We all know that most Beatles songs were written by Lennon-McCartney. But “Help!” is all John. Paul helped him write it, but this is John’s song. He was the one who was crying for help. The song was written expressly for the movie of the same name Help! This was the second Beatles movie after A Hard Day’s Night. Help! revolves around Ringo and the effort to get a ring from his finger that has magical powers. It’s all in good fun and one of their better movies. Help! was originally to be called Eight Arms to Hold You and that name was even printed on the sleeve of the single “Ticket To Ride” to advertise the coming of the film. But at the last minute they changed the name to Help! and John was faced with writing a new song for the new title. The movie Help! is supposed to be based on the old Marx Brothers classic Duck Soup.
There are two versions of how John felt when he was writing the song. In one version he says that he had been a Beatles for a few years now and success was taking everything away from him. He was exhausted. He said he needed help. He needed help from the fans, from his partners and from God himself. John says he saw himself on film and thought he was getting fat. He said he was fat and depressed and crying out for help. So, that is what “Help!” Is all about. On the other hand, if you have ever seen a video of a Beatles concert, you know that the crowd screams constantly. Just look at some old performance videos on YouTube. John was concerned that the audience couldn’t hear the words and was missing the message of the songs. He wrote “Help!” as a way to express his concerns. You probably wouldn’t know it from listening to the song, but that is supposed to be one reason he wrote what he did.
The single “Help!” was recorded on April 13, 1965. It took twelve takes to get it right. Nine of those were just for the instrumental that you hear right at the beginning of the song. They had a lot of trouble getting it just the way they wanted it.
The song entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 41 on August 7, 1965 and a month later on September 4, it hit number one where it stayed for three weeks. It was the second of four straight number ones for the Beatles. “Help!” is ranked number 29 on the Rolling Stone Magazine list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.