Song facts: Help!

Help! is a song written by John Lennon in 1965; credited to Lennon/McCartney. Lennon wrote the song in what he described as his fat Elvis period. John was convinced he was overweight and felt very self-conscious after The Beatles' meteoric rise to fame. It was a literal cry for help as the Beatles found themselves on top of the world in just a few short years.

"When Help! came out, I was actually crying out for help. Most people think it's just a fast rock 'n' roll song. I didn't realise it at the time; I just wrote the song because I was commissioned to write it for the movie. But later, I knew I really was crying out for help. So it was my fat Elvis period. You see the movie: he - I - is very fat, very insecure, and he's completely lost himself. And I am singing about when I was so much younger and all the rest, looking back at how easy it was." - John Lennon

Although Lennon was very proud of Help! he later described his disappointment with the song's pace; he was originally going for a slower, more introspective feel, but as it was going to be released as a single the tempo was upped. 

"I meant it - it's real. The lyric is as good now as it was then. It is no different, and it makes me feel secure to know that I was aware of myself then. It was just me singing 'help' and I meant it.
I don't like the recording too much; we did it too fast trying to be commercial... I might do I Want To Hold Your Hand and Help! again, because I like them and I can sing them." - John Lennon
Help! single sleeve, 1965.

Help! single sleeve, 1965.

Help! single sleeve, 1965.

Help! single sleeve, 1965.

Recording

The Beatles recorded Help! on April 13th 1965. The song was recorded in twelve takes; the first nine of which consisted of the backing instrumental. Vocals were later re-recorded for the film, and overdubbed onto take nine.

Personnel

  • John Lennon – double-tracked vocal, acoustic twelve-string rhythm guitar
  • Paul McCartney – bass guitar, backing vocal
  • George Harrison – lead guitar, backing vocal
  • Ringo Starr – drums, 
Help! single sleeve, 1965.

Help! single sleeve, 1965.

Help! single sleeve, 1965.

Help! single sleeve, 1965.

Release

Help! was released in the US on July 19th and in the UK on the 23rd; it was the opening track to the album of the same name, and also issued as a single; with Paul McCartney's I'm Down as the B-side. The song reached number one on the UK Singles Chart on August 5th, 1965. It also reached the top of the US Billboard Hot 100 on September 4th, staying there for three consecutive weeks.

In 1987 George Martin created new stereo mixes of Help! and Rubber soul for their CD release. These same mixes were used when The Beatles' catalogue was remastered and reissued in 2009.

Promo video

On April 22nd 1965 The Beatles filmed a performance of Help! for the movie of the same name, while in the Bahamas. This video was used to promote the single and first aired in July of 1965 on Top of the Pops and Thank Your Lucky Star in the UK.

The Beatles filming Help! in the Bahamas, 1965.

The Beatles filming Help! in the Bahamas, 1965.