Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published October 14th 2020
The Beatles are always great
I recently looked at a number of cover versions of the classic Beatles song 'Help!', one of many such columns I've done over the past few years. However, this did get me thinking, and so it was onto the CD player with the whole album. I had such a good time listening to it, that I just had to share, and so we have Help! by The Beatles (1965).
This is an album that I would consider a Beatles middle phase album. The first few Beatles albums were the standard rock of the time, with some above average song-writing showing through their beginner phase. Then came the middle phase. Starting with Help!, then Rubber Soul and finally Revolver, they started to throw off the shackles of standard song-writing and started to experiment more, not only lyrically but also musically. Then came Sgt. Pepper's and we have the experimental or studio phase of their career, which closed it out until the Anthology series and other releases which we shall call the nostalgia phase. All are good in their own right, by the way; the Beatles were the best band ever.
This was released ostensibly as the soundtrack for their second film, also called Help!. The first side (I own it on cassette as well as CD) is made up of the seven songs recorded for that film. The second side is seven new songs recorded to make it a full-length album. This album contains some genuine classics and the song the Guinness Book Of Records classifies as the song that has had the most cover versions recorded in popular music history.
It is quite an album!
Let's go through track by track.
'Help!' Look, I already did an entire column on this song (it's here, if you'd like to have a quick read), and there is very little else to say. It is, quite simply, one of the best songs the Beatles recorded. John Lennon's plea in the midst of the maelstrom that was Beatlemania is as poignant and relevant today as it ever was.
'The Night Before' This song owes a lot to their early years, but the use of an echo effect on the voices lifts it above the norm. The vocal harmonies are excellent and the guitar solo is something that was not yet the norm in pop-rock music.
'You've Got To Hide Your Love Away' Muted percussion and depressing lyrics show, once again, that the Beatles were writing above other songwriters. Was it about John being forced to keep his marriage a secret, or an affair he had? Paul McCartney later said this was where John started to do the sorts of things Dylan was doing in his song writing. It shows.
'I Need You' A Harrison composition, this is a standard love song begging a girl to return to the singer. Harrison was still a fledgling songwriter at this point, and this song does not have the stylistic adventurousness of Lennon-McCartney, nor later work by Harrison himself. Not a bad song, just a little twee.
'Another Girl' Standard Beatles song from the era, really. It's a good little song but does suffer in comparison to later songs. The background guitar lick and the rousing bridge are great additions very few were doing back then, though.
'You're Going To Lose That Girl' Using a call-and-response style of singing between Lennon on one side and Harrison/McCartney on the other, this has a feel to earlier Beatles again, but the instrumentation is starting to become varied, with extra bongoes added into the mix, and the guitar solo a good little one.
'Ticket To Ride' This is one of those classic Beatles songs that no-one can agree as to what it means, even the Beatles themselves. The music is different here, with that pounding drum-beat by Ringo that would later come to the fore on Revolver, and that sped-up outro of "My baby don't care!". Strong song.
'Act Naturally' Side two starts with the Ringo Starr song of the album. A cover of an early 1960s country song, it suits Ringo's voice quite well and is probably my favourite song of his that he sang with the band.
'It's Only Love' Not a big fan of this song. This has "album filler" written all over it. Sorry.
'You Like Me Too Much' Harrison's second contribution to the album. Starting with a piano riff, then hitting the song proper. The lyrics are still a little early Beatles, but I quite like the "You like me too much and I like you " refrain. Decent track.
'Tell Me What You See' Another of the lesser songs on the album, but there is a definite change in sound from early Beatles, showing more folk music influence on the music. Lyrically it is nothing special, but the music lifts it.
'I've Just Seen A Face' An acoustic song, verging very much on folk music or country music. There does not seem to be a bass guitar or bass drum on the track. Its up-tempo feels come at the right time on the album as well. An under-rated gem in the Beatles' canon.
'Yesterday' And this is the Guinness record holder. I own more than a dozen versions (but they all sound pretty much the same and none are a patch on the original, so, no, I am not doing a column on it) and a quick check of music archive sites shows more than 900 listed. 900! Yes, it is a little soppy, but lyrically this is so incredibly good. It is something too many people can relate to regretting something that happened in the past. And here it is so incredibly put. An acoustic guitar and string section and McCartney's voice that's all. Just an amazing piece. Fun factoid: the working title of the song was 'Scrambled Eggs'.
'Dizzy Miss Lizzy' And we close out with a cover of a classic rock track, this one a Larry Williams rocker. The rumour is that after the amazing job John Lennon did on 'Twist And Shout', McCartney wanted one as well, and this was it. It's not as good, but it is a great cover version all the same. And a fantastic way to close out the album.
Look, the Beatles are regarded as the best rock band nay, the best band, full stop in popular music for a reason. Even back when they were still learning what they could do, that they could put out an album like this is incredible. Truth be told, I like all the Beatles' albums. Not all the songs far from it but all the albums. The fact that this one, a film soundtrack with a second side of studio work, has a virtually forgotten song like 'I've Just Seen A Face' on it shows that there was talent to burn. Is it as good as Revolver? Not in my opinion. Is it still a great album? Of course.
Need I say it? Listen to this album. It's great. Recommended.
I was four years old when the Beatles toured Australia in 1964. I was a fan at that young age and was upset that Mum wouldnt take me to the concert .
So when the movie A Hard Days Night came out , mum took me to make up for not going to the concert. Apparently I was the only child in the theatre. I vaguely remember it.
Still love these guys all these years later. Yes the best band by far.