"Help!" is a song by The Beatles that served as the title song for both the album Help! and the film Help!. It was also released as a single, and was #1 for three weeks in both the USA and UK. "Help!" was written primarily by John Lennon, but credited (as all Beatles song written by either person) to Lennon/McCartney. Paul McCartney reports that he had a hand in writing the song as well, being called in "to complete it" in a two-hour joint writing session on 4 April 1965 at Lennon's house in Weybridge. He later said that the title was "out of desperation." In 2004, "Help!" was ranked number 29 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.
As revealed in the miniseries The Beatles Anthology, Lennon wrote the lyrics of the song to express his stress coming from the quick rise to a massive level of success for The Beatles after years of obscurity. The rest of the band felt somehow surprised learning this, but they considered it normal. Since Lennon's feelings of insecurity were incongruous with the band's image of confidence, Lennon felt it was nearly impossible for the fans to understand the origin of the song. "I was fat and depressed and I was crying out for 'Help'," Lennon told Playboy. Writer Ian MacDonald describes the song as the "first crack in the protective shell" Lennon had built around his fragile emotions during the Beatles' rise to fame, and an important milestone in his songwriting style.
In the 1970 Rolling Stone "Lennon Remembers" interviews, Lennon said that because of its honesty it was one of his favourites among the Beatles songs he wrote, but he wished they had recorded it at a slower tempo. In these interviews, Lennon said he felt that "Help!" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" were his most genuine Beatles songs and not just songs written to order. However, according to Lennon's cousin and boyhood friend Stanley Parkes, the song was written after Lennon "came in from the studio one night[.] "God", he said[,] "they've changed the title of the film - it's going to be called 'Help!' now. So I've had to write a new song with the title called 'Help!'."
The Beatles recorded Help! in 12 takes on 13 April 1965, in Abbey Road's Studio Two. The first eight takes were without vocals. Onto the final attempt the group overdubbed vocals, tambourine and the guitar fills at the end of each chorus, the latter played by George Harrison.
The single and album versions of the song have slight differences. The American version begins with a James Bond-style instrumental.
The song appears on the Help! LP, the USA Help! soundtrack, 1962-1966, the Imagine soundtrack, 1, Love, and The Capitol Albums, Vol. 2. The single mono version appeared on the Beatles' Rarities LP, as well as on mono versions of the original LP release, and includes a slightly different lead vocal recording by Lennon.
* John Lennon: double-tracked lead vocal and acoustic guitar.
* Paul McCartney: bass and background vocals.
* George Harrison: lead guitar and background vocals.
* Ringo Starr: drums.
* The Rutles' song "Ouch!" is a tongue-in-cheek parody of this song.
* In 1968, Deep Purple recorded a cover version (greatly slowed-down) of the song on their album Shades of Deep Purple. Consistent with Lennon's other remarks about the song, he said that this version was 'the way the Beatles should have done it.'
* In 1970, The Carpenters recorded a cover version for release on their album Close to You. It was not released as a single.
* In 1975, Caetano Veloso released a cover on his album Joia.
* In 1976, Henry Gross covered it for the ephemeral musical documentary All This and World War II. John Lennon once stated that this was his favourite version of the song. George and Paul do backing vocals.
* In 1976, The Damned covered the song for the B-side of New Rose.
* Dolly Parton included a bluegrass version of Help! on her 1979 Great Balls of Fire album.
* In 1980, Australian vocalist John Farnham released the song as a piano-based ballad recorded at a much slower tempo.
* In 1985, Ford Motor Company reportedly paid $100,000 for the use of the song in commercials promoting their Lincoln-Mercury product line. This was the first time a Beatles song was used for a national commercial campaign.
* In early 1984, Tina Turner released a version of the song recorded with The Crusaders as the follow-up to her successful cover of Al Green's Let's Stay Together. Help! peaked at #40 in the UK but went relatively unnoticed elsewhere. The following single What's Love Got to Do with It became her big comeback and Let's Stay Together and What's Love Got to Do With It were later both included on her multi-platinum-selling album Private Dancer - her ballad version of Help! was, however, only included on the European editions of the album.
* U2 played it often during their 1986 A Conspiracy of Hope Tour and 1987 Joshua Tree Tour at a slower tempo.
* In 1989, the song was recorded by British girl group Bananarama alongside French & Saunders and Kathy Burke and released as the official Red Nose Day single to raise money for Comic Relief. French, Saunders and Burke were credited as Lananeeneenoonoo (a paraody of Bananarama who they had imitated in the French & Saunders television programme). This version reached #3 in the UK charts.
* Richard Marx performed the song at a concert near the Berlin Wall in 1989. He performed Help! similarly to the way John Farnham recorded the song in 1980. Marx never recorded it.
* Noel Gallagher performed the song at certain Oasis concerts at a slower tempo.
* Paul McCartney also slowed it down a bit when he played it during his 1990 concert tour as part of a tribute to Lennon.
* Kylie Minogue performed her band's arrangement of the song in May 1990 before a crowd of 25,000 as part of John Lennon: The Tribute Concert on the banks of the River Mersey in Liverpool.
* "Help!" has also been covered by Michael Stanley, dc Talk, Alma Cogan, Rick Wakeman, Howie Day, McFly, Roxette and Fountains of Wayne.
* In 1991, the Finnish metal band Waltari covered Help! on their debut album, Monk Punk.
* Chicago punk rock band 88 Fingers Louie recorded a version on their 1995 first full-length release, Behind Bars.
* In 1998 The Punkles did a punk cover of this song on their first album.
* In 1999, British jazz singer Claire Martin recorded a slowed-down cover on her album Take My Heart with Noel Gallagher on guitar.
* In 2000, Tsunku and 7HOUSE covered Help! on their Beatles' cover album, A Hard Day's Night.
* In 2003 Art Paul Schlosser recorded a parody of Help! called Smelt which is on on his Words of Cheese and Other Parrot CD.
* In 2007, rapper Lil Wayne sampled the song's chorus for his new official mix tape entitled The Leak. The song was replaced on The Leak, however, and was instead put on various underground mix tapes.
* French artist Louis Bertignac, previously of Téléphone, covered the song on his 2005-2006 tour, along with another Beatles song, I'm Down.
* The song was covered by Canadian Post-Hardcore band Silverstein on their 2009 album A Shipwreck in the Sand.
* American author Mark Z. Danielewski frequently references this song in his novel House of Leaves.
* The song featured in Cutting it Close, an episode of Full House, when Jesse Katsopolis breaks both of his arms in a motorcycle accident and has to adjust to a life where he always needs assistance.
* The lyrics are quoted in the film Yellow Submarine; when Young Fred knocks on the Beatles' door, he says "Won't you please, please help me?".
* In the Powerpuff Girls episode Meet the Beat-Alls, a military sergeant says "Help, we need somebody, help, not just anybody, help, we need the Powerpuff Girls." The sergeant himself may be a reference to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
* In the Only Fools and Horses episode The Jolly Boys' Outing, Mickey Pearce sings "Won't you please, please help me?" to a sleeping Albert, prompting Albert to tell him to "Get off, you noisy little git!" However, the version playing on the radio as Mickey sings is the Bananarama cover version rather than the original.
B-side: "I'm Down"
Released: 6 August 1965 (UK), 13 August 1965 (US)
Recorded: Abbey Road Studios, 13 April 1965
Genre: Folk rock
Length: 2:21 (UK), 2:39 (US)
Label: Parlophone (UK), Capitol Records (US)
Producer: George Martin