The Beatles – Help!

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

I had some exposure to the Beatles as a child. I had a record called A Child’s Introduction to the Beatles by the Wild Honey Singers, released in 1978 on the Kid Stuff Records label. The cover art was a sort of comic book style illustration of what I am assuming is the Wild Honey Singers, because it sure doesn’t look anything like the Beatles (though the stencil on the bass drum head looks like it says “The Beatles”). It had “Dear Prudence,” “All My Loving,” “Help,” “When I’m Sixty Four,” and “We Can Work It Out.” Also, for some reason, the McCartney solo song “That Would Be Something” was on the record. I really only remember listening to “When I’m Sixty Four” and maybe “We Can Work It Out.” The point is that it did not make much of an impression on me. I had some random ass compilation on tape around eighth grade, which I loved. I was 14 years old when Please Please Me was released on CD, and I got it as a gift, and I really did not care for it. It took me years to achieve a reasoned appreciation of the Beatles, I have to say. Still, I think this is better than having developed some unhealthy emotional attachment at a young age.

What I Think of This Album

Wow. This is one of those albums that I could just as easily not own as own, and my reasons for keeping it in my collection are probably not justifiable in the cold light of day. I feel like Help! is in many ways a disappointing regression. Much of the material is slight and forgettable, and the band once again relies on covers to pad out the album. Still, the highlights are astronomical, even if there are few of them.

Let’s start with the bad and end with the good. “The Night Before” is filler, plain and simple. “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” is incredibly annoying, and the vocal sounds like a very poor Dylan impression. Less irritating is “Another Girl,” which is pure fluff, though with some interesting bluesy guitar riffs by Paul (yes, Paul). “You’re Going to Lose That Girl” is a Harrison song; the bongos are fun, and Harrison has a nice riff at one point, but otherwise this is completely unmemorable.

The best thing I can say about the feather-light cover song “Act Naturally” is that I always like hearing Ringo sing. “It’s Only Love” somehow manages to be the worst original song on this album, and that is no easy feat; the effected guitar at the end is a treat. Harrison embarasses himself on the simplistic “You Like Me Too Much.” The final track, an amped up cover of “Dizzy Miss Lizzy,” is a throwback to the days in Hamburg, I guess, and it’s fun to hear John cut loose vocally, but there is no reason for this to be on a Beatles album in 1965.

If I stretch a little, I will admit that “Tell Me What You See” is fairly enjoyable, with a cool piano part, an excellent duet by Paul and John, and some sweet claves. Also, “I Need You” features use of a volume pedal to achieve a cool rhythmic effect and the bridge is pretty good, actually.

So why do I keep this thing around? Well, “Help!” is a wonderful song, with a bouncy bass line, fantastic guitar work, fine harmonies from Paul, and more mature lyrical content than much of what had come before. “Ticket to Ride” is a huge leap forward for the band, with its off-beat drums, droning guitar, twelve-string riff, and tempo-changed outro. Lennon claimed this was the first heavy metal song, and I will let you know when I’ve stopped laughing. “I’ve Just Seen a Face” is a folk-rock masterpiece – this is one of my favorite Beatles songs ever, and I will fight you to the death over it. Needless to say, “Yesterday” is fucking brilliant; the string section kills me every single time, especially the cello, and the little hum at the end is super-charming. It is the most-covered song of all time. Think about that.

The Best Thing About This Album

Yeah, I don’t know what to pick here. My heart tells me to go with “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” though it is objectively the weakest of the four songs that I love on this album. It just happens to be the one I love the most.

Release Date

August, 1965

The Cover Art

It’s very hard not to like this cover. It’s innovative, fun, makes great use of white space, and has an excellent font for the title. In flag semaphore, the poses spell out NUJV.

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