The countdown of The Beatles albums- bottom to top- so far I have #13 Yellow Submarine, #12- The Beatles For Sale #11- Let It Be, #10- With The Beatles and #9- Please Please Me.. now #8– Help!
For most bands/artists an album like Help! would be a career milestone but we are talking The Beatles here- and it is a great album and I love it and I think it clearly ranks above the 5 I have below it- but I can’t put it ahead of any others.
This was sort of a soundtrack album but all the songs weren’t in the movie- seven songs were in the movie- they are on the first side- the second side of songs didn’t appear in the movie. Of the 14 songs, 12 are original Beatles songs- and two are covers- and good covers.They would be the last cover tunes The Beatles would place on albums during their career.In fact in looking at it the remaining 7 albums in the countdown- there are no cover versions on any of them- all original songs by The Beatles.
The Help! I am talking about is of course the UK version- not the butchered up North American version that was ruined by soundtrack music. There are four certified classic Beatles songs on this album- The opening and title track John’s Help! which he would later call one of his most honest songs. The much discussed “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away”- another John song written under the Dylan influence, a third John song closes up side 1- Ticket To Ride- both Help! and Ticket To Ride went to #1 as singles. It has always been interesting to study the progression The Beatles made- in the early years clearly John Lennon dominated- towards the end when John seemed to lose interest it became more of a Paul McCartney dominated band. The fourth song that I’d classify as a classic is one of the most famous songs ever written – Paul’s masterpiece Yesterday. There have been roughly 2,200 cover versions of Yesterday over the past 53 years. It was originally released as a B-side in the US to “Act Naturally” but Yesterday would prevail and become the 3rd #1 single from this album.
The remaining eight Beatles songs on the album- two that I have always favored are John’s “It’s Only Love” a song John later said that he loathed. It comes in at less than 2 minutes but I’ve always liked the sound of it- and Paul’s “I’ve Just Seen A Face” a song with country-western flavor. The Beatles in 1964-65 were listening to a lot of American country music. There are two George Harrison written songs on Help!- I Need You being the best of the two- You Like Me Too Much- the other song- not a bad tune. The Night Before, Another Girl, and Tell Me What You See- are three McCartney songs-I always thought The Night Before would have fit well on A Hard Day’s Night. Tell Me What You See is another good Beatles song kind of lost among all the wealth of tunes they were putting out. Listening to this album you can feel The Beatles progressing- Rubber Soul the next album shouldn’t have been that much of a shock. John’s “You’re Going To Lose That Girl”- with John’s lead vocals and Paul and George with the answering vocals is another gem. This album sounds a lot more energetic and upbeat than the previous “The Beatles For Sale.” There are two covers and both work- Act Naturally a song that the great Buck Owens had a big country hit with- was perfect for Ringo- and the albums closer “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” another winning cover for John.
Help! is an overlooked album- mainly I think because 4 months later The Beatles released one of their towering achievements “Rubber Soul.” I considered ranking Help! a notch or two higher but I think #8 on the countdown is the correct spot for it.