Written by: John Lennon & Paul McCartney
Released: June 1, 1967
Appears on: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Lead vocal: Ringo
"With A Little Help From My Friends" has become Ringo's signature song - the one he has to perform at every show. (I've seen him do it twice and it's always fun.) The song was born as "Bad Finger Boogie" and probably the easiest track to record on the album. The only strange instrument on the track is John's cowbell (which is the only instrument he plays on the track). George Martin adds a Hammond organ part and Paul puts in a piano part. George is on lead guitar and Ringo, of course, plays drums and tambourine.
Paul wrote the tune and Ringo always loves to tell the story about What would you do if I sang out of tune? Would you stand up and throw tomatoes at me? Ringo himself felt it necessary to change it to stand up and walk out on me (although, I think the fact that tomatoes was just one too many syllables didn't help the line).
The back-up harmonies are also great. It turns the song into a hilarious 'call-and-response' spoof. The lyrics just add to the hilarity. There is nothing - absolutely nothing - funnier than What do you see when you turn out the light? I can't tell you, but I know it's mine.
In Paul's Sgt. Pepper dream world, Ringo plays "Billy Shears", singing this happy-go-lucky song. It's funny that the previous song seems to frame the role as the lead singer of this imaginary band, but he's played by a guy who was lucky to be able to get one song on an album. That's just another one of those Beatle in-jokes, I think.
Since its first appearance on Sgt. Pepper's, the track has always appeared attached to the title track. Nowhere else in the Beatles catalog have two songs been so connected. There has never been an officially released fade-in mix, although making one yourself is pretty easy these days. So, the release history is the same as the title track and you can check the post on that song.
Even on the radio, you'll never hear the two separated. It's much like radio's insistence on never separating Queen's "We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions".
In 1968, the song got some big attention as Joe Cocker's first hit on his first album. It's radically different and actually pretty good, but I'll always appreciate Ringo's sweet, innocent original more.