Act Naturally

Written by Johnny RussellVoni Morrison

Album This song officially appears on the Help! (Mono) Official album.
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

Previous • Act 6: Release

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

Act Naturally” is a song written by Johnny Russell and Voni Morrison, originally recorded by Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, whose version reached number 1 on the Billboard Country Singles chart in 1963, his first chart-topper. In 2002, Shelly Fabian of About.com ranked the song number 169 on her list of the Top 500 Country Music Songs.

The song has been covered by many other artists, including Loretta Lynn, Dwight Yoakam, Mrs. Miller and the Beatles.

Origin

Russell, originally from Mississippi, was based in Fresno, California in the early 1960s. One night, some of his friends from Oklahoma planned to do a recording session in Los Angeles and asked him to join them. In order to do so, Russell had to break a date with his then-girlfriend. “When she asked me why I was going to L.A., I answered, ‘They are going to put me in the movies and make a big star out of me.’ We both laughed.

Thus inspired, Russell quickly came up with a concept for a love song based around his comment. He wrote it that day, and tried to teach it to the singer he was helping in Los Angeles, but he was unable to learn it. Russell then wanted to record it himself, but his then-producer turned it down, claiming that songs about the movies were not hit material.

A full two years passed before anyone recorded “Act Naturally“. “No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get anyone interested in it,” Russell said.

Buck Owens and the Buckaroos version

By 1963, Russell was writing with a woman named Voni Morrison, who also worked with a Bakersfield, California-based singer named Buck Owens. After Russell played “Act Naturally” for Morrison, she thought it would be a natural for Owens, and she told Russell that she could get him to record it. Because no one had yet recorded it, and Russell had an agreement with Morrison to share songwriting credits, he gave her partial credit, though her only role in the song was submitting it to Owens.

Owens did not like “Act Naturally” at first. But Buckaroo band member, Don Rich, heard Russell’s demo version and liked it, and eventually, the song grew on Owens. One night, Russell got a phone call from Owens asking if he could record the song, and he said yes. “I later found out that he had already recorded the song that day and just wanted the publishing rights,” Russell said. “I was more than pleased to give him the rights in order to get the song recorded.

Owens recorded “Act Naturally” at the Capitol studios in Hollywood on February 12, 1963, and the single was released on March 11. It entered the Billboard country charts on April 13, 1963. On June 15, Owens’ version spent the first of four non-consecutive weeks at #1. In all, it spent 28 weeks on the country charts. The song helped to make him a superstar; before the 1960s were over, Owens had placed 19 singles atop the Billboard country charts. The song also helped establish Russell as a songwriter, and in the 1970s he was modestly successful as a singer as well.

The Beatles version

The Beatles covered the song in 1965 on the United Kingdom version of their album Help!. It was released as the B-side of “Yesterday” in the United States.

Sung by Ringo Starr, Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic called it “an ideal showcase for Ringo’s amiable vocals.” They performed the song during an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show which was taped on August 14, 1965, and broadcast on September 12, 1965. It was also performed at the Beatles’ famous Shea Stadium concert on August 15, 1965, and played at some concerts throughout the Beatles’ 1965 U.S. tour (alternating with Starr’s other song, “I Wanna Be Your Man“).

Recorded on June 17, 1965, in 13 takes, the first 12 takes were evidently used to work out the arrangement; the master was take 13, the only take with vocals. It was mixed the following day. The Beatles almost recorded a song by their engineer Norman Smith, but realized that Starr did not yet have a vocal on Help! They originally recorded the song “If You’ve Got Trouble” earlier in 1965 as Starr’s intended song for the album, but were dissatisfied with the results and recorded “Act Naturally” to replace it. It was the last cover they recorded until the Get Back/Let It Be sessions in 1969.

Because Capitol Records’ version of the Help! album included only the songs that appeared in the film Help!, plus incidental music from the film, the label held back “Yesterday” and “Act Naturally” and issued them as a non-LP single. As the B-side of the U.S. single, “Act Naturally” peaked at #47 in October 1965. The two songs made their first US album appearance on Yesterday and Today, released in the U.S. on June 20, 1966.

