The Top 20 Beatles Songs: #9, “Help!”

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Album: Help! (1965)

Composer: Lennon/McCartney

An onomatopoeia, such as “bam” or “cuckoo,” is a word that sounds like its meaning. If there was a similar word for a song whose meaning was played out perfectly in its melody (and harmony), “Help!” would be a great example. The audible juxtaposition of George’s sinking, warbly guitar work with John’s vocals, which linger longer in each key, echoes the singer’s fading sentiments. Against tambourine and Ringo’s cymbal-heavy fills, “Help!” chugs along frenetically, but not without direction.

The title track not only for an album but also for the second Beatles movie, “Help!” was John’s answer to the original title, “Eight Arms to Hold You.” He wrote the song especially for the movie, but it was perhaps subconsciously a vehicle for him to broadcast his own feelings. “I just wrote the song because I was commissioned to write it for the movie,” he explained to Playboy. “But later, I knew I really was crying out for help. It was my fat Elvis period…I am singing about when I was so much younger and all the rest, looking back at how easy it was.”

This song was yet another early warning sign of the storm clouds ahead for the Beatles, but still marks one of John’s first mold-breaking steps toward reaching his full creative potential.


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