Help!

Help! album artworkRecorded: 15 February – 17 June 1965
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 6 August 1965 (UK), 13 August 1965 (US)

John Lennon: vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, 12-string acoustic guitar, electric piano, Hammond organ, tambourine, snare drum
Paul McCartney: vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, piano, electric piano
George Harrison: vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, 12-string acoustic guitar, güiro
Ringo Starr: vocals, drums, tambourine, maracas, cowbell, bongos, claves, percussion, handclaps, acoustic guitar percussion
George Martin: piano
Johnnie Scott: tenor flute, alto flute
Tony Gilbert: violin
Sidney Sax: violin
Kenneth Essex: viola
Francisco Gabarro: cello

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Tracklisting:
Help!
The Night Before
You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away
I Need You
Another Girl
You’re Going To Lose That Girl
Ticket To Ride
Act Naturally
It’s Only Love
You Like Me Too Much
Tell Me What You See
I’ve Just Seen A Face
Yesterday
Dizzy Miss Lizzy

The Beatles’ fifth official UK album release, Help! was the soundtrack to the group’s second feature film. It contained 14 songs: 10 by Lennon-McCartney, two more by George Harrison, and a further two cover versions.

The film had an early working title of Beatles II, until Eight Arms To Hold You was suggested. This was used for around three weeks in March and April 1965, and Capitol Records even announced that it would be the title of their first US single of the year.

Eventually the title Help! was settled on and, as for A Hard Day’s Night previously, John Lennon rose to the challenge of composing the theme song.

Lennon’s writing for the Help! LP continued the inward reflection first explored on Beatles For Sale, with the title track speaking of his insecurity during the peak of The Beatles’ fame.

The whole Beatle thing was just beyond comprehension. I was eating and drinking like a pig and I was fat as a pig, dissatisfied with myself, and subconsciously I was crying for help…

When Help! came out, I was actually crying out for help. Most people think it’s just a fast rock ‘n’ roll song. I didn’t realise it at the time; I just wrote the song because I was commissioned to write it for the movie. But later, I knew I really was crying out for help. So it was my fat Elvis period. You see the movie: he – I – is very fat, very insecure, and he’s completely lost himself. And I am singing about when I was so much younger and all the rest, looking back at how easy it was.

John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

Lennon’s other key compositions for the album were Ticket To Ride, which became The Beatles’ first single of 1965, and You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away, a mostly acoustic recording featuring introspective lyrics inspired by Bob Dylan.

I was in Kenwood and I would just be songwriting. The period would be for songwriting and so every day I would attempt to write a song, and it’s one of those that you sort of sing a bit sadly to yourself, ‘Here I stand, head in hand…’

I started thinking about my own emotions – I don’t know when exactly it started, like I’m A Loser or Hide Your Love Away or those kind of things – instead of projecting myself into a situation. I would try to express what I felt about myself which I’d done in me books. I think it was Dylan helped me realise that – not by any discussion or anything but just by hearing his work – I had a sort of professional songwriter’s attitude to writing pop songs; he would turn out a certain style of song for a single and we would do a certain style of thing for this and the other thing. I was already a stylized songwriter on the first album. But to express myself I would write Spaniard In The Works or In His Own Write, the personal stories which were expressive of my personal emotions. I’d have a separate songwriting John Lennon who wrote songs for the sort of meat market, and I didn’t consider them – the lyrics or anything – to have any depth at all. They were just a joke. Then I started being me about the songs, not writing them objectively, but subjectively.

John Lennon, 1970
Lennon Remembers, Jann S Wenner

Cover artwork

The front and rear photography for Help! was taken by Robert Freeman, who had previously worked with the group on With The Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night and Beatles For Sale.

The front cover was yet another instantly classic design. Featuring the four Beatles standing in a row wearing their ski garb from the Help! film, they spelt out the letters ‘NUJV’ in semaphore. For the US version released by Capitol Records, the order was slightly amended to read ‘NVUJ’.

I had the idea of semaphore spelling out the letters HELP. But when we came to do the shot the arrangement of the arms with those letters didn’t look good. So we decided to improvise and ended up with the best graphic positioning of the arms.
Robert Freeman
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20 Responses to “Help!”

  1. Roger

    ‘Help’ is a very “overlooked” Beatles album because its half Beatlemania and half “new” Beatles. While there are some great old-style Beatles songs on it, Beatlemania ends on this album…and ‘Rubber Soul’ begins. You get the best of both worlds on ‘Help’. Also, McCartney emerges as a strong song writer on this album for the first time…equal with Lennon. Previously, Lennon was the dominant singer/songwriter. This is probably why the next few years produced some of their finest music. Can’t forget Harrison. He also emerges as a strong song writer on ‘Help’ and continues on throughout his Beatle career.

    ‘Help’, ‘The Night Before’, ‘You’re Gonna Lose That Girl’, Yesterday’ ‘ Another Girl’…good Beatlemania-style songs.

    Then, the “new” Beatles emerge with “I’ve Just Seen A Face”, ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’, ‘It’s Only Love’, ‘Ticket To Ride’…ushering the “Rubber Soul/Revolver” period…and a great Harrison tune, ‘I Need You’.

