Entry count: 4740
The Beatles begin their transition from up-beat commercial pop

The Beatles

Help!

Released: August 12th, 1965

8.5
Album Review The Beatles

The events we write about at Gaslight Records happened in some form or another 50 years ago to the day. Roll along with us and imagine you are back in 1970.

Support Gaslight Records

Help! occupies an unusual position in the canon of Beatles recordings, marking a transition from the up-beat commercial pop of early Beatlemania to the more introspective, melancholic song writing of Rubber Soul. In some ways, it's a record with an identity crisis - unsure if it is an album in its own right or simply a soundtrack to the film of the same name. The American release left out most of the second side of the British record and, instead, spread instrumentals from the movie throughout the album. It was recorded in three short sessions between February and June of 1965 with a four-track recorder.

The album's lack of critical acclaim - it only registered 331 on Rolling Stone's top 500 - only serves to underline just how good The Beatles really were. Even the "fillers" are full of hooks and rich, harmonized vocals, and there are a least five easily recognizable Beatles classics. The album also boasts the most covered song ever written: Paul McCartney's "Yesterday".

The Beatles begin their transition from up-beat commercial pop

John Lennon wrote the title track "Help" with the film in mind. The breathless upbeat tempo and driving rhythm disguises a set of lyrics penned by a man "not so self assured". Lennon later said that, although he didn’t realise it at the time, he was in his "fat Elvis period" and crying out for help. George Harrison produced some descending Chet Atkins style guitar to close out each chorus and it was recorded in one night. Soon after comes "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away", which sees Lennon even more ambiguous and introspective. By his own admission, he was starting to channel Bob Dylan. It’s a beautiful lyric, sung with more than a hint of Dylan in the chorus. Session musician Johnnie Scott was paid 6 pounds to play tenor flute with an alto flute overdub.

"Ticket to Ride" was the first single release from the album and, again, the lyric is more melancholic than previous Beatles material. It is not hard to hear a crossover with The Byrd's in the jangling guitar arpeggios and McCartney’s added double time coda. "You're Gonna Lose That Girl" has Lennon singing the lead with McCartney and Harrison on backing vocals.

There are signs, too, of the musical inventiveness that would become more pronounced in the latter part of the band’s life. "The Night Before", which was recorded in just two takes, has Lennon and McCartney’s double guitar solo tracked an octave apart. "I Need You" sees Ringo Starr playing a percussive rhythm on the back of a Gibson Jumbo acoustic while Lennon plays snare. "You Like Me Too Much" begins with McCartney and George Martin playing at different ends of a Steinway grand piano. However, the album also contains, arguably, their worst song ever: "It's Only Love". Lennon hated it, later calling the lyrics "abysmal". McCartney composed "Another Girl" in the bathroom of a Tunisian resort and "Act Naturally" has Ringo doing country.

Towards the end of the album comes a rare gem in the form of the gorgeous "I've Just Seen A Face". This is the Beatles, for the first time, completely acoustic with no bass - just Harrison playing low down on his 12-string guitar and Starr softly brushing a snare drum. It’s a fresh, up-beat country shuffle that perfectly captures the rush of new love. McCartney is fresh from composing the song at (then-girlfriend) Jane Asher’s house and the cascading lyric keeps drawing his vocals forward.

Then there is "Yesterday". McCartney claimed that the song came to him in a dream. He went to the piano, found the chords and learned it. He would later play it to people to see if they could recognise it, thinking it might have been someone else's song - perhaps an old jazz tune that his father had introduced him to. It was the first time acoustic guitar and a string quartet was used on a Beatles album. McCartney did not want it released as a single in Britain because he thought it would undermine their status as a rock and roll band. Musically complex and now the most covered song in history, it has never been done more beautifully than McCartney does it here.

More recent news

Watch The Jackson 5 perform single from their debut album on Ed Sullivan

News

December 23rd, 1969: Watch The Jackson 5 perform single from their debut album on Ed Sullivan

Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5 is the latest release from Motown

 
The Clancy Brothers have released a new album of Christmas songs: Listen

News

December 20th, 1969: The Clancy Brothers have released a new album of Christmas songs: Listen

Irish folk group, The Clancy Brothers have recorded 11 songs to bring a little joy to your Christmas

 
See photos from The Doors album cover shoot in Los Angeles today

News

December 18th, 1969: See photos from The Doors album cover shoot in Los Angeles today

The new Doors album is due for release early next year.

 
Four people died over the weekend at The Altamont Speedway Free Festival

Article

December 10th, 1969: Four people died over the weekend at The Altamont Speedway Free Festival

Here's the story of Altamont in quotes from many of the people involved.

 
The Rolling Stones have released a new studio album ahead of their free concert tomorrow at Altamont

News

December 5th, 1969: The Rolling Stones have released a new studio album ahead of their free concert tomorrow at Altamont

As The Stones finish their run of U.S. concert dates they have released their eighth album, Let It Bleed.

 
This summer Bob Dylan sat down for an interview with Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone magazine

Interviews

December 4th, 1969: This summer Bob Dylan sat down for an interview with Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone magazine

Read the transcript below of Dylan and Wenner's interview from June this year

 
Emmylou Harris covers Bob Dylan on debut album

News

December 3rd, 1969: Emmylou Harris covers Bob Dylan on debut album

Listen to Harris's cover of Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" from her album Gliding Bird

 
Peter Stone Brown covers Bob Dylan's 'She Belongs To Me'

Live At The Gaslight

Peter Stone Brown covers Bob Dylan's "She Belongs To Me"

Recorded in Atlantic City at Dylan Fest in 2015

 
Watch Roy Orbison perform 'Oh, Pretty Woman' with Johnny Cash last week

News

October 4th, 1969: Watch Roy Orbison perform "Oh, Pretty Woman" with Johnny Cash last week

Orbison appeared on The Johnny Cash Show in Nashville

 
Mixtape October 1969

Mixtapes

October 1st, 1969: Mixtape October 1969

It's the end of Summer 1969, here's what I'm listening to.

 
Tyrannosaurus Rex released a new single 'Pewter Suitor' this week - Listen

News

October 1st, 1969: Tyrannosaurus Rex released a new single "Pewter Suitor" this week - Listen

The new single was left off the band's album Unicorn, from earlier this year.

 
'I was just about all through as a man' Johnny Cash talks to Richard Green of NME

Interviews

October 1st, 1969: "I was just about all through as a man" Johnny Cash talks to Richard Green of NME

Cash gave a brief interview recently while visiting London

 
Loading more