"Help!" is a song by the Beatles that served as the title song for both the 1965 film and its soundtrack album. It was also released as a single, and was number one for three weeks in both the United States and the United Kingdom.

"Help!" was written by John Lennon, but credited to Lennon–McCartney. During an interview with Playboy in 1980, Lennon recounted: "The whole Beatles thing was just beyond comprehension. I was subconsciously crying out for help".


 [hide*1 Composition


The documentary series The Beatles Anthology revealed that Lennon wrote the lyrics of the song to express his stress after the Beatles' quick rise to success. "I was fat and depressed and I was crying out for 'Help'," Lennon told Playboy.[3] Writer Ian MacDonald describes the song as the "first crack in the protective shell" Lennon had built around his emotions during the Beatles' rise to fame, and an important milestone in his songwriting style.[citation needed]

In the 1970 Rolling Stone "Lennon Remembers" interviews, Lennon said 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 honest, genuine Beatles songs and not just songs "written to order". According to Lennon's cousin and boyhood friend Stanley Parkes, however, "Help!" 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!'."[4]

According to McCartney, he was called in "to complete it" in a two-hour joint writing session on 4 April 1965 at Lennon's house in Weybridge[5] claiming to have helped on the "countermelody".[6][5][7]


The Beatles recorded "Help!" in 12 takes on 13 April 1965 using four-track equipment. The first nine takes concentrated on the instrumental backing. The descending lead guitar riff that precedes each verse proved to be difficult, so by take 4 it was decided to postpone it for an overdub. To guide the later overdub by Harrison, Lennon thumped the beat on his acoustic guitar body, which can be heard in the final stereo mix. Lead and backing vocals were recorded twice onto take 9, along with atambourine. A reduction mix was applied to the two vocal tracks, taking three attempts (takes 10 to 12), freeing up a track for the lead guitar overdub.[8] This was the group's first use of two 4-track machines for "bouncing".[9]

The vocals were re-recorded for the film during a session on 24 May 1965 at CTS Studios, a facility specializing in post-synchronisation.[10] In addition to attempting a better vocal performance, the session might have been done to eliminate the tambourine (which had been on the same track as the vocals) since no tambourine appeared in the film sequence.[11] With the new vocals, a mono mix was created at CTS Studios which was used for the film soundtrack. Mixes for record releases were prepared on 18 June. For the mono version, Martin decided to use a mix of the opening chorus of take 12 edited to the remainder of the CTS film mix.[10] Because all instruments were combined on a single track for the CTS session, it could not be used for a stereo mix, so the stereo mix was made from take 12.[11]

New mixes were created for releases of the Help! CD (1987), the Love album (2006), and the Help! DVD (2007).[8]


"Help!" went to number 1 on both the UK and US singles charts in late summer 1965. It was the fourth of six number one singles in a row on the American charts; "I Feel Fine", "Eight Days a Week", "Ticket to Ride", "Help!", "Yesterday", and "We Can Work It Out".[12]

The song appears on the Help! LP, the US Help! soundtrack, 1962–1966, the Imagine: John Lennon soundtrack, 1Love, and The Capitol Albums, Volume 2. The mono version (with different vocals and no tambourine) was included on the Beatles' Rarities LP and in The Beatles in Mono collection. It was also released on 20 Greatest Hits

The American soundtrack album included a James Bond-type introduction to the song, followed by a caesura just before the opening lyric. No such introduction appeared on the British soundtrack album, nor was it included in the released single in either country.

Promotional films[edit]Edit

The Beatles filmed the title performance for the movie Help! on 22 April 1965. The same footage (without the darts and credits seen in the film sequence) was used as a clip to promote the release of the single. It was shown starting in July 1965 on programmes such as Top of the Pops and Thank Your Lucky Stars.[13] They made another promotional clip of "Help!" on 23 November 1965 for inclusion in the year-end recap special of Top of the Pops. Directed by Joseph McGrath, the black-and-white clip shows the group miming to the song while sitting astride a workbench. Starr holds an umbrella overhead throughout the song, which becomes useful as fake snow falls during the final verse.[14]

Live performances[edit]Edit

The Beatles performed "Help!" live on the 1 August 1965 broadcast of Blackpool Night Out, which was included in the Anthology 2 album and shown during The Beatles Anthology documentary.[15] On 14 August, the group recorded a live performance of "Help!" and five other songs for The Ed Sullivan Show, broadcast the following month;[16] the show is available on the DVD The 4 Complete Ed Sullivan Shows Starring The Beatles.

"Help!" was included in the set list for The Beatles' 1965 US tour. The 15 August performance at Shea Stadium was seen in the 1966 documentary The Beatles at Shea Stadium, although the audio for the song was re-recorded prior to release.[17] The group's 29 August performance at the Hollywood Bowl was chosen for the 1977 album The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl.[18]

Use in advertising[edit]Edit

In February 1985, "Help!" became the first Beatles song licensed for a US television commercial. The Lincoln–Mercury division of Ford Motor Company paid $100,000 for the rights to the song, but not for the use of the original Beatles' recording.[19] The song was re-created by a sound-alike group with assistance from George Martin.[20] The US Electronics and appliance chain hhgregg is using a cover version of the song in their ad campaign as of 2012.


Personnel per Ian MacDonald[21]


Chart (1965) Peak


Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[22] 5
Canada (RPM Singles Chart)[23] 1
Germany (Media Control Charts)[24] 2
Ireland (Irish Singles Chart)[25] 1
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[26] 1
Norway (VG-lista)[27] 1
UK singles (The Official Charts Company)[28] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[29] 1
Chart (1976) Peak


UK singles (The Official Charts Company)[28] 37

The song reached number one in several other countries in 1965 according to charts listed in Billboard's "Hits of the World" feature at the time: Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Sweden.[30][31]

Cover versions[edit]Edit

Single by Tina Turner
from the album Private Dancer
B-side "Rock 'n' Roll Widow"
Released 25 February 1984
Format 7"12" single
Recorded 1984
Genre PopR&B
Length 4:30
Label Capitol
Writer(s) Lennon–McCartney
Producer(s) Wilton Felder, Ndugu Chancler,Joe Sample
Tina Turner singles chronology
"Let's Stay Together"




"What's Love Got to Do with It"


Single by Bananarama (withLananeeneenoonoo)
from the album Greatest Hits Collection
Released February 1989
Format 7" single, 12" single, CD single
Recorded January 1989
Genre Dance-pop
Length 2:23
Label London Records
Writer(s) Lennon–McCartney
Producer(s) Stock Aitken Waterman
Bananarama singles chronology
"Nathan Jones"




"Cruel Summer '89"


Cultural references[edit]Edit

  • American author Mark Z. Danielewski frequently refers to 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 in which he always needs assistance.
  • The song was also used in commercials for defunct phone company GTE, during the 1990s.
  • 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."
  • 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!" The version playing on the radio as Mickey sings is the Bananarama cover version rather than the original.
  • Several Major League Baseball teams (notably the New York Yankees) play the song when the opposing manager/pitching coach go out for a mound visit.
  • The release year of the song was asked as the final ¥ 5,000,000 question in the fictitious version of Who Wants to be A Millionaire, as depicted in the Mainland China sitcom iPartment.
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