    Reply
  2. Julio

    Yesterday, a beatlemania-style song? I actually think that Mccartney does not really arrive as songwriter until Revolver, with the exception of Yesterday. It is interesting that he becomes so prolific and dominating in 1967 but all of the songs that really give the beatles depth and soul belong to John although Paul contributes a lot to John songs. Probably more than John contributed to Paul’s. The masterpieces of 67 include: Strawberry Fields, Mr. Kite,Lucy in the sky w/ Diamonds, Day in the life, I am the Walrus, All you need is love. The only 67 Paul song that is of this caliber is Penny Lane. If you take John’s contribution off of Pepper and George’s Within you and Without you it is a rather light weight record. Don’t get me wrong, I love Paul but John really gets depicted badly in Emmerick’s book. After reading it, you would think that old Geoff fancied Paul.

    Reply
    • Joseph Brush

      Emmerick has worked for Paul on 3 albums after the breakup. He is not a source of objectivity.

      Reply
    • thomas

      Neither of you guys seems to know what you are talking about. 1) The idea that the Beatles wrote “Beatlemania” songs until a certain point and then suddenly changed it with Rubber Soul/Revolver is nonsense. The hallmark of Lennon-McCartney songwriting was they insisted on writing something new and different from any previous song, exploring new musical territory. Beatlemania was not a song writing genre, but something the press made up to describe fan reaction. Beatlemania “ended” when they decided to stop touring, period. Not only were they tired of it, but reproducing their increasing complex songs (like Rain/Paperback Writer) on stage was difficult and frustrating.

      2) Lennon and McCartney were in fact largely equal co-writers on many of the early songs (From Me To You, She Loves You, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, This Boy, etc.), with McCartney early on revealing a special talent for creating memorable melodies (something Lennon tended to struggle with, especially in later years.) Lennon was a great lyricist and straight rock and roller, and it should be pointed out their first two albums featured lots of rock and roll covers, plus a few great original compositions. Writing-wise, I Saw Her Standing There was largely Paul, as was Love Me Do. All My Loving was all Paul. By A Hard Day’s Night some truly timeless standouts were being written by Paul (And I Love Her, Can’t Buy Me Love, Things We Said Today.) The songs A Hard Day’s Night and I’m Happy Just To Dance With You were co-written, while You Can’t Do That was a classic Lennon rocker (and a personal favorite of mine.) McCartney likewise made considerable contributions to Help. Even excluding Paul’s unmatched Yesterday, McCartney songs like The Night Before are quite notable, as well as his distinctive co-writing on Ticket To Ride (including the unique drum syncopations which were all Paul.)

      So, the ridiculous notion that McCartney didn’t come into his own as a songwriter until Revolver or later is simply misguided fantasy with no basis in fact. Even sillier is the assertion Lennon wrote any/all songs of substance in 1967. Nonsense. Hello Goodbye, yep, B side to Walrus A, went to No. 1 while Walrus tanked (guess the public knew best on that one.) Then there was Fool On The Hill, a remarkably beautiful song Paul composed while at the same time co-writing A Little Help From My Friends with Lennon. Then of course was Sgt. Pepper, a classic rocker featuring one of McCartney’s best vocals ever (plus his lead on guitar.) Not to mention there would be no Day in the Life had not McCartney provided the incredibly symphonic musical depth for the song’s middle. Then again, Lennon later dissed much of his own work on Pepper, saying how dissatisfied he was with it and would like to do it over. I don’t happen to agree, I think Lennon’s Pepper contributions were oustanding. Lennon though could get fairly petty not only about Paul’s work but everything Beatles, which apparently still translates over to some fans who never weary of this silly pissing match…

      Reply
      • Julio

        You prefer Hello Goodbye to I am the Walrus? Enough said, no reason to continue having this conversation.

        Reply
        • thomas

          I prefer reading comments by people who actually know something and don’t just make stuff up while ignoring facts (like calling Ringo “clumsy.”) Early on McCartney and Lennon were equal songwriters. That’s why they were a songwriting “team.” Though different in applied talents, one was not more dominant then the other.

          Reply
          • Joe

            OK, can I request that you all play nicely? There’s room for opinions without it getting personal, so let’s try to keep this a pleasant place to discuss the songs.

            Reply
      • Roger

        WOW! I never thought an observing commentary on the “Help” album could bring such anger from a McCartneyologist. While it’s true that McCartney made Lennon a better songwriter, the same can be said for Lennon for McCartney. However, what I said was a personal opinion that I think the “Help” album was the Beatles saying goodbye to Beatlemania and introducing themselves to the “Rubber Soul” era. Half of “Help” was Beatlemania, the other half was more mature, laid back, more acoustic and McCartney offered us more. I have to take the word of McCartney that he and Lennon wrote eyeball to eyeball (as Lennon also said), but that whoever was the primary writer…sang the song. No doubt also that if the Beatles were made up of only Lennon’s songs, then we’d be bored quickly…vice versa with only McCartney’s songs, if they had no influence on one another. So come on Thomas, lighten up and open up to other opinions…but thanks for the critique and you have some valid points.

