I’m Down

Past Masters album artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 14 June 1965
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 23 July 1965 (UK), 19 July 1965 (US)

Paul McCartney: vocals, bass
John Lennon: backing vocals, rhythm guitar, organ
George Harrison: backing vocals, lead guitar
Ringo Starr: drums, bongos

Available on:
Past Masters
Anthology 2

This Little Richard-inspired, larynx-shredding rocker, written by Paul McCartney, was originally released as the b-side to the Help! single.

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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.
Paul McCartney
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.
Paul McCartney

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.

John Lennon

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.

18 responses on “I’m Down

  1. CaptKundalini

    I loved the way Paul said, “Tear it up, John!” That was followed by something unintelligible followed by some raucous laughter.

      1. jennifur Sun

        you are right. Paul says Hurry up John, then he says Can you hear me. loved the video from Shea which sadly like most of the Beatles stuff is now gone from Youtube. my fav Paul Rocker. and although he didn;t know it, was i could tell him thanks for the first verse. have said that in my mind many times now when someone does something to hurt me and they know it. You telling lies thinking i can’t see/ you can’;t cry cause your laughing at me/ I’m down

  2. David (from Peru)

    I always thought that Paul says “very odd, John”. Also, isn’t in this one that Paul hits one of if highest recorded notes? (a high D in “oh baby I’m Dooooooown” by the end of the song).

  3. Billy Shears

    Quite racy lyrics for a song at that time. No wonder it was a “B” side release. Great rocker. It should have been included on “Help”. Wonder why it was not on the “Hey Jude / Beatles Again” LP? By that time, the words would have been more socially acceptable.

  4. kenlacouture

    Actually the organ is present on take 1, a bit low in the mix but quite evident in the right channel.

    …or perhaps I should have said “an organ”, as it seems there might be two in the released take — in the master take there is an organ playing basic chords in the right (with the rest of the instruments — the right, unusually!) and also the wild solo which leans towards the left, most likely indicating it was on a different track.

    1. kenlacouture

      Goodness, I must have been half asleep when I wrote the above comment! Of course the master take and mix of I’m Down has the instruments in the LEFT. But there is indeed an organ performance over there, and the organ solo is roughly up the middle. I must have had my headphones on backwards!

  5. Graham Paterson

    Brilliant Paul McCartney rocker. As everyone knows inspired by Little Richard. One of the great B sides. Paul’s vocals,coupled with George’s lead guitar and John Lennon’s brilliance on the organ make this a classic.

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