Disregarding For Sale, Help continues from where A Hard Day’s Night left off, showing that The Beatles had no rivals when it came to making pop rock at the time. It is a step up from AHDN and features even more hits, even more classic moments, and was their best album to date. They were now officially the biggest and best band in the world and with this they were still showing signs of lyrical improvement, musical perfection, and experimenting with sounds, ideas, and arrangements. The real experimentation would begin on the next album, and this is the last of their early period. Rubber Soul remains the stepping stone between pop brilliance and rock intelligence; Help remains one of the best albums ever.
`Help!’ is just as emphatic and classic an opener as A Hard Day’s Night and is one of the most perfect, catchy pop songs ever written. A cry of desperation from Lennon about sudden fame and yearning for the quiet days of old. It is brutally honest for a pop song, and something of a revelation being a song about the dark side of fame when the band was at their peak. The harmonies are probably the best, most well crafted, most melodic the band would ever create, it is fast perhaps too fast in order to convey the chaos Lennon felt he was in, and it has a memorable sing a-long chorus known around the world by people who may not have even heard the song.
‘The Night Before’ is a rougher McCartney song, perhaps the beginnings of his darker side. As Lennon had been influenced by the introspective Dylan, so too now was McCartney beginning to look at the nasty things inside and out showcased later by Yesterday. The song is typically upbeat and up tempo, with nice `oohs’ and `aahs’ in the background, a funky bass line, and some organ playing to spice things up.
‘You’ve got to Hide Your Love Away’ can be said to be Dylan influenced also, with John’s sparse arrangement and rough vocals. The gradual build up of the soft percussion before the chorus adds an almost hippy dimension to things, and the lack of other voices creates a solitary, lonely mood. People have seen this as a song about Epstein’s homosexuality which was banned in the time at Britain but as with any Beatles song now it can be read a hundred different ways.
‘I Need You’ is the second Harrison penned song the group recorded, an honest heart on sleeve song about the drug like need for love, and what happens when it ends. It is marked by interesting pedal sounds, volume being turned up and down at certain amounts for a new effect on the chords. Every time this is done is different almost giving the song an out of time feel. It works well and means you hear something new with every listen.
‘Another Girl’ is a softer McCartney pop song. It keeps the tempo up but doesn’t stand out lyrically or musically. Again McCartney plays lead guitar, lots of bent notes and a nice finish but nothing special.
‘You’re Going to Lose That Girl’ is a song about a friend telling another friend to treat his girlfriend well or not only will he lose her, but the friend will steal her. You can’t help but wonder if this situation was happening within the group. Possibly it would sound more apt coming from Fleetwood Mac. It has a couple of interesting key changes and has a slightly Latin feel to my ears, I’m not sure whether that’s more to do with the guitar or the timing.
‘Ticket to Ride’ is probably my favourite song on the album. It has an unusual timing, interesting melodies, and is expertly crafted, almost like Bohemian Rhapsody but in 3 minutes due to the verse, chorus, bridge, and ending variation. The vocals suit the desperation of the vocals. McCartney’s barely audible harmonies in the background add a new dimension. The lyrics themselves show a new maturity and depth and today are still the cause of much debate with themes ranging from the obvious girl leaving town to the vague visiting a certain type of clinic in Europe. McCartney plays lead guitar here for the first time adding a different feel than if Harrison had played. It is the more complex brother of Help.
‘Act Naturally’ is the obligatory Ringo song, a cover with interesting lyrics and a slight country feel. Luckily Ringo sings it quite well and song rolls along at a high-speed. Unfortunately it isn’t one you’ll come back to often.
‘It’s Only Love’ is a pretty ballad, a soft love song with fairly bland and uninspiring lyrics. Luckily it has several nice melodies and is sung and played well. It doesn’t really have anything which makes it stand out, but is still a nice addition.
‘You like Me Too Much’ is another odd offering, mainly because it comes from Harrison. There is some nice use of piano. The tempo is fast, the percussion amongst the best the band recorded, building and subsiding, the bass ascending and descending. If anything it sounds like The Beatles from a few albums back albeit with more experience, skill, and maturity in all areas.
