The Beatles first movie, ‘A Hard Days Night’, had been recorded in black and white for a relatively small budget. Their second movie had a much bigger budget, which meant that the world would be treated to a full Technicolor escapade from the four mad scousers. The film originally was to be called Eight Arms to Hold You but that was found to be too hard to write a song about so they plumped for the title HELP!
On the day of John Lennon’s murder the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) reached for their only available Beatles footage and put the movie on TV. This move threatened to be a masterstroke of bad taste, commemorating a fallen hero with a banal comedy movie. But somehow it gave a rather strange relief to fans in Britain. It is so far removed from reality; it conjured up a nostalgic, comforting world where the Beatles were still fab and more importantly still four.
The film itself was designed to prolong the initial rush of Beatlemania but actually preserved the moment when it started to decay.
And it was from this time that the seeds that were eventually to break up the Beatles had been planted. The film was to be a madcap, surreal thing which should have chimed with the Beatles odd ball sense of humour, but they found themselves more and more alienated from what was actually going on.
It is a very significant film in that, it was while filming in the Bahamas that George Harrison first got interested in eastern music after each of the Beatles were given a book by some Yogi, about Indian philosophy, although it was nearly two years later that he actually got round to reading it. There is also the scene in the Indian restaurant where a band were playing sitars which all seemed a bit to co-incidental.
Also at this time, as there was a lot of hanging about between filming scenes, Paul McCartney kept playing a new song over and over again until the other three Beatles got so “pissed” of with it they threatened to “throw the bloody piano out the window” if he didn’t stop playing it. The song at that time was known as “scrambled eggs”? But soon found its true title in the song we all know now as ‘Yesterday’. Which of course was the first song by the Beatles that was actually a solo song with none of the other Beatles performing on it, but due to contractual agreements it still came out as a Lennon/McCartney song which still causes bad blood between Paul and Yoko Ono, Lennon’s widow.
We all know now that John Lennon was a bit of a weirdo, in a good creative way, what with all his primal scream therapy in the early seventies and such, but the start can all be traced back to the film ‘Help!’. During filming, Lennon’s father turned up after being absent from his life for twenty years. John’s then wife, Cynthia Lennon, ensured that Lennon senior stayed with them for a couple of days until an unhealthy interest in Johns finances persuaded him that this was one ghost he would do well to banish for ever. It was also at this time that John Lennon started taking LSD after having been given it by George Harrison’s dentist of all people. With those sort of drugs flying about in his head, Lennon simply wrote more and more strange lyrics as the Beatles career continued but as they were all at it no one seemed to notice how much trouble Lennon was in with past demons. It would appear that Lennon did in fact need help.
Which brings us on to the lyrics and the songs, two of the best songs in the film are ‘Help’ and ‘Ticket To Ride’, both of which were played by the Beatles at a very up-tempo beat which makes them sound like happy songs but deeper investigation in to the lyrics of both seem to imply that John Lennon, writer of both songs, was trying to get a message across. The best example of this is, as we all know the Beatles version of ‘Ticket To Ride’ is a very happy go lucky song and with the ending of it can only be described as a peppy, tacked on ending, but the cover version by the Carpenters four years later showed how desperate a song this really was as it had been slowed down and sung like, in hindsight, it should have been by Lennon himself.
So it is, that the film Help! stands up as a good comedy film in Technicolor where the Beatles are fab and still four but it also remains as the last flourish of innocent Beatlemania, the tapestry of a dream that was starting to distort and melt under the heat of change. If only somebody had in fact given them some Help!