Beatles – I’m Down

I have always liked this B side to Help! Not a bad B side at all.

It was credited to Lennon/McCartney but Paul McCartney wrote this track… in the style of Little Richard. American R&B singers like Richard were a big influence on The Beatles.

The Beatles used this as their closing number on 1965 North American and UK tours, and the 1966 World tour.

When the Beatles were recording this…Paul took a break after shredding his vocal cords and recorded the classic…Yesterday. John Lennon played the Hammond organ on this track. It was the first time Lennon played any kind of keyboard on a record. When The Beatles played this live, he often played an electric piano.

This was the first song ever recorded by Aerosmith. They used it as a demo which eventually got them a record deal. They used also recorded it in 1987 on their album Permanent Vacation.

Paul McCartney: “I’m not sure if John had any input on it, in fact I don’t think he did. But not wishing to be churlish, with most of these I’ll always credit him with 10 per cent just in case he fixed a word or offered a suggestion. But at least 90 per cent of that would be mine.”

From Songfacts

In this song, Paul McCartney plays the role of a poor sap wallowing in his misery. But the joke is on him, which the arrangement and backing vocals make clear. When he sings, “I’m down,” John Lennon and George Harrison retort in mocking fashion, with lines like “down on the ground.” It’s as if they’ve heard too much of his bellyaching and they’re sick of it.

A telling line is, “How can you laugh when you know I’m down?” You can only have so much sympathy for someone who won’t help himself. After that, you have to laugh.

The Beatles performed this on their third live Ed Sullivan Show appearance – September 12, 1965. Before The Beatles broke through in America, Sullivan was in the London airport when The Beatles returned from a tour of Sweden. When he saw the massive crowd there to greet them, he thought The Queen was arriving. When he found out the throngs were there for The Beatles, he made sure to book them on his show. He became a big fan and had them on whenever he could.

This was recorded at the same session with “Yesterday” and “I’ve Just Seen a Face.” 

The Beastie Boys recorded a version of this in 1986. Michael Jackson, who owned the publishing rights to this and many other Beatles songs, would not allow them to release it.

Paul McCartney played this at the “Concert For New York,” a benefit show he helped organize in 2001 to help victims of the World Trade Center disaster. It was the first song of his set.

I’m Down

You tell lies thinking I can’t see
You can’t cry ’cause you’re laughing at me
I’m down (I’m really down)
I’m down (Down on the ground)
I’m down (I’m really down)
How can you laugh when you know I’m down
(How can you laugh) When you know I’m down

Man buys ring woman throws it away
Same old thing happens everyday
I’m down (I’m really down)
I’m down (Down on the ground)
I’m down (I’m really down)
How can you laugh when you know I’m down
(How can you laugh) When you know I’m down

We’re all alone and there’s nobody else
You still moan, “Keep your hands to yourself!”
I’m down (I’m really down)
Oh baby, I’m down (Down on the ground)
I’m down (I’m really down)
How can you laugh when you know I’m down
(How can you laugh) When you know I’m down, wow
Baby I’m down

Oh baby, you know I’m down (I’m really down)
Oh yes, I’m down (I’m really down)
I’m down on the ground (I’m really down)
Ah, Down (I’m really down)
Oh baby, I’m upside down, a yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
I’m down (I’m really down)
Oh baby, I’m down (I’m really down)
I’m feeling upside down (I’m really down)
Oh, I’m down (I’m really down)
Baby, I’m down, yeah
Oh baby, I’m down, yeah
Baby I’m down (I’m really down)
Well, baby I’m down (I’m really down)
Well, baby, baby, baby (I’m really down)
Oh baby, I’m down
I’m down, down, down