        Reply
        • metzgermeister77

          I have to disagree with you on Help! being their transitional album. There are still some lingering elements of their earlier years, but in my book the transition really began with the moody Beatles For Sale. As I said over on the comments for No Reply:

          One of my absolute favorites, and, in my mind, the point where the Beatles enter what I think of their “middle period” pre-Revolver (even though the Revolver-Sgt. Pepper-Magical Mystery Tour era straddles the middle of their career, I feel this stretch of albums is kind of a musical adolescence).

          So while Help! is definitely transitioning, I think it had already begun an album earlier. I’d even accept an argument that it started with A Hard Day’s Night, but for me that’s pushing it a bit.

          Reply
  3. Stough

    This is their second weakest album (their first is their worst in my book). Don’t get me wrong, ‘weak’ for the Beatles is still fantastic. But their are only 5 standout tunes on this album. The rest are good, but not fantastic. The sound is very muddy, not crisp at all compared to their other albums. It works on “You’ve got to..” but not on the rest.And the performances are less enthusiastic than any other album, except for possible Let it Be.

    Reply
  4. BeatleMark

    To me, there is a lot of “filler” songs on this album. Mostly McCartney tunes. But they (the songs) blend in well and follow along quite well. I came across a German pressing lp at a flea market (rummage sale) here in Pensacola, Florida last year. the cover was torn but the vinyl was in great shape. I wish I would have bought it!

    Reply
  5. Matt Elwood

    Thomas lets be fair, You make a comment like ” Obviously You all don’t know what Your talking about ” People have certain opinions and I respect that, You seem pretty McCartney biased from the long piece You wrote. I guess Im more Lennon biased as He’s my idol and I get that aswell. McCartney is a genius musician that there is no doubt, But I feel in the early days leading up to Revolver, Lennon was the main man he was the one who wrote the better songs, He had the drive which spurred the Beatles on, Look at A Hard Day’s Night for example its basically a Lennon solo album, He was so creative in those early Beatle’s days and yes Lennon was more the rocker of the two and he wrote the more edgier/zingy Beatles tracks but he also had that sensitive side to Him look at Julia, Across The Universe for example, The thing with McCartney was he was too mainstream he wanted to release safe tracks that He knew would be accepted, Lennon was the opposite he was writing songs and searching for a new direction and in the process laying down the foundations for music as We know it now. Both equally brilliant in there own right, Alone they were good, Together they were Stellar! Its just John is My favourite…
    By the way HelloGoodbye is a great track, I Am The Walrus is frighteningly brilliant…

    Reply
  6. polishrocker93

    I noticed on the US cover that George is standing on the H for Harrison, John on the L for Lennon, and by his first name Paul on the P, but none for ringo, especially because he doesn’t have any of the titles letters in his stage name. Sounds silly, but i like to think that.

    Reply
  7. GniknuS

    I agree with whoever said that there are five great songs on this album. If you took Help, Hide Your Love Away, Ticket to Ride, I’ve Just Seen a Face and Yesterday they match up with anything the Beatles ever did. The problem is there are too many fillers after that, although most are pretty decent. I can’t stand You Like Me Too Much though, the lyrics are juvenile, and Tell Me What You See and Dizzy Miss Lizzy are average at best. As for the Lennon/McCartney debate, this was really the start of Lennon’s peak, he was just incredible in ’65, whereas I don’t think Paul peaked until about ’68 with his fantastic contributions to the White Album and also Hey Jude. Although maybe he peaked on Revolver, but I’ve always liked his White Album songs better.

    Reply
  8. King Turtle

    “The front cover was yet another instantly classic design. Featuring the four Beatles standing in a row wearing their ski garb from the Help! film, they spelt out the letters ‘NUJV’ in semaphore. For the US version released by Capitol Records, the order was slightly amended to read ‘NVUJ’” WHY?

    Reply
  9. James Ferrell

    This was maybe the first British import LP I bought (I’m in the US) and I loved the A side–the movie music. I rarely played the B side even though it had a few stellar cuts (I’ve Just Seen A Face, Yesterday) because the weak songs are pretty darn weak.

    Loved the movie too. A little aimless perhaps, but very funny. (“Are you buzzing?”)

    Reply
  10. JohnKing67

    Side one is good, side two seems fairly forgettable though, excluding Yesterday of course. The organ playing helps on some of the tracks. Played by John I believe.

    Reply
  11. BILLY SHEARS

    As a kid in the mid 60′s and bought a 45 rpm copy of “Ticket to ride” that says on it: “from the United Artists release Eight arms to hold you”. I didn’t think much of of it at the time, but now I’m glad I have it. It’s probably not worth much, not quite like an original “Butcher” LP cover, but it is neat to have one of those “Mistakes”. The US version of the Help LP is a rough listen. I am not much of an instrumental fan. Always thought it was filler and fluff that I really didn’t want to pay for. The UK version is stellar.

    Reply

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