- Published on 1965
- Author: (Lennon/McCartney)
- Track 1 on “Help!“
- Track 14 on “1962 ‐ 1966 (Red Album)“
JOHN 1965: “We think it’s one of the best we’ve written.”
JOHN 1980: “The whole Beatle thing was just beyond comprehension. 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 realize 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. Now I may be very positive… yes, yes… but I also go through deep depressions where I would like to jump out the window, you know. It becomes easier to deal with as I get older; I don’t know whether you learn control or, when you grow up, you calm down a little. Anyway, I was fat and depressed and I was crying out for help.”
PAUL 1984: “John wrote that… well, John and I wrote it at his house in Weybridge for the film. I think the title was out of desperation.”
“Help!” served as the title song for the 1965 film and its soundtrack album. It was released as a single in July 1965, and was number one for three weeks in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Credited to Lennon–McCartney, “Help!” was written by John Lennon with some help from Paul McCartney. It was ranked at number 29 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2004 and 2010, and then was re-ranked at number 447 in the 2021 list.
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. 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.
In the 1970 Rolling Stone “Lennon Remembers” interviews, Lennon said that the song was one of his favourites among the Beatles songs he wrote. 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 McCartney, he was called in “to complete it”, providing the “countermelody” arrangement, on 4 April 1965 at Lennon’s house in Weybridge.
Meaning of “Help!”
At its surface, “Help!” appears to be a catchy, upbeat pop song. However, the lyrics delve into themes of introspection, vulnerability, and a plea for assistance. The song’s primary message revolves around a cry for help and a desire for support and understanding.
In the context of the film and album, “Help!” is about Ringo Starr’s character being pursued by a mysterious and dangerous cult that believes a sacrificial ring has been stuck on his finger. The other Beatles come to his aid, leading to various comedic adventures.
The lyrics of the song express feelings of insecurity, confusion, and the need for reassurance. Lines like “Help me if you can, I’m feeling down / And I do appreciate you being ’round” clearly communicate a plea for assistance.
The chorus, with its repetition of “Help me, get my feet back on the ground,” reinforces this sentiment. The song acknowledges the universal human experience of sometimes feeling overwhelmed and the importance of leaning on others for support.
“Help!” can be interpreted as a reflection on the challenges and uncertainties of life, and the comfort that can be found in the presence and assistance of others. It’s a testament to the Beatles’ ability to infuse deeper emotional themes into their catchy, accessible pop music.
- John Lennon – double-tracked lead vocals and 12-string acoustic guitar
- Paul McCartney – bass and backing vocals
- George Harrison – electric guitar and backing vocals
- Ringo Starr – drums and tambourine