The Original vs. The Cover – “With A Little Help From My Friends”

For this episode of The Original vs. The Cover, we are going to discuss the incredible song “With A Little Help From My Friends” originally by The Beatles and most famously covered by Joe Cocker. The song for The Beatles was off their 1967 album ‘Sgt. Pepper & the Lonely Hearts Club Band’ and it was never released as a single until a re-issue of it in 1978. Joe Cocker’s version was off his 1968 album of the same name. His version went to #1 in the UK and only #68 in the US but is a signature song for him.

The song was written by the great writing duo of McCartney and Lennon and according to John Lennon, the song was mostly written by Paul with a little help from his friend. They wrote the song specifically for Ringo Starr who sings lead on the track. I found where the original working title of the song was called “Bad Finger Boogie” because Lennon played with only his middle finger on the piano as he hurt his forefinger. That title is said to have inspired the band Badfinger. Now, only believe this if you believe everything wikipedia tells you.

The song is said to be about drugs as even former U.S Vice Presidential candidate, Spiro Agnew, stated it was and wanted the song to be band. That claims is completely denied by the band. The song could be just about how no matter hard it gets, you can make it through it with the help of your friends. I mean John and Paul wrote the song for Ringo so that was helping their friend. Let’s get to the music.

THE BEATLES:

The Beatles version bleeds straight from the title track with the crowd cheering which is actually the crowd noise from their concert at the Hollywood Bowl. It is a 4/4 beat and has a very limited range so that Ringo could sing it easily. When Ringo gets to that last note, he had to work with his friend Paul so he could hit that note. It is a simple sounding song, that feels happy and like you are taking stroll on a sunny day. At 2:46, it is a quick jaunt and is over before you know it. There is no denying the song is The Beatles as it has the classic sound and vibe. The song is very likable, catchy and downright enjoyable.

There was a line in the song “What would you think if I sang out of tune? Would you throw ripe tomatoes at me?” that was changed to say “Would you stand up and walk out on me” as they were afraid people would start throwing tomatoes on stage when they sang that line. Probably a smart move.

JOE COCKER:

Joe Cocker recorded the song the next year and took the song and turned it upside down and inside out and recrafted a 2:45 song into a song that was 5:12. He did this by having an extended instrumental opening, changing the time from 4/4 to 6/8 and even using different chords in the middle of the song. The opening instrumental included Jimmy Page, B.J. Wilson (Procol Harum) and Tommy Eyre. He added a slew female backing vocals and turned the song into a soulful and dramatic masterpiece. That Joe Cocker grit was emotional and heartfelt and pure blue-eyed soul. The song had so much more of an impact and when Cocker hit those screams it is magical. The song might be over 5 minutes but it went by in a flash and you want to hit repeat again and again.

Joe and his producer gave the song to Paul McCartney who absolutely loved it and said he was forever grateful for that version. That tells you everything you need to know right there about the song.

THE VERDICT:

This is really easy for me. I do love the Beatles and there is no denying their greatness, but when it comes to this song, my go to is and always will be Joe Cocker’s version. He wins hands down for me. The soulful feeling of the song, the dramatic singing and those Cocker screams all are so perfect and so powerful. You can’t help but be moved that song. Plus, those backing vocals by some very talented ladies just brings it all home. No offense to Mr. Ringo Starr as I do love his version and a lot of stuff he does, but Joe is king on this one!!

I am really interested in hearing what everyone else thinks of these two songs.  Let me know which version you like the best and why.  Feel free to leave a comment and talk about the song and tell me how right or wrong I am on this one.  Thanks for stopping by and have a great day.

LYRICS:

“With A Little Help From My Friends”

Billy Shears

What would you think 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
Mm I get high with a little help from my friends
Mm gonna 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
Mm I get high with a little help from my friends
Mm gonna try 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
Mm I get high with a little help from my friends
Oh I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends

(Do you need anybody?)
I just need someone to love
(Could it be anybody?)
I want somebody to love

Oh I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm gonna try with a little help from my friends
Oh 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

Written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon

44 thoughts on “The Original vs. The Cover – “With A Little Help From My Friends”

  1. I’m done, I don’t know both of these two artists (I know a bit the beatles with helter skelter but that’s ALL). Incredible, the cover wins !!!!!! Champagne ! Tell me what ya think but “leather boys with electric toys” by Pretty Boy Floyd is one of the best glam metal album

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yep Joe Cockers version is the go to version of this song, the same way Hendrix’s version of “All Along The Watchtower” is the go to version instead of Dylan’s.

    Useless fact, but I was listening to a live album of Richie Sambora earlier and he covers this song as well. It has that soul rock vibe.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Frickin Wonder Years! lol

    I pick Cocker’s version. He put soul into the song. I suspect many people think that Cocker is the song writer.

    Like with Dylan, I find that I prefer many covers of Beatles songs over the originals. U2’s version of Helter Skelter is a good example.

    Tom Keifer from does a mean rendition of the song during his live shows, much in the Cocker vein.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Joe. Joe. Joe. This is Joe’s song. Plus, it’s the soundtrack to one of the great 80’s shows – “The Wonder Years.” I can’t hear this song without thinking about the intro to that show and vice versa. Joe’s version reigns supreme!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I confess that as much as I like the Cocker version, I still prefer the jaunty Beatles version. Ringo is no Cocker but he didn’t have to be. Oddly, I only found out fairly recently that that that that was Page on guitar. He mentioned it in that book of his I posted about. He really dug Cocker’s singing. Page can be very profuse in his praise of those he admires, especially himself!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I always thought it was Joe Cocker’s song and had no idea it was originally by The Beatles. Richie Sambora also did a good cover of this song. I heard it on Spotify in 2020 from the expanded edition of ‘Undiscovered Soul.’ According to Wikipedia, it’s called the 1998 Tour Edition and it features six live tracks from a show in San Diego from 1992, which is strange cause they would fit better for an expanded edition of ‘Stranger in this Town’ instead. But anyways, Sambora’s version draws more inspiration from Cocker’s version and I really enjoy his version because Sambora’s voice has the growl that gives the song the edge it needs.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh I didn’t look through the comments, so I didn’t know that Pete from destroyerofharmony mentioned Sambora’s version! He is a fan of Sambora’s though, so I’m not surprised. Yes, stop what you are doing and listen to Sambora’s amazing voice!

        Liked by 1 person

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