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||26 May 1967|
|Recorded||29–30 March 1967|
"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. 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" by the Beatles was ranked number 311 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Background and composition
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 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.)
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. 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.
- Ringo Starr – lead vocal, drums, tambourine
- John Lennon – backing vocal, cowbell
- Paul McCartney – backing vocal, piano, bass guitar
- George Harrison – lead guitar, backing vocals
- George Martin – Hammond organ
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.
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, then again in 2015 at Ringo Starr's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Silver||200,000|
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.
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, by Wet Wet Wet in 1988, and by Sam & Mark in 2004.
Joe Cocker version
|"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"|
|Joe Cocker UK singles chronology|
|Joe Cocker US singles chronology|
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."
Cocker's version of the song reached number one on the UK Singles Chart on the week of 6–12 November 1968. The version also peaked number 68 on the Billboard Hot 100 (US) on the week of 14 December, number two on the Dutch Top 40 (Netherlands) on the week of 9 November, and number one on Swiss Hitparade's top 100 singles chart on the week of 3 December. In Belgium's Ultratop 50 singles charts, it also peaked number one on the Wallonia chart on the weeks of 14 and 21 December and number eight on the Flanders chart on the week of 7 December.
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. In 2014, a BBC poll saw it voted the seventh best cover song 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
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)||1|
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)||8|
|Canada Top Singles (RPM)||36|
|Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)||2|
|Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)||1|
|UK Singles (OCC)||1|
|US Billboard Hot 100||68|
|US Cashbox Top 100||54|
Wet Wet Wet version
|"With a Little Help from My Friends"|
|Single by Wet Wet Wet|
|B-side||"She's Leaving Home (performed by Billy Bragg and Cara Tivey)"|
|Released||9 May 1988|
|Studio||Park Lane Studios, Scotland|
|Label||The Precious Organization|
|Producer(s)||Wet Wet Wet|
|Wet Wet Wet singles chronology|
In 1988, Scottish Soft rock band Wet Wet Wet covered the song and released it as a non-album single in May 1988 with She's Leaving Home (a song performed by Billy Bragg and Cara Tivey) as its B-Side. Wet Wet Wet's version debuted at Number 1 on the UK Singles Chart on 14 May 1988.
Sam & Mark version
|"With a Little Help from My Friends"|
|Single by Sam & Mark|
|B-side||"Measure of a Man"|
|Released||21 February 2004(UK)|
|Sam & Mark UK singles chronology|
- "With a Little Help from My Friends" - 3:08
- "Measure of a Man" 4:00
- "With a Little Help from My Friends" (Video) - 3:08
- 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
|UK Singles (OCC)||1|
In 1967, Joe Brown released his version which charted at the same time as that of The Young Idea's top 10 version but with much lesser success. Joe Brown's version peaked at number 32 in the UK Singles Chart and stayed 4 weeks in the Top 75 in the UK. It was released on A Pye Records.
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.
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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')
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- 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