Released: 23 July 1965 (UK), 19 July 1965 (US)
This Little Richard-inspired, larynx-shredding rocker, written by Paul McCartney, was originally released as the b-side to the Help! single.
I could do Little Richard’s voice, which is a wild, hoarse, screaming thing, it’s like an out-of-body experience. You have to leave your current sensibilities and go about a foot above your head to sing it. You have to actually go outside yourself… A lot of people were fans of Little Richard so I used to sing his stuff but there came a point when I wanted one of my own, so I wrote I’m Down.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
I’m Down was written at the house of Jane Asher‘s parents, in London’s Wimpole Street. Like Help!, it showed a negative side not often associated with the Moptops.
Unlike Help!, however, I’m Down was clearly more joking than earnest, with lines such as “Man buys ring, woman throws it away/Same old thing happens everyday”, and “We’re all alone and there’s nobody else/You still moan, ‘Keep your hands to yourself!'”
I’m not sure if John had any input on it, in fact I don’t think he did. I’m Down was my rock ‘n’ roll shouter. I ended up doing it at Shea Stadium. It worked very well for those kind of places, it was a good stage song, and in as much as they are hard to write, I’m proud of it. Those kind of songs with hardly any melody, rock ‘n’ roll songs, are much harder to write than ballads, because there’s nothing to them.
The Beatles opened their North American tour of August 1965 at Shea Stadium, performing to a crowd of 55,600 – the largest audience the group ever drew. During their frenzied version of I’m Down – which closed the concert – John Lennon played a Vox Continental organ, at times with his elbows. The clip can be seen on the Anthology DVD collection.
I was putting my foot on it and George couldn’t play for laughing. I was doing it for a laugh. The kids didn’t know what I was doing.
Because I did the organ on I’m Down, I decided to play it on stage for the first time. I didn’t really know what to do, because I felt naked without a guitar, so I was doing all Jerry Lee – I was jumping about and I only played about two bars of it.
In the studio
I’m Down was recorded on 14 June. In a remarkable demonstration of his musical versatility, McCartney’s I’ve Just Seen A Face was recorded earlier that afternoon, and in the evening he sang the timeless ballad Yesterday.
It took the group seven takes to perfect I’m Down. Take one can be heard on the Anthology 2 album, without the sound of the organ and backing vocals that would later be overdubbed onto take seven.
During the session, and particularly between takes one and two (included on Anthology 2), McCartney repeated the phrase “Plastic soul, man, plastic soul”, explaining to the other Beatles that it was a phrase used by black musicians to describe Mick Jagger. The words were later adapted by the group for the Rubber Soul album title.