February 11, 2021Series
Help! was released in August, 1965. This was after a comparatively long wait from the previous album (eight whole months!) Except for two covers, it includes all original songs, and I think we can settle in and expect from here on out every album will always include some of the most enduring pop songs ever recorded. In this case, "Help!", "Ticket to Ride" and "Yesterday" already seem like an embarrassment of riches for one record. "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" gets my vote for the best song on the album that wasn't a smash hit. As with Beatles for Sale, there's a decidedly more melancholy tone across all these tracks, especially when you think about how fizzy things started out with Please Please Me. But it all works really well together and as I think about all the albums yet to come I think that Help! marks the moment when you can count on each subsequent album being better and better than the ones that came before. 14 songs, 33 minutes (or more, depending on how many times you replay "Ticket to Ride"). You can listen to clips of each song below.
Track One: Help!
Everything about this song is rich and sturdy, an ingenious combination of lyrics, instrumentation, harmonies, pacing and payoff. Sometimes you can ruin a song for yourself by listening to it too much. "Help!", for me, has only gotten better and better through the many decades it's been in my life. It's so familiar to so many of us you might miss how meticulously it's constructed. When you get the chance, give it a really close listen. You will be glad you did.
Track Two: The Night Before
Paul's voice has some chameleon-like qualities, so much so that I don't always realize when he's on lead vocals. This song is a good example - he's singing with a lot more Lennon-esque gravel and what seems like a lower register than is his norm. It's an interesting experiment to compare this to the very unadorned way he will perform "Yesterday" later on the album.
Track Three: You've Got to Hide Your Love Away
This song does some beautiful things with layering. It starts out with just John's vocals and a simple guitar accompaniment. Then they add just one beat of a tambourine every measure. As they build to the bridge, more strings and bass are added, creating increased emotion and intensity in a gradual way. It ends up being a really soulful and moving track that is deceptively simple.
Track Four: I Need You
This is one of those songs that starts out with a somewhat dissonant chord progression, which is not my favorite approach but I do like when the harmonies resolve into something more pleasing to the ear. This is the one of two Harrison writing credits on the album and if this is the kind of work he needed to do to someday build up to "Here Comes the Sun" I'll deal with it!
Track Five: Another Girl
I'll just repeat that there are some Beatles songs where it's probably for the best not to listen to the lyrics too closely. The rest of the composition isn't strong enough to overcome the fact that this is about telling one girlfriend you've got another, sweeter girl in the wings. This song goes on my no-fly list.
Track Six: You're Going to Lose That Girl
I enjoy this song mostly for what sounds like bongos in the background.
Track Seven: Ticket to Ride
Lennon and McCartney were stone-cold geniuses in their understanding of where to insert which harmonies, guitar solos, strategic pauses, drum fills and key changes for maximum emotional impact. The carpentry on this song is breathtaking. Another one for a close, appreciative listen.
Track Eight: Act Naturally
Ringo alert! This song was originally recorded by Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, which seems about all you need to know. It's a fun filler, feels kind of like a novelty song, and seems like a good use of Ringo's vocals.
Track Nine: It's Only Love
There are a few songs like this for me in the Beatles catalog. When I hear the beginning I think I don't like it, but then the rest of the song creeps up on me and I change my mind. This is a more successful version of "I Need You" where patient listening is rewarded with a nice melodious payoff.
Track Ten: You Like Me Too Much
I'm afraid that aside from a really interesting bridge, this is another song that can't distract me from the fact that the lyrics describe a pretty depressing, co-dependent relationship. I would listen to this one for academic purposes only.
Track 11: Tell Me What You See
"Tell Me What You See" is fine - elevated every now and then by the way John uses his voice. He can really convey angst when he wants to.
Track 12: I've Just Seen a Face
The way faster than normal tempo in this song kicks things off with a bang, and the chorus "Falling, yes I am falling, and she keeps calling, me back again" is a beautiful, powerful ear worm.
Track 13: Yesterday
I'm guessing there's been more written about this song than just about any pop song in history. I can't imagine what I could add so I'll just sit back and listen, and invite you to do the same.
Track 14: Dizzy Miss Lizzy
Another closing cover in the spirit of "Twist and Shout", "Kansas City" and more. It's not my favorite, but those mop-tops sure did love songs like this.
See you in four weeks for RUBBER SOUL!