Wednesday, November 03, 2010

"Help!" (1965)

43. Beatles, "Help!" (Aug. 14, 1965, #1, 3 wks.)

I have literally gone around and around and around on this one—often it has seemed tedious, worn out from overexposure, almost thick-witted in both conception and execution. Then, often when I'm driving, it strikes like a thunderbolt and occurs to me how well suited it is for singing along with at the top of one's voice. It was one of the first singles I ever purchased so has that enduring baggage as well. I think it's safe to say, though infinitely arguable of course, that it represents the pinnacle of Beatlemania, following the first tour and introduction to the world, as the title song from their second movie (by which time it was de rigueur, if not plain rote, for teen girls everywhere to show up and scream their heads off, to the point where you couldn't make out a word of dialogue, not that anyone was missing much if you've ever gone back to look at that movie). It was also a point where Lennon started to get more obviously confessional (and verging on the point when Lennon and McCartney started going their separate ways in the songwriting), abstracted and oblique; no one needed to pay any particular attention to the personal details, a point of view that decidedly would change, especially in Lennon's solo career. But here, I think, we see the Beatles beginning to totter at the tipping point of empty-headed teen pop music icons and head toward something more significant and meaningful, at least for one (rather large) segment of their audience. Sure, you want personal, go to "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" on the album (which they ultimately gave away to an outfit named Silkie, but Lennon's vocal is the version you want). This was the hit, one of them, loud and proud, as Brian Epstein intended it to be.

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