RECORD REVIEW | "HELP!" BY THE BEATLES
photo & text by nacrowe
as a child HELP! (PARLOPHONE, 1965) was probably my favorite BEATLES album. it reminds my of my first visit to NEW YORK CITY as a child when during my kindergarten year my father and i flew out from CALIFORNIA to visit my grandmother in BROOKLYN. standout tracks like "TICKET TO RIDE," "IT'S ONLY LOVE," "YOU'VE GOT TO HIDE YOUR LOVE AWAY," "I NEED YOU," "THE NIGHT BEFORE" and of course "HELP!" all have soaring memorable vocal melodies that remind me of walks in CENTRAL PARK and the general sense of overwhelming wonder that came with being in the big city for the first time. it still sounds to me like a soundtrack to the idea of possibility.
historically HELP! marks the end of an early period of songwriting for the group focused on sappy, overly saccharine love ballads. this record would be followed up in quick succession by the lyrically and sonically more adventurous RUBBER SOUL (PARLOPHONE, 1965) that would essentially mark the beginning of their mature period. its understandable why JOHN LENNON and PAUL MCCARTNEY decided to expand their lyrical themes and take more compositional risks thereafter, as writing song after song about puppy love is rather restrictive. and in a sense that sense of restriction, both thematically and in terms of production, is part of the charm of that early run of records. in the modern era you have bands like THE BLACK KEYS, DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979 or THE WHITE STRIPES that take delight in scaling back their instrumentation to two instruments in order to showcase their musical dexterity and supposed aesthetic sophistication. with THE BEATLES you have to realize that 1) their whole discography was over an 8 year period (which is insane!) and 2) that they took advantage of every technological innovation in music production which still pales in comparison to basic software today.
like with most early BEATLES songs, there is a bit of MISOGYNY creeping throughout the lyrics, most notably "ANOTHER GIRL" and "YOU'RE GONNA LOSE THAT GIRL" which both have warned statements about the repercussions that come with not pleasing the narrator. it showcases a sense of uneven POWER DYNAMICS in which the narrator (assumed to be male) has other options available that may be exercised if the love interest doesnt get with the program. one of them even speaks about taking another's girl just to prove a point that he can, because the other doesn't treat her right. how romantic. its always interesting reading these early lyrics because this sense of assumed MACHISMO and outright MALE CHAUVINISM is abandoned after HELP! with few exceptions.
HELP! is required listening, much like everything else in THE BEATLES catalogue. definitely worth investigation and a revisit for anyone interested in the BRITISH INVASION or just WESTERN MUSIC in general. oh yeah, and there is a film. its terrible. that you can avoid.
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