- Published on (1962 – 1965)
- Author: Lennon/McCartney
- Track 18 on “Past Masters Volume 1“
JOHN 1980: “That’s Paul… with a little help from me, I think.”
PAUL circa-1994: “I could do Little Richard’s voice which is a wild, hoarse, screaming thing– It’s like an out-of-body experience. You have to leave your current sensibilities and go about a foot above your head to sing it. Alot of people were fans of Little Richard so I used to sing his stuff, but there came a point when I wanted to do one of my own, so I wrote ‘I’m Down.’”
About “I’m Down”
“I’m Down” was written by Paul McCartney and credited to Lennon–McCartney. It was released on a non-album single as the B-side to “Help!” in July 1965. The song originated in McCartney’s attempt to write a song in the style of Little Richard, whose song “Long Tall Sally” the band regularly covered.
Inspired by 1950s R&B and rock and roll numbers, the song’s lyrics sing of an unrequited love, but rather than a lament are instead performed in a hysterical, “celebratory frenzy” of self assuredness. Some commentators interpret the song’s tone as partially parodic. Melodically uncomplicated, the composition uses only three basic chords. The Beatles recorded “I’m Down” during sessions for their album Help! in June 1965. The first song by the band to incorporate a Vox Continental electric organ, John Lennon plays the instrument in the style of Jerry Lee Lewis, doing glissandos with his elbow. In the decade following its release, the song became a comparative rarity among the band’s recordings. It has subsequently appeared on compilation albums such as Rock ‘n’ Roll Music; the UK edition of Rarities; Past Masters, Volume 1 and Mono Masters.
“I’m Down” has received praise from several music critics and musicologists, with several mentioning McCartney’s strong vocal and the band’s raucous performance. The Beatles regularly performed the song during their 1965 and 1966 tours as the closing number, including an especially chaotic performance in August 1965 depicted in the documentary The Beatles at Shea Stadium. Beastie Boys and Aerosmith are among the artists that have covered the song.
Meaning of “I’m Down”
The lyrics express a sense of frustration and exasperation, likely in the context of a romantic relationship. In the song, the narrator is declaring his emotional state, proclaiming, “I’m down” multiple times. This phrase is used to convey a feeling of being disheartened, disappointed, or upset. The lyrics further emphasize the narrator’s willingness to express his emotions openly, showing vulnerability.
Musically, “I’m Down” is characterized by its lively tempo, energetic vocals, and prominent use of a screaming organ played by Paul McCartney. The song is known for its high-energy performance, and it was often performed with fervor during The Beatles’ live shows.
“I’m Down” showcases Paul McCartney’s ability to write and perform dynamic rock and roll songs with catchy melodies and engaging lyrics. It remains a beloved track in The Beatles’ repertoire.
- Paul McCartney – vocal, bass
- John Lennon – backing vocal, rhythm guitar, Vox Continental electric organ
- George Harrison – backing vocal, lead guitar
- Ringo Starr – drums, bongos