When the single was reissued on Apple Records in 1971, “Act Naturally” had the “full apple” side and “Yesterday” ended up on the “sliced apple” side. That is because “Act Naturally” was the intended A-side and has always been listed as such in Capitol’s files. […]

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

  • [a] mono 18 Jun 1965.
    UK: Parlophone PMC 1255 Help! 1965.
    US: Capitol 5498 single 1965, Capitol T 2553 Yesterday & Today 1966.
    CD: EP Box set 1991.
  • [b] stereo 18 Jun 1965.
    UK: Parlophone PCS 3071 Help! 1965.
    US: Capitol ST 2358 Yesterday & Today 1966.
  • [c] stereo 1987.
    CD: EMI CDP 7 46439 2 Help! 1987.

Lyrics

They're gonna put me in the movies
They're gonna make a big star out of me
We'll make a film about a man that's sad and lonely
And all I gotta do is act naturally

Well, I'll bet you I'm gonna be a big star
Might win an Oscar you can never tell
The movies gonna make me a big star
'Cause I can play the part so well

Well I hope you come and see me in the movies
Then I’ll know that you will plainly see
The biggest fool that ever hit the big time
And all I gotta do is act naturally

We'll make the scene about a man that's sad and lonely
And beggin down upon his bended knee
I'll play the part but I won't need rehearsin’
All I have to do is act naturally

Well, I'll bet you I'm gonna be a big star
Might win an Oscar you can never tell
The movies gonna make me a big star
'Cause I can play the part so well

Well I hope you come and see me in the movies
Then I’ll know that you will plainly see
The biggest fool that ever hit the big time
And all I gotta do is act naturally

Officially appears on


Help! (Mono)

Official album • Released in 1965

2:30 • Studio versionA • Mono

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Harmony vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Sticks, Vocals
John Lennon:
Acoustic rhythm guitar
George Harrison:
Lead guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Norman Smith:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Jun 17, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jun 18, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Help! (Stereo)

Official album • Released in 1965

2:30 • Studio versionB • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Harmony vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Sticks, Vocals
John Lennon:
Acoustic rhythm guitar
George Harrison:
Lead guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Norman Smith:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Jun 17, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jun 18, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Yesterday and Today (Mono)

Official album • Released in 1966

2:31 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Harmony vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Sticks, Vocals
John Lennon:
Acoustic rhythm guitar
George Harrison:
Lead guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Norman Smith:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Jun 17, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jun 18, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Yesterday and Today (Stereo)

Official album • Released in 1966

2:32 • Studio versionB

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Harmony vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Sticks, Vocals
John Lennon:
Acoustic rhythm guitar
George Harrison:
Lead guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Norman Smith:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Jun 17, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jun 18, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Yesterday

EP • Released in 1966

2:32 • Studio versionA • Mono

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Harmony vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Sticks, Vocals
John Lennon:
Acoustic rhythm guitar
George Harrison:
Lead guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Norman Smith:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Jun 17, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jun 18, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Bootlegs



A/B Road Complete Get Back Sessions - Jan 25th, 1969 - 1 & 2

Unofficial album • Released in 2004

0:39 • Rehearsal • Jan.25 - D1-19 - Act Naturally 25.11

Recording:
Jan 25, 1969


Live Anthology VII (1965)

Unofficial live • Released in 2014

2:54 • Live • Blackpool 1Aug65


Live Anthology VII (1965)

Unofficial live • Released in 2014

2:42 • Live • Ed Sullivan 14Aug65


Live Anthology VIII (1965)

Unofficial live • Released in 2014

3:05 • Live • New York 1965

Concerts where “Act Naturally” has been played

“Act Naturally” has been played in 26 concerts.

Latest concerts where “Act Naturally” has been played


Cardiff • Capitol Theatre

Dec 12, 1965 • Part of 1965 UK Tour


Cardiff • Capitol Theatre

Dec 12, 1965 • Part of 1965 UK Tour


London • Astoria Theatre

Dec 11, 1965 • Part of 1965 UK Tour


London • Astoria Theatre

Dec 11, 1965 • Part of 1965 UK Tour


London • Hammersmith Odeon

Dec 10, 1965 • Part of 1965 UK Tour

Tours where “Act Naturally” has been played



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