James Taylor made a couple of little-noticed records before signing with the David Geffen-era Warner Brothers label, where he released his breakthrough album, “Sweet Baby James.”
Prior to that, however, Taylor was in England, one of the first artists signed to the Beatles’ Apple Records. He wrote “Fire and Rain,” “Carolina in My Mind” and “Rainy Day Man” during that time, which by all accounts was a pretty pain-filled interval of his life.
Which leads to today’s YouTube treasure, a recording of “With A Little Help From My Friends” performed on TV around that time. It’s a perfectly Taylor-esque transformation, full of lilt and easy cadences – a wonderful cover.
James looks somewhat uncomfortable on the stage, in a rumpled sweater, staring at his feet. Maybe it’s nervousness, but given the time and place, his itchinesses is quite likely chemically induced. Listen at the end of the song, at the familiar chorus – “I get by with a little help from my friends/gonna try with a little help from my friends,” where he adds an ominous little coda – “I just might die with a little help from my friends.”