Eight Arms To Hold You

HELP!

HELP! is a great mid-period Beatles album. The songs hold up well throughout and Anthology reports that they spent time at John’s house in Weybridge working on them together. This sounds like Rubber Soul; the Prequel, and the songs demonstrate a broader range of influences and styles. Lennon didn’t hide his personal problems on the album like he did seven months earlier on Beatles for Sale. This time his cry for HELP! was the single AND the title of the film. This is how the film presented Help! In his own write Lennon knocked off another single overnight. How many classics like this did he knock off when he wasn’t working?

In 1965 it was really difficult for me to hear music as my family had moved to Germany. Pirate radio wasn’t fully established yet so it was mostly through Billy, a lad in my year,  who had that all important record player, that I heard anything. Billy loved Dylan and The Byrds and I’m A Loser, the B-side of HELP! Partly due to the acoustic qualities he loved HELP! the album too, as he saw it as Dylan influenced and so could assert Dylan’s primus inter pares. I didn’t mind as I got to hear the album regularly at weekends. Here is a great video from early in the movie of hey! “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away,” which kind of proves his point.

But HELP! wasn’t just about Dylan’s influence on Lennon, Paul’s material is really strong too. We both liked Paul’s The Night Before and, yet again, The Beatles had started an album with a three-card trick; full track listing on wikipedia here. The band as a whole seem to be comfortable with using a mix of electric and acoustic guitars, and they were throwing in the electric piano as well. John plays it here, nicely supporting Paul’s relaxed vocal. 

Paul’s material, both in the movie HELP! and on the album, holds up really well and overall HELP! is a nicely balanced album thanks to the quality of his songs. Paul’s Another Girl is a nice easy-going mid-tempo number, better orchestrated than some of their early pell-mell gems, and George gets to play guitar hero, but in his understated way. The video from the film is nicely witty and a good time was had by all.

Of course the big Paul track on HELP! was Yesterday. It wasn’t in the film and it wasn’t released as a single, as the other Beatles vetoed it for being unrepresentative of Beatles music! But this was the album track that we boys were all talking about, not least because the word was that girls loved it. Yesterday is the most covered Beatles song, with 1,600 versions; actually it is the most covered song of all. It has also become a radio staple and is just Paul with a string section. Lovely. Here is Paul doing it solo.

The release history of Yesterday is curious. It was released as a single in the USA where it was only the B-side to Ringo’s delightful Act Naturally, which sounds like it should be in the movie. Which tells us two things;

1) that in the States the Beatles were known as Ringo, John, Paul and George

2) even The Beatles didn’t recognise a classic when they wrote it.

So here is Ringo having to introduce himself and kicking off that tricky non-soundtrack Side Two of the album.

What makes the album particularly strong is that George also kicks in with a couple of good songs as well as his usual tasteful guitar playing. His song from the movie, I Need You, is distinctive with George getting an interesting guitar sound by using his volume pedal. Richard Lester seemed to be using a, by then, typical setting, of a studio in the movie version. But is it just a simple visual joke reprising The Night Before. Here is the video of that.

The View From 9/9/9; Looking at the film and listening to the album now I get the sense that Richard Lester made HELP! as his cinematic calling card. Lennon seemed particularly disappointed that Lester didn’t discuss his plans with them. The key difference with Hard Days Night is in the screen writer. Alun Owen captured the right tone for their breakout movie, but on HELP! Charles Wood, who would prove to be the link between The Goons and Monty Python when he scripted several films for Terry Gilliam, is reaching for something bigger… Lennon mentioned that HELP! was a pre-cursor to the Batman TV series in its camp cartoon humour. The film seems to give the Beatles some quality videos but for me only You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away and Another Girl work really well. Visually I Need You reprises The Night Before which the Beatles themselves reprised in Magical Mystery Tour, but lazy work by the Big Dick. Nonetheless his cinematic work after HELP! is excellent, as is The Beatles musical work. And their musical work on HELP! is remarkably good, yet again keeping one step ahead of their contemporaries because a) they had good ears, b) they were great songwriters, c) they were good musicians. Worth a listen 82%

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One Response to “Eight Arms To Hold You”

  1. […] is a YouTube version of this post on A Beatles YouTube Album. View This Pollsurvey Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)We Wanna Be Your […]

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