Flashback: The Beatles Record ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’
It was 56 years ago today (March 29th, 1967) that the Beatles recorded “With A Little Help From My Friends.” The song, written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney specifically for Ringo Starr to sing, was originally called “Bad Finger Boogie” and was one of the standout tracks on their Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album.
In author Hunter Davies‘ 1968 The Beatles’ Authorized Biography, readers were allowed a sneak peak into how Lennon and McCartney worked, as he chronicled them coming up with lyrics for the song’s verses and taking suggestions from anyone who happened to be around — even rejecting an idea from Lennon’s first wife Cynthia.
The song’s basic track included McCartney on piano, Lennon on cowbell, George Harrison on lead guitar, and producer George Martin on Hammond organ. It took ten takes for the song to be completed, after which Ringo recorded his lead vocal. “With A Little Help From My Friends” has gone on to become one of Ringo Starr’s signature tunes.
Ringo has always been grateful to Lennon & McCartney for taking time out to compose appropriate material for him to sing for the Beatles: “They were all written for me. The earlier records — I picked ‘Act Naturally’ and the Carl Perkins songs like ‘Matchbox’ — I picked those and said, ‘I wanna do this,’ and then they started writing for me specially.”
Paul McCartney recalled that having a Ringo Starr vocal on a Beatles album was done for the love of his fans: “We always wanted to include him in it, because, see, with the Beatles, we all had our little group of fans. And so we always thought it was a good idea to try and include at least one song from Ringo for his fans. We did have to sort of encourage him and say ‘Come on, man, y’know. . .’ And he got into it after a while. He was always very disparaging about his own singing, But, y’know, we’d write something like, ‘With A little Help From My Friends,’ and he’d. . . it’s only Ringo that can sing that.”
Ringo’s former producer Mark Hudson recalled that Ringo often spoke of how John Lennon used to help him record his vocals during Beatles recording sessions: “When Ringo used to sing vocals sometimes he says he was really insecure and that John would come out with this energy like ‘C’mon Ring!’ and his arms were flailing and he would be in his face, to make him hit notes and have energy.”
“With A Little Help From My Friends” has closed every concert since Ringo returned to the road in 1989 with his All Starr Band.