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December Talking Meme: Help!

cursed
local_max asked me for Help, either the album, the movie, or the song. I've decided to write about the album.



Help is the Beatles' fifth album, and the soundtrack to the movie of the same name. It doesn't include the instrumentals, although the American version of the album did. But the British version is the official version and the version I grew up with, so I will discuss the British version in this post.

Help doesn't make my list of favorite albums, but neither could I imagine the Beatles career without it (did the Beatles make any bad albums, anyway?). It's very much an early album, while I tend to prefer the later ones, but it shows hints of the sophistication they would later achieve. I'm going to go through all the songs, and talk about each one of them, with more of a focus on the lyrics than the music since my musical training consists of weekly piano lessons and isn't good enough to have the words to discuss music.

"Help!": "Help!" is the upbeat song about depression. It's also the only song on the album that's not a love song. This with the possible exception of "Act Naturally", which pretty strongly implies that he's depressed because his girlfriend left him, whereas in "Help!" the "you" could be anyone. John Lennon famously later said the song was autobiographical: I just wrote the song because I was commissioned to write it for the movie--but later I knew, really I was crying for help.

"The Night Before": The most interesting thing about this song for me is the similarity in plot to "Yesterday". Both songs were written by Paul McCartney. Both contain the theme of a woman withdrawing her love overnight--one day everything is fine, the next day she's left him. The narrator holds onto memories of the past for comfort. There are also differences between the two--in "The Night Before" he's talking to the woman who left him, while in "Yesterday" she's just gone.

"You've Got To Hide Your Love Away": This song has the most satisfying shouted word "Hey" in the "Hey you've got to hide your love away" part. The section "Everywhere people stare / Each and every day / I can see them laugh at me" raises the theme of public humiliation, a fear often expressed in Lennon-written songs. This is one of my favorite songs on the album.

"I Need You": This is one of George Harrison's two songs on the album, and at this point in time, it made sense to allow George only two songs per album (later, as he came into his own as a songwriter, that changed). "I Need You" is not as strong as most of the Lennon/McCartney songs on the album.

"Another Girl": Quite the illustration of Paul's 1960s dating habits. The Beatles song this reminds my the most of message-wise is actually "Don't Let Me Down", or at least my interpretation of "Don't Let Me Down", where John was singing to his fellow Beatles, particularly Paul, as much as to Yoko. Yoko in this case is the new girl, and Paul is the one in danger of being dumped.

"You're Going To Lost That Girl": I will never know why this song is listed as "You're Going To Lose That Girl" when the Beatles clearly sing "Gonna". I like that this song immediately follows "Another Girl", because they describe the same situation from different perspectives (the Beatles were always good at putting their songs in the right order). Notice that the villain is still played by the same role in both songs, i.e. the person who is about to lose their love interest to the newcomer.

"Ticket To Ride": I'm not actually sure what the titular "ticket to ride" refers to. Obviously, being with him, but what does that mean? Is it just that he's a great guy, so being with him gives her a ticket to ride? Who knows.

"Act Naturally": The covers on this album are not my favorites. The Beatles chose a lot of good songs to cover, but "Act Naturally" is not to my taste. I'm not a fan of country in general.

"It's Only Love": I always thought that song was about John and his wife Cynthia, who had a particularly tragic marriage. He was abusive, and left her for Yoko Ono. I have no idea if this song is actually about Cynthia, or even whether John was even writing love songs for her at that point.

"You Like Me Too Much": Now that's more like it. Proof that even in the early days, George Harrison could write songs on par with Lennon/McCartney. You have to wonder what the guy in the song did to "deserve" being left by his love interest. Knowing the Beatles it probably involved cheating.

"Tell Me What You See": This is not the strongest song the Beatles ever wrote. "Tell me what you see" followed by "What you see is me" is not the most interesting exchange in history.

"I've Just Seen a Face": My favorite song on the album (yes, I prefer it over the song immediately following). One of the American albums had it as the opening song on the album. It makes a great opening song because it's very spring-like. It also works nicely right before the song that follows it.

"Yesterday": A very pretty song, if a tad overrated. Famous for being the song that was entirely written by Paul McCartney and became the most covered song of all time. Interestingly, there's an interview from the 1960s were Paul says that John came up the title, which is fascinating if true, since both John and Paul later said that the song was Paul's only. Also fascinating because of the way John used the word "yesterday" in songs and interviews to represent Paul and John's own Beatle past (which he was usually rejecting).

"Dizzy Miss Lizzy": Another cover that I don't like very much. I don't think it works well right after "Yesterday".

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
local_max
Dec. 12th, 2013 02:44 pm (UTC)
Somehow, I always imagine "Help!" as a little earlier in their career than it is, though I don't know why. I think the reason is that I listened to "Help" before "A Hard Day's Night." Anyway, yeah, I had to look up "I Need You" before I remembered which one it was (though that initial "wa-wa wa-waahhhh" is pretty recognizable), which marks it as one of the least memorable song titles of the Beatles canon and a bit of a generic song.

It's a good point that it's hard to know what "Ticket to Ride" even means. I think its meaning is that she has a "ticket to ride" because she doesn't have to work if she's with him. She can just live with him, and he'll bring home the bacon and cook it and all she has to do is sit around. He's willing to offer a disproportionate relationship where he does all the work and provides for her and does all the loving for her, and she won't accept it and is throwing it back in his face and thinks that living with him is bringing her down. What a bitch! I guess it's a slightly gentler version of other songs with that element of angry you-don't-know-what-you've-got! like...I know there are examples but I can't think of any. Maybe "Run for Your Life" has an element of that, in its most extreme version where "if you cross me" is accompanied with a death threat.

"I've Just Seen a Face" is definitely the most joyous song on the album. I prefer "Help!" in terms of their overall upbeat songs, but it's of course tempered by desperation and depression; "IJSAF" is just so joyous, like "I Saw Her Standing There" but even more excited by the prospect of a new love.
itsnotmymind
Dec. 12th, 2013 02:59 pm (UTC)
I think its meaning is that she has a "ticket to ride" because she doesn't have to work if she's with him. She can just live with him, and he'll bring home the bacon and cook it and all she has to do is sit around.

That theory makes sense.

I can't think of any other songs on that same theme, either. Maybe "This Boy", which is also gentle.
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