Art from the Attic: “Help!” by The Beatles

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By Megan Hulse

“Help! I need somebody! Help!…” Can you finish that song lyric? It is no surprise that just about every college student today can immediately chime in with the music of The Beatles.

On September 2, 1965, “Help!” by The Beatles was officially certified as a Gold Record, having sold 500,000 copies which was, at the time, the highest honor awarded by the Recording Industry Association of America (the “Platinum” title didn’t exist until 1976).

“Help!,” the fifth album from the beloved band, includes some of the best variety that The Beatles had to offer. The record begins with the famed and familiar title track, followed by a “Side A” full of the songs that were featured in “Help!”, the full-length film that was released alongside the album.

2375505328_18c39bf6cc_bMy Top Picks 

My personal favorite song from this record is “I’ve Just Seen a Face.” The song is rapid and full of energy, and just the right amount of folk influences for my taste. The nearly Irish sound of Paul McCarney’s vocals make it ridiculously fun to sing in the shower, a critical requirement in my book for obvious reasons. When I listen to “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” I can’t help but want to spin around my bedroom in time with the turntable.

Though not nearly as jazzy, a close second for me is “Yesterday,” a more widely recognized track. “Yesterday” is one of my top picks because of the inclusion of the string quartet. I play the violin, so any time the instrument is incorporated into mainstream music, I can’t help but fall in love. My personal background and preferences aside, the layering of sound added by the strings shows a considerable amount of development in The Beatles’ mixing skills, because quartets were just barely making a comeback in popular music. Their ability to recognize the sophistication added by the new sound shows that The Beatles were beginning to make some very smart decisions.

Other Notable Tracks

“Ticket to Ride” and “Act Naturally” are the two most notable songs on the album, other than “Help!” itself.

“Ticket to Ride” lies right alongside “Yesterday” as proof of how much the band had matured in the time since their earlier albums. Gone were what I like to call the “60’s One Direction” lyrics, that leaned more toward teenage love stories than actual depth. “Ticket to Ride” is a track that truly exemplifies that expansion that they were able to achieve in their production expertise, both with lyrics and the thick layering of harmony in the score itself.

“Act Naturally” is a fun song to lend an ear to, because it is one of the only songs with vocals by Ringo Starr. There’s usually one or two on every album, but he is seldom credited explicitly. Starr’s voice has much more of a twang than John’s or Paul’s, adding a fresh folk element into that variety that this album provides.

4191790992_4e164279bd_oNaysayers 

Some would argue that the album is too helter-skelter in form and style. Many music listeners prefer an album to be a cohesive unit in style, whether that be because of a desire to track the progression and development of the band as compared to their other albums, or simply to avoid the whiplash of jumping from the quiet lull of “Yesterday” to the cacophony that is “Dizzy Miss Lizzy.” I disagree. The assortment of styles shows the diverse skills the band had developed by this album, allowing them to reign supreme over any genre of music.

All in all, “Help!” is one of the most pivotal breakthroughs in terms of style for The Beatles, as well as one of their most underrated records. This album was the point where they began to shift from their mainstream subject matter into their more abstract, profound content, a transition that ultimately culminated in the revolutionary album “Revolver.” Maybe we’ll have that genius hunk of vinyl featured soon; stay tuned!

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