The Beatles Songs: "Help!"

The history of this classic Beatles song

The original US 45 sleeve for "Help!".


Written by: John Lennon (80%), Paul McCartney (20%) (credited as Lennon-McCartney)
Recorded: April 13, 1965 (Studio 2, Abbey Road Studios, London, England)
Mixed: April 18, 1965; June 18, 1965
Length: 2:33
Takes: 12


John Lennon: lead vocals, rhythm guitar (1964 Framus 12-string acoustic "Hootenanny")
Paul McCartney: backing vocals, bass guitar (1963 Hofner 500/1)
George Harrison: backing vocals, lead guitar (1963 Gretsch 6119 "Tennessean")
Ringo Starr: drums (1963 Black Oyster Pearl Ludwig kit), tambourine

First released: August 6, 1965 (UK: Parlophone R5305), August 13, 1965 (US: Capitol 5476)

Available on: (CDs in bold)

  • Help!, (UK: Parlophone PMC 1255, US: Capitol (S)MAS 2386, Parlophone CDP 7 46439 2)
  • The Beatles 1962-1966, (UK: Apple PCSP 717, US: Apple SKBO 3403, Apple CDP 0777 7 97036 2 3)
  • The Beatles 1, (Apple CDP 7243 5 299702 2)

Highest chart position: 1 (US: three weeks beginning September 4, 1965); 1 (UK: August 5, 1965)


A very personal song for John, or so he claimed years later: "When 'Help!' came out in 1965, I was actually crying out for help. 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 was really crying out for help. It was my fat Elvis period. You see the movie: very fat, very insecure, and he’s completely lost himself."

Perhaps subconsciously tuning in to the deeper meaning of what is, on the surface, a plea to a lover, John lobbied to get this song recorded slowly.

But as the next single, it was decided to play it fast. Paul McCartney, as well as other artists, have played this song slowly live.

The original US album version of this song came with orchestral, non-Beatles soundtrack music from the Help! film in lieu of some of the UK album's songs, resulting in a version of the song "Help!" featuring a James Bond-type music parody as a short intro (15 seconds).

When the greatest hits Beatles 1962-1966 album came out in 1973, that intro was left on; it has been edited out of subsequent albums. Some fans, however, prefer the song with the intro, and several American radio stations have played it that way.

Live versions: August 14, 1965 (Ed Sullivan Show, CBS Theatre, New York, NY), August 15, 1965 (Shea Stadium, New York, NY), August 17, 1965 (Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Canada), August 18, 1965 (Atlanta Stadium, Atlanta, GA), August 19, 1965 (Sam Houston Coliseum, Houston, TX), August 20, 1965 (White Sox Park, Chicago, IL), August 21, 1965 (Metropolitan Stadium, Minneapolis, MN), August 22, 1965 (Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR), August 28, 1965 (Balboa Stadium, San Diego, CA), August 29-30, 1965 (Cow Palace, San Francisco, CA


  • When played backwards, the line "I know that I just need you like I've never done before" comes out sounding something like "Now he uses marijuana." Although not intended as such by the band, the audio anomaly is intriguing to fans who note that the band began using marijuana habitually during the recording of this film.
  • An episode of the ABC sitcom Full House from features two main characters locked in a recording studio and yelling for help, yet one other character assumes they're just recording a cover of the song.
    Covered by: Bananarama, Count Basie, The Carpenters, Tommy Castro, The Charles River Valley Boys, The Crusaders, The Damned, Howie Day, DC Talk, Deep Purple, Extreme, Jad Fair, John Farnham, Jose Feliciano, The Four Tops, Henry Gross, John's Children, R. Stevie Moore, The Newbeats, Dolly Parton, David Porter, Isaac Scott, Peter Sellers, Michael Stanley, The Tremeloes, Tina Turner, U2, Caetano Veloso