US picture sleeve
|Single by the Beatles|
|from the album Help!|
19 July 1965 (US)|
23 July 1965 (UK)
13 April 1965,|
EMI Studios, London
|The Beatles UK singles chronology|
|The Beatles US singles chronology|
"Help!" is a song by the Beatles that served as the title song for both the 1965 film and its soundtrack album. It was released as a single in July 1965, and was number one for three weeks in both the United States and the United Kingdom.
Credited to Lennon-McCartney, "Help!" was written by John Lennon with some assistance from Paul McCartney. During an interview with Playboy in 1980, Lennon recounted: "The whole Beatles thing was just beyond comprehension. I was subconsciously crying out for help".
The documentary series The Beatles Anthology revealed that Lennon wrote the lyrics of the song to express his stress after the Beatles' quick rise to success. "I was fat and depressed and I was crying out for 'Help'", Lennon told Playboy. Writer Ian MacDonald describes the song as the first crack in the protective shell Lennon had built around his emotions during the Beatles' rise to fame, and an important milestone in his songwriting style.
In the 1970 Rolling Stone "Lennon Remembers" interviews, Lennon said that the song was one of his favourites among the Beatles songs he wrote. In these interviews, Lennon said he felt that "Help!" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" were his most honest, genuine Beatles songs and not just songs "written to order". According to Lennon's cousin and boyhood friend Stanley Parkes, "Help!" was written after Lennon "came in from the studio one night. 'God,' he said, 'they've changed the title of the film: it's going to be called 'Help!' now. So I've had to write a new song with the title called 'Help!'."
The Beatles recorded "Help!" in 12 takes on 13 April 1965 using four-track equipment. The first nine takes concentrated on the instrumental backing. The descending lead guitar riff that precedes each verse proved to be difficult, so by take 4 it was decided to postpone it for an overdub. To guide the later overdub by George Harrison, Lennon thumped the beat on his acoustic guitar body, which can be heard in the final stereo mix. Lead and backing vocals were recorded twice onto take 9, along with a tambourine. A reduction mix was applied to the two vocal tracks, taking three attempts (takes 10 to 12), freeing up a track for the lead guitar overdub. This was the group's first use of two 4-track machines for "bouncing".
The vocals were re-recorded for the film during a session on 24 May 1965 at CTS Studios, a facility specializing in post-synchronisation. In addition to attempting a better vocal performance, the session might have been done to eliminate the tambourine (which had been on the same track as the vocals) since no tambourine appeared in the film sequence. With the new vocals, a mono mix was created at CTS Studios which was used for the film soundtrack. Mixes for record releases were prepared on 18 June. For the mono version, Martin decided to use a mix of the opening chorus of take 12 edited to the remainder of the CTS film mix. Because all instruments were combined on a single track for the CTS session, it could not be used for a stereo mix, so the stereo mix was made from take 12.
This film version of the song was only heard on the original VHS releases of the movie, later replaced by the stereo mixes. A true release was never issued. New mixes were created for releases of the Help! CD (1987), the Love album (2006), and the Help! DVD (2007).
"Help!" went to number 1 on both the UK and US singles charts in late summer 1965. It was the fourth of six number 1 singles in a row on the American charts: "I Feel Fine", "Eight Days a Week", "Ticket to Ride", "Help!", "Yesterday" and "We Can Work It Out". At the following year's Ivor Novello Awards, "Help!" was named as the second best-selling single of 1965, behind "We Can Work It Out". "Help!" was nominated in four categories at the 1966 Grammy Awards but failed to win in any of them.
The song appears on the Help! LP, the US Help! soundtrack, 1962-1966, the Imagine: John Lennon soundtrack, 1, Love, and The Capitol Albums, Volume 2. The mono version (with different vocals and no tambourine) was included on the Beatles' Rarities LP and in The Beatles in Mono collection. The American soundtrack album included a James Bond-type introduction to the song, followed by a caesura just before the opening lyric. No such introduction appeared on the British soundtrack album, nor was it included in the released single in either country.
Although Lennon was proud of "Help!" and the honesty it conveyed, he expressed regret that the Beatles had recorded it at such a fast tempo in the interests of giving the track more commercial appeal. Music critic Dave Marsh refuted this idea, saying: "'Help!' isn't a compromise; it's bursting with vitality ... [Lennon] sounds triumphant, because he's found a group of kindred spirits who are offering the very spiritual assistance and emotional support for which he's begging. Paul's echoing harmonies, Ringo's jaunty drums, the boom of George's guitar speak to the heart of Lennon's passion, and though they cannot cure the wound, at least they add a note of reassurance that he's not alone with his pain."
The Beatles filmed the title performance for the movie Help! on 22 April 1965. The same footage (without the darts and credits seen in the film sequence) was used as a clip to promote the release of the single. It was shown starting in July 1965 on programmes such as Top of the Pops and Thank Your Lucky Stars. They made another promotional clip of "Help!" on 23 November 1965 for inclusion in the year-end recap special of Top of the Pops. Directed by Joseph McGrath, the black-and-white clip shows the group miming to the song while sitting astride a workbench. Starr holds an umbrella overhead throughout the song, which becomes useful as fake snow falls during the final verse. The November 1965 promo was included in the Beatles' 2015 video compilation 1.
The Beatles performed "Help!" live on the 1 August 1965 broadcast of Blackpool Night Out, which was included in the Anthology 2 album and shown during The Beatles Anthology documentary. On 14 August, the group recorded a live performance of "Help!" and five other songs for The Ed Sullivan Show, broadcast the following month; the show is available on the DVD The 4 Complete Ed Sullivan Shows Starring The Beatles.
"Help!" was included in the set list for The Beatles' 1965 US tour. The 15 August performance at Shea Stadium was seen in the 1966 documentary The Beatles at Shea Stadium, although the audio for the song was re-recorded prior to release. The group's 29 August performance at the Hollywood Bowl was chosen for the 1977 album The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl. The final live concert performances of "Help!" were heard within The Beatles' 1965 UK tour in December.
In February 1985, "Help!" became the first Beatles song licensed for a US television commercial. The Lincoln-Mercury division of Ford Motor Company paid $100,000 for the rights to the song, but not for the use of the original Beatles' recording. The song was re-created by a sound-alike group with assistance from George Martin. The US electronics and appliance chain hhgregg used a cover version of the song in their ads. The song was once used in a Halifax advert.
The song reached number one in several other countries in 1965 according to charts listed in Billboard's "Hits of the World" feature at the time: Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Sweden.
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11-13 May 1968 |
Pye Studios, London
|Genre||Psychedelic rock, hard rock|
Parlophone (UK (England))|
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|Wilton Felder, Ndugu Chancler, Joe Sample|
|Tina Turner singles chronology|
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|Bananarama singles chronology|