“With a Little Help from My Friends” by The Beatles

For the most part, “With a Little Help from My Friends” is as innocent as the title sounds.  In fact its theme is based partially in what the Beatles were going through in real life at the time. You see Ringo Starr, the band’s drummer, provides the lead vocals on this track.  And while any of the four Beatles’ could serve as lead vocalist from time-to-time, traditionally Ringo was restricted to instrumentals. Accordingly, as the legend goes, he was quite uneasy in terms of recording this song. However, he was able to get through it – and even drop a hit in the process – ‘with a little help from his friends’.

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for The Beatles's With a Little Help from My Friends at Lyrics.org.

A lonely narrator

But more to the point, the singer is depicted as someone who is lonely. And the way the lyrics read are as if this may very well be in a romantic sense.  Or more specifically in terms of the storyline presented, it seems his lover may have traveled away.  This of course has him troubled from an emotional perspective. But he is able to “get by”, as in make it through this ordeal, “with a little help from (his) friends”. Basically he is leaning on them for emotional support with his lover now being away. And he is espousing that others who are going through a likewise experience also resort to fraternizing with their close mates as a remedy.

Weed reference?

Now with this being the 1960s Beatles, there is also a drug reference in this song. This is something which one of the prominent politicians at the time, Spiro Agnew, picked up on. And whereas initially John Lennon may have argued to the contrary, at the end of the day it has been revealed that when the singer expresses his intention to “get high with a little help from (his) friends”, said statement is indeed a reference to weed.

But still, this track is very much an ode to friendship. And the fundamental idea it is putting forth is that if an individual is going through a trying time, his friends can serve as a source of emotional support.

Lyrics of "With a Little Help From My Friends"

Writing and Recording

This song was written by Beatles’ members J. Lennon (1940-1980) and P. McCartney with a third entity, Lennon-McCartney (a combination of their two names) also being credited.

And the pair wrote it specifically to be sung by their bandmate, Starr. Accordingly it has become a staple of Ringo’s live shows since.

This track was produced by regular Beatles’ collaborator George Martin (1926-2016).

An interesting piece of history to note is that “With a Little Help from My Friends” was recorded the day prior to the Beatles taken the famous photograph which serves as the cover of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, the album it is featured on.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
The famous photograph in question.

True Classic

Although the Beatles’ version of this song doesn’t have an impressive chart history (as it was never released as a single), it is still considered to be a classic. For instance, in 2011 Rolling Stone placed it on their list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.

Famous covers of “With a Little Help from My Friends”

The most-successful cover of “With a Little Help from My Friends” has been by a fellow Briton named Joe Cocker (1944-2014). Joe released his version back in 1968. His rendition went on to top the UK Singles Chart as well as the Ultratop 50 in Belgium and Schweizer Hitparade in Switzerland. Additionally it appeared on the Hot 100 and peaked at number 2 on the Dutch Top 40.

Other covers of “With a Little Help from My Friends” which topped the UK singles Chart was versions by a Scottish band called Wet Wet Wet in 1988. In 2004, another famous cover was released. This rendition was by an English duo called Sam & Mark.

Another notable cover of this song was by Richie Havens (1941-2013). Richie used it as part of his setlist when he opened the legendary Woodstock music festival in 1969.

Original Title

The demo version of this song was entitled “Bad Finger Boogie” due to Lennon apparently suffering from a finger ailment at the time.

Release Date of “With a Little Help from My Friends”

“With a Little Help from My Friends” was officially released by Parlophone Records on May 26th, 1967 as part of the aforementioned album.

1 Response

  1. Charles Kalish says:

    “What do you see when you turn out the light?
    I can’t tell you, but I know it’s mine”

    I’ve always seen this as an innocent and humorous reference to mas***bation – when alone and in bed, lights out and a little help from one of his friends. Why not?

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