Day 124: “I’m Down”

When was it recorded?  Jun. 14, 1965

When was it first released, and on which album?  Jul. 23, 1965 as a B-side to “Help!”

Who wrote it?  McCartney

Have I heard this song before?  Yes

What my research dug up:

Like most of his material from this era, Paul wrote “I’m Down” in the basement music room of Jane Asher’s parents’ home in London.

“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

Richie Unterberger noted in his song review that “I’m Down” “was one of the most frantic rockers in the entire Beatles catalog. …Critics have often noted that the vocal and the song itself are very much in the Little Richard style, and some see it as little more than a rewrite of Little Richard’s ‘Long Tall Sally.’” The similarities were intentional.

“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 (Barry Miles, Many Years From Now)

Unterberger observed “a contradiction between the mood of the lyrics — ostensibly a guy down in the dumps about being dumped — and the delivery. McCartney does not sound down in the dumps; he sounds like he’s having the time of his life, with an energy that’s incredibly infectious.”

The Beatles recorded “I’m Down” in seven takes on Jun. 14, 1965. The first take appears on “Anthology 2.” (That’s Paul at the start, practicing his American accent.)

You hear Paul talking to himself at the very end there?  According to the Beatles Bible, “During the session, and particularly between takes one and two… 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.”

The “Help!”/ “I’m Down” single was released Jul. 19 in the US and Jul. 23 in the UK.

The Beatles performed “I’m Down” during their fourth appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” It was recorded Aug. 14 and aired Sept. 12.

Quoth Wikipedia, “The Beatles used ‘I’m Down’ to close concerts in their final year as a live act.” On one day after their Ed Sullivan appearance noted above, the group played this number at their infamous Shea Stadium concert.  John plays the organ… quite uniquely during this show.

“I was putting my foot on it and George couldn’t play for laughing. I was doing it for a laugh. …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 (Anthology)




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