The Paul McCartney Project

I'm Down

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the Help! / I'm Down 7" Single.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1965
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

I’m Down” is a song by the Beatles written by Paul McCartney (credited to Lennon–McCartney) and first released as the B-side to the single “Help!” in 1965.

Composition

According to critic Richie Unterberger of Allmusic, “I’m Down” is “one of the most frantic rockers in the entire Beatles’ catalog.” McCartney told writer Barry Miles that the song and his vocal style on it were influenced by Little Richard, “I used to sing his stuff but there came a point when I wanted one of my own, so I wrote ‘I’m Down.’

Recording

The Beatles recorded “I’m Down” on 14 June 1965 in the same session as “Yesterday” and “I’ve Just Seen a Face“.

The Beatles recorded the backing track in seven takes. The first of these takes can be heard on Anthology 2, with a quiet organ track and no backing vocals. At the beginning of the Anthology version, McCartney says, “Let’s hope this one turns out pretty darn good” in a faux American accent. During the session, particularly between takes one and two, McCartney can be heard repeating the phrase “Plastic soul, man, plastic soul“. He later revealed that the phrase, which the Beatles later adapted for the title of their album Rubber Soul, was used by black musicians to describe Mick Jagger.

Release

The official release date for the “Help“/”I’m Down” single was 19 July 1965 on Capitol Records in the United States and 23 July on Parlophone in the United Kingdom. “I’m Down” was never released on an official Beatle studio album, and was only available in the US in mono as the B-side of the “Help!” single until the summer of 1976. That year, it appeared in stereo on Rock ‘n’ Roll Music, a compilation LP released in the US by Capitol featuring up tempo Beatles’ tracks. The first CD release was in 1988 on the compilation Past Masters, Volume One, where it appeared in true stereo.

There is also an alternate version of the song (take 1) on Anthology 2. The tempo is slower and there are no backing vocals.

Live performances

The song was performed at their fourth appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.

The Beatles used “I’m Down” to close concerts in their final year as a live act replacing “Long Tall Sally” for most of those shows.

During their performance at Shea Stadium in August 1965 (the largest audience the Beatles ever drew during their career as a live touring band), the band played a memorably frenzied version of the song, with John Lennon playing a Vox Continental Organ with his elbows at times. Lennon’s antics caused both Lennon and George Harrison to laugh during the performance as they sing backing vocals from the same microphone. Footage of this performance may be seen on The Beatles Anthology video. Paul McCartney won praise for his soulful singing when they performed it at the Hollywood Bowl.

The band also played this song during their 12 September 1965 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show which was recorded 14 August 1965, the day before the Shea concert. Lennon played the keyboard with his elbow for this performance as well. However, Lennon played guitar, rather than organ, for a version recorded in Tokyo on their 1966 tour even though a Vox organ was set up on stage.

The Beatles also played I’m Down to close their brief live concert at the Circus Krone-Bau in Munich, West-Germany, on June 24, 1966. A recording of the show was aired on German television some time later and can be accessed through several sites. In this show, just prior to playing I’m Down an interlude occurred providing a glimpse of the relationships between the band members:

After the Beatles finished the next-to-last song on the playlist (“Nowhere Man”) Paul McCartney announces in halting German that they will now play their final song and he thanks the audience. But rather than starting to play, McCartney and George Harrison exchange a few words, and it appears McCartney is saying that he forgot the first line (“You telling lies thinking I can’t see”) of the song. Then, John Lennon turns to McCartney and laughingly recites a line in the same rhythm. Some commentators believe that Lennon was helping McCartney to remember, but in fact, he was playing a little joke on his bandmate, scanning “You feel down and you’re not gonna sing”. McCartney then starts the song with the second verse (“Man buys ring woman throws it away”). After the chorus, he tries his hand one more time on the first verse but never gets it right. The whole thing seems to take place in a spirit of camaraderie and fun.

McCartney played the song to open his set at the Concert for New York City following the terrorist attack of 11 September 2001. The concert was held at Madison Square Garden in support of firefighters, policemen, and other public workers who suffered from the aftermath of the attacks. He also reintroduced “I’m Down” into his set list for his three concerts at Citi Field (which replaced Shea Stadium) in July 2009.

Paul McCartney in "Many Years From Now", by Barry Miles:

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.

[…] 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.

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

  • [a] mono 18 Jun 1965.
    UK: Parlophone R5305 single 1965, Parlophone PSLP 261 and PCM 1001 Rarities 1978-79.
    US: Capitol 5476 single 1965.
    CD: EMI single 1989.
  • [b] stereo 18 Jun 1965.
    UK: Parlophone PCSP 719 Rock and Roll Music 1976.
    US: Capitol SKBO-11537 Rock and Roll Music 1976.
    CD: EMI CDP 7 90043 2 Past Masters 1 1988.

