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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

HELP! - side two

Act Naturally - Of the four Beatles, Ringo had been the critics' darling in A Hard Day's Night, and was generally regarded as the best actor.  With that in mind, the script for Help! put the drummer in the center of the action, even though the Beatles' roles were marginalized overall.  But Ringo was in on the joke - he knew that to be the best actor among four non-actors was no big deal and so, he chose this song for himself for his vocal spotlight.  He had gone the rockabilly route with his previous two offerings, but here, he goes for a true country and western number originally recorded by Buck Owens.  Once again, the boys show just how adept they are at playing in this style, with George turning in some fine guitar work and Paul providing authentic country harmony.  Ringo also seems to be playing his drumsticks on a table top in addition to his drum kit.

In the US, this song appeared as a single.  In his book The Beatles' Story on Capitol Records, Bruce Spizer reveals that Ringo was still so popular in the States that this was originally considered for the A-side, but wiser heads prevailed and Yesterday was given that position.

It's Only Love - Lennon's only original composition on this side is a lightweight piece that he later admitted he was never proud of.  He especially felt that he could have worked more on the lyrics.  Yet producer George Martin liked the melody so much that he recorded it with his orchestra under John's original title That's a Nice Hat (Cap).  The version by the Beatles features George Harrison once again employing his new tone pedal for some lovely guitar work. 

You Like Me Too Much - This Harrison composition was recorded during the February sessions for consideration for the film soundtrack, but didn't make the cut.  I Need You was easily the better choice.  This rather mellow number features John on electric piano and, according to the liner notes, both Paul and George Martin on the same Steinway.  Martin is clearly evident doing his trademark barrelhouse piano on the intro and in the instrumental break, where the two Georges play a musical dialogue.

Tell Me What You See - This McCartney number is also from the February sessions for the film, but was not used.  And it, too, is a mellow piece, sung as a duet by Paul and John.  This time Paul plays electric piano.  In addition to Ringo's drums, claves and a guiro provide some distinctive percussion.

I've Just Seen a Face - It has taken this long to get to the first truly outstanding song on side two, but it was worth the wait.  McCartney's folk/rock number takes off like a runaway freight train after a deceptive half-speed intro.  The words tumble out of Paul breathlessly until he reaches the "Falling" refrain.  Paul, George and John all play acoustic guitars and Ringo uses brushes instead of drumsticks, adding maracas, as well.  This was the first of three McCartney songs recorded on June 14th, 1965, each a different musical style, making different vocal demands on their composer.  Next was the screaming rocker I'm Down, released as a B-side.  And the third was...

Yesterday - The most famous song in the Beatles' catalog and one of the most covered songs of all time.  Paul had had this melody for over a year (George Martin claims that Paul played it for him at the George V in Paris in January of '64), but had only recently set proper lyrics to it.  Previous to this, it had been known by the joke title Scrambled Eggs.  He only did two takes of the song.  Take one is on Anthology 2, preceded by Paul teaching the chords to George Harrison.  Ultimately, it was decided that the other Beatles would not play on the recording and that Martin would score the song for session musicians instead.  This is where Martin's genius comes into play for the first of many times.  Rather than using a full orchestra, as numerous other rock producers had done over the years, Martin opted for a string quartet, which had the effect of making the recording tasteful, elegant and totally unique.  His score, with only a few suggestions from McCartney, is simple and achingly beautiful.  Paul also sings the song quite simply, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar.  And the simplicity carries over into the lyrics, which are evocative and universal.

The problem for the Beatles, Martin and manager Brain Epstein was what to do with what was essentially a solo recording.  Everybody knew that it was good enough to be a single, but the others did not want it out as a Beatles record and Epstein would not release it as a solo Paul McCartney single.  In the end, they buried it as the thirteenth track on this album.  On Anthology 2, you can hear Paul's first live performance of the song at Blackpool Night Out, with George Harrison's introduction "...and so, for Paul McCartney of Liverpool, opportunity knocks."  The Help! album had not yet been released and so, the audience is completely unfamiliar with and unprepared for what they hear. 

Capitol Records in America could still do whatever they wanted at this point in time, and they knew a great song when they heard one.  They released it as a single by the Beatles on September 13th.  It was a smash hit.

Dizzy Miss Lizzy - Two Larry Williams rockers, this song and Bad Boy, were recorded at a session on May 10th, specifically for Capitol Records and the American market.  At the last moment, this song was added to this album, probably because George Martin wanted to stick to his formula of closing with just such a number.  John sings and plays Hammond organ, and George plays one of the most annoyingly monotonous guitar riffs ever throughout the song.  Yet, Lennon seems to have had a true fondness for this tune, because the Beatles played it on their final BBC Radio appearance soon after this recording session and added it to their live act.  John even played it with the Plastic Ono Band in Toronto in 1969, with Eric Clapton finding a bit more variation in the repetitive riff.

The UK and US versions of the Help! LP were released in August, 1965.  All of the side one songs appeared on that US album.  The songs on side two were spread out over three additional albums.  You Like Me Too Much, Tell Me What You See and Dizzy Miss Lizzy had already appeared on Beatles VI in June.  I've Just See a Face and It's Only Love would kick off sides one and two respectively of the US version of Rubber Soul in December.  And, in addition to being a single, Yesterday and Act Naturally would appear on the compilation album "Yesterday"...and Today in June of 1966, a full year after they were recorded.

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