Wednesday, May 18, 2011

With A Little Help From My Friends

Richard Furnstein: In a touching display, uber-humans John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote "With A Little Help From My Friends" to reflect on the role that friends play to support in times of weakness and doubt. Then, wisely, these infallible egomaniacs passed the song along to their tone deaf, large nosed, maligned drummer with the weak immune system. And, gosh, does Ringo deliver. It's by far his best vocal on a Beatles track; he fully conveys the simple beauty of the lyrics without adding too much weight to the song's more poetic moments ("What do you see when you turn out the lights? I can't tell you but I know that it's mine."). It all leads up to one of the most real and durable moments in the Beatles squishy psychedelic period.

Robert Bunter: Previous Ringo showcases fell into two categories: trifling goof-outs like "Yellow Submarine" and C&W showcases (the rumbling "I Wanna Be Your Man" is the exception that proves the rule, or something). "With A Little Help From My Friends" was the first time he graced a really substantial piece of material. In the context of the imaginary Sgt. Pepper live show, Ringo perfectly inhabits the role of the beloved, slightly hapless performer who gets trotted out for a happy tune after the theme song dies down. I wish that Sgt. Pepper's was real life and there was actually such a wonderful show and I was in the audience. I would drop my quarter-segment of Purple Flash about an hour before the curtain went up, so it would just be starting to kick in about halfway through the Sgt. Pepper theme. When I start to get sweaty and freaked out by my distorted perceptions, "With A Little Help From My Friends" will calm down my vibes and set me up perfectly for "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds". Most likely, I'd be staring with wide, dilated eyeballs at Paul McCartney and marveling at what an utterly terrific bass part he's playing here. When it gets to that great moment at the end when Ringo bellows "FRIENDS!" I'm sure that I would be totally enraptured.

Richard Furnstein: I think I would imagine that Paul's full bass guitar was actually played by the disembodied colored head of Oliver Hardy bouncing in time with the rhythm. In fact, this is my typical acid fantasy/nightmare when I stare into the crowd of faces on the album cover. Oh yeah, plus William S. Burroughs is melting and cackling that weird old man, junkie clogged throat cackle. But only in the right channel of my headphones. Does that make sense? I'm listening in mono, obviously.

Robert Bunter: I think this is up there with the all-time best Ringo moments. You've got the drum track for "Rain," the "This Boy" scene in the Hard Day's Night film, "I've got blisters on me fingers," and "With A Little Help From My Friends." It's just another case of the Beatles serving up heaping helpings of warm feelings and human smiles on a vinyl platter. I'll take seconds, please!

Richard Furnstein: What about the drum solo on "The End"?

Robert Bunter: Oh yeah, doy. "And the drum solo on 'The End.'"

Richard Furnstein: My favorite "With A Little Help" memory is the bit on the Lennon Anthology box where Sean Lennon is singing the bridge of this song. Yoko asks John the title of the song and John is caught off guard. He eventually identifies it as "With A Little Help From My Friends" from the biggest album of all time. It's a touching moment, but it also makes you feel bad that Ringo has to wheel out this song every single night of his All Starr Band tours while John immediately replaced it in his memory bank with "Bless You," "Meat City," and "I Found Out." Poor Ringo!

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