Tuesday, February 15, 2011

332. Help! Worse film, better album.



Album: Help!
Artist: The Beatles
Genre: Rock
Year: 1965

Help! is the Soundtrack to the Beatles second movie which was produced after the huge success of A Hard Day’s Night. While the earlier movie had a great script, an engaging, if lightweight story, and a chance for the Beatles to shine as characters, Help! was basically an excuse for the fab four to go to interesting locations. There is a pointless story about a stolen ring and a lot of running about by the supporting cast but the whole thing is a bit of a yawn in the long run and the Beatles themselves were fairly dissatisfied with the result. But the soundtrack... the soundtrack is a killer. One of the great albums of the sixties and another step towards the more complicated psychedelia of their final albums. As always with the Beatles I’ll go track by track so I can really wax lyrical


Help!

John Lennon wrote this when he was genuinely feeling down and really did need help. The lyrics are sincere even if the music wasn’t. John felt able to write about his true feelings but decided he needed to mask the words in a typically Beatley upbeat tune. Some people since have decided to try and slow down the song and sing it in an imploring style that matches the lyrics. This is a huge mistake and people who do this should be smacked. Part of the charm is the mismatch of the words and the tune.

The Night Before

A fairly simple rocker from Paul McCartney. If you were keeping score (and you shouldn’t) John is definitely ahead on this opening salvo. Paul has written a great song but John has written a classic,

You’ve got to Hide your love away

John wasn’t the only one having a nasty time in 1965. Beatles manager Brian Epstein was a closet homosexual in an era that still felt the closet was the only appropriate place for anyone from the alternative sexualities. John wrote Hide about Brian as a warning to conceal his real feelings for his fellow man, feelings that many felt were directed towards John himself. Two classic songs for John in the album so far.

I need you.

If you’re keeping score (and you shouldn’t) then there’s no reason to register any points for George so far. Listening to this it’s hard to imagine that this is the guy who later wrote While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Although if his guitar had to listen to this song too often you can sympathise with it’s emotional state.

Another Girl

Here’s another song that failed to trouble the Liverpool Postal Service because this is nothing to write home about. Paul was writing some great songs around this time but so far Help! has been John’s album.

You’re gonna lose that girl.

A nice song sadly ruined by some over-zealous percussion. There are some bongos on this track that just don’t need to be there. Thankfully some nice people at the Beatles remixers group felt they didn’t need to be there either and released a version on the internet with the bongos removed. It lets the strength of the melody and the harmonies come through and sounds a lot better. Isn’t modern technology great?

Ticket to Ride

The last song on side one and John’s third classic on the album. A lot of band’s would be happy with three songs this good in three years. The Beatles had them on one side of vinyl. Ticket to Ride is the perfect example of where they were at this point in their musical life. It still uses the same instruments they’ve been using throughout their career but there’s something that suggests they’re moving into more experimental territory. It’s got an edgier feel. It would feel out of place on Revolver but then it wouldn't fit on Please Please Me either.

Act Naturally

Act Naturally leads off side two. Like A Hard Day’s Night before it these are the songs that didn’t make the cut for the movie but pad the album out to a full length. This song is a bit of a joke referencing the fact that Ringo is the most natural actor of the group. He’s certainly a better actor than he is a singer. It’s a cute song but it does wear out it’s welcome on repeated listens. And you know I’ve given this album repeated listens.

It’s Only Love

A pleasant enough ditty from John. The final take is nice but I always prefer take 2 which has a simpler feel and lets John give a more emotional performance. He really does sound like a troubled soul on this version as opposed to the final release which seems a bit cleaned up and sanitized for the record buying public.

You like me too much.

George’s second contribution and one that’s worthy of its place on the album. It’s not a classic by any stretch of the imagination but at least you can understand why they chose to include it. George Martin plays some nice piano as well.

Tell me what you see

Paul has yet to contribute a really great song on this album. All his efforts have been fairly lacklustre and a long distance behind John. All that’s about to change.

I’ve just seen a face

This is definitely my pick for under-appreciated Beatles gem. You don’t find it on best-of compilations and it rarely makes people’s favourites list but it’s a truly sensational song. It’s just over 2 minutes of pop bliss played on acoustic instruments that bounces along and can’t help but put a smile on your face. It’s a sensational song and if it was the only contribution Paul made to Help! he would have earned his money. But there was one other number he felt the need to record...

Yesterday

Apparently this is the most covered song in the history of songs. More people have heard this and felt the need to put out their own version than any other tune. It’s one of those songs that has invaded the world’s conscience. Amazingly Paul woke up with Yesterday in his head after a dream. It boggles my mind that he can write songs this good while napping. It’s also the first Beatles song to only include a lone Beatle. Paul recorded his guitar and vocal and strings were added without the other three touching an instrument. Personally I prefer the song without the string overdubs.

Dizzy Miss Lizzy

After four albums of material the Beatles had included most of their best covers and so were reduced to scraping the bottom of the barrel a bit to pad out the length of this album. Dizzy Miss Lizzy is no Roll over Beethoven or Money. But it does act as a farewell to one part of their career. From this point onwards albums wouldn’t have a smattering of covers to take up their running length. After Help! the Beatles were no longer a covers band, they were breaking totally new territory and their albums from here on in were innovations.

Highlight: You’ve got to hide your love away
Lowlight: I need you

Influenced by: Sleep (Paul), desperation and overeating (John) and the other two (George)
Influenced: Everyone

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote:I never bought it, so I don't know why they asked me to review this.”

-Sorry? You’re giving an album one star because someone asked you to review it? Who asked you- the voices in your head? Baffling.

So who do you think needs help- this album or anyone who doesn’t like it? Let me know below.

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