Monday, April 15, 2013

The Beatles - Help! (album and film)

Similar to A Hard Day's Night, Help's side A contains all music from the film, while side B features two covers and some more original songs.  But is it as strong overall as that other soundtrack album?  Let's see.

  1. "Help!" - Let's hit the ground running with a great one, right?  The story goes that the film was going to be called Eight Arms to Hold You until John ended up writing this song.  It fits the film well with the Beatles constantly running away from Ringo's dilemma and it's just a great song besides.  It's also a great intro to this start of a new direction for the Beatles.  While the songs are still largely about relationships, they're becoming more about specific instances rather than just general I love you/I miss you kind of things.
  2. "The Night Before" - Before Linda came along Paul had a long standing relationship with Jane Asher, and it's pretty clear that around this time they were having quite a bit of trouble.  Nearly all of his songs are about such troubles.  This one is not fantastic, but still a pretty strong one.
  3. "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" - Reportedly a song John wrote for their gay manager Brian Epstein, it's a wonderfully sad song that always tugs at my heartstrings.  I love the strong presence of the acoustic guitar and the flute.  Paul described this as John mocking Bob Dylan, and you can certainly hear the resemblance. Bonus fun: Listen to the first 30 seconds of this clip where Paul breaks a glass in the background and John makes up a silly song on the spot.
  4. "I Need You" - It's time for George's song.  It's average.  There's some neat little percussion bits in there, but overall it's a kind of sleeper song.
  5. "Another Girl" - This is sort of Paul's version of "If I Fell," except he's speaking directly to the ex rather than the new girl.  It's certainly a much more positive take on the issue.  He's still trying to make the old girl jealous, but he's doing it largely by telling her how great the new one is.  It's also fun and upbeat and very catchy.
  6. "You're Going to Lose That Girl" - Another love triangle song, but now it's about threatening to take a girl away if you don't treat her right, so I guess we're on a better track here.  The harmonies and percussion are really what shine in this song to me.
  7. "Ticket to Ride" - John once called this the first heavy metal song.  At first listen, that may sound far fetched, but I think if you listen to both the guitars and way he's singing, you can hear how this could have influenced the metal singers of the 70s.  Regardless it's a great song and a great way to end side A.
  8. "Act Naturally" - Ringo sings the first of the two covers on this album, no doubt because he wasn't quite ready to write his own songs yet.  Once again it suits his voice really well and I think it's one of my favorite Ringo songs.  Listening to the original, they didn't deviate too much from it.  That one has just a little too much twang in it for my tastes though.
  9. "It's Only Love" - Another somber one from John, and another one I've always really enjoyed.  I love the way he goes crooner level high at some parts.
  10. "You Like Me Too Much" - This song sounds more like their earlier albums.  It's another George song, and it makes me think that in terms of writing he wasn't quite ready to leave that style just yet.
  11. "Tell Me What You See" - I had to look this one up because I couldn't remember it.  A few seconds in I found myself getting the urge to skip it, because apparently that's what I always did when listening to this album.  It's just really boring.
  12. "I've Just Seen a Face" - I've always really liked the fast pace of this one.  It's a different spin from most country songs you normally here.
  13. "Yesterday" - I don't have to tell you about this one.  You've heard it, you've heard it covered ten million times no doubt, you probably already know it's the first Beatles song that contained only one Beatle and just backing musicians.  At the time it sparked rumors that Paul would go solo.  To be quite honest I'm downright bored with it by now from hearing it so often, but there's no denying it's good for what it is.  I learned how to play the basic melody of this one on the keyboard way back in 8th grade, so I obviously liked it a bit more back then.
  14. "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" - Well hello oddball cover track that doesn't belong on this album.  Seriously, I don't think I've ever seen a more obvious instance where they had to fill up the rest of the record space so they fired off one more quick cover.  I always assumed this was a Little Richard song, but in fact it was sung by Larry Williams.  So now we all know.

After A Hard Day's Night was such a huge success, they decided to take a few more chances and go a bit more theatrical for their second film.  The result is a far zanier film, a more obvious comedy, and not something that could be labeled an art film very easily.  But that doesn't mean it isn't good.

The plot is simple if not a bit ludicrous - a girl who is part of a sacrificial cult sends Ringo their symbolic ring to avoid her own sacrifice.  Yeah, that's the one problematic part of the film, where the enemy is made up of "Easterners" and of course are all played by European actors.  But this was made in the 1960s after all.  Ringo puts on the ring not knowing what it is, and then can't get it off once he finds out.  He and the other Beatles spend the film trying to run away from the cult members, who chase them all over the world.  It feels a lot like an English comedy sketch show like Monty Python, and it should, because both that series and this film were inspired by the English radio program The Goon Show.

I love this style of humor so it's no surprise that I also love this film.  It's silly, it's random, and it has all kinds of crazy moments.  I love the set up of the house where the Beatles supposedly live and so many of the gags just thrown in throughout.  "The Exciting Adventure of Paul on the Floor" may be one of my favorite moments, but really the whole film is just so funny.

The music segments here are all straight up music videos, which makes sense as by this point they were making promotional videos to send out to television stations quite regularly.  This comes from my favorite era of Beatles history, and therefore I particularly love most of the songs here, Ticket to Ride perhaps being the best, both in song and performance.  We also once again get instrumental Beatles songs in the score.

This film may not be as easily accessible as A Hard Day's Night, but I think fans of British humor will enjoy it immensely.


  1. +JMJ+

    I can't help (Ahem!) comparing Help! to A Hard Day's Night--both the albums and the title tracks--for obvious reasons. The song are both very strong openings, and though I prefer A Hard Day's Night, I think that Help is the more innovative and original of the two. And this statement would probably cover what I think of both albums as well.

    Another thing they have in common (if you ask me) is that their second most popular track is one I don't really care for. I'm actually quite bored by Ticket to Ride. =/ It begins with the promise of a story, but doesn't go anywhere. Compare it to Another Girl and I've Just Seen a Face which have more of a narrative. (Apparently, I like Paul's stuff on this album! On the other hand, he does his own bit of "going nowhere" with Yesterday.) You know The Carpenters' really slow and dragging version of Ticket to Ride, I'm sure. I think they tapped into the actual soul of the song with their cover and that the Beatles' original arrangement injected a lot of life into a song that would have preferred to be lazy. =P

    Hands down, my favourite track on this album is You're Going to Lose That Girl. I love the harmonies and the arrangement! =D

    Believe it or not, I also had to look up Tell Me What You See! I could sing every track on this album except that one. But I don't hate it or anything. In fact, I kind of like it. =P

    What I skipped was Dizzy Miss Lizzy. You're right that it's the oddest possible ending!

    On the whole, Help! is the most complex and layered album they had done so far. I guess the reason I still prefer A Hard Day's Night is that this one is a bit more Country and notably peppier. John's cynicism and stingers are nowhere to be heard here, and while they are morally awful, they did give A Hard Day's Night some edge that I miss in Help!.

    1. If I had heard the Carpenter's version of the song, I blocked it out of my mind. It's an interesting concept, sort of like the punk versions of all the 80s new wave songs that were popular in the early 90s (though in the completely opposite direction!) but the musical arrangement is so boring!

      Since you haven't mentioned it on either of these, I have to ask. Have you seen either of the two films?

    2. +JMJ+

      I have seen both movies--but a long time ago! I remember thinking that a lot of stuff was flying over my head. =P I'd probably appreciate them better today.


Related Posts with Thumbnails