Follow by Email

Sunday, November 27, 2011

HELP! - side one

Seven songs, enough for one side of an album, had been the perfect number for the film A Hard Day's Night.  Staying true to form, it was decided that the same would be the case for the new movie.  As before, there was no title when the Beatles reported to the studio, so they only needed to record six songs before filming began.  Rising to the occasion, between February 15th and 20th, 1965, they produced eleven new numbers for consideration for the soundtrack.   

Help! - The title song, recorded on April 13th, 1965, was covered in my previous blog.  Naturally, it leads off the album.

The Night Before - Lennon had dominated the first soundtrack, penning five numbers, but McCartney's contributions, Can't Buy Me Love and And I Love Her, were blockbusters.  Harrison comes up with his own composition this time around, and each of John's songs is noteworthy, but Paul's are merely serviceable.  The Night Before is a pleasant enough song, with a double-tracked lead by Paul and backing vocals by John and George.  It features a rather odd, choppy guitar break by George and has John playing electric piano throughout instead of his usual rhythm guitar.  Director Richard Lester uses this number for the Salisbury Plain sequence, but doesn't show a full performance, cutting away from it midway, then repeating the instrumental break and truncating the ending.

You've Got to Hide Your Love Away - An acoustic number by Lennon, strongly influenced by Bob Dylan.  At times, it even sounds as if John is trying to sing like Dylan.  A beautiful piece, quite unlike anything the Beatles had done up to this point.  It also marks the first time that they asked producer George Martin to bring in a session musician to help them complete a recording.  The final verse features a flautist (Johnnie Scott, according to Mark Lewisohn) overdubbing both tenor and alto flute parts.  I always thought Lennon should have played harmonica instead, but he chose flutes to keep the song from sounding too Dylanesque.  Pearl Jam went the harmonica route years later on their cover version for the I Am Sam soundtrack and, to me, it sounds perfect.  In the film, the boys perform this number in their communal flat, with John, Paul and George vying for the attention of the priestess Ahme, played by Eleanor Bron.

I Need You - This is only George Harrison's second composition to be recorded but, from this time on, he will write all of his own material with the Beatles.  The song is on a par with Paul's songs for the soundtrack, adequate for the purposes of the film.  The outstanding feature in the mix is George's use of the tone pedal, which he uses here in a more conventional manner than he would later in the same session on Lennon's B-side Yes It Is.  Lester also uses this song in the Salisbury Plain sequence of the movie.

Another Girl - McCartney's second soundtrack number is a fast-paced pop song, featuring Paul on lead guitar.  In Mark Lewisohn's book The Beatles: Recording Sessions, the entry for February 15th indicates that George spent quite a while trying to get the sound that Paul wanted with the tremolo arm of his guitar.  The next day, Paul came in and simply played it himself.  It is possible that the roots of the animosity that George eventually felt for Paul could be traced to this moment.  Lester uses this song for a fun sequence on the beach in the Bahamas. 

You're Going to Lose That Girl - A great number by Lennon with strong backing vocals by Paul and George.  Overdubs include Paul on piano and Ringo on bongos.  In his book Tell Me Why, Tim Riley says that this lyric is the "inverse narrative" to She Loves You - instead of rejoicing in a friend's love, the singer threatens to steal her away.  This is one of those Lennon-McCartney compositions that is so good that any other group could have released it as a single and had a guaranteed hit.  Lester places this early in the film as a recording session in the studio.

Ticket to Ride - The hit song from the spring, already covered in an earlier blog.  Martin sticks with his usual strategy by bookending the album side with the two singles.

These seven songs make up the Beatles' entire contribution to the American LP Help!  Capitol has taken a lot of heat over the years for their soundtrack, but it is truly not very different from the United Artists album A Hard Day's Night.  UA rounded out the eight Beatles tracks on that record with four instrumentals by George Martin.  Capitol put five tracks by Ken Thorne on this album, plus a pseudo-James Bond intro before the title song.  And it is not an exaggeration to state that one aspect of Thorne's work would soon have an impact on the consciousness of Western youth culture...

The fictional cult of Kaili from somewhere in the mysterious East was the invention of screenwriter Marc Behm.  Lester naturally made sure that all departments supported that fictional creation in some concrete way, from the sets to the costumes to the music.  Thorne's idea was to add unfamiliar Eastern sounds to his orchestrations and so, he employed Indian musicians for some of his tracks, including a version of A Hard Day's Night played in an Indian restaurant sequence.  When it came time to shoot that scene, George Harrison was fascinated by the Indian instruments being employed on the set, particularly the sitar.  

The rest, of course, is history.

No comments:

Post a Comment