The history from the inside of one of the greatest song-writing partnerships of the century Paul’s relationship with John Lennon as friend, collaborator, as part of ‘Lennon/McCartney’.
‘With a Little Help from My Friends’ was tailored specifically for Ringo.
The following is an excerpt from the book Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now -by Barry Miles Published by Henry Holt and Company
PAUL: This was written out at John’s house in Weybridge for Ringo; we always liked to do one for him and it had to be not too much like our style. I think that was probably the best of the songs we wrote for Ringo actually.
He was to be a character in this operetta, this whole thing that we were doing, so this gave him a good intro, wherever he came in the album; in fact it was the second track. It was a nice place for him, but wherever it came, it gave us an intro.
Again, because it was the pot era, we had to slip in a little reference: ‘I get high!’
It was pretty much co-written, John and I doing a work song for Ringo, a little craft job. I always saw those as the equivalent of writing a James Bond film theme. It was a challenge, it was something out of the ordinary for us because we actually had to write in a key for Ringo and you had to be a little tongue in cheek. Ringo liked kids a lot, he was very good with kids so we knew ‘Yellow Submarine’ would be a good thing for Ringo to sing. In this case, it was a slightly more mature song, which I always liked very much. I remember giggling with John as we wrote the lines ‘What do you see when you turn out the light? I can’t tell you but I know it’s mine.’ It could have been him playing with his willie under the covers, or it could have been taken on a deeper level; this was what it meant but it was a nice way to say it, a very non-specific way to say it. I always liked that.
‘With a Little Help from My Friends’ was picked up by Denny Cordell and Joe Cocker. Joe was sitting on the outside toilet at his parents’ house at Tasker Road, Sheffield, when he g
ot the idea of performing the song as a waltz, full-blown, anthemic, a celebration of sixties ideas of communalism, peace and smoking dope. It became his best-known song as well as his first big hit.
PAUL: Denny Cordell gave me a ring and said, ‘We love that song that Ringo sings but we’ve got this treatment of it that we really think would be great, singing it very bluesy, very crazy, slow it right down.’ I said, ‘Well, great, try it, and let me hear what you do with it.’ He came over to see us at Apple studios at Savile Row and played it and I said, ‘Wow, fantastic!’ They’d done a really radical treatment of it and it’s been Joe’s staple diet for many a year. Then it was taken on by John Belushi, who used to do a Cocker impression, and so taken even further by Belushi, so it has good memories, that song. It became the theme tune to the very good American series about growing up in the sixties called The Wonder Years, so it’s been picked up and used a lot, that song, but it really started just as a co-written song crafted for Ringo.
Next song to be publisher: She’s Leaving Home