Written by John Lennon in 1965 with arrangement contributions by Paul McCartney, ‘Help!’ deals with Lennon’s reaction to the band’s incredible rise to fame in the early ‘60s. The song was the title track accompanying the release of The Beatles’ second film, and reached Number 1 in the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Lennon is claimed to have said that ‘Help!’ was one of his most honest Beatles songs (along with ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’) although apparently he wished that the band had recorded it at a slower tempo.
Speaking of tempo, ‘Help!’ flies by at a brisk 190bpm, with the recorded version lasting a mere 2 minutes 19 seconds. Paul McCartney’s solid bass line underpins the song with a predominantly root note (or root – fifth) approach throughout. Note the use of rests on beat 4 of the bar throughout the verse which leave room for the snare, adding a sense of ‘bounce’ and giving these sections an almost ‘country’ 2-feel.
Constant crotchets during the intro and bridge sections maintain the sense of movement, providing the pop equivalent of a walking bass line. The real challenge, as with all Beatles lines that appear simple is to remember that Paul had to sing as well – good luck with that…
Tonally, McCartney’s sound is warm and woolly, with more than a hint of James Jamerson throughout. Fingerstyle with the tone rolled all the way down is definitely the order of the day.