During the guitar break in stereo [b], a second, different lead guitar can just be heard as a leak or echo on the mostly silent right channel. Some accounts refer to an “alternate” stereo mix from Japan with two lead guitars, but a tape (allegedly) of that shows it to be the usual stereo version.

Last updated on May 9, 2017

Lyrics

You tell lies thinking I can't see
You can't cry 'cause you're laughing at me
I'm down
(I'm really down)
I'm down
(Down on the ground)
I'm down
(I'm really down)

How can you laugh, when you know I'm down?
How can you laugh, when you know I'm down?

Man buys ring, woman throws it away
Same old thing happen every day
I'm down
(I'm really down)
I'm down
(Down on the ground)
I'm down
(I'm really down)

How can you laugh, when you know I'm down?
How can you laugh, when you know I'm down?

We're all alone and there's nobody else
She'll still moan, "Keep your hands to yourself"
I'm down
(I'm really down)
Ah babe I'm down
(Down on the ground)
I'm down

How can you laugh, when you know I'm down?
How can you laugh, when you know I'm down? Whoa-ow

A baby you know I'm down
(I'm really down)
I guess I'm down
(I'm really down)
I'm down on the ground
(I'm really down)
I'm down
(I'm really down)
Ah, baby I'm upside down
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

(I'm really down)
Oh baby I'm down
(I'm really down)
I'm feeling upside down
(I'm really down)
Ohh, I'm down
(I'm really down)
Oh baby I'm down, yeah
Oh baby I'm down, yeah

Oh baby I'm down
(I'm really down)
Oh baby I'm down
(I'm really down)
Oh baby, baby, baby
(I'm really down)
Oh baby I'm down
(I'm really down)

Officially appears on


Help! / I'm Down

7" Single • Released in 1965

2:34 • Studio versionA • Mono

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Bongos, Drums
John Lennon:
Backing vocals, Organ, Rhythm guitar
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Lead guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Norman Smith:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Jun 14, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jun 14, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

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


Past Masters

Official album • Released in 1988

2:34 • Studio versionB • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Bongos, Drums
John Lennon:
Backing vocals, Organ, Rhythm guitar
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Lead guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Norman Smith:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Jun 14, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jun 14, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

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


Anthology 2

Official album • Released in 1996

2:54 • OuttakeC • Issued here for the first time is Take 1, played live in the studio and, as Paul had wished turning out "pretty darn good". Listen closely at the end for Paul's comment "Plastic soul man, plastic soul", a phrase which, when slightly altered, became the title of the Beatles' sixth album, issued in December 1965.

George Martin:
Producer
Norman Smith:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Jun 14, 1965
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Good Evening New York City

Official live • Released in 2009

2:20 • LiveL1 • Could have been record on 17, 18 or 21 July 2009

Paul McCartney:
Executive producer
Performed by:
Paul McCartneyRusty AndersonAbe Laboriel Jr.Paul WickensBrian Ray
Geoff Emerick:
Audio mixing
Paul Hicks:
Audio mixing
Jonas Westling:
Additional engineering
Richard Lancaster:
Additional engineering
John Henry:
Recording

Concert From the concert in New York, USA on Jul 17, 2009

Bootlegs



Driving Rain... In The New Century

Unofficial album • Released in 2002

3:09 • Live • Recorded at Madison Square Garden, New York, for "The Concert For New York City" and aired live on many TV stations. Paul on Hofner bass and vocals, Abe Laboriel Jnr. on drums, Rusty Anderson on electric guitar and Gabe Dixon on keyboards and Will Lee on bass.

Concert From "The Concert For New York City" in New York, USA on Oct 20, 2001


For Freedom, Peace And Her Majesty

Unofficial live • Released in 2002

3:01 • Live

Concert From "The Concert For New York City" in New York, USA on Oct 20, 2001


Help! - Studio Sessions - Back To Basics

Unofficial album • Released in 2011

2:55 • Alternate take • Take 1 Stereo


Help! - Studio Sessions - Back To Basics

Unofficial album • Released in 2011

2:34 • Alternate take • Rs From Take 7 Version 1 Rock N Roll Music Stereo


Live performances

“I'm Down” has been played in 64 concerts.

Latest concerts where “I'm Down” has been played


Dallas • Cowboys Stadium

Aug 19, 2009 • Part of Summer Live '09


Tulsa • BOK Center

Aug 17, 2009 • Part of Summer Live '09


Atlanta • Piedmont Park

Aug 15, 2009 • Part of Summer Live '09


Boston • Fenway Park

Aug 06, 2009 • Part of Summer Live '09


Boston • Fenway Park

Aug 05, 2009 • Part of Summer Live '09



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