April 13, 1965: The Beatles Record "Help!" at Abbey Road Studios
On this day in 1965, The Beatles recorded “Help!” -- the song -- during a four-hour session that started around 7 p.m. at Abbey Road Studio Two in London.
It was the title track of the band's fifth album and second film (Check out the video below).
Twelve takes were recorded that night; the first eight were rhythm tracks only, with vocals appearing for the first time on take nine. John Lennon -- the song's primary writer -- sang lead vocals, backed by Paul McCartney and George Harrison.
Speaking of Harrison, he had some difficulty playing the descending electric-guitar fills when the band was recording the backing tracks (More on this topic when we post a "Beatles Song Facts" story about "Help!" next week.)
The song came to be when someone in The Beatles' camp changed the name of the band's upcoming movie from "Eight Arms to Hold You" to "Help!" Once again, Lennon and McCartney needed to come up with an original song to match the title of a movie. (The same thing happened a year earlier with "A Hard Day's Night.")
"I seem to remember Dick Lester, Brian Epstein, Walter Shenson and ourselves sitting around, maybe Victor Spinetti was there, and thinking, What are we going to call this one? Somehow 'Help!' came out," McCartney said. "I didn't suggest it; John might have suggested it or Dick Lester. It was one of them. John went home and thought about it and got the basis of it, then we had a writing session on it. We sat at his house and wrote it, so he obviously didn't have that much of it. I would have to credit it to John for original inspiration 70-30. My main contribution is the countermelody to John.
Lennon wrote the majority of the song at his home in Weybridge.
"I meant it, it's real," Lennon told Rolling Stone in 1970. "The lyric is as good now as it was then. It is no different, and it makes me feel secure to know that I was aware of myself then. It was just me singing 'help' and I meant it. I don't like the recording too much; we did it too fast trying to be commercial ... I might do "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and "Help!" again, because I like them and I can sing them."