Friday, September 4, 2009

LP Love: Help!

As I'm out of the country until September 15, my normal song-a-day listening schedule is being put on hold. Instead, rediscover your love for the LP format by enjoying a complete Beatles album per day. Try to keep your finger away from the "shuffle" or "skip" buttons for the ultimate retro experience! See you in September to wrap up the Beatles' catalog song by song, remastered-style.


Help!

Release Date: August 6, 1965

The Beatles' second film, Help! was as successful as their first one (commercially, at least, if not critically), and once again an album was released to accompany it. As with A Hard Day's Night, we get a side A with the film soundtrack, and a side B with bonus songs. Also in common with A Hard Day's Night, the songs here show some clear development. The growing pains that you can hear in Beatles for Sale aren't completely grown through yet-- the awkward cover of "Dizzy Miss Lizzie" sounds like one last, awkward look at their past before they truly move into the stratosphere-- but most of Help! looks resolutely forward, and several of these songs can rightly be called groundbreaking.

What I find most interesting about Help! is that it seems almost like a Lennon/McCartney dichotomy of an album. John owns the first side, which are the movie songs: his "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" and "Ticket to Ride" might be among the best songs he ever wrote, while Paul's "The Night Before" and "Another Girl" are noticeably slighter. On side B, though, Paul's two tracks, "I've Just Seen a Face" and "Yesterday," are so brilliant that they might arguably swing the whole album in Paul's favor (if we see each album as a competition, that is, which I know some people do). I think it's notable that, while Paul has already written a ton of strong songs by this point, it's in Help! that we start to hear here how he might come into his own as a songwriter in a way no one would have dreamed. From here on out, Paul is one to keep an eye on for sure. We also are treated to the first HarriSongs since With the Beatles, and Ringo on a cover that he sounds born to perform. Not bad for a fifth album at all. Help! sounds like an album crossing the borderlands from one period in the Beatles' growth to the next-- by the next album, we'll be all the way there.

High Points: "Help!," "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," "Ticket to Ride," "Act Naturally," "Yesterday"

My Secret Favorite Song: "I've Just Seen a Face"

The Song I'm Not Supposed to Love As Much As I Do But Totally Do Anyway: "You're Going to Lose that Girl"

Track Listing:

A
"Another Girl"

B
"Tell Me What You See"

1 comment:

  1. You know, I'm like 10-for-10 matching you on secret favorite songs and songs we're not supposed to love as much as we do. Seriously.

    That's an interesting jumping-off point, your observation about Paul kind of making, to borrow a phrase, 'the leap.' Without looking at all the track listings for all the albums, or even thinking about it too too much, I want to suggest this as a hypothesis: John and Paul made a leap from the first album to the second, as announced by the first three tracks on With the Beatles and I Want to Hold Your Hand, which was recorded around then, no? That's followed by some even development on A Hard Day's Night, followed by another leap -- by John and Paul, I think, but led by John -- on For Sale, in the person of No Reply and I'm a Loser.

    So Yesterday, I think, is Paul's first solo leap, and it'll be his last for a while, is my longwinded point. I'm talking solely in terms of writing, words and/or music, and not production; obviously, arrangement/production leaps were common. As great as his songs on the next batch of albums are, I don't think he makes a writing leap until Hey Jude. Of course, you put out Yesterday, you've only got so much room to leap to.

    I think John had more leaps in him. What he did on For Sale, then Ticket to Ride, then Nowhere Man, then Tomorrow Never Knows, then Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, and A Day in the Life, and Strawberry Fields, then I Am the Walrus ... you get my point. He made all different kinds of leaps, in some different directions, and I don't, in saying he made so many leaps compared with Paul, necessarily mean that he 'leapt' farther.

    But to simplify, I propose that John did a lot more 'leaping,' while any progress made between Yesterday and Eleanor Rigby would not qualify as a leap. Some great music, to be sure, and some new ground, but not what I would characterize as a leap until he went and wrote the best song of all time, having leapt as high as a man possibly can.

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