With an unpopular war raging in Vietnam, a Cold War bubbling with tension, and the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, the time was ripe for a revolution. While demonstrations were held on many a college campus throughout the country, President Lyndon Baines Johnson was beginning to succumb to the pressures that can often befall the always somewhat unpopular position of President. While the Counter-Culture was out to change the new world, many judicial officials were wrapping up travesties from the old one. SS men and other Nazi officials were still on trial, twenty years after the final shots of World War II were fired. While a full-scale revolution was never achieved, a musical one was about to begin.
Throughout all of this destitution, the already quite fab foursome were on the verge of becoming royalty. Indeed, by this time anything
the group touched turned instantly to gold; a good example of this being the lockets of their hair that were sold for monstrous sums. Somehow, through all the turmoil and tribulations, a joyful pop record emerged. It would be the first Beatles album to contain the (oh-so cliched phrase) matured sound that would primarily dominate all of the following albums by the band. Taking the same formula that made A Hard Day's Night
such a tremendous success and improving upon it by adding depth and complexity to the arrangements as well as different instruments, the Beatles began forging an even more unique sound than the one that took the American youth at large captive on February 9, 1964.
John Lennon, as many may know, was quite the paranoid man. It is a commonly held belief that songwriting is a very competent way to eradicate inner turmoil. Lennon, growing bored of saying "I love you" in every song that was attached to his name, decided to utilize this time-tested practice while simultaneously using it to mature (there it is again) as a songwriter. The result: Help!
The song itself features many of the key features the early Beatles exuded; jangling chord progressions, original and tasteful vocal harmonies, and, of chorus, a classic chorus section. From here on out, the idea that a song had to be about a girl and/or a relationship was outdated and unnecassary. While the infamous Lennon witticism had yet to reach its fully evolved state (notice how I avoided "mature"), Paul proved himself quite the cheeky bastard with his lovely tune, The Night Before
. Even though Skiffle was at its deathbed, the influence it had on the Beatles was still clearly visible, and this would be the last time it would be so. More harmonies run rampant throughout the song, making it an enjoyable tune, even if it is rather underwhelming compared to other, more luscious tunes on the album.
While the poetic messages of Bob Dylan were blowin' in the wind, the Beatles, and Lennon, in particular, began to take notice of the liberating affect Dylan had brought to the process of writing lyrics. As this coincided perfectly with the writing of Help!
and the shedding of the more sedate She Loves You
style of inscription, it could be argued that the powers that be had intended on such a change occurring when it did. At any rate, the aforementioned influences made themselves more than accounted for in the forlorn and dejected song, You've Got to Hide Your Love Away
. While still pertaining to the more familiar style of writing (Girl dumps boy, boy is sad, etc.), the entire composition seems far more thought out, and the lyrics aren't at all as smug as, oh say, You Can't Do That
. Examples? Why certainly.
From You've Got To Hide You Love Away
Here I stand, head in hand, turn my face to the wall.
If she's gone I can't go on, feeling two-foot small.
Hey! You've got to hide your love away.
The addition of the twelve-string guitar into the Beatles arsenal of musical instruments was a principal reason for the early Beatles sound. Indeed, the signature of Harrison and his Rickenbacker can be found all over A Hard Day's Night
, and while not as common on Help!
, Harrison kept his rather untested and frankly pre-mature style and turned in I Need You
. Whatever impressions you gathered about the song from that previous statement you should instantly expel, as this is a fabulously melodic song, and I'd say the second most catchy on the album. Like the vast majority of Beatles songs, it is very short, but remains a staple of Harrison's songwriting empire. Conspicuously absent through the first portion of the album is Sir Paul McCartney. Indeed, he contributed the enjoyable The Night Before
, but had yet to throw his hat into the ring as a major competitor as Harrison had already done, and which Lennon had done two-fold. Sadly, McCartney would not have his shining moment yet, as the planets weren't properly aligned, and therefore we mortals were simply not ready.
However, he does contribute the rather slight yet somewhat sturdy Another Girl
. While keeping the basic premise for lyricism as found in A Hard Day"s Night
, McCartney found it necessary to combine a jaunty beat and melody with painful, out of key guitar licks courtesy of George Harrison. While these definitely deride the song's valor, it does insinuate itself as a tolerable, even somewhat enjoyable song. While McCartney was pacing and planning his magnum opus, Lennon continued handing over consistent offerings. You're Gonna Lose That Girl
is a supreme example of the Beatles literary and harmonic genius. While Lennon takes lead, McCartney is broken away form his frantic musings and George quits staanding around long enough to back him up, emphasizing what John says to the point where you almost feel as if you're being ganged-up on.
