The “weird” Ringo Starr song that The Beatles tried to forget
Despite what you hear of the dictatorship of the two principal songwriters, The Beatles would generally allow Ringo Starr to have his moment in the sun on every record. Most of the time, it saw the drummer take up lead vocals on a song that either Lennon or McCartney had penned and no longer fancied taking on themselves. Starr, being the obliging backbone of the band behind the kit, would pick up the slack and re-imagine a number in his own unique style.
The creation of the 1965 effort ‘Help!’ was no different. The Beatles, sharing the love, would also see George Harrison take up vocal duties on two tracks which would successfully make it onto the record. Starr had attempted his own original song for the record but it had fallen incredibly flat and was shelved immediately by the group. It remained there for years after it didn’t fit the bill.
As they had promised him a song on the project, the Fab Four then recorded ‘Ringo’s song’ in a hurry on the final day of their sessions for the album. It would end up being a cover of ‘Act Naturally’ which was originally written by Johnny Russell and, thanks to its construction, was more than a little slapdash.
Unfortunately for Starr, his moment was all done at the very last minute. Recalling the atrocity which was their first attempt at a song titled ‘If You’ve Got Trouble’, Starr was tasked with working on the old Lennon and McCartney track that the principle songwriting duo of the band had discarded. The drummer, who had been working on the material, decided to add some finishing touches too. However, his valiant efforts weakened an already weak number.
The song’s lyrical content, to put it simply, is just confusing. Starr’s first line is brazenly bizarre by anyone’s definition: “If you’ve got trouble, then you’ve got less trouble than me,” he sings. The drummer then later snarls: “And don’t think it’s funny / When you ask for money / For things”.
The track arrived at a difficult time for The Beatles’ songwriting duo of Lennon and McCartney as they approached one of their few dry spells. The session in which the song was recorded came during a fruitless spell, falling in-between ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’ and ‘Tell Me What You See’ in another selection of forgettable numbers.
Despite the poor lyrical quality, by The Beatles’ high standards, they aren’t even the worst part of the track. George Harrison follows it up by delivering a solo which is nothing short of disastrous and, admittedly, somewhat unbelievable. A usually stylish, if not technically masterful player, Harrison is off-kilter in this performance.
It’s alleged that The Beatles vowed to throw the track away almost the second they finished listening to the first take of the song. Speaking in Anthology, George Harrison said he’d forgotten about its existence: “We’ve just come across [‘If You’ve Got Trouble’],” George said per theBeatles Bible. “I’ve no recollection of ever recording it.”
Although he doesn’t discuss his own faux pax with the solo, the guitarist didn’t hold back in his assessment of the track: “It’s the most weird song… It’s got stupid words and is the naffest song,” he said. “No wonder it didn’t make it onto anything.”
During the Anthology project, Ringo, Paul and George finally shared a wealth of unreleased music such as ‘If You’ve Got Trouble’ so you can decide for yourself whether Harrison’s assessment on the track was justified or not.
Over the years, even Ringo tried to distance himself from the track. Commenting years later, the drummer admitted that the song was never planned for a major role but it was unearthed in a retrospective look back on their work: “I recorded a song for the Help! album that was never released – ‘If You’ve Got Trouble’. George Martin found it in the vaults of EMI studios,” he explained.