Help! is The Beatles’ second movie soundtrack, and its inferior in many ways to its predecessor. Where 1964’s A Hard Day’s Night took the band’s inventiveness to new levels, and was complemented by one of George Martin’s sharpest production jobs, this set sounded rushed and light on studio sheen.
Its title-track – written as a heartfelt slow ballad – was sped up by Martin and turned into a jittery single to accompany cartoonesque footage of the band footling about on skis up a hill. Self-pity, one of Lennon’s favourite moods, rears its Beatley head on the pop-Dylan of You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away, and Ringo’s highlight is a (pretty well-chosen) cover of Buck Owens’ country hit, Act Naturally. Oh, and the token rock‘n’roll song, Larry Williams’ Dizzy Miss Lizzy, seems dizzy from malnutrition more than anything else.
But this is a Beatles album, so it’s unlikely to not be at least brilliant in places. It contains the most popular song never to be beaten to death by an X Factor contestant, the genuinely beautiful Yesterday. It’s got Ticket to Ride, the song that saw The Beatles take on The Kinks, the Stones and The Who at their own, more rocky game. And Help! itself, while not the pre-primal scream yell of pain that Lennon wanted it to be (such songs would come later), is still a brilliant, pounding single, a cry of despair so full of “woo!”s that you reckon The Beatles are still enjoying themselves.
McCartney’s I’ve Just Seen a Face is another highlight (it’s a song he liked so much that it was one of the few Beatles numbers he performed with his 70s group, Wings), and Act Naturally is so infectious, silly and perfectly 1960s-country that it deserved its number one US singles spot. So, Help! is not as brilliant as some Beatles records, but it’s still pretty brilliant.
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