‘Tell Me What You See’ is another McCartney song with lite lyrics and cheery melody. It isn’t a particularly memorable addition but sometimes comes as a nice shock when listening to the album as a whole. I like the mix of piano and percussion which occur a couple of times after the harmonic singing of the title- it sounds like it could fit on a later Beatles album.
‘I’ve Just Seen a Face’ is another wonderful up tempo pop classic, particularly notable for the expert way the vocals match the music in timing and tone. The lyrics are nothing special, but are nevertheless joyous and celebratory. The introduction could almost have been crafted into a separate song, here it is a sign of the experimentation that would show on the next album. Melodically and musically perfect.
‘Yesterday’ is already known to be one of the greatest songs ever, but I would rate a few other songs on this album higher. I suppose it’s because I’ve heard it so many times, but then again I never get sick of Help or Ticket To Ride etc. It’s never been a favourite of mine, but obviously it is still a majestic song. I think it just sounds too doleful for my liking, strange considering some of the stuff I listen too. It sounds more like a solo song than a Beatles song. Strangely it is one of the few Beatles songs which has cover versions that I prefer. What else can be said about it other than that it is an extremely well written song, musically stronger than it is lyrically, and will continue to be known and loved forever.
‘Dizzy Miss Lizzy’ closes the album in uptempo, rocking fashion. It is one of the last covers the band would do, played well with the energy the band showed on their first album, and sung in a gruff rawk style. Not a favourite of mine, but one the better covers which the band recorded.
Overall not much more can be said about the album. Scholars will continue to debate and dissect for years to come. The rest of us can simply listen, and enjoy.
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Updated with Nightman Scoring System(c):
Sales: 5 (Another smash hit)
Chart: 5 (Another smash hit)
Critical: 5 (Another smash hit)
Originality: 4 (The band experiment on certain songs with string arrangements, newer styles of writing, recording, and genre setting them up nicely for what would come next)
Influence: 5 (Most of the songs here have been covered by several artists, and the style of merging rock and pop so fluidly was latched onto by record companies and artsits around the world)
Musical Ability: 4 (The band again sound like they are having fun, Harrison is becoming a terrific lead guitarist and being allowed to roam free, and their growth as a cohesive unit is noticable)
Lyrics: 4 (Once again the band take standard lyrics and ideas and add new twists to old cliches showing a great amount of intelligence. There are some moments which foreshadow the poetic turns which later songs would take, but which the band were not quite ready to release)
Melody: 5 (Some of the greatest, most famous pop songs in history, thanks largely to the melodies. Memorable choruses, verses, riffs, harmonies all come together for perfection)
Emotion: 4 (The overall tone is a light, happy one, but there are the more downbeat moments such as Yesterday which are some of the first moments where the group truly convey emotion in a meaningful way)
Lastibility: 5 ( 50 years on, and an eternity ahead of it)
Vocals: 4 (Some of the strongest vocal displays, great harmonies, even Ringo doesn’t sound half-bad)
Coherence: 4 (The album holds together well, sounding like a whole, possibly because of the relation to the film, but mostly this is tied together by some clear themes and styles)
Mood: 4 (Again the mood switches quickly, but never abruptly, from sugary pop to bitter introspection, and all are crystal clear)
Production: 5 (Sterling work to create a sound which still sounds fresh today)
Effort: 5 (Again, touring, writing, filming were all going on at the same time, so to create such a timeless album is highly impressive)
Relationship: 5 (This time the album feels timeless down to the sheer joy of the songs. It’s difficult not to relate to such infectious melodies)
Genre Relation: 5 (This is effectively the archetypal pop album which pretty much everything since has sprung from)
Authenticity: 5 (When they sound happy it’s genuine, when they sound low you believe them, when they play you know that they enjoy doing it, both for the love of the craft and for pleasing the fans)
Personal: 5 (Possibly my favourite Beatles album, though as with most things there are times when this is changeable)
Miscellaneous: 5 (Once again, touring recording, writing, and making a movie all at the same time in a breathtaking feat of artistic acheivement)