If there was ever a more obvious personal cry out, 1965s Help! was it. When released, the record appeared in two different forms. On one hand, it was a fanciful soundtrack, featuring some of the record’s biggest singles, alongside unnecessary spy movie interludes culled from the film of the same name. In its original (and newly remastered) form however, it was The Beatles lashing out as they tried to understand the complicated lives they were then living. Most importantly though, Help! would serve as the first of many segues into what would become the band’s more polarizing and creative outstanding work. Yes, past the adorable, danceable pop, there’s a much deeper side to the Fab Four, and it starts here.
If you can look past the tongue-in-cheek humor that’s all over the Richard Lester-directed spy spoof, you’ll discover that Help! is far from a comedic outing. The album captures the early Beatles at some of their most innocent moments, long before the drugs, the politics, and “that trip to India.” It’s genuine, delectable 60s pop at its finest. And really, is there a better way to cry out to the masses?
The album’s lead single and titular track lays it all out. John Lennons confessional sets into motion a song thats reached far into the subconscious of any Beatles fan. Doubt me? I bet you can sing out the first three lines of Help! right now, and I bet you did it the moment you saw this article, even if you havent heard the song in years. Then there’s the folk inspired Youve Got to Hide Your Love Away, which is more of Lennons broken heart speaking out. Its a key track for any fans of his, and its only drawback is its rather short length. Lennon’s not the only one with his heart on a sleeve. Paul McCartney’s playful country-pop drive, Ive Just Seen a Face, captures the innocence of love at first site in all its naiveté. The unique and slight country leanings are the band’s version of a barn buster… and it works.
Then there’s the traditional pop, which at the time was the band’s bread and butter. Even some 40 years later, the Fab Four make this stuff look easy. Tracks like Youre Going to Lose That Girl and Another Girl show how effortless writing a slick pop song seemed to be for these guys. You could even throw in the very spry yet somber-go-lucky Ticket to Ride in there, too. You can never go wrong with that one.
What’s really amazing, however, is that some of The Beatles best kept secrets lie in the seven songs that didnt even make the film’s final cut — including McCartneys powerful and sobering ballad, Yesterday. Okay, so maybe not all of them are a secret, but some tunes, especially the rowdy cover of Larry Williams Dizzy Miss Lizzie or Ringo Starr’s take on Johnny Russell and Voni Morrison’s “Act Naturally”, have gathered some dust.
With all the fancy gloss of the 21st century filling out the technical details of the songs, what you get in return is a fuller, richer sound that the original pressing over 40 years ago couldnt deliver. It fills your head with more of what The Beatles had already been doing for the past four records, with a few heavy gems that will forever be part of their best recordings. Help! by no means was at the top of their game, but still it shouldnt be over looked.