Written by: Johnny Russel & Voni Morrison
Released: August 6, 1965
Appears on: HELP!
Lead vocal: Ringo
The Beatles were always good for a laugh, but they usually kept their humor off their records...until this one.
Ringo was originally given the worst song John & Paul ever wrote, "If You've Got Trouble" (summed up by Ringo yelling "Oh, rock on...anyBODY!" during the solo) for HELP! Thankfully that song was quickly dropped because it just sucked. Instead, Ringo got to flex his rockabilly muscles again with a cover of Buck Owen's "Act Naturally" (done here on TV in 1965).
The funniest thing about the song is the cruel irony. Ringo was thrown into the spot-light, thanks to his solo sequence in A Hard Day's Night and it was assumed that he would make a great actor. This is why Richard Lester made the story of HELP! revolve around him. (If you watch the Anthology, though, Ringo reveals that that wasn't acting in A Hard Day's Night - it was a drunk's walk-through of London.) Of course, Ringo isn't that great an actor (and as HELP! shows, none of them were - they were only good at playing themselves, which they obviously weren't in that film), so to have him sing a song about a misplaced 'actor' is a great idea.
It also opened the non-film side of HELP! The British LP followed the same sequence as A Hard Day's Night. While "Act Naturally" may seem to signal that the second side of HELP! might all be filler, this is quickly proved incorrect by the next song.
The Beatles obviously were hoping that "Act Naturally" would become an obscure joke, but Capitol in the US made sure that wasn't about to happen. Capitol, again capitalizing on the US's love for Ringo, released it as the B-Side to a much more important song. Thus, The Beatles performed it on the 1965 US tour and Ringo performs it to this day. In 1989, while Ringo was attempting a comeback from alcoholism, he recorded the song again with Buck Owens for Capitol. That was actually a success, reaching #27 on the Billboard country charts.