John: You're Gonna Lose That Girl
Paul and George: Yes, yes you're gonna lose that girl
John: If you don't take her out tonight she's gonna change her mind
Paul and George: She's gonna change her mind!
While this first line is repeated a few times, it boasts a shifting melody on both the parts of John and Paul, and an extraordinary vocal performance on Lennon's part. The song itself discharges youthful charm and a vague naivety, as if the band had yet to fully realize that if they so wished, they could overthrow Parliament merely by writing a song about it. The second number one single (and longest song, clocking in at a whopping
three minutes and twelve seconds) is undoubtedly Ticket to Ride
. Featuring a signature drum beat oddly similar to the ethereal Tomorrow Never Knows
, this primitive yet clever tune is really a fantastic example of the early Beatles and the sound which they employed on their recordings. Lennon, ever the egomaniac, once stated he felt the song to be the grandfather of hard rock with its droning guitar riff and its pulsating drum beats, though whether or not this is true is open for debate, and the other debate-ee is probably Helter Skelter
While Paul pondered, George worked, and Lennon delivered, Ringo sat and watched his mates, and provided the drums when the writer of the tune was ready. Remembering how popular he was with the fans, and noting the fact that he had sang on at least one song since the band was signed to EMI, Starr decided that he would perform a tune on the new album, and it would be a cover of Act Naturally
. While it"s painfully obvious Ringo has little vocal range, his original and amateur singing voice is the perfect match for the country-tinged hit tune. With Paul backing him up, Ringo poured his heart into the performance, and truly made it his own. Go Ringo.
It's human nature to make mistakes, and to blotch things up, usually when the, shall we say, package you're attempting to deliver is most needed. While John had been amazingly consistent throughout the album, it was somewhat expected that he would fu
ck up at some point. While It's Only Love
is by no means a bad song, it is the shortest song on the album and could definitely be assaulted with the label of "filler". George turns in his second and final contribution with the rather egotistical yet outlandishly charming You Like Me Too Much
. After an almost boogie-woogie piano intro, the song shows its true colors, colors which are wonderfully melodic and soulful. Psychedelic. The song obviously illustrates a blooming an under-rated songwriter in the works, one which would arguably outshine his famous cohorts in the later years.
Paul turns in a wonderful ballad in Tell Me What you See
. Charming, beautiful, and pretty much perfect, this is without a doubt the first all around solid offering by Paul, and it alone, makes up for his rather lackluster performance on the album up to this point. Containing evocative and exquisite lyrics and singing, this is undeniably a high point of the album. Miraculously, Paul was just getting warmed up. Immediately following, I've Just Seen a Face
is a top contender for best song on the album. From its pseudo-classical guitar opening to its fast paced, jaunty, and vaguely folk-ish guitar strumming to Paul's frantic vocal performance(s), the song asserts itself as a force to be reckoned with, and a major keystone for the entire album.
And then comes Yesterday
. What can I really say about the most covered song in the world, the song often compared only to John Lennon's Imagine
? Quite honestly, not a lot that hasn"t been said before. Paul's final contribution to the album, it features only himself on acoustic guitar and a backing orchestra (not a full one, mind you), and tells the tale of a lover leaving him. Deviously clever in arrangement and delivery, this is the second song that is in prime condition to claim the top spot on the album. Lennon contributes one more song, entitled Dizzy Miss Lizzy
. It is, quite simply, a rock and roll song, with a fantastic vocal performance by John; reminiscent of his unparalleled Twist and Shout
. While the song itself isn't anything worth salivating over (perhaps a bit of an understatment), Lennon's performance alone makes it a very interesting listen, at least for the first few times if nothing else.
While the album often credited with putting the Beatles foot in the door towards total musical maturity is 1965"s Rubber Soul
, I firmly believe the first steps were taken on the Help!
album, if not the entire route itself. There are obviously better and more consistent Beatles albums out there, but if you ever tire of all the fancy concepts and/or all of the drug-filled notions on such classics as Sgt. Pepper
or Abbey Road
, the joyous, fabulous four will be waiting with open arms; should you ever be in need of Help!