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"Help!" (song)

Categories: Beatles songs

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"Help!", the title track for The Beatles' second film was, like the first"A Hard Day's Night" — snaffled by John, and issued as a single shortly before the album; more or less coinciding with the movie release. It would be great to know how a track called "Eight Arms To Hold You" would've sounded, if they'd stuck to the original working title...

In later interviews, Lennon claimed that he was forced to up the intended tempo to make the song sufficiently commercial; and that it was written as a genuine cry for help, though he hadn't realised it at the time. Given the continuing intensity of the mayhem which surrounded the band, getting their feet back on the ground could have been no easy matter for any of them; their lives having undoubtedly changed in oh so many ways. John's lack of direction during his self-professed 'Fat Elvis Period', coupled with his increasingly strained marriage, was what was starting to make him personally feel so insecure — the paranoias probably further fuelled by his exponentially-increasing cannabis consumption.

In retrospect, the almost disorientating pace of the track maybe actually added to the fervour of his feelings and the desperation of the lyric. He certainly wasn't holding much back on his vocal, and the upfront backing hurtles it along frenetically. George's driving proto-power chords give both Paul and Ringo a run for their money: incredible to think that they nailed the instrumental track in a single take!

Those overlapping harmonies and half-crazed falsetto pleas have lost little or none of their intensity over the years, either. In order to make space for them, George Martin 'bounced up' the four tracks the equipment allowed to give 'em eight. It was the first time he had employed this particular trick: 'Take this, brothers — may it serve you well!'

Then — completely unexpected, but all the more effective for that — it all drops onto John's twelve-string acoustic. So self-assured!

There have been many covers, from Deep Purple to the Damned, Big Roy O to Bananarama, but — in the humble opinion of this writer — the definitive version (musical and cinematographic) is The Rutles' "Ouch!"

Or, for a completely different take, as with the previous movie's title track, there's Peter Sellers doing it — this time as an Anglican vicar...

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