Friday, September 4, 2015

50 years ago: The Beatles hit #1 with “Help!”


The Beatles

Writer(s): John Lennon, Paul McCartney (see lyrics here)

Released: July 19, 1965

First Charted: July 29, 1965

Peak: 13 US, 13 CB, 11 HR, 1 CL, 13 UK, 11 CN, 18 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.99 UK, 1.99 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, 114.4 video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

This wasn’t just the title song for the Beatles’ second film; this “was John Lennon in the psychiatrist’s chair.” KL Writer Ian MacDonald called it “the first crack in the protective shell Lennon had abuilt around his emotions during the Beatles’ rise to fame.” WK As Lennon said in a 1980 Playboy interview, “The whole Beatles thing was just beyond comprehension. I was subconsciously crying out for help.” WK “I didn’t realize it at the time; I just wrote the song because I was commissioned to write it for the movie.” KL

John Lennon and Paul McCartney had agreed at the onset of the Beatles to share writing credits on their compositions, but this was primarily by John. Paul did, however, provide the countermelody arrangement. WK Paul has also said he didn’t realize until years later that the song was actually John calling out for help. SF In a 1970 interview with Rolling Stone, Lennon said of this and “Strawberry Fields Forever” that “they were the ones I always considered my best songs. They were the ones I really wrote from experience and not projecting myself into a situation and writing a nice story about it.” FB

trailer for the movie

However, he also said, “I don’t like the recording that much; we did it too fast trying to be commercial.” FB Critic Dave Marsh disagreed, saying, “’Help!’ isn’t a compromise; it’s bursting with vitality…[Lennon] sounds triumphant, because he’s found a group of kindred spirits who are offering the very spiritual assistance and emotional support for which he’s begging. Paul's echoing harmonies, Ringo's jaunty drums, the boom of George's guitar speak to the heart of Lennon's passion, and though they cannot cure the wound, at least they add a note of reassurance that he's not alone with his pain.” WK For an idea what the song could sound like slowed down, check out Tina Turner’s recording on her 1984 Private Dancer album.

The song was nominated for Grammys for Contemporary Rock & Roll Group Performance and Vocal Group Performance as well as an Ivor Novello Award. It didn’t win any of them, but was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008.


  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for The Beatles
  • FB Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 182.
  • KL Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits: The Stories Behind Every Number One Single Since 1952. London, Great Britain: Omnibus Press. Page 114.
  • SF Songfacts
  • WK Wikipedia

Related Links:

First posted 3/17/2021; last updated 7/17/2022.

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