The love shared between Paul McCartney and John Lennon goes far beyond any notion of fame, fortune or the rock and roll lifestyle. Their bond, cemented in their teens and making it way past the eroding qualities of the aforementioned winds of change, was unlike any other. Though the pair famously bickered throughout The Beatles final moments, before Lennon was sadly murdered, he and McCartney had all but made up and got themselves back on track.
“We had certainly got our friendship back,” recalled McCartney when asked about his rekindling friendship, “which was a great blessing for me, and I now will often think, if I’m writing a song, ‘OK, John — I’ll toss it over to you. What line comes next?’ So I’ve got a virtual John that I can use.” One song that was always cherished by the late Lennon was ‘Help!’ and it makes this unique tribute all the more special.
“We think it’s one of the best we’ve written,” said John Lennon in 1965 as he contemplated on the band’s recent single ‘Help!’, a commissioned track for their new film of the same name.
The Beatles rose to the top had been astronomical, but behind all the fast games, quick cash and unstoppable fandom, Lennon was already beginning to long for a time before the Fab Four ever happened. He was crying out for help. It is on this track that he goes into his “fat Elvis period” and yet still manages to create one of the band’s most cherished songs—and one of Lennon’s favourites.
The singer and guitarist replied to a Rolling Stone question about why he loved the song so much, and he replied, “Because I meant it, it’s real. The lyric is as good now as it was then; it’s no different, you know. It makes me feel secure to know that I was that sensible or whatever – well, not sensible, but aware of myself. That’s with no acid, no nothing… well pot or whatever.” Lennon clarifies his point, “It was just me singing “help”, and I meant it, you know. I don’t like the recording that much, the song I like. We did it too fast to try and be commercial.”
So, when Paul McCartney was given the opportunity to pay tribute to the late singer in 1990, he was sure to add ‘Help!’ into his medley as part of a huge concert. As well as performing ‘Strawberry Fields‘ and ‘Give Peace A Chance’, the song that had so accurately captured Lennon made for a fitting tribute. Wrapped up in emotion, McCartney evens breaks down a little at the end of the performance, clearly overawed by the audience and the hole left by his friend.
The beautiful rendition of the song is elevated by two things. Firstly, the aforementioned audience, simply brimming with love and adoration for Lennon and, secondly, the fact McCartney slowed the song down. While some may have assumed this was to benefit the medley and McCartney’s playing, the truth is, Macca took the tempo down so he could marry up with Lennon’s wish.
Watch Paul McCartney pay tribute to John Lennon with a rendition of The Beatles song ‘Help!’ below.