-21) (UK)
Recorded2003
GenrePop rock
Label19 Recordings
Songwriter(s)Lennon–McCartney
Producer(s)David Eriksen
Sam & Mark UK singles chronology
"With a Little Help from My Friends"
(2004)
"The Sun Has Come Your Way"
(2004)

The UK duo Sam & Mark released a cover of the song in 2004 after coming third and second in the second and final series of Pop Idol.[43] Their version topped the UK Singles Chart.[44]

Tracklist
  1. "With a Little Help from My Friends" - 3:08
  2. "Measure of a Man" 4:00
  3. "With a Little Help from My Friends" (Video) - 3:08
Credits
  • Arrangement - Sindre Hotvedt, David Eriksen
  • Conductor – Sindre Hotvedt
  • Backing Vocals – Håkon Iversen, Mariann Lisland
  • Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes] – Martin Sjolie
  • Assistant engineer – Nick Taylor
  • Guitar – Eivind Aarset
  • Strings - Sindre Hotvedt, Oslo Session Strings
  • Keyboards, Drum Programming, Drums (Additional Live) – David Eriksen
  • Mixing – Niklas Flyckt
  • Assistant Mixing – Jonas Östman
  • Assistant producer – Martin Sjolie
  • Producer - David Eriksen
  • Recording – David Eriksen
  • Mastering – Richard Dowling
Charts
Chart (2004) Peak
position
Ireland (IRMA)[45] 22
UK Singles (OCC)[46] 1

Other covers[edit]

Two versions of the song made the UK Singles Chart in 1967. The Young Idea's version peaked at number ten and spent 6 weeks in the top 75, while a version by Joe Brown charted at the same time,[47] peaking at number 32 and remaining in the top 75 for 4 weeks.[48]

The Canadian band Kick Axe reached number 79 in Canada with their version, January 18, 1986.[49]

In 2018, the track returned as a charity released by the NHS Voices with all benefits going to the UK National Health Service (NHS). The charity version reached only number 89 and stayed just 1 week on the UK charts.[48]

References[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. ^ R. Staley, Samuel (2020). The Beatles and Economics - Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and the Making of a Cultural Revolution. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9780429776410.
  3. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 247.
  4. ^ Dowlding 1989, p. 165.
  5. ^ a b "100 Greatest Beatles Songs. No. 61 – 'With a Little Help From My Friends'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  6. ^ Matovina 2000.
  7. ^ The Beatles 2000, p. 242.
  8. ^ Kurlansky, Mark. (2004). 1968 : the year that rocked the world (1st ed.). New York: Ballantine. p. 189. ISBN 0-345-45581-9. OCLC 53929433.
  9. ^ a b Lewisohn 1988, p. 106.
  10. ^ Winn, John C. (2009). That Magic Feeling: The Beatles' Recorded Legacy, Volume Two, 1966–1970. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press. pp. 96–98. ISBN 978-0-307-45239-9.
  11. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 246.
  12. ^ Howlett, Kevin (2017). Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (50th Anniversary Deluxe Version) (book). The Beatles. Apple Records.
  13. ^ Prince's Trust – "With a Little Help From My Friends" – Ringo Starr. Retrieved 11 November 2017
  14. ^ "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.
  15. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney & Friends 2015 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame". YouTube.
  16. ^ "British single certifications – Beatles – With a Little Help from My Friends". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 23 April 2021.
  17. ^ a b "Official Singles Chart Top 50: 06 November 1968 – 12 November 1968". Official Charts. United Kingdom. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  18. ^ "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.
  19. ^ "Sam and Mark - With a Little Help from My Friends/Measure of a Man". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  20. ^ a b c d Padgett, Ray (2017). Cover me : the stories behind the greatest cover songs of all time. New York: Sterling. pp. 70–77. ISBN 978-1-4549-2250-6. OCLC 978537907.
  21. ^ Brandle, Lars (23 December 2014). "Paul McCartney Pays Respects to 'Good Mate' Joe Cocker". Billboard. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  22. ^ "The Hot 100 – The week of December 14, 1968". Billboard. 2 January 2013. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  23. ^ "Top 40 – week 45 (9 november 1968)". Top 40. The Netherlands. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  24. ^ "Schweizer Hitparade – Singles Top 100 (03.12.1968)". hitparade.ch. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  25. ^ "Ultratop Singles (14/12/1968)". Ultratop (Belgique (Wallonie) ed.). Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  26. ^ "Ultratop Singles (21/12/1968)". Ultratop (Belgique (Wallonie) ed.). Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  27. ^ "Ultratop Singles (07/12/1968)". Ultratop (Belgique (Vlaanderen) ed.). Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  28. ^ 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.
  29. ^ "McCartney and John top Jubilee gig". BBC. 26 February 2002. Retrieved 11 June 2022.
  30. ^ "Pet Shop Boys' Always On My Mind tops cover version vote". BBC News. 27 October 2014. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  31. ^ "Grammy Hall of Fame Award. Grammy.org Retrieved 21 December 2012
  32. ^ "Joe Cocker – With a Little Help from My Friends" (in French). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  33. ^ "Joe Cocker – With a Little Help from My Friends" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  34. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 5889." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
  35. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 45, 1968" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  36. ^ "Joe Cocker – With a Little Help from My Friends". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  37. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  38. ^ "Joe Cocker Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  39. ^ "Cashbox Top 100: December 14, 1968". cashboxmagazine.com. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
  40. ^ "British single certifications – Joe Cocker – With a Little Help from My Friends". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 4 October 2022.
  41. ^ "with a little help from my friends/she's leaving home | full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company". www.officialcharts.com. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  42. ^ "British single certifications – Wet Wet Wet – With A Little Help ..." British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 30 July 2022.
  43. ^ YouTube: Sam & Mark - "With A Little Help From My Friends"
  44. ^ The Official Charts: Sam & Mark Chart positions
  45. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – With a Little Help from My Friends". Irish Singles Chart.
  46. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 5 January 2021.
  47. ^ "With a Little Help from my Friends Charts". Official Charts. Retrieved 14 July 2021.
  48. ^ a b Official Charts: With a Little Help from Friends
  49. ^ "RPM Top 100 Singles - January 18, 1986" (PDF).

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]