The Beatles – Help!

Their holy fabness take yet another step towards world domination

By 1965 The Beatles were practically Pop’s latest aristocracy, who in the eyes of their adoring fans could do no wrong. However John Lennon was fast becoming disillusioned with the music business, and what The Beatles had become in particular, whom he felt were being manipulated by the public and most importantly by their own record company.

The previous year’s movie A Hard Day’s Night, along with the accompanying soundtrack, had propelled the group into both charts and cinemas the world over, turning them into superstars in the process. But this was a time when pop musicians, no matter how massive, were still often regarded as puppets to be exploited by whichever corporation they had sold their souls to (Bob Dylan being one exception).

When Lennon quietly complained, he certainly had a point. In the year that Help! came out, The Kinks had already released “You Really Got Me,” The Rolling Stones “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” while The Animals issued “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place.” Clearly the whole musical landscape was rapidly shifting, where events happened not in a matter of months or years, but in weeks.

Although Help! the film was something of a commercial farce, the accompanying soundtrack was anything but. Finally The Beatles had decided that the time was right to start taking themselves a little more seriously, both in terms of style and substance.

The album opens with the title track, Lennon’s very own distress signal to the outside world that being a Beatle wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Such a personal and public SOS naturally fell on deaf ears, even on McCartney, who regarded it as just another well-crafted pop song. Another Lennon tune, “You’ve Got To Hide Your Away” was a clear nod to the influence Dylan was by then exerting on popular music.

The song owes itself a lot to Bob’s romantic ballad “I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met),” from Another Side Of Bob Dylan. And though initially dismissive of Dylan, Lennon found himself falling increasingly under the American folk musician’s spell, playing his records over and over in almost obsessive fashion.

McCartney’s “The Night Before” (an ode to a one night stand) and “another Girl” are both buoyant bubbly numbers replete with pleasant harmonies and jangly guitars, while George Harrison contributes two songs, the bitter-sweet “I Need You” (his first self-written song since The Beatles’ second album), and the snappy “You Like Me Too Much.” Neither track is especially remarkable; in fact they’re both pretty harmless, as is Lennon’s Motown inspired “You’re Going To Lose That Girl,” which, despite its virtues, proves that Lennon and McCartney had by now mastered the art of musical alchemy, capable of turning any old shit into gold.

“Ticket To Ride” was another chart topper, on both sides of the Atlantic, and deservedly so. The chorus is as adorable as it is addictive, and not in the least bit corny, just three minutes (and nine seconds) of pure pop perfection. Lennon’s “It’s Only Love” offers a small preview into the band’s newly emerging interest in marijuana, while McCartney’s country leaning “I’ve Just Seen A Face” expresses teenage love in all its innocence.

Being a soundtrack meant that Help! is not completely devoid of filler. Their cover of Johnny Russell and Voni Morrison’s “Act Naturally,” sung by Ringo Starr, and Larry Williams’ “Dizzy Miss Lizzie” are enjoyable if equally forgettable. Yet such shortcomings are more than compensated for by McCartney’s sentimental “Yesterday,” the sort of reflective ballad one would generally expect to hear from someone considerably older, instead of a man still in his early twenties.

Why it wasn’t included in the original soundtrack remains a mystery. Perhaps it was considered to be too plaintive and philosophical. Nevertheless its inclusion on the LP meant that Help! would remain an indispensable document in The Beatles canon.