After the campy, high concept overture to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the record that would reinvent pop music for decades to come, The Beatles felt that it would probably be best to slowly break in their fans to their new style of psychedelic and more "serious" rock, and so they combined the campy jazz pop feel of previous songs with perhaps Paul's most meaningful lyrics on "With a Little Help from My Friends."

Musically, the song is more straightforward than most Beatles tunes of the post-Revolver era, harkening back to their Beatles For Sale and Help! stylings of kitschy power pop. Coming in with the short connecting guitar solo from George amidst the raucous crowd noise of the live show Sgt. Pepper and Co. are performing at - actually taken from a Hollywood Bowl concert by the band - and introducing "Billy Shears" (one of the major players in the Paul is dead mythos - though it's really just a fun nick for Ringo) as the singer of the band, the song sticks to simple musical motifs throughout: a simply charming I-V-ii-V-I progression during the verses, accompanied by the very limited range of Ringo and the light vocal improvising of Paul and John; the lovely resolving bVII-IV-I; and the triumphant bridge, exclamated by John and Paul's soaring backing harmonies, sounding very live and very sincere amidst Ringo's lower tones. This song shows Paul at his songwriting tops, providing a wealth of tone and tunefulness in his simple arrangement (drums, piano, and a trilling guitar solo) and melodic openness.

Lyrically, this may be Paul's most philosophically profound song, up there with the ranks of "Yesterday", "Here, There, and Everywhere", and "Eleanor Rigby." With John going through his divorce, the death of Brian Epstein on his mind, and the general strain of being the most popular band in the world, Paul moved away from the love songs that filled Rubber Soul and Revolver, and began singing about agape, the love of friends. Such understated self-deprecating lines as "I get by with a little help from my friends" and "Are you sad because you're on your own? No!" give the song the feel good flavor that has defined its character, the words matching perfectly to the laid-back bouncy piano sway of the music. John contributed only a single line, but a memorable one, at least to Paul: "What do you see when you turn out the light/I can't tell you, but I know it's mine", says Sir Paul, is most definitely about masturbation. Those cheeky gits.

The song was recorded at Abbey Road Studio on March 29-30, 1967 with Ringo providing lead vocals (thus fulfilling his Sgt. Pepper's obligation to the Ringo phenomenon) and playing drums, Paul on piano, George on guitar, and John and Paul providing backing vocals.

For you Paul is dead followers, it's fairly obvious that what you see "when you turn out the lights" is death (la petite mort?), and Paul is definitely sad because he's on his own.

This song's simple pop sensibility and open chordings made it a jazz standard almost the instant it came out. It has been covered by such legendary artists Herb Alpert, Count Basie, the Boston Pops, Arthur Lyman, Sergio Mendes, and Babs herself, Barbra Streisand. It's also seen release by such luminaries as Bon Jovi, Santana, Toto, The Beach Boys, and Wet Wet Wet, whose version saw the Top 40 charts in 1988. Still, the most famous cover - and perhaps the definitive Beatles cover - is Joe Cocker's Chicago soul version. Played about a third of the normal speed, Cocker's bluesy growl and the exuberant gospel choir providing harmonies give the song the truly communal feel that the lyrics intended. It is this version that was used as the theme song to the popular television show "The Wonder Years."

With a Little Help from My Friends
(Lennon/McCartney)

What would you do if I sang out of tune
Would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song
And I'll try not to sing out of key

Oh I get by with a little help from my friends
Oh I get high with a little help from my friends
Going to try with a little help from my friends

What do I do when my love is away
(Does it worry you to be alone)
How do I feel by the end of the day
(Are you sad because you're on your own)

No! I get by with a little help from my friends

Do you need anybody
I need somebody to love
Could it be anybody
I want somebody to love

Would you believe in a love at first sight
Yes I'm certain that it happens all the time
What do you see when you turn out the light
I can't tell you, but I know it's mine

Oh I get by with a little help from my friends

Do you need anybody
I just need somebody to love
Could it be anybody
I want somebody to love

I get high with a little help from my friends
Yes I get by with a little help from my friends
With a little help from my friends

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band